Night Kiss Serial: Chapter One

Hello blog world! 

I'm about a week into hunkering down for the long haul, and I know a lot of you all are too. In this weird and surreal world we are living in, I think we all need a bit of something extra to get us through our days. That's why I've decided to serialize the first novel of a trilogy for you here on my blog, one chapter at a time.

Night Kiss is book one of a time travel series. Heck, who knows? If this thing goes on for as long as they say, I may get through all three books on here!

Totally free and no marketing pitches at all -- I'm just sharing this read for free. You can come back to this blog daily to read each new installment, or you can have new chapters delivered to your email inbox by subscribing via the pop-up box, or by going direct to this link: http://eepurl.com/gWR6DP  Up to you!

I hope you enjoy. And now, I present....

Night Kiss 


Soul Mates, Book One
Can souls touch through time and hold on when all odds are against them?

Claire Winslow vacations on an East Coast barrier island, content with her life and her potential future—until the illusion of a man walking the misty shore haunts her. Then one kiss—a beautiful, soulful, stolen kiss in the night—and her life changes forever.

Three hundred years earlier, Jack Porter is in hot pursuit of a pirate who has kidnapped wife—the kidnapper is the notorious pirate Edward Teach aka Blackbeard. Determined to rescue his wife and take the pirate’s head in the process, Jack steals aboard the pirate’s ship to save her.

Night Kiss sends Jack and Claire on a wild search through time, not only for the resolution to a powerful attraction between them, but also for a historical artifact that holds the key to their future happiness—the coveted silver-plated chalice made from Blackbeard’s skull.
**** 
There exists many a story, lore, and legend of the infamous pirate Blackbeard. I’ve borrowed from them for the book you are about to read. The Soul Mates Series and all that it entails are products of my own slightly twisted imagination….

