Night Kiss

The Soul Mate Series, 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.

Nearly 300 years past, Jack Porter is in hot pursuit of his kidnapped wife. Not an easy feat considering the year is 1718 and the kidnapper is the notorious pirate Blackbeard aka Edward Teach. 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.

"Ms. James has written a gritty, sexy, terrifying at times, historical rich story about destiny, soul mates and true love." Recommended Read! Harlie's Book Reviews

Entranced [Night Kiss] has an original plot with enough secrets and artifacts to make a reader giddy...Ms. James has a distinct voice with many strong assets." InD'tale Magazine

The Outer Banks of North Carolina
Late September 2012

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 fianc√©—with a man she 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.
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.
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.
“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 dtermination, 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.