How to Catch an Elusive Earl (Romancing the Rake 2)

Page 8

“Please tell me you’re not concocting a scheme.”
Juliet shrugged. “Not only could you practice on Lord Crestwood but there are two other lords. If none of them left then…”
“What are you planning,” Adrianna hissed, crossing to her sister and grabbing her arms. “Those men should leave Seabridge Gate.”
Juliet slipped from her sister’s grip. “Don’t worry. They will.” Then Juliet gave her a bright smile. “You’ve had a difficult evening. You should rest.”
“Now I don’t want to rest. I want to know what little scheme you’re hatching.”
Juliet pushed out her bottom lip. “I never scheme. Now off to bed with you, little sister. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.”
Adrianna watched her sister leave, her gaze narrowing. What was Juliet planning? But then she relaxed. Not even Juliet could stop one of their father’s ships from sailing, could she?
Chapter Four
Luke woke with the first rays of light brightening the sky and dressed, heading out to the water’s edge to watch the sun rise. He’d seen quite a few in his day, but most of them had been at the end of a night of heavy drinking. Which meant he hardly remembered any of them.
As the sun bathed the beach in hues of pink, yellow, and orange, he didn’t see it as disgustingly wholesome, but rather inspiring and beautiful. Which frightened the feck out of him. But also, somehow, made him calmer inside too. He’d spent most of his time the past few years, bouncing from one party to the next, preferring meaningless pleasure over substance.
He’d arrived back at the cottage that the Moorish family had graciously allowed them to stay in and found both of his friends already retired for the evening.
Which had been just as well. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he hadn’t felt like drinking or carousing. Rather, he’d gone to bed and lay awake wondering if Adrianna had recovered. Over and over he’d pictured the feel of her against his body, her tantalizing scent. Christ, he’d gotten up out of bed and found his jacket, pulling the cloth to his nose. Sure enough, the scent of violets had filled his nostrils. He’d returned to the bed, jacket in hand. Then he realized that he was acting like a lovesick schoolboy. He hadn’t behaved like this since Miranda.
His gut clenched as he’d tossed the jacket aside. Miranda had been a lovely blonde too. Unlike Adrianna, she’d been a model of sweet decorum, always behaving exactly as a lady should. He’d fallen hard for her angelic façade and her wholesome demeanor, and he’d courted her relentlessly. And she’d returned his affection, even allowing him liberties that she’d given no man before him. Which had convinced him that she did so because they had a possible future together.
His older brother, the current earl, had thrown a large soiree with the intention of finding a bride. With their father’s death, he’d taken the title and was intent upon continuing the family line with an heir.
Luke had invited Miranda and her family with the intent of also finding a bride. He’d purchased a ring and planned a proposal in the garden at exactly midnight. He’d even convinced his brother to buy fireworks and light them off at midnight as part of the party.
He’d danced with Miranda, holding her in his arms and whispering to meet him in the garden. She’d pressed close to him, and whispered back that he was such a rake, pulling her out for all these illicit meetings. He’d laughed in her ear and promised her he was only her rake. No one else’s.
At quarter to midnight, he’d made his way to the appointed spot, waiting for his love. She hadn’t come. At first, he’d thought she’d lost her way and looked for her. When he couldn’t find her, he’d circled closer to the house just as the first fireworks started to launch. As they exploded, lighting the veranda below, he saw the clear vision of Miranda tucked on his brother’s arm as he leaned down and spoke in her ear.
Miranda had been a perfect lady and perfect ladies married titled gentleman, not the spares.
Miranda should have taught him to never allow a woman past his defenses again but as he’d lain in bed, he’d stared at his now-crumpled jacket on the floor. Thank goodness he was leaving tomorrow, because Miss Adrianna Moorish had begun to do just that. She’d penetrated the thick walls he’d built around his emotions. Frightening, considering he’d only known her for a day.
He’d finally managed a few hours of sleep and then woke early to walk along the shore of Seabridge Gate. The sun sparkled on the water, the grass looking fresh and clean with dew. Last night what he thought had been disgustingly sweet, this morning looked fresh and clean. Wholesome in a way that quieted his restless soul.
By the time he’d returned to the cottage, both Dashlane and Craven were up and dressed. “Shall we go to the inn for breakfast?” he asked as he stepped into the kitchen.
Craven nodded his dark head, his gaze unreadable as always. “Did you secure passage?”
“I did,” he said, his gut clenching. The thought of going to Balstead’s suddenly unappealing.
Craven frowned. “I’ve decided not to join you.”
He raised a brow but didn’t have time to answer as Dashlane spoke next. “I’m not going either.”
Both his brows went up. “May I ask why?”
Dashlane shrugged. “We’re already ridiculously late. All the good ladies will be taken.”
Craven crossed his arms. “I just don’t want to go anymore.” He frowned. “I’m not certain I ever did.”
Craven was a man of few words but of strong convictions. “Of course,” he answered, his own mouth turning down. “I’ll venture on alone since my best travelling companions have abandoned me.”
Dashlane grunted. “You’re perfectly capable of getting yourself to Haversham.”