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

Page 9

Crestwood looked down at his boots. “I am indeed.” He had the sudden feeling that he didn’t want to go either. Which was ridiculous. He’d not allow Adrianna or any other woman to change his character now. Doing so simply begged for trouble. He didn’t want to live through another letdown like the one Miranda had given him. “I’ll just take your ladies as well as mine.”
Dashlane gave him a smile and a clap on the back. “Now that sounds like the man I know and sort of despise.”
Luke glared at his friend as he opened the door. “And here I was going to offer to introduce you to the Moorish family.”
Dashlane paused, his nose wrinkling. “I’m not sure I wish to meet them anyhow.” He ran a hand through his golden hair. “Something about Ophelia unsettled me. Are they all as pretty as she is?”
“Yes,” he answered honestly. “All different, but each beautiful in her own way.”
“And are they as kind?” This from Craven, who rarely asked questions.
Luke gave Craven a sidelong glance as he stopped in the street, his gaze on the town square that flanked their left. “Each is as wholesome. I don’t know about kind. From the little I gathered, they all have something that makes them sparkle. I’ve never met a family quite like them. It’s…” He didn’t know how to complete the thought. Frightening, wonderful, annoying. He wasn’t certain.
The other two men paused next to him. Dashlane rubbed his neck. “Have either of you looked about this place and gotten the impression it holds some sort of youthful magic you lost when you grew up?”
Luke shifted. “I didn’t lose it. I thrust it away because it was an illusion and not real. That sort of feeling makes you do foolish things that end up getting a man hurt.”
Neither man answered as they continued to the inn entering the bustling establishment and looked about for a seat.
The place hummed with a happy energy as neighbors called to one another. Luke and his companions slipped into an empty table, remaining quiet. He didn’t know what Craven or Dashlane had on their minds, not that he cared. He’d carefully constructed a world that kept him safe from ever being hurt again and Seabridge Gate was trying to strip that defense away. He’d better get on the boat—and quick.
Adrianna took a large sip of tea, eager for the fortifyin
g warmth the beverage would bring. She’d not slept well last night, plagued by dreams of rogues and their delightful kisses. Not that he’d kissed her, but apparently her imagination had gone wild with what such a touch might be like.
She had to admit Juliet might have had a point about practicing a few skills. Not that it mattered now. Lord Crestwood would get on a boat and be gone today, never to be seen again. And besides, she was more interested in honing her sparring skills than her kissing ones.
Not that she’d ever kissed a man before. Perhaps she should work on such activities after all. She was perfectly suited to protect her sisters, but perhaps lacking in the skills with which to find a husband of her own.
She tightened her grip on her teacup as a frown touched her lips. While she’d help all of her sisters find good matches, she’d like to be able to wed a husband of her own as well.
Adrianna brought her teacup to her lips, drawing in another generous sip of tea and then took a bite of her toast. It had to be half past ten and her family had already begun their daily activities. Her father would normally be upset she’d slept so late, but perhaps he’d forgive her because she’d nearly fainted the night before.
She let out a sigh as she took another bite. Juliet had been correct about something else as well. Very few appropriate eligible men came through these parts and Adrianna wondered when she might meet another again. Their father had been so busy with his business, he’d yet to take them to London for a season. Who knows when he might finally get around to such an event? Especially now that their oldest sister was engaged.
Her father loved a good story and she could picture him crafting one in his mind where he firmly believed fate would intervene and provide a husband for each of his daughters. No wonder she needed to be so protective. They were a lovely family, but the lot had their heads in the clouds. Her father was the worst of all.
“Adrianna,” Juliet yelled breathlessly from the hall. “Adrianna, are you in there?”
“Yes,” she called back, rising from her chair. “Whatever is the matter?”
“Oh, Adrianna,” her sister called, sounding particularly dramatic. As children, her father had set up elaborate theatrical performances of a great many plays. Adrianna recognized Juliet’s theater voice instantly. “It’s my cat, Mittens. She and her three kittens are gone!”
Juliet came sailing into the room, Bianca just behind her. “You have to help me find them.”
Adrianna held in a sigh. She was busy moping. And this wasn’t a real emergency. She was certain of that. “Have you checked the kitchen? She often leads the kittens down there to snitch milk.”
Juliet rolled her eyes. “Of course, I did. And the barn, the music room, and the attic. We’ll need to expand our search and head toward the village.”
“The village?” Adrianna cried. “Why would she bring her kittens…”
“There is no time to argue,” Juliet called over her as she headed back out the door. “We must go. Hurry.”
Bianca lingered behind with a shrug. “I’ve tried reasoning with her. But there’s no hope. You know how Juliet is when she’s decided upon something.”
Adrianna picked up her second wedge of toast and took a large bite. “Let’s go then. I’ll get an empty flour sack from the kitchen. If we’re going to do a village-wide search for four tiny cats, we’d better get started.”
Bianca stepped in front of her sister, giving her a small hug. “You know that under your tough façade is a heart made of soft, squishy, sweet treats, don’t you?”