Dashlane grimaced. “But you missed your boat. How will you get north now?”
He looked down at his full drink, spinning the glass. “I reckon I won’t. I mean, it wasn’t the best use of my energy anyhow.”
Craven sat back in his chair. “Good God, man, what’s gotten into you?”
Dashlane gave a salacious chuckle. “I think the better question is what he’s gotten into. Perhaps the answer is a Moorish sister.”
For some reason that comment, which he would have found funny a day ago, irritated him to no end. To make such a comment about an innocent woman who was kind, and caring, and so lovely…He slapped the table. “Don’t disrespect her or any of her sisters like that.”
Craven leaned forward. “Interesting.”
His hand on the table drew into a fist. “It isn’t interesting, and it isn’t like that.” What they’d done today had been the furthest thing from Dashlane’s innuendo. He’d told her things that no one knew…
Dashlane shrugged and sat back in his chair. “Suit yourself. I don’t care one way or the other. What I know is that Juliet Moorish has some definite ideas about me and the future and I’ve no intention of aiding her in their implementation whatsoever.” Then he took a long swig of his ale. “Which is why I shall leave as soon as I can.”
Luke grimaced and nodded stiffly. Likely a good plan. He’d somehow opened a door today, or perhaps it had been yesterday, but now he was having trouble closing said door again. He twisted his neck, giving it a crack. She’d given him a great gift and truly, he hoped to give her one in return.
With that in mind, he pushed the pint away. It was nearing nine o’clock and he had no intention of getting inebriated this evening. First of all, he’d need all his control. She was an innocent and she’d stay that way. Second, and this one surprised him, he wanted to experience every moment with her without the fog of alcohol clouding his judgment or enjoyment.
“What sort of ideas does Juliet have?” Craven asked. “What kind of family are they?”
Luke crinkled his brow “What kind of family? What does that mean?”
“Well, there are the sort of families that attempt to tear each other apart and then there are the sort that spend Christmastide singing together and hugging between verses.”
Luke had to chuckle at that. “They are definitely the sing and hug sort.”
“How nauseating.” Dashlane lifted his warm ale then and took a large swig from the glass.
Craven ran his index finger over the top of the glass. “I don’t think it’s gross in any way. In fact, I rather like it. It’s just that I wouldn’t have the first clue how to act in that sort of family. I’m far too…”
Luke gave his friend a knowing glance. “Me too.”
“Excuse me, my lords.” A man stepped up behind Dashlane, giving a short bow. “The Honorable Thomas Moorish has asked me to extend these invitations to you.” And the man handed each of them a sealed envelope. “Someone will return to the cottage in the morning to collect your replies.” Then the man turned and left.
“Bloody Christ,” Dashlane swore, banging his tankard of ale on the table. “It’s a dinner invitation for certain.”
Luke sliced his open with his finger and then quickly read the contents. “For tomorrow night.”
“Juliet is behind this. I’m certain of it.” Dashlane’s lip curled up. “I’m not going.”
Luke grimaced. “I’m not one to force a lord of our breed to socialize with such innocent women, but I’d like to remind you that Moorish had been exceedingly kind to us. Providing food, shelter, staff and—”
“I’m doing him a favor,” Dashlane muttered, then gulped down another large swig from his mug. “He’s far better off if I stay away from his daughters.”
Luke clenched his jaw. “And this would be the second time you’ve turned down his invitation.”
“Hellfire and damnation,” Dashlane swore, finishing the pint and waving to the barmaid for another. “I’m going to need a great deal more ale to face this.”
Craven had been silent, holding his note in his hand. “Well then. It looks like we’re spending two more nights in Seabridge Gate.”
Adrianna crouched behind a bush strategically placed so as to see the path down to the bluffs but not be witnessed herself. She’d not be caught waiting for a man who didn’t come. It offended her pride. She pressed her hands together. Perhaps she should go back inside.
Because right at this moment, she was in a position for him to make her look foolish. Which was a situation she never allowed. Why was he an exception? But she knew the answer. She liked him. Which, honestly, was dangerous. As the youngest sister, she’d see her sisters safely wed before she sought a match for herself.
“What are we staring at?” Luke whispered just next to her ear. It took every ounce of her control not to scream.
“You cad.” She turned, swatting at him. “You frightened me.” How had he gotten the drop on her when she’d been trying to do the same to him?