Bianca shrugged, her chin tucking down into her chest. “I hardly even look at him. I can’t. It makes my insides…” Her sister trailed off, but Adrianna’s brow lifted. This was beginning to sound serious.
“What does it make your insides do?”
Bianca shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll do as you say. I’ll avoid him.”
“Just don’t turn your attention to Lord Dashlane. Juliet has her sights set on that one.” Adrianna grinned. “And you know how competitive she can be when she wants something.”
Bianca sighed. “Yes, I do. It’s a good thing she loves us and uses her schemes to mostly help us.”
“Was she helping yesterday when she sent us after her cat?”
Bianca nodded. “Oh, most definitely. At least she tried to help you.”
Adrianna stopped. She supposed her sister had gotten her and Luke alone. She looked at her lap. “Lord Crestwood went to Papa’s office this morning to have a private conversation.”
Silverware tinkled as Bianca gasped. “No. Really? Did he ask for your hand? Is he going to propose?”
“I don’t know.” She rested her elbow on her knee, tucking her fist under her chin. “I hope so. Sometimes I think so and then other times…”
Bianca reached for her hand. “These men, they’re more complicated than we’re used to.”
Adrianna frowned. “Do you think complicated is good or bad?”
“I’m not certain.” Bianca let go and picked up her fork, starting to polish again. “When Papa would read us Shakespeare it would begin with, ‘this is a comedy or a tragedy,’ and then you’d know. The end is going to be happy or sad. But right now…” Bianca paused. “Just don’t allow him too many liberties until you know for certain.”
Adrianna winced as she thought back to their time on the beach. He’d stopped short of taking her maidenhead, which she was grateful for, but she wasn’t certain she’d have refused to go further with him if the choice had been hers.
They continued polishing in silence, Adrianna’s stomach fluttering with nerves. Bianca’s comment about this story being a comedy or a tragedy ringing in her ears. Did her infatuation with Lord Crestwood have a happy ending?
She shook her head. Did she want it to?
He made her breathless and filled her with desire. But he was also the one man she shouldn’t want. But she did. And she thought, when they talked, that he might want her too.
She realized she was the one who’d polished the same spoon for several minutes. Carefully setting the utensil aside, she picked up another. Tonight, one way or the other, she had to come to a conclusion with Luke.
Luke walked up the hill toward Moorish Manor flanked by Craven and Dashlane. Craven was silent, as usual, but Dashlane also stoically walked along, which was not at all his typical behavior. It might have made Luke laugh if he weren’t so caught up in his own thoughts. Dashlane acted as though the world might be ending.
Dashlane let out a long breath next to him. “I feel like I am about to attend my own funeral.”
Luke pressed his lips together to keep from smiling. “It’s just one dinner.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re smitten.” Dashlane hit his thigh with his fist. “You’re likely to have fun tonight. Dance, flirt, maybe even steal a kiss.”
Desire made his body jolt. Luke had already stolen far more than a kiss. He fisted his hand. He’d been about to steal Adrianna’s entire future. Dreaming of acquiring land in Haversham and thinking about proposing. Hell, he’d begun to wonder if he’d fallen in love again.
The word love hit him like a block of bricks straight in the chest. Did he love her? He thought of how he’d given to her without taking. How her own pleasure had been more important to his. His chest tightened with an ache as he realized that he did.
Which was exactly the reason he should leave her be. He couldn’t be trusted with Adrianna’s future. Look at the mess his life was. She should marry a simpler man who could give her a beautiful future without the dirtiness of his past.
He’d have to tell her…tonight. Explain that he loved her and that this was for the best.
The ache in his chest dropped to his stomach. Leaving her would be so hard. He could almost taste the sweetness of a life with a woman like her. The feel of her curled in his arms, of her violet scent wrapped about him. The touch of her body as she pressed to him.
He nearly groaned aloud. Miranda had driven him to become a rake. He’d touched every woman he could to erase the memory of the one who’d broken him into a million pieces.
Adrianna. After her, he might become a monk. He never wanted to touch another woman again. Only her.