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The Five Second Rule For Kissing (The Northumberland Nine Series Book 5)

The Five Second Rule For Kissing (The Northumberland Nine Series Book 5)

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Josette Marsden's mission is to educate impoverished girls. A husband would only get in her way.

However, one happenstance meeting with the Earl of Selhorst awakens desires Josie has never felt before. As a girl she dreamed of love, but the struggles of growing up in poverty hardened her heart. She refuses to put her future in the hands of a husband. But, Josie never refuses an opportunity to expand her mind and until now, the passions between a man and a woman had gone unexplored. All she has to do is convince Lord Selhorst to help.

Patrick Richard Madden, Earl of Selhorst, has lived a charmed life, universally liked by everyone he knows, until he falls on Josette Marsden, knocking her to the ground and all good sense from his head. From there on Josie does not like him, and he sets out to change her mind. But in return, Josie doesn't offer friendship, but a chance to help her experiment.

With passion.

While Patrick knows he should refuse, he can't resist Josie's beautiful face and her extraordinary mind. She's made it clear her interest in him is purely academic. He's never met a woman whose love of knowledge matches his own. He's determined to show her that marriage to him doesn't mean giving up her convictions.

A battle of wills ensues and like all experiments, there is a measure of risk. The closer they become, the more passion and pleasure binds them together. But will scandal force her to give up her principles for the protection of a husband, or can Patrick convince her that giving away her heart doesn't mean giving up her dreams?

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August 10th, 1825

House Party at Selbourne Castle.

Josette Marsden had a singular talent. 

She could walk about, a novel held eye level, and read without bumping into a single thing. It helped a great deal that her world consisted of the same small house she was born in, the lane leading to Selbourne Castle, and Selbourne Castle itself, a great medieval monstrosity that sat upon the bluffs in Northumberland.

Her physical body had never needed more space than that. 

Because in her mind—her greatest asset—she could go anywhere, as long as she had a book.

And this day would be no different. She’d spent her first night at Selbourne Castle, the first of fourteen during a house party in which the new duchess, Violet, would throw she and her eight sisters at nine gentlemen in hopes one of them would stick. 

Josie had no intention of sticking. Good God, she had eight sisters. The odds were favorable one of them could find a match. But still, the reason for the party was patently ridiculous, and Josie had no intention of being thrown, paraded, flaunted in front of anyone, let alone the London rakes inhabiting this castle, all friends of the Duke of Selbourne, or Weirick as she’d known him all her life.

She pulled on her blue spencer to ward off the ever-present castle chill and picked up her book. She could finish this last chapter on the way to the breakfast room and pass the library to select another book.

She opened her door and stepped into the hall and then opened her book. The crackle of the spine was music to her ears, a sign of repeated readings, of hours spent in pure enjoyment. 

She sighed with pleasure. 

She opened right to the last page she’d left last night and began to read, her feet moving in the direction of the stairs. She successfully navigated one flight and turned down the side hall that would lead her to the library, a two-floor kingdom of wonder she wished she could make her home in. 

She used one hand to open the door that opened to the balcony shelves, which happened to be her favorite area of the castle. Wall to wall books, a quaint little seating area in the east corner with just enough room for a chaise lounge and a side table with a lovely round stained-glass window for light. The window was of a seagull soaring over the ocean and the blues and creams of the glass lit up the little corner like a piece of heaven. The decorative iron railing of the balcony crowned the lower floor with elegant swirls and loops. The main floor of the library had two large tables and a seating area to invite many people to congregate there, but the little corner up here, private, quiet, and washed in dreamy light was Josie’s personal paradise.

She breathed in as she entered, the aroma of linseed oil, a hint of smokiness from the hearth below, and the best scent of all, books, filling her nose. She closed her eyes briefly and let out a throaty sigh.

Her book smashed into her face as she ran into a clothed wall. 

A very male grunt preceded a waterfall of books. 

Josie stumbled back, blinded. She was grabbed by her arms and hauled against a hard body. Her breath rushed from her lungs, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

The world tilted. She had no bearing on her balance and neither did her erroneous savior. They toppled to the floor, the corners of books making a terrible bed. He landed on top of her with another grunt.

And still worse, her arms were trapped under him and her book was still pressed to her face, squishing the tip of her nose painfully.

She froze, unable to breathe or move as his weight pinned her. But she was startlingly aware of the hardness of his form, how the muscular planes of his body fit against her curves intimately. Prickly heat washed over her skin, from the roots of her hair to her toes. Her heart thrashed around like a bird caught in a sheet hung out to dry.

He lifted onto his elbows and Josie peeled the book off her face, her brown eyes locking with startling blue, deeper than a cloudless sky.

She gulped. “Lord Selhorst?” 

“Miss Marsden, my apologies.” 

His weight was free of her chest, but she still couldn’t draw a full breath. His eyes were magnetic, and she felt as though she was sinking into them—ridiculous, given that they were above her.

She didn’t like it one bit. 

“Please remove yourself.” She squirmed her legs, the only parts she could move. 

He lifted off her, but every place he put his hand was on a book. It would slide out from under him, and he’d crash down on her again. 

Each time, she lost her breath but not from the force.

Each time she could feel him, her body reacted strangely, heat spilling through her, a thread of tension tightening like piano wire being tuned until her body hummed with strange music. 