~ Maddie James
Once Upon a Blue Moon

Claire Winslow – Late September 2012
The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The full moon rose, illuminating the sandy beach. Stars and sea spray twinkled in its clear reflection. The ocean surf rolled endlessly, and Claire Winslow stood in her thin summer gown, steps from the porch of the old lightkeeper’s house she had rented—searching into the moonlit night—and remembering when she first saw Jack Porter. Remembering the brewing hurricane and the storm that had chewed up and spit her life back at her—
The night she had made love with a man who was not her fiancĂ©—with a man she did not know—but knew better than she knew herself.
She closed her eyes against the clutch in her heart. Had she given up everything for an incredibly foolish act of passion?
Chiding herself, she whispered. “What does it matter now?” Lying to the man she had planned to marry was not something she’d wanted to do—an omission of truth was not her style either. But no matter, since she had broken off the relationship and Rick likely never wanted anything to do with her again.
She’d left Rick. Left her home, her job. Cincinnati. Him. Everything.
It was done.
She was here now.
Waiting.
She sighed, slowly easing the breath out of her throat, calming her. Push away the black, her psychic friend and confidant, Vicki, had taught her. Get rid of the negative; bring in the light.
A soft hand rested on her shoulder.
Jack?
Eyes closed, she listened for his heartbeat, waited for the warmth of his breath against her neck. Paused for the hush of his voice. It had to be him. There were few people in this isolated area of Ocracoke Island.
She fell back in time to that night when she had surrendered to the power of his kiss. Of his tender and warm embrace that entranced her soul and took it captive. He had met her here and had laid claim to her body and soul. Had he come back for her now, to make her his own, forever?
Please God, let it be him.
Turning, she reined in her anticipation, but as her gaze settled on the man’s face, lit somewhat, by the moon and porch light, she gasped and jerked back.
“Rick?”
“Claire, I had to see you.”
She exhaled deeply, a bit disoriented. “Rick. How did you find me?”
“I… I followed you. Have been watching you.”
“You what?
“Claire…” His voice was soft, alluring, but the look on his face was harsh. “Claire, come with me. I will give you everything you ever dreamed. I love you, honey. We have too much history to end this. Come back. Say it was all a mistake, that you love me and want us to be together. We will be together, Claire.”
She inched back a little, somewhat alarmed. This was Rick, after all. The man she’d known for half her life, and whom she had planned to marry. But she was instantly frightened at his tone. Perhaps the devil-spawned look on his face had triggered her concern. She mustered some courage from deep inside. “You need to leave, Rick.”
Fire leapt into his eyes. “Not unless you leave with me.”
“Rick, this is ridiculous. We’ve discussed this. I’m starting a new life. And I’m very sorry to be so blunt—” She backed away. “Now, please go.” She hated the way it all sounded. “Make it easy on both of us.”
Rick stepped forward. “No. Not without you, Claire.”
Shaking her head, she answered quickly. “That’s not possible.”
He grasped her arm.
She jerked it away. “No, Rick!”
“I’m not taking no for an answer, Claire. You don’t have a choice.”
What? One more step backward. “Oh, but I do! What are you going to do, kidnap me?”
Rick’s gaze drifted across the dune to his right. Her gaze followed to two men standing beside her Honda. Slowly, Rick turned back to peer into her eyes. “If I have to.”
An errant chill tripped up her spine at his words. At that moment, everything Claire thought she knew about Rick twisted into something entirely different. She risked a sideways glance. The two men stared from across the way. Swallowing her fear, she tried to make some sense of the situation. What was going on? Rick is going to kidnap me?
Another step backward. “I don’t think so.”
He lunged. “Like I said. You don’t have a choice.”
She didn’t respond. Frantically turning, she raced with bare feet across the beach, kicking up sand behind her—hoping some of it flew high enough to get into Rick’s face. Peripherally, she saw his goons turn to run across the boarded walk.
Faster. Oh my God! He is serious!
Her toes dug deep into the sand as she ran toward the lighthouse. She didn’t dare look back but only hoped that her bare feet gave her an advantage in the sand. The men shouted, but she refused to give in, refused to look at them, concentrating only on getting away.
She had to get away.
What if he takes me? No one knows I am here! She’d left and told her mother and her friends that she needed space. That she’d contact them in a week or more to let them know how she was doing, where she had landed... If he took her, then…
Adrenaline coursed through her body. She had to escape this madness.
Where to? There was no one to help. No one to get her out of this mess.
Her feet plowed the sand, slipping as she ascended the steep dune toward the old, abandoned lighthouse. The cottage was out of the question, she would have to cross their line of direction. The lighthouse was her only salvation. Perhaps she could climb the fence, buying time over these big-footed men. Perhaps…
She slammed into the chain link. A few yards to her right, she saw the gate—unlocked! As she reached for it, a gunshot blasted into the fence a few feet away.
“Don’t shoot, you fools!” Rick shouted from behind.
Panting, nearly crying, she swung open the gate and passed through. Racing toward the shelter of the lighthouse, she churned through the sand.
The heavy door of the lighthouse beckoned.
Oh, please let the lock be off. Please, oh please…
She gripped the old brass door pull with both hands. She mustered up all the strength she had and tugged. The door hesitated and then swung open. She rushed inside.
She swirled, looking for a hiding place. There was none. In fact, there was nothing but the tall circular stairway spiraling up from the ground to the top of the structure.
