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

Page 17

Butterflies danced about her belly and she shifted again as Cordelia’s piece finally ended. Juliet turned to her father. “As I was saying. They helped us find Mittens. We took up their entire morning and I really think we should invite them to dinner.”
Her father looked over to the Duke of Rathmore, who sat on the settee with Ophelia.
Rathmore frowned. “I’m not certain another dinner is a good idea. After all—”
“Oh but,” Juliet started again. “They’ve done us a favor and besides.” She clasped her hands. “We have to properly celebrate your engagement. Doesn’t a dinner party sound like a fabulous way to honor your impending nuptials?”
Ophelia shook her head. “Speaking of that, his Grace has invited his cousins to join us here in Seabridge Gate. Is that all right, Papa?”
“Of course.” Her father nodded. “We’d be more than happy to host them.”
Juliet huffed, a tiny sound that everyone seemed to hear as they all turned to look at her. “We can still host a small party in honor of Ophelia and His Grace.”
Ophelia shook her head. “Oh no you don’t.” She sat forward, pointing at Juliet. “I don’t want anything to do with those men. They are certainly not coming here under the guise of my engagement. You’ll have to concoct a better reason.”
Adrianna bit back a smile as Juliet spluttered. For once, she and Juliet were in agreement. Well, Adrianna didn’t give a whit about Dashlane or Craven, but she’d like Luke to return tomorrow night. She didn’t know if they were building toward something or not, but spending time with him was the only way to find out. Was he the rake she’d first thought or was there more happening between them? “I think the dinner is a good idea.”
Her father turned back around. “Really? You didn’t appear all that impressed with Lord Crestwood last night.”
She clasped a hand over her stomach as it flopped about. That was true. But Cordelia answered for her. “Adrianna is using Crestwood to sharpen her claws. She’s going to be ready to beat off all the rakes of London when Papa finally takes us.”
Rathmore nodded. “Now that is an endeavor I can get behind.”
“You don’t care for Crestwood?” her father asked Rathmore.
“Not particularly.”
Yesterday she’d agreed entirely with His Grace. Today, irritation at Ophelia’s fiancé made her skin bristle. “Regardless, we’ve an opportunity here to socialize with the sort of men we might meet when we finally go to London for a season. We shouldn’t squander this chance.”
Bianca perked up at that. “I quite agree.”
Adrianna turned to her sister. Bianca had been unusually quiet all evening. “Thank you,” she answered, cocking her head to assess her sister.
Papa nodded, stroking his chin. “I’ll extend the invitation myself. Since these men are here, it does seem like it’s our duty to entertain them and…” He raised a finger. “It is a unique opportunity for you girls.”
“Papa.” Bianca’s hands fluttered. “When do you think we’ll go? I know this season has already begun but perhaps next year?”
“Probably, lamb.” Her father smiled. “You girls are getting older. It’s time to begin preparing.”
Juliet clapped her hands while Adrianna slumped in relief. She was glad her family wasn’t aware of her changing feelings on the subject of Lord Crestwood. Somehow she didn’t quite trust them or perhaps she didn’t quite trust Luke yet.
But then she remembered t
hat kiss. The way he’d held her close, the feeling in her chest when he’d told her about his past. Deep down, she felt they had a connection. Was she right? If she wasn’t, she’d have to rethink all her beliefs about herself and her abilities as a person. Which scared her tremendously. How would she ever find her future and help her sisters if she couldn’t figure out one single lord?
Chapter Nine
Luke lifted his full pint of ale but didn’t bother to bring it to his lips. It was likely warm anyhow.
He glanced about the table and realized that neither Dashlane or Craven had touched their drinks either. Around them, the Swan’s Neck Inn buzzed with activity. He shifted. He’d known these two men for the better part of five years, but he realized when they weren’t carousing, they had very little to say to one another.
In fact, he hardly knew them at all. “I think I’ll be staying in Seabridge Gate for another day or two.”
Dashlane flicked his gaze up to Luke. “Really? I plan to leave first thing in the morning. I can’t spend another day chasing after cats.”
Craven made a small sound that was halfway between a laugh and snort. “You mean you didn’t find that fun?”
Was the man being sarcastic? Luke had no idea. What was going on with Craven? The man never made jokes, if that’s what that was. “I personally thought the exercise had some merits.”