Every princess should be kissed. And by a man who knows what he's doing. Beatricia had been enjoying just that with Farris Turner when she was caught.
But running only drives her into the arms of a stranger. A man who wants to offer her one night together, to offer her the experience her life and duties in the city of Sun-Airor--a place set out of space and time--have denied her.
It'll be her only chance before she's forced to enter a loveless marriage...but who exactly is her stranger? And what will kissing him reveal?
About the Author
Kim Knox brews sex, magic, darkness and technology in a little corner of North West England. She writes erotic science fiction and fantasy romance for a number of publishers.
Read an Excerpt
By Kim Knox, Theresa Cole
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Kim Knox
All rights reserved.
New Year's Eve. London. World Designation: SA-12
It was New Year again. Her third in five days.
Bea hadn't meant to branch worlds that way, but her heart was overriding sense. That very first New Year with Turner had been a brief moment of bliss. She'd never have it again. She knew that. Even with her abilities, it was impossible to cross back into her own past. Still ... she ran through parallel worlds, picking out similar New Year's parties like jewels against the rest of space-time.
She lifted her chin and let the swell of this new party wash over her. The scent of perfume, cologne, and the lingering odors of dark chocolate and strawberries filled the warm air. A group moved past her, the casual, lingering stroke of a man's fingers down the bared spine of the woman in front of him. His body leaning in, lips brushing her ear, spoke of a wantonness Bea had never experienced.
She toyed with the stem of her flute, watching the glass sparkle from the candlelight. Every New Year's seemed to smell the same, overlaid with anticipation. And more than a hint of lust.
She sipped her champagne and let the tart taste and bubbles distract her. The sexual heat in the room meant nothing to her, even as it rose with good food and free-flowing alcohol. Only one party — so similar in style to the one she now attended that it was almost a physical pain in her chest — had ever found her caught in a rush of want.
And she wasn't thinking about that night. Or him. Much.
Commander Farris Turner. A bodyguard to the Royal House of Denys-Ilona. Her bodyguard.
Bea traced a droplet of moisture down the glass and pulled in a slow breath. The tightness of her corseted gown pressed against her ribs, and for a second, she felt the ghost-memory of his large hand against her spine. But not like the couple she'd just witnessed. That wasn't allowed.
He'd guarded her for six years, following her into other worlds as they gathered resources for their hidden city. His humor, often twisted, could make her groan. Make her laugh. He'd stood in front of her as she — and others — held open the bridge between worlds to get their people home. Sometimes so close to touching her, she could feel the heat from his skin ...
No. Enough. It was time she found something more sane than branching from event to event, hunting for the fleeting sensation of joy. Of finding a hint of the party from which she'd fled and imagining that Turner was there, somewhere in the laughing crowds.
She glanced at the time. She only had an hour left in this reality. Her ability to fix in a new world was finite. And she'd pushed herself hard in the last few days. Already, the tug, the strain on her flesh, beat against her thoughts. The call of her prime reality. It was only a matter of days before that need — no matter how hard she fought it — would drag her back. She could never avoid her duty. Or her fate.
She straightened ... and turned into the solid chest of a man.
He gripped her arms, his fingers flexing against the silk of her long gloves, and smiled.
Bea's heart stopped. For a micro-second, she saw Turner. His familiar, dark, and rugged beauty that had held her for too many years. But she blinked, and the illusion was gone. Simply wishful thinking. She slid on the mask she'd worn since she was a child. Turner called it her royal face. "If you'll excuse me, please?"
The stranger's thumbs brushed against the edge of her silk gloves, and a little prickle of awareness chased along her nerves. "You're not leaving?" His voice was deep, smooth, with a hint of an accent she knew. But that was impossible. There'd been no time to observe the culture, as she'd only been in this reality for half a day. She hadn't pushed the translator agents in her brain to learn the nuances, and for a brancher, it was an inexcusable lapse. Still, the flow of his voice. It was Turner's. "I think it's the law that you have to stay until midnight." He glanced to the light clock with its hands ticking against the darkened glass of the long windows. "And you have at least another hour."