She took the stairs. Running on sheer determination, she took them two at a time. As she ascended, she felt safer—until about a third of the way up when a faint shaft of light plunged upward from below.
Door opened?
She flattened her body against the wall. Be quiet. Be still.
She waited in the shadows. Barely seeing their movements below. She waited…until the sound of heavy footfall rose and echoed inside the round chamber below.
Run!
Keep running, Claire. Keep going.
Up and up.
Fight for it, Claire. Fight for your freedom.
But she was suddenly winded. After all, what was at the top?
Nothing.
Nowhere to go but down. She did not relish the thought. Her pace slowed, and she feared she wasn’t going to make it.
C’mon, Claire.
The footsteps grew louder behind her. Her feet were leaden.
C’mon, Claire!
With a final burst of energy, she lifted a foot, but her toe slipped off the step. She fell forward with a scream. Large hands, not Rick’s, grasped her waist and jerked her up. She clawed at the man.
“Get your hands off me!”
“Stop fighting it, Claire.” Rick rushed up behind the man, breathing hard, a look of confidence on his winded face. She wondered where the third man was. Pinned against the staircase rail, Rick’s friend crowded up against her. Bile rose to her throat.
“Get him off me, Rick. Now.”
“I will if you stop struggling.”
She glared. “Why are you doing this?”
His gaze narrowed. “Because no one else is going to have you.” Fingers of panic iced across her back. The man holding her pushed his pelvis into her. She wanted to puke down his neck.
“Get this slimy bastard off me, Rick.” She twisted away.
“Stop struggling and I’ll not let anything happen to you.” He smirked.
“Fine.”
Rick nodded to the man and he relaxed his grip. Claire immediately bolted.
“Get her!”
It only took another instant, and the man’s vise-like grip captured her. He slammed her against the iron railing, pain radiating from her spine.
“It’s not going to work, Rick! You can’t force me like this!”
Rick sneered as he drew closer. “It looks like I already have.” He laid a soft finger on her sweaty cheek. “I promised you adventure, baby. Just think of this as a new kind of adventure. One in which you have no control.” His finger trailed down her neck to her breast and dipped into her cleavage.
The man holding her relaxed a bit and chuckled. “Nice tits,” he said.
Rick growled. “Claire…” His eyes were too hungry. And she didn’t like the way both men were ogling her. My God! What in hell did they have in mind?
She glanced from Rick to the man. It was all coming together. Rick’s weird behavior the past few months—behavior she had ignored, pushed away, pretended wasn’t there. Was he ever the man she thought he was?
And what of her obsession with the perfect life, perfect wedding, perfect home, perfect family…. She had just been ignoring everything that was wrong. Hadn’t she? What other lies had she been living?
Once more. I have to try once more.
Bracing herself against the railing, she thrust her knees up and kicked the man opposite her square in the stomach. He faltered back. Claire ducked under Rick’s arm and stumbled down three or four steps.
Rick lunged, catching the hem of her gown, and yanked. The satin ripped. She tripped forward against the wall. Rick wrestled her until she stopped kicking. He stood and pulled her up against him. “You’re really playing the game aren’t you, Claire,” he huffed. His lips almost touched hers. “I sort of like this. Gets me hot.”
“I don’t play games.”
“You might learn to like it.”
“Not in this lifetime, Rick.”
He shook her and grasped her chin in his hand, forcing her to look into his eyes. “Then what lifetime would that be, Claire? Pray tell?”
The room spun. What?
The charged atmosphere around them exploded. The lighthouse rumbled and shook with an eerie essence followed by sparks of light rotating three-sixty inside the thing. In an instant, the deafening noise vanished, breaking away into an uncanny silence….
Then the voice.
Rushed. Urgent. Pleading.
The name.
Hannah!
It shot up through the cylinder, wafting up, and suspended there. Claire hung onto that one word, that spoken name, like a life-rope. It was uncanny.
It was real.
A contradictory sensation of silent slow motion and simultaneous fast-forward grabbed her. A time-altering sense of place possessed her. She glanced over her shoulder to the dark circle of floor below and saw him.
Jack!
She gasped.
Her chest heaved with both exhilaration and fatigue. Turning back, she took in Rick’s mocking expression and knew what she had to do. Once more, she looked down and saw her lover’s outstretched arms and the slight tick of his head.
Trust me.
With a power she did not know she possessed, she kicked, clawed and screamed until finally, oh, so finally, she broke free. Pushing Rick. Kicking the other man out of the way. In one swift movement, she rolled over the railing, teetering on the edge of the staircase, too many feet high above the floor. Too far to think about surviving a fall of that distance.
Without another thought, she jumped.
“Claire!”
The single word ripped from Rick’s throat and trailed behind her body as she dropped into the dark abyss below.
She fell.
Falling free of Rick. Free of her past, her family issues, her perfectionism… Free of a life that had never really been lived. Free of…
Everything.
With a miraculous soft thud, she landed in Jack’s arms, and they closed securely and protectively around her. At once, he became her salvation and her life, meshing his soul with hers. She trusted him…truly trusted him.
Only him.
He would never let her go.
He would never hurt her. Abandon her.
He would love her always.
In the next instant, within a flash of light and a soundless, streaming vessel of color, he stepped away from the center and carried her through a crevice in the back of the lighthouse. As they passed through, an overwhelming sensation took her. A feeling like none she had ever known before. Like returning somewhere after a long absence.
Like coming home.
****
Jack Porter – Near the barrier islands, off the Carolina coast, 1718

