Adrianna nodded. “That’s it exactly, Papa. If I could just slow my breathing.”
Mr. Moorish gave a slow nod. “I’ll go get you water. The two of you stay here.”
The moment her father turned, she dropped her head against Luke’s chest. “I don’t normally have this sort of feminine weakness. I don’t know…”
“Shhh,” he said, dropping his nose into her hair. The smell of violets wrapped about him as the silky strands tickled his nose. This was so dangerous. He’d kept every relationship light and meaningless for the past five years. She fit against him in the nicest way. Fortunately, he was leaving tomorrow. “While I don’t know you particularly well, I can say you are one of the least likely females I’ve met in some time to suffer from fainting spells.”
She laughed a little, making a gasping sound. “Thank you for that.”
“If I could, I’d loosen your corset.” He stroked his hands up and down her back.
She paused for a moment and then quietly said, “I knew you were a rake.”
Rubbing his cheek along the top of her head, he cradled her neck. “And you’d undoubtedly be right, but this time, I simply think you need more room to catch your breath.” Calm and low he spoke to her as he filled his chest. “Try to slow your breathing and your heart.”
She shook, her nose pressing into him. “That is difficult with a man like you holding me so close.”
He slid his hands up, grasped her shoulders, and pulled her back just a bit. So. His little minx was not immune to him after all. Satisfaction slid down his spine. Normally, he’d take advantage of such a situation, but tonight, he couldn’t. Still it was good to know. “In that case, we should get you to your room and far away from me.” Then he leaned down and whispered into her ear, “But if I ever find you in my arms again, make no mistake, Miss Adrianna Moorish, I intend to kiss you. Thoroughly.”
An hour later Adrianna sat at her vanity, staring in the mirror, not at herself but at her sister, Juliet, who lounged on her bed. “Lord Crestwood is terribly handsome,” Juliet sighed, flopping back.
Adrianna attempted not to roll her eyes. She only partially succeeded. “His Grace told me the man is a rake. And he’s obviously lying about why he’s travelling north.”
Juliet stared up at the canopy, lost in her own thoughts. Adrianna turned more fully around to stare at her sister. Finally, Juliet looked back. “So what?” she asked, her hand swirling in a small circle.
“So what?” Adrianna stared at her sister. “So he’s dangerous.”
Juliet propped back up on one of her elbows. “I don’t want to marry him, Adrianna. I just want to use him for a bit of practice. We’ve hardly met any young eligible men in Seabridge Gate. Has it occurred to you that he might be able to teach us a thing or two about how to catch a husband?”
Adrianna blinked at her sister, hardly able to believe her ears. Why that was a rather decent plan, and honestly, not that far from what Adrianna herself had been doing. While she hadn’t been trying to practice feminine wiles on Lord Crestwood, she had been hoping to sharpen her sparring skills and a new opponent had been…fun.
Well, that was until he’d pressed her close. Then he’d stolen her breath and quite honestly, she’d learned a lesson or two about feminine wiles herself. For example, she’d become aware that a man softened when a woman was in need. Or that he’d liked the scent of her hair.
Unfortunately, all that knowledge had only made her predicament worse, as had the feel of his chest, and breadth of his shoulders, and the way…
“Well?” Juliet asked, sitting up. “Had it?”
“No. It honestly hadn’t,” she said, looking down at the floor. “I considered him a danger to all your virtues.”
Juliet lay back down, her gaze thoughtful as she gazed at the canopy. “I suppose he is. But a bit of danger is…exciting.”
Adrianna could hardly disagree. In fact, she was a bit disappointed in herself that she’d been so affected by his charm. Still, she’d upheld her intentions. He’d remained far from her sisters and she’d proven a worthy adversary, hadn’t she? “Well, regardless, he leaves tomorrow.”
Juliet huffed. “I know. I was there, remember. And it irks me a bit that you kept him all to yourself. I might have lost my only chance.”
Adrianna’s mouth parted as she stared at her sister. She hadn’t thought of it that way a stab of guilt pierced her chest. “I was trying to protect you.”
Juliet gave her a sharp look. “You are my baby sister. I hardly need your protection. And after what happened, perhaps I should have been protecting you.”
Adrianna sat straighter, irritation replacing her guilt. “Well, if it had been your goal to protect me, you did a terrible job of it. He had his hands all over-—” She stopped, not wanting to reveal too much. Juliet would tell the entire family and if her father found out, who knew what ideas he might get in his head.
Her sister looked over, arching a brow. “See. I told you that you kept him all to yourself.” Then Juliet pushed up and off the bed. “But if I can’t have any practice, perhaps you should.”
Adrianna shook her head. Despite what Juliet seemed to think. Lord Crestwood was not a man to trifle with. He’d nearly undone her tonight with his handsome looks and his gentle touch. He was a danger to a virtuous woman for certain. “I don’t want any more practice and regardless, he’s leaving.”
“On one of Papa’s ships…” Juliet inserted, stroking her chin.
“Juliet,” Adrianna warned, also standing.