She thought about pulling free of his hold, but the warmth of his touch, his height, even something in his scent kept her still. His life-fabric — the energy that formed him and tied him to his reality — was somehow ... familiar. The insane thought ran that maybe, through some quirk of branching, she'd found this world's Farris Turner. "Why do you think I'm leaving?"
"The suddenness of movement. The flush to your face. The little jump in your pulse ... there." His finger hovered over the pulse point in the dip above her collarbones, so close to touching her that she shivered. "All tell me you were about to run."
"And what would be my reason to stay?"
He smiled, a deliciously sexy smile that forced her stomach to perform a strange, little flip. "Me."
His fingers slipped down her arm to take her hand. "Dance with me."
Her feet were already moving before her brain kicked in. What was she doing? He was a complete stranger. She didn't simply fall into following men she didn't know. Despite the bizarre feeling that she somehow connected him with Turner, he wasn't that man. He couldn't be.
His hand tightened around hers. "Second thoughts ...?"
"Claudia." She gave him one of her numerous middle names. The name she preferred was the one Turner had given her, and she let no one else share in it.
"Claudia ..." He rolled the name around, seeming to taste it. "It suits you."
"Thank you." She squeaked as he drew her against him, his hand hot on her waist. "What ...?"
A waiter gave them a nod and a soft thank you as he moved past, a tray of drinks balanced on his hand.
"Saving the silk of your dress," her stranger murmured, but his hand lingered, his fingers stroking the curve of her hip. A light touch, but one that burned through to her bare skin.
"Thank you, again." She had to move, but the sly dip of his fingertips across her pelvis fluttered warmth in her belly. Was his similarity to Turner enough for her touch-starved body? Was she really that shallow? "You wanted to dance."
He pushed a path through the knot of bodies crowding the edge of the dance floor. The heavy rhythm of the music beat through her blood. Yes, there were some differences to this party and the one from which she'd run. Her mother would never have stood for the loud, discordant thumping, nor the wild arm waving and gyrating of the couples and groups in front of her. No excess. The Head of the Royal House of Denys-Ilona liked her world to be ... contained.
It was symbolic of their isolated land. A small city-state encased in a cocoon her mother designed — separate from space and time — hidden and unknown. So secret, her people were only a myth. Everything was held together by the DNA of the Royal House and the incredible bio-technology the queen had wrought from her own blood. And her royal descendants.
Royal. Bea held back a smile. Her mother was a self-styled queen and had not a drop of blue blood in her. Simply a rogue gene and genius tied to a towering ego. But her talent — and her children's — made opening doorways into every conceivable world all too easy.
Her stranger smiled down at her, breaking into her thoughts. "Not your style?"
Bea stared at a group of women shrieking and shimmying, ample breasts barely contained by tight corsets. Their freedom was terrifying. She could never allow so much skin to be on display. Her gut clenched. This was a bad idea. She had to branch out. Time was thinning. She had to forget about recreating a bliss-filled moment with Turner.
"Mine, neither." His large warm hand curved over her waist and eased her to him, his palm settling on the small of her back. His other clasped hers, long fingers dwarfing her hand and holding it to his chest. Pressed against the length of his body, his strength, the firmness of muscles, made her heart match the pace of the music.
"Who are you?"
He turned her away from a woman's flailing arms. "Aidan Marshal."
"What am doing I here?" The half-whispered question was more for herself. She had no idea what she was doing, allowing a stranger to ... surround her so quickly.
"They call it dancing."
His head dipped to hers, his lips touching her forehead. The sacrilege of it ran through her, hot and quick. No one touched the skin of a princess of the Royal House. Her skin held her power, the ability to branch from world to world. Anyone touching her could share in it. See the bright specks of other worlds. Little pricks of light on reality. Or so she'd always been told. This Aidan seemed ... oblivious.
Bea closed her eyes and let herself be held. Just for a moment. He wasn't Turner, but he was about as close as she was ever going to get again. Was this what she had been hunting for through so many worlds? A Turner substitute? One who could easily touch her?