Jack Porter eyed the ship moving just offshore. It was near midnight, and if Teach thought he could easily slip unseen through the inlet, he was wrong. Jack Porter saw everything. He had waited three days for this moment, and there was not a man on earth who would stop him from getting Edward Teach tonight. Not a man in Hell who would keep him from retrieving his wife.
Not a man in Hell.
He watched the pirate’s ship float quietly through the night mist. A swatch of moonlight illuminated the path to Teach’s Hole, a four-mile wide channel flanked by Ocracoke Island on the east and a wide shoal on the west. Teach was smart, of that there was no doubt. He could flee in either direction to safety and freedom if approached by an enemy. But Teach would be expecting a large ship or a sloop. He would not be expecting a lone man in a small craft. He would not be expecting Jack Porter.
Jack kept to the edge of the marsh, his oars slicing soundlessly through the water as he followed Teach. Finally, the pirate anchored ship. It was all Jack could do to wait, but he had to. He had to wait until Teach’s crew had drunk themselves stone cold and Teach himself was under the effects of laudanum. Just a week earlier, he had taken prisoners and demanded medicine as ransom, laudanum his preference. Rumor had it that the ship’s surgeon was not the only one in need of the drug. Teach needed it to survive. And Jack was counting on the rumors being true. Only after the ship was quiet, and the crew and Teach were sleeping off the effects of their liquor and drugs, would he finish his task. Only then would he retrieve his wife and take her back home.
If indeed his wife was still aboard the pirate’s vessel.
He cringed at the thought. Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, was famous for his scandalous ways and his ill respect of women. Wives he took and abandoned, forced to marry aboard his ship, and then tossed aside. But they were the lucky ones. Some were killed outright. Others he raped, mutilated, and left to die. Or passed on to his crew.
Hannah had to be there. And if she were not, then he still would not stop searching. He would find her. He would take her home and love her, no matter what Teach had done to her. He would always love her. Nothing could make him stop.
Jack stared into the triangle of moonlight reflected in the sound before Teach’s ship. His eyes closed. “So help me, Teach, I’ll have your head,” he whispered. He then uttered a small prayer to the Lord above that he would find her alive. “Please,” he begged, “just let me find her alive.”
So he waited. After nearly an hour the ship settled into the night. He listened for perhaps another hour as their rowdiness turned quite boisterous, and then for another as the night grew silent.
It was his turn.
Without a sound, Jack oared the small boat through the calm waters. Barely a curled wave lapped at the craft’s nose as he pushed through the night and toward the vessel that held his wife. He stood in defiance of the huge ship as he neared the head. If it came to it, he would kill every man in sight to get to her, and he would derive much pleasure from doing so—more pleasure than he thought he would ever gain from killing a man.
The notion startled him. He had never thought himself a murderer, or that he would ever be in a position to kill. He was a simple man, a ship’s pilot who liked to fish, hunt, scavenge the beaches, and make love to his wife. Tonight, however, he would become a murderer, for he had come not only to rescue his wife, but to take Blackbeard’s head.
He approached the ship, his hands gripping the sides of the wooden vessel. He anchored the boat and then slid his dagger between his teeth, grasped a rope dangling over the side and shimmied up, over, and onto the ship’s deck. The soft soles of his boots padded his leap.
He crouched low and crept along the side until he reached the opening to the cabin he suspected was Teach’s lair. Glancing about, he noticed two men sleeping on the opposite side of the deck, one sprawled not far from where he stood. Where the rest of the crew was, he could not be certain. He hoped they were below, passed out from the rum they had consumed a few hours earlier. And he hoped beyond all hope that Teach was the same.
Stepping down into the captain’s cabin, Jack removed the dagger from his teeth and held it tight in his right fist. He descended, wary as a cat, pausing to let his eyes adjust to the darkness; hesitating long enough to let his pulse catch up with his pounding heart. Moonlight barely penetrated the shadows of Teach’s quarters, but he thought he could see a body lying in the berth next to the wall. Jack squinted and stepped silently forward, trying for a better view, and then froze as something cold and hard struck him in the back of the neck behind his right ear.
His blood ran icy hot.
“Don’t move ye bloody bastard or I’ll take off yer head.”
