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

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“Is it, is it like that for men too?” she asked, thankful for the darkness as she rubbed her cheek against the rough fabric of his waistcoat.
He cleared his throat. “It can be.”
She leaned back then, squinting into the dark to try and see his face. “It wasn’t just the physical part. Emotionally, I…” She stopped, not sure she was ready to admit how connected to him she felt. Did he feel the same? “You said it can be…it isn’t always?”
He swallowed, still holding her close but staring into the pitch-black night. “Men can turn off the emotional piece and just enjoy the physical aspect. Some
women can too. It’s why you’re right to want to watch after your sisters. So many men will try and trick them just to get physical pleasure from them.”
She shivered, hating the next question. “Have you had an emotional bond with a woman? With your fiancée?”
He paused, so quiet that she squeezed him to get his attention once again. He looked down at her, his gaze dark and unreadable. “With Miranda? I suppose I did.”
She ached, deep inside. Jealousy, yes. That was most certainly the first emotion, but she sensed his hurt too and her gut twisted for him. She reached up a hand to touch his cheek, caressing his rougher skin with her fingertips before she slid her fingers into his hair. “That must have made her betrayal so much more difficult.”
“It did,” he answered, his voice so low, she barely heard him. Then without warning, he started to stand, lifting her easily into the air. “But what we did tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you.”
She shook her head. “No this is about both of us. And our—” She’d been going to say relationship, but he interrupted before she could get out the last word.
“We should get you back inside. It’s getting very late.” He started to carry her out of the alcove in the rocks.
She pressed her lips together. Returning to her home was the last thing she wanted to do. “Don’t you want to stay a bit longer?” Leaving his side made her nervous. Anxious even. Once she did, she’d have to face her own thoughts and fears over what they’d just done and what she wanted out of this. Their kiss had been innocent enough and she’d considered it a valuable lesson. But this? She’d once went swimming in the ocean after a storm in the strong current. It had pulled her along until she’d grown afraid it was whisking her away. That was exactly how she felt now. There was a fine line between learning the ways of rakes and succumbing to them. “I thought we came to talk.”
He stopped. “We talked. And I’d say it was an excellent conversation.”
“But.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “I wanted to know more about you.”
“Your father, as I’m sure you already know, has invited us to dinner tomorrow. I shall see you again very soon.”
She nodded, nibbling at her lips as he lightly set her feet down in the sand and then began leading her back up the path. Tomorrow night seemed like an eternity from now.
Chapter Eleven
Luke approached the kitchen door, Adrianna’s small hand still tucked in his. She’d hardly said a word as they’d made their way up the path and it shocked him how much he missed the sound of her voice.
Granted, her body against his had been a great comfort and when she stepped away, he resisted the urge to pull her close again. He’d meant only to show her how to seduce a man. Bend him to her will. He was supposed to be the teacher, but somehow he’d forgotten that a woman like her coming apart in his arms and then wrapping herself about him, nuzzling into his neck, had a power all its own. He wanted to drop to his knees and bury his face in her belly and beg her to—what? That’s where he stopped. He couldn’t give her that future. The one where he shared her bed every night and they had children together.
Then another part of him argued…why not? She wasn’t Miranda and he’d gained the title as Earl after his brother passed away. He could take her, tuck her away in his country estate. But that’s where he stopped.
Miranda still lived in that house. His past still haunted his home. He remembered the night his brother had died. As he’d lain in his deathbed, he’d made Luke swear to care for Miranda. That’s when Luke had realized that Michael had loved the woman as much as he himself had. He’d agreed, hating the very idea, but what else could he do?
And after his brother had passed, Miranda herself had rushed crying into his arms. He’d held her then, not because he’d cared for her any longer, but she’d lost her husband. He’d felt sorry for her, sorry for himself. Against all odds, he still loved his brother. And he’d vowed to keep his promise.
That’s when she’d attempted to kiss him. He’d allowed her a light peck. He’d assumed she was just grief-stricken but then…then she’d suggested, not so subtly, that it was the opportunity for them to finally be together. Like it hadn’t been their opportunity to begin with.
His brother had loved her. His last wish had been asking Luke to care for her. And this was how she repaid that love? Adrianna had been right about one thing: Miranda was a viper with a black heart.
He’d thrust Miranda from his arms and left. Hadn’t been back since. He’d attended the funeral of course. And even though the house was his, he didn’t want it, or her, any longer. And she had never really cared for him or his brother. Or she simply cared about being titled more. Disgusting.
Still, he’d kept his promise. Not for her sake but for Michael’s.
A wave of nausea filled his stomach as he looked down at Adrianna, a question pulling at her delicate features. He forced himself to relax.
“What are you thinking?” she whispered, reaching up to touch his cheek.
He placed his hand on top of hers. “That you look stunning in moonlight.”
“Liar,” she softly returned and then stepped away. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”