"Why were you running just now?"
"We have ..." His head turned away from her to glance at the clock. "Forty-nine minutes."
"And then what?"
He smiled, and his lips touched her temple, the brief warmth and smooth line of his mouth pulsing want low in her belly. "We'll see." His fingers drew a slow path up and down her spine. "You were telling me your ... forty-eight minute long story."
Bea laughed and rested her head against his chest. His starched shirt rubbed against her cheek, but it was warm from his body. "Last week, no, five days ago, I was at a party similar to this, but it was meant to celebrate the announcement of my ... engagement."
She'd hunted for that last word. Betrothal sounded too medieval. Which it was. Neither she nor her prospective groom, Bohdan Lange, had had a say in their union. Because of a glitch missed in the gene sequencing, Bohdan, who had been betrothed to her cousin, was now her future husband. Their blood matched. Any offspring would carry a strong branching gene.
Protecting the city and securing its resources were always their priority. Creating more natural branchers was the only way. Their sacred duty. One she would return to, but an overwhelming duty she wanted to escape for just a while longer.
"Again, you ran?"
Aidan was a stranger. She had his particular world memorized against her skin, the detail and feel of it, so she could be certain to avoid it again in her future. She could risk most of the truth. And she needed to talk. To admit her fears. With Aidan there would be no consequences.
"We were a union of convenience. Something that looked good in planning, but in reality ... "
"You don't love him."
"No." This man was a player. But she was fine with that. He wanted only one thing, and he thought he had a broken woman easy to be picked. In a way, he was right. And she just might let him pick her. "But I would've married him. It was the right thing to do."
"Is that what's expected of you? The right thing?"
Bea pulled in a slow breath, enjoying his scent, the hint of cologne teasing her senses. Her fingers skated lines under his jacket, finding body-warmed cotton and the tantalizing hint of the man beneath. Solid, firm muscle ... and the memory of Turner under her nervous touch twisted her heart. They had always been so careful. No one knew how she felt about him. Her royal mask had its uses. "I always do the right thing."
"That's good to know." His mouth brushed her hair. "Encouraging."
Bea let out a soft laugh at the hint of salaciousness in his tone. "I admit to nothing."
They were in a cocoon, oblivious to the wild moves of the others or the increased pounding of a new song. His lips touched her temple again, the shape of them, their warmth, the strangeness of having another human being against her precious skin making her breath short.
He placed another kiss on her cheek, her eyelashes fluttering against his nose. It drew a smile from her. Could she return it? Turner had been the first, the only man to kiss her, and the memory of it was still too sharp.
Aidan's mouth hovered over hers, the heat of his breath forcing her own lips to part. With her eyes shut and her heart pounding, she could grab her fantasy. She could, but ... The memory of Turner's taste, how his hand tightened oh-so-briefly against her hip and the unexpected stroke of his fingertips across her cheek seared thought her mind, bringing with it his murmured, "Every princess should be kissed ..."
Even Aidan's hesitation was his ... but Turner had kissed her on a balcony, one hidden from the prying eyes of the court. It could never be this blatant act in the middle of a crowded dance floor.
"No." Bea turned her face from him, and his mouth brushed her cheek. "You can't kiss me." She caught the time on the clock. Thirty-nine minutes left. She never stayed until the stroke of midnight. Midnight was when it had all fallen apart. When her mother had caught her. Them.
"Claudia ...?" His palms smoothed over her shoulders, calming, sure, but her mind had jerked back. To the crush of Turner's arms, his thigh pushed between hers as his mouth devoured her. Sparks had danced across her vision, the fire in her veins fierce and wanted. For a moment, he'd broken the kiss, and his words seared into her memory.
"My only chance. For this. For us. Before you're his."
But that chance never came. Her mother, quickly followed by courtiers, had found them. Turner had shoved her behind him, pushing her into the thick shadows. His sharp, "Branch. Now," cut through her.