Jack closed his eyes. It was either a stupid man or a careless man who got himself into predicaments such as this. He wondered if he was both.
Jack opened his eyes and stared ahead at the still form lying on the bed. Blunt steel nudged his neck. His eyes had now adjusted to the darkness, and without a doubt, he glimpsed a small feminine hand peeking out from beneath a blanket. A minute shaft of moonlight perforated two boards overhead and highlighted that hand. On her finger, Jack saw the simple band of gold he had placed there ten months earlier when they had married.
“I’ve come for my wife, Teach.”
A deep guffaw gurgled up inside the man behind him, followed by a noisy snort. The cold barrel dug deeper. The words that came from his throat were nearly as vile as the stench that reeked off him. “Do ye think I’m finished with her?”
Jack’s blood boiled. “I’ve come to get her...and I’ll have your head while I’m at it!”
He instantly sliced the dagger backward with a thrust as powerful as he could muster. The knife stabbed high into Teach’s thigh, just shy of his crotch, he imagined, ripping wide fabric and skin. Jack ducked to avoid the pirate’s quick trigger finger on the pistol as he heard the man’s evil curse and then pushed his body into Teach’s, hurling them both toward the right side of his quarters so he wouldn’t hit Hannah.
The pistol flew out of Teach’s hand and skidded across the oiled plank floor. Jack and Teach struggled, but as luck would have it, Teach gave up without much of a fight. As Jack had suspected, the effects of the laudanum had weakened the pirate. Very soon the fiercest of them all, the Devil incarnate himself, Captain Edward Teach, found himself flat on his back on his cabin floor with a foot shoved under his chin, gasping for air, and a dagger digging dangerously close to his ballocks.
And with one swift, certain, and determined sweep of the knife, Jack Porter made a decision. He slit through the fabric and tender skin of Blackbeard’s crotch, settling for his manhood instead of his head.
And found much pleasure in doing so.
Jack Porter wasn’t a murderer after all. But he wasn’t above castrating the son-of-a-bitch.
Even under the influence of laudanum, Teach knew what had happened to him, for he shrieked and cursed, holding his balls as if they were pirated booty, struggling to get up from the floor. But Jack’s foot still kept him pinned at the neck to the cabin’s grimy plank floor. Then thinking he heard movement outside, he abruptly lifted his foot off Teach’s windpipe.
The pirate gulped in long, labored and repeated intakes of breath, struggling to draw air into his lungs. He then rolled onto his side. Taking advantage of the pirate’s incapacitated state, Jack nimbly leaped to the left side of the cabin, picked up Teach’s pistol and shoved it into the waistband of his pants. He scooped Hannah into his arms and agilely ascended the steps to the deck.
The full moon wholly lit the night, and Jack saw that the only movement above was a man retching over the side of the ship. His predicament now was to get his unconscious wife over the ship’s side to his boat before Teach’s wails woke the entire crew.
He slipped quietly to where he had come aboard and peered over the side to his boat and then glanced backward as Teach’s curses grew louder. He glimpsed the piercing glow from the pirate’s eyes as he struggled to come on deck. And, if Teach was successful, there was no doubt in Jack’s mind that he and Hannah would soon be dead.
He prayed the pirate would bleed out before long.
He feared he’d not cut deep enough to end the scoundrel’s life.
There was no choice. With one last glance over the side and holding onto Hannah with every fiber in him, he leaped onto the wooden edge, perched precariously there for only a second as he stared into the face of Hell’s own son, and then jumped.
They plunged into the dark, chilly waters, narrowly missing the skiff. Down they sank into the murky depths surrounded by a myriad of air bubbles. Jack tried not to panic, knowing that in her present state, Hannah wouldn’t hold her breath. He struggled to release the blanket entangled with their bodies. Wet, saturated and heavy now with brackish water, the coverlet weighed them down and sucked them both deeper into the sea. The more he struggled, the more snarled his and Hannah’s limbs became in the water-laden fabric.
Lungs burning, he feared that before he could free Hannah, his chest would burst from lack of air, and they would both be doomed to lie at the bottom of the sound for eternity.
No!
He would not let that happen. He had waited a long time for Hannah to marry him. And for three days he had searched and waited to rescue her from dreadful horrors. Now she was in his arms, and he would not give up.
They sank lower.
