“Of course,” he answered, placing a smile on his lips to hide his grimace. It had been so long since he’d shared his feelings but now that he had, he’d opened a box that he couldn’t put the lid back on. Memories were flooding his thoughts. Words crowded in his mouth and he wanted to share them with her. She’d know what to say to make his heart ache less, he was certain of it. Damn it all to hell, what was happening to him?
She slid her fingers from his face and swallowed. “Why have things gotten strange between us?”
“Strange?” He clenched his teeth, trying to keep his face from displaying any emotion.
She looked off into the night. “I just. I thought…” She lay her hand on his chest, lightly massaging the skin underneath. “This moment feels full of distance instead of…” She shook her head.
He winced. “Warn your sisters of this very feeling. It’s important they understand that affection like this can make you more vulnerable.”
She cocked her head to the side, looking into his eyes without a word before she finally turned away again. “Goodnight, Luke. Sleep well.” Then she turned and slipped into the kitchen, the door quietly clicking closed behind her.
Luke stood there for the longest time staring at the green wood panel. He had this wild urge to follow her, but he hadn’t a clue where her bedchamber was located. He couldn’t just wander about her house in the dark.
Finally, he headed back in the dark to the village. When he entered the cottage, it was dark and quiet, neither Craven nor Dashlane about. He sighed with relief as he went up to his room and lay in his bed. What would he do tomorrow? What would he do for the rest of his life?
He scrubbed his face with his hands. He wanted to throw aside his fears and court Adrianna. Against all odds he cared for her. And he knew that she was nothing like Miranda. But he still hesitated. That part of him had been so damaged. Could he truly open his heart again?
The next morning provided very few answers. Luke dressed and headed out to walk about the village. On his first day in the village, Ophelia had taken him to her father’s office. He found himself in front of that office once again.
Right on the water, the building had a red center door with two large multi paned windows on either side. The thick trim was freshly painted and the building appeared as everything else in this village. Wholesome, happy, clean. He sighed as he read the sign. Moorish Shipping. The man had made a life here. A good one. Free of the darkness of London, he’d raised beautiful, kind, happy daughters who searched for cats and listened to the problems of wayward lords.
He scrubbed his face. “Can I help you, Lord Crestwood?” a friendly voice called behind him. Luke turned to see Mr. Moorish coming down the street toward his office.
“Good morn,” Luke called back. “I’ve only just realized
I’m loitering in front of your establishment.”
“Not at all.” Mr. Moorish came up next to him, slapping him on the back. “Come in, my lord, and let’s have a bit of tea, shall we? My assistant’s wife makes the best scones. Join me in breaking fast.”
Luke nodded, stepping into the equally friendly interior. The front room held a merry fire crackling with a large desk positioned on the other side of the room. A man sat already at work while Mr. Moorish headed to the back, where another room with a second desk was located.
Mr. Moorish grabbed a chair and placed it in front of the desk, then made his way to the other side, sitting down. “Please, join me.”
Luke did as he was asked. “I’d like to begin by accepting your invitation for dinner tonight.”
“Excellent.” Mr. Moorish gave him a wide smile. “And your friends?”
Luke gave a tight nod. “They will be there as well.”
“Good,” Mr. Moorish answered, giving a little clap. “Between you and me, you lads are doing me a great favor.”
Luke raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
Mr. Moorish leaned across the desk, his usual smile disappearing. “My girls fancy a trip to London next year or perhaps the year after. This will be a good experience for them.”
Luke leaned forward too. “I suppose it will.” Why had Mr. Moorish ceased being his jovial self? “Can I make an assumption that you are not fond of London?”
The man frowned. It was the first frown he’d seen from Moorish since he’d arrived.
“I do not like cities in general, but London in particular.”
Luke cocked his head as Mr. Moorish’s assistant brought in a steaming pot of tea.
“Here you are, sir,” the man said cheerily.
“Thank you, Mr. Burton.”
Mr. Moorish began to serve Luke and then himself, but Luke didn’t care about food in this moment. He stared across the desk. “You’ve experience with London?”