She hadn't thought. She ran, branching into a distant world, grabbing hold of another party, spinning herself into it. Then another party and crashing from the strain on her body. And a third party, because, frankly, she wasn't thinking straight. And the man who held her, this Aidan, the man who mimicked Turner, confused her more.
Bea knew she had to go home. Her life, her duty bound her there, and the tug of her prime reality was already burning in her flesh. Little stabs of hot pain, pushing with it the sour wrongness of the world she stood in. But she couldn't face the fact of her true reality. Not yet.
Music thudded and boomed around her. The alien scent of skin and sweat and lust hung heavy in the close air. And the press of Aidan's body was becoming pure temptation.
They'd taken away her choice. She couldn't have Turner. But there was no one to stop her in this reality.
"I have a room here ..."
Aidan's touch stilled, the warmth of this fingers burning against the thin fabric of her gown to the skin beneath. "As do I."
She looked up. Her heart was in her throat, and nerves ate at her. She swallowed. No turning back. "So it becomes, would you rather leave or have me do it?"
Light caught in his eyes, and she wished she could read his expression, knew what he was thinking. But there were no little tells around his mouth, in his gaze. He was ... unusual. His thumb drew a slow and tormenting line across her cheek to her lips. "The choice should be yours. Is yours."
"Your room." Because when she was done, she could run from his bed, escape to her own hotel room, and then branch out of his world forever.
Aidan wet his lips, and the quick need to taste him startled her. But kissing was out. Whatever else she did with this man — and she planned to do a lot — she wouldn't kiss him. Her one reservation. The one covenant she could have with Turner. They'd shared a kiss, and she was determined to keep that memory pure.
"My room." He eased back from her and took her hand.
Her heart lodged in her throat as Aidan led her through the mess of people and tables to the heavy doors heading to the lifts. It was an act of madness. She couldn't — she shouldn't — be giving her virginity away to a man she'd known little more than half an hour. But the insanity of branching from party to party had to stop somewhere. And if she killed the ache she had for Turner in the bed of another man, maybe she'd regain her grip. It was an insane plan, but she could never have the man she wanted.
The doors thudded back into place, and the sudden silence of the corridor pulsed in her eardrums. Aidan smiled and his fingers squeezed hers. "This isn't something I normally do, either."
Bea couldn't help herself. She lifted her eyebrow and held his dark gaze. He was handsome, sharp, and had a smile that made her legs weak. She was certain women threw themselves at him often. "Truly?"
Excerpted from Kissed by Kim Knox, Theresa Cole. Copyright © 2013 Kim Knox. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyable, though I spent much of the first half of the novella feeling vaguely confused. A bit more world building was needed for it to make sense, at least in my head. The ending was immensely satisfying, though, and made up for much...I'd definitely read more from this author in the future. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This was a little hard for me to get into. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on, and with how short this book is... it was pretty much when I was finished when I grasped it. It did flow nicely, but I just couldn't like the characters or make any connection. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
So, I finished Kissed by Kim Knox. Basically it's a novella about a princess, Beatrice, who's about to marry some other guy, but she really loves someone she's not suppose to, Farris Turner. However, the guy disappears and she's hopping around different time and space before she does her duty. She runs into a guy that reminds her of Turner. So, you got the gist of the story. Honestly, it was okay. I thought the premise of the story was interesting, but once I started reading it didn't catch my attention. I guess if there was more to the story, I might feel differently about it. I don't know. I'm not sure if this is a positive or a negative, but the story was a quick read. Here's the bottom line: Yes, there is sex, it's kind of sci-fi, and it's short. So, if these are the things that appeal to you, you might give Kissed a try. Copy provided by the publisher
This one just didn't hit the spot for me. While there were quite a few very hot scenes, there just wasn't enough storyline. The story that was presented seemed to be an afterthought to the sex. Because of this I just didn't sync with either character. Beatricia is out for what seems to be a one night stand, but I never really understood why. The ending was sweet, and it would have been nice if I had felt more about what was going on throughout the story. If you're looking for more of an erotica book with a little extra backgrough though, this would be right up your alley.