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

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Adrianna snorted. “Hardly. I’m only doing this so she doesn’t chirp about me all day.”
Bianca winked. “Of course you are.” Then Bianca held up a finger. “Perhaps there will be a silver lining to this. The kittens will soon be old enough for new homes. Mayhap we can find them some while we’re in the village.”
Adrianna shook her head. Bianca had a sweet optimism that infected everyone around her. “I just hope this doesn’t take all day. I’ve a full schedule.”
“Doing what?” Bianca asked.
Adrianna frowned. Dreaming of kissing rogues.
Chapter Five
Luke ate another bite of eggs, understanding why the inn was full at breakfast. They were delicious. Or was that the fact that he wasn’t nursing a hangover? He decided he didn’t care as he stuffed another bite into his mouth.
The bell over the entry door gave another merry little ring as more patrons entered the establishment. It was busy.
But he didn’t bother to look up as he added a piece of pork to his bite of bread.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” a feminine voice called from just behind him. “I stopped at the cottage first, but you weren’t there. Which is obvious because you’re here.”
He blinked and looked up at Dashlane, sure that the woman talking couldn’t be speaking to them. They only knew a handful of people in the entire village and none of them were likely to come looking for them. But Dashlane lifted his brow as he stared just over Luke’s shoulder. A quick glance at Craven made Luke sit back in his chair. The man looked starstruck, which was the strangest thing Luke had seen in some time. Craven’s face always looked exactly the same, near expressionless. Except for right this very moment. His shaggy brows had lifted, revealing that his eyes were a shade of grey green while his mouth hung open a bit, showing two rows of perfectly straight teeth. Who would have guessed the man was sort of handsome under his constant scowl?
“Miss Juliet.” Dashlane stood, tossing his napkin into the seat of his chair. “How can we assist you?”
Luke turned in his seat to see it was, in fact, Juliet behind him, Bianca at her left shoulder. He swiveled back around to see Craven also rising from his chair. But it wasn’t Juliet his friend stared at. If Luke wasn’t mistaken, it was Bianca who’d captured his fancy.
Grinning despite himself, he rose too. While Bianca was far too airy for his own tastes, it occurred to him that someone as serious as Craven might do well with such a lady. He looked at his friend again. Craven’s mouth had finally snapped closed and his brow had returned to normal, but intensity rolled off the man in waves.
“Oh.” Juliet waved her hands. “I’m so glad you asked. I need your help and I’m not sure where else to turn.”
Luke didn’t respond as he waited for the young woman to finish. Even he had enough manners for that. But he did note that she’d lived in this village her entire life. In all likelihood, she could turn to literally every other person in this room before she asked them. “With what?” he asked as the silence stretched out. Apparently, it was his turn to talk.
Her hands fluttered as she drew in a big gulp of air and started to speak. “I’ve lost Mittens.”
Dashlane scrunched his forehead and scratched his chin. “Well. That’s all right. It’s spring. I’m sure you can make new ones before the winter comes.”
“Pardon me.” Bianca stepped around her sister and Craven visibly jolted. Luke fought to keep a grin from stretching across his face. It wouldn’t do to tease a man who’d been struck with emotion. “She doesn’t mean a pair of mittens. She means Mittens her cat. And as Mittens has three kittens, we’re particularly worried.”
Juliet nodded. “Mary, the maid attending your cottage, is her favorite. So I’d wondered if she’d turned up at the cottage this morning?”
Luke relaxed, glad that Juliet had a valid reason for seeking them out. For a moment he’d been afraid he’d be searching the entire village for a cat. “No. No sign of her. But I wish—”
Juliet slid toward him, grabbing his arm in both her gloved hands. “Oh but you must help me,” she cried.
He softly swore under his breath. It was as bad as he’d feared after all. “I don’t think—”
“What if her babies are eaten by bears or—”
Dashlane cleared his throat. “There are no bears in England.”
“No?” Juliet seemed unperturbed. “Wolves?”
“Nope. None of those either.” Dashlane grinned. “Perhaps there are very aggressive moles, which could be dangerous to tiny kittens?”
Juliet clapped her hands, finally letting go of his arm. “Exactly, my lord. Now would you all be so kind as to help?”
He didn’t answer as he glared at the woman. He had a plan. A good one and it involved him leaving this sleepy little hamlet and continuing on with his wickedly safe life. The one where he didn’t wake to see sunrises and he never held women in his arms that he cared a whit about.
Juliet gave him a sidelong glance. “Lord Crestwood, Adrianna is searching down on the beach near our house. Perhaps you could assist her?”