“I’m most”—grunt—“sorry, I can’t…” 

Josie couldn’t bear it anymore, she brought up her knee to leverage herself and slide out but he came down again, her knee striking possibly the only soft place on his body.

He grunted again, this one more painful than surprised. He rolled off her, curling in agony.

Oh. Blast it.

She knew where she’d struck him. Lord Chester, their neighbor and also a childhood companion had taught her and her sisters where to attack a man’s person should he ever forget himself.

She grimaced, patting his shoulder. “I’m sorry, really. It was not intentional.” 

He nodded, his face red, the veins in his forehead popping out as he took slow breaths. “I’m fine.” He gasped.

“You don’t look fine.” 

He sat up, leaning his forearms on his knees and bowing his head. “I just need a moment.” 

Josie scooted back, picking up books from the floor. She turned her back to him and rubbed her sore nose.

She glanced at the titles, The Sexual Grimoire, Tales of Erotic Torture, A Primer to Personal Pleasure. She frowned at the last one. 

What the devil is he reading? 

“Are you hurt?” he asked from behind her.

“No,” she said absently. 

She picked up another book. This one small, bound in blue leather, the title embossed in silver flake.

Soul Kissing. 

She blushed, but she was also intrigued so she slipped the little book into her pocket.

“Here, let me help,” he said.

Josie fumbled with the books as he came near and shoved them at his chest. “Interesting subjects you have there.”

He smiled tightly. “They were left in my room. I didn’t choose them. I suspect the duke’s brother, Lord Andrews, is having a lark at my expense.” 

“Yes, that does seem like him. He hasn’t changed much since he was a boy.” 

“Do you always walk around with a book in front of your face? Doesn’t seem safe.” 

Josie stiffened, her ears growing hot. “Yes, I do. I haven’t had an issue until you arrived, walking around with too many books in your arms like—” She picked up another. “Experimental Positions for the Limber and Lustful—”

He ripped the book from her hand and shoved it into the bookshelf.

“It doesn’t go there,” she said flatly.

He folded his arms. “How would you know?” 

“I know every inch of this library. That section is theoretical mathematical texts, Pythagoras and—”

He was gaping at her.


His faced blanked. “Nothing.” He cleared his throat.

Josie pulled the book out, disliking the feeling she was being judged. “Here, put it…” She frowned as she scanned the library. “I…don’t know where it goes. None of these books were here before.” 

He snorted. “I bet those are your least favorite words.” 

She raised a brow. “I beg your pardon?” 

I don’t know. You hate them, don’t you? You hate to admit them?” 

She wanted to scowl at him. She resisted the urge to pinch her lips. Her sister Georgie said it was her irritated governess face.

I don’t know what you mean?” she stated pointedly.

He chuckled.

She drew herself up. “None of these books belong here. You can return The Beastly Man and the rest directly to Roderick, I mean, Lord Andrews.” 

He grinned at her, accepting another book to the stack in his arms. His eyes twinkled in amusement.

He squatted to pick one up and held it up to her. “This one is too tame to be from my stack.” He held her book out to her.

“Thank you.” She tried to take it, but he had it pinched tightly between his fingers.

“You’ll miss breakfast if you intend to read it right now.” 

“I’m only two pages away from the ending. I would already be done if you hadn’t run into me.” 

“Two pages? Oh, yes, I remember. Let me save you the disappointment. The truth is he’s a ghost. That’s the twist. His wisdom comes from haunting people for hundreds of years.” 

She gasped, a rage sharper than a saber’s edge rising forth.

How could you?” she seethed.

He blinked and drew back. “It’s only fiction…”

“Only—” She clenched her fists and her teeth. 

The arrogance of this man! Ugh! Only fiction, my bruised bottom!

“Fiction is the basis of all great invention,” Josie ground out. “We must first dream before we create. Works of fiction are as critical to the advancement of the mind as is—is—”

“Careful there, you’re verging on hysterical.” 

Josie inhaled slowly, her gaze running from his mirror shine black hessians, all the way to his wavy auburn hair. He was every inch the aristocrat, even in the dry, condensation of his tone. She was wasting her breath here. “I don’t have fits. And I don’t have time to educate you, my lord. Please excuse me.” She sidestepped him, but he stuck out an arm, blocking her. 

His hand gripped the railing, gloveless, the fine red hairs on the back of his hand catching her attention. He had huge hands, heavy, long-fingered. The sight of them sent a peculiar thrill through her.

She suppressed her temper and met his gaze coolly.

“I feel I owe you yet another apology, even though I’m the one who suffered bodily injury during this encounter.” 

“Not true. You nearly crushed me.” 

“But you’re fine now?” 

“As are you.” 

“Not quite. You have me in a state, if I’m being honest.” 

“I prefer honesty. But if I’m being honest, my lord, I should say I don’t give a damn about your state, and you having ruined the ending of my book for me is unforgivable.” 

Never mind that she’d read it three times before. It was the sanctity of the book that he’d violated. Thou shalt not spoil the ending of a book. It may not be a commandment of the lord but it was one of hers.

“Well… I’m at a loss for words. Not sure that’s happened to me before. I surrender. I’ll see you at breakfast.”

He cocked his head as he stared at her and then departed through the door she’d come.

Josie stood there, her knuckles white as she held her book to her chest.

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