Jack tugged and pulled with intensity so fierce that the blanket unexpectedly uncoiled from their bodies and drifted away. Jack held Hannah tight as he struggled to propel their bodies upward. Just as tiny white lights sparked behind his eyes, he burst through the surface with a gasp he knew would alert the crew above.
He flung his long hair out of his eyes. His lungs exploded with a frantic expulsion of air and a simultaneous gasping intake of breath. His chest burned. His mouth and eyes stung with salt. It seemed an eternity before his head cleared, but he knew it could only have been seconds. Cradling Hannah, he took care to keep her head above the surface as he frantically searched for the skiff. But when he allowed a split-second glance at her ashen face, he feared the worst and knew he had no time to waste.
There were shouts above him; he paid them no heed. With two strokes he reached his small boat and rolled Hannah over the side. Then he noticed the rolling mist, curling up from the waters. Deftly, he slashed the rope to the anchor and pushed off the side of the vessel. A gunshot fired and ripped through the waters beside him, but he kept his head. Under oar, he sliced through the water and into the thick fog where he and Hannah disappeared into the night’s mist, safe from the pirate’s vessel.
And he hoped, the pirate.
****
Tired, aching fingers smoothed back the fine golden hairs from Hannah’s face. Jack sat at her bedside as he had done for the past week, but the fear was creeping in. Fear that his ministrations were in vain, that she would never wake. He knew she was dying. And he wanted desperately to gaze one last time into her sea-green eyes. Just one last time.
But it wasn’t to be.
He had spent each day with her, forgetting his own needs, seeing only to hers. He unbolted the cabin’s wooden window shutters wide, letting in the bright sunshine each morning. Hannah loved the shore and ocean breezes, and he thought that perhaps the sharp smell of salt would permeate her senses and bring her back to consciousness.
It didn’t.
And now, she lay there, her body curled onto her side, her knees drawn to her chest, preparing to die.
There were days he wanted to go after Blackbeard again. There were days he wished he had taken him while he’d had the chance, that he’d been a strong enough man to kill the vile bastard. That part ate at him. He’d never thought himself a weak man, but it just wasn’t in him to take a life, even after all Teach had done to Hannah.
But what kind of a man did that make him? A man not cut out to exact revenge for his beloved?
He wondered about this, and the guilt he shouldered grew heavier with each passing day.
He prayed that he had severed enough of the pirate’s manhood to prevent him from forcing his way upon another woman.
He hoped with all the rage he felt in his heart.
He wept for days after bringing Hannah home. Tears came as he held her, knowing she would never wake. He caressed and soothed her. He cleansed her wounds, retching as he realized the torture she had endured. He only hoped that Teach had not turned her over to his crew. His gut ached at the thought. He would never know if the men had used her like a common whore. He prayed they had not. But she would never be able to tell him. And that was probably all the better for the both of them.
Nothing he could do. There was no one to help them. To sail across the sound for medical attention was not possible, the trek too far for her by horse to get to a mainland-going vessel. He could not feed her; she’d taken only a dribble of fluids in days. He’d tried broth, water—nothing worked.
So he was helpless. His lovely Hannah, his beautiful wife, whom he loved with a passion deeper than the ocean, was going to starve to death. The woman who had entranced him from their first glance, was going to die. And all he could offer her was the comfort and security of his arms when she did.
Resigned, Jack slipped into the bedstead beside her. He drew her head onto his chest and cradled her against him. Encircling her with his arms, his fingers gently caressed her cheek. Short, shallow breaths fanned against his cheek, and he relished the feel of it, for he knew not much longer would he feel her breath. He clasped her left hand in his and ran the rough pads of his fingertips over the smooth circle of gold on her third finger, remembering the day he’d placed it there.
He kissed her then, on her forehead, and for an instant, he felt she nuzzled a little closer, that her hand laid a subtle pressure on his stomach, and that a contented sigh escaped her lips. He held her, and he listened for more but heard nothing. Not the ocean’s roar, not a heartbeat.
Nothing.
Softly, Hannah’s body relaxed against him. The warmth of her breathing halted. The beating of her heart stopped.
Her soul gently slipped away and skittered out to sea on an ocean’s sigh.
And the sting of tears bit against the backs of Jack Porter’s eyelids.

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