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

Page 14

“Stop.” She grabbed his arm. “This section crumbles.” He did as she commanded. “Honestly, if you’re truly set on going with me, you should allow me to lead the way.”
He turned to look back at her. “Seriously?” Then he scrubbed his hand through his hair. “I consider myself a rather masculine man and yet you’ve had to rescue me on a balcony and now you want to lead the way on a dangerous cliff edge?”
Adrianna gave him a wide smile. “I’m not your average sort of girl.”
Now that was an understatement. “You can’t get by me, anyhow. The ledge isn’t wide enough.”
“Lean against the rock and hold onto me, would you?”
He did as she commanded and sure enough, her lithe body slid across his, causing all sorts of his muscles to clench. “That was easier than I thought.”
“Stay here. I’ll pass the cats to you.” She winked then, hopping over a loose section and made her way to the outcropping. He followed, mimicking her steps until they’d reached the cluster of rocks from where the meows originated. “Mittens,” she cooed, leaning down into the rocks. “What are you doing here?” The sound of her voice made his insides twist and ache. He could almost picture his head in her lap as she stroked his hair, making those same sweet noises for him.
A meow was her only answer and Luke watched as she scooped two kittens into her arms. “Here,” she said, crossing back to him and dropping the little bundles of fur into his hands. Automatically, he curled them into his body. “The larger grey one is Jinx. And the little black and white girl is Socks.”
The soft little fur balls meowed, looking up at him with large, frightened eyes. One, the black and white, started pawing at his shirt and before he knew it, was climbing his chest. He plucked the thing back into his hand and it gave a pathetic cry. Automatically, he lifted the tiny ball of warm fur and damn it if the thing didn’t lick his face and then burrow into his cheek. “I haven’t held a kitten in years.”
Adrianna leaned up from the rock face again, holding a third kitten and a larger cat in her arms. “Mittens. What are you doing down here?” Then her eyes narrowed. “Is that a bowl in the outcropping with you?” She tsked. “Naughty Juliet. Don’t worry, Mittens. I’ll make her pay for what she’s done.” Then she kissed the cat. “Weren’t you a good mama, staying with your babies?”
His chest tightened. She’d make an excellent mother, he’d guess. He thought of his fantasy just moments before when he’d pictured her nurturing him. She’d be a wonderful wife too. He snuggled th
e two cats he held closer. “Let’s get off this ledge, shall we?”
She nodded, her mouth turning down. “I’m sorry you missed your boat.”
He let out a sigh. He had no appetite for Balstead’s den of sin. “I don’t think I am. The longer I am in Seabridge Gate, the more I think I might have been on the wrong path. The question I still don’t understand is which path I should actually be on.”
He’d been going through the motions of life for some time. For the first time in a long time, he felt awake and alive. He’d like to stay in Seabridge Gate and see if this place held the answers.
“Well for right this moment, there is only one. The one off this cliff.” She gave him a small smile. “Do you want me to go first?”
He shook his head. “I don’t dare risk you going around me with your hands full. I’ll go slow. You direct me.” The warm little bodies of the kittens snuggled into his chest as Adrianna stood close to his back. He’d like to wrap them all up in a warm hug. When was the last time he’d done anything in tandem like this?
“All right,” she answered. “Now, back to our discussion. You said that you don’t know your path. What path have you been on?”
“Not a very moral one,” he answered. “But I tried the more virtuous route in my youth and it didn’t fit me either.” The one kitten at his face had burrowed in his neck. How had he not realized how snuggly these damn creatures could be? The little thing began to purr, gentle vibrations filling his chest and causing him to relax despite the rocky cliff’s edge. He actually liked holding this cat.
Hell, he enjoyed the conversation too. When was the last time anyone had actually cared so much about the details of his life? Comforted him over the death of his brother?
“What happened?” she asked, her voice soft and soothing and so damned tempting.
He was perched on a cliff ledge for fuck’s sake, but he’d never been closer to sharing his secrets. “I was in love with a girl and I thought she was the most beautiful, kind, and pure woman in all the world.”
She sucked in her breath. “I sense that there is a but coming.”
“But,” he started, looking back at her over his shoulder. “She tossed me over for another, at-the-time titled man.” He drew in a ragged breath. The last part of the story clogging his throat.
She paused and he stopped too. “Someone you knew?”
He gave a slight shiver. “Oh yes. I knew him.”
She pressed against him, her body touching his arm as he drew in a ragged breath. “Who was he?”
Her body felt so good but he was reminded, as he talked about how touch was so often a false promise. He slid away from her touch and turned to finish traversing the path. “My brother.”
“Luke,” she said, her voice louder. “You’re leaning too far out, step back from the ledge.”
Adrianna’s heart pounded in her chest. If it had been one of her sisters close to the edge, she wouldn’t have been worried, but this man had nearly fallen off her balcony the night before and he’d not survive a fall from this height.