It was difficult to hide her disappointment from Lorcan, but Indra felt she did a credible job. They hadn't even eaten dinner yet, and she already felt as if she'd been on a roller-coaster. There'd been the high of seeing him smile, fully, for the first time, followed quickly by the plummeting low of hearing why his marriage had ended.
And it all made her realize that, despite telling herself otherwise, she'd been secretly hoping there could be something more between them. Now she knew for a fact that would never happen. Not when just talking about his ex's temper caused that flash of pain in his eyes.
Pain she understood, having both caused suffering with her rage and experienced the trauma anger created. Growing up with constant strife at home had left scars that would never go away and made her fearful of evolving into her cantankerous mother. Those fears kept her away from developing serious relationships, doing whatever necessary to deflect male interest.
Yet, while she knew there was no way she'd chance hurting Lorcan, she couldn't help also wishing things could be different and that Lorcan would be interested in her too.
Her feelings were in a huge muddle, but now wasn't the time to try to figure out what exactly it all meant.
She'd promised to go with him to the wedding, and by gosh, she'd make sure it went off without a hitch.
He was watching her expectantly, no doubt wondering what she meant by "big guns," so she picked up her phone and started texting, while filling him in.
"I'll need something fabulous to wear, and one of my oldest friends has made a name for herself in fashion. Hopefully she's around and can help me out." Tossing the phone back on the table, she continued, "Fingers crossed she gets back to me soon."
"Please don't spend a lot of money on this." The way his brows came together, signally concern, made her melt a little. "You'll look wonderful whatever you wear, and I'll be proud to be seen with you, irrespective."
Flustered, she got to her feet and, ignoring his comment, said, "The pie should be ready now. Let's eat."
As she walked between the coffee table and the couch, Lorcan pulled in his feet to let her pass, but when she was abreast of him, suddenly reached out and snagged her wrist. The sensation of his fingers—warm and strong against her skin—made her breath hitch in her throat.
"I hope you know how much I appreciate this," he said.
How had she ever thought his eyes cold, she wondered, when they were now filled with enough warmth to heat her straight through. But she couldn't give in to the urge to slide into his lap and kiss those slightly smiling lips, so she tugged free.
"Don't be silly. You've helped me too, so it's all a wash."
And then she hurried into the kitchenette, running from the sight of his smile and the rush of desire it brought.
At this rate, if she weren't careful, she'd end up doing something silly—like throwing herself at him—and that was the last thing she needed!
Lorcan rubbed at his palm, where the sensation of Indra's silky flesh lingered. Tilting his head back against the cushion behind him, he closed his eyes and found himself smiling.
He hadn't realized how drab his life had become until the night she'd turned in his arms and they'd kissed.
He'd wanted to tug her down into his lap just now and see if that magic could be repeated. But he'd quashed the urge, not wanting to do anything to make her uncomfortable and perhaps change her mind about the trip.
Also, their joint research project, although close to the end, would throw them together more than usual over the next two weeks. Their last patient session had left him restless with longing, and he knew it would only be worse if he kissed her again.
"Dinner's ready," she called, bringing Lorcan back to the present.
The pie turned out to be delicious and homemade. When he commented on that, Indra shrugged.
"One of the things Mum taught us from an early age was how to cook in batches, so you always have something for another day."
"You have siblings?"
She nodded. "Two brothers, both older."
"Are they here in London?"
There was no mistaking the way her lips turned down for an instant. "No. The oldest lives in Swansea, and the other is in Guyana, working with one of our uncles."
Telling, he thought, that she was the only child still in close proximity to their mother, but he didn't mention that. He just said, "I'm the middle of five brothers. It was brutal growing up. The two pairs on either side of me were thick as thieves, and guess who got picked on?"
Instead of smiling, as he hoped she would, Indra shook her head as she looked down at her plate. "I can only image."
What was it about what he'd said that upset her? He genuinely wanted to know, but wasn't sure how to broach the subject, and when she started talking about their research, the moment passed.
By the end of the meal, Lorcan realized he'd spoken more than he had in eons and about such a wide and interesting range of subjects that he felt enlivened.
He helped her clear the dishes and then wash up, the two of them still chatting, but now he was fixated on her proximity, beside him at the sink. The hint of perfume each time she moved. The warmth of her arm as it brushed his, and the way they moved in what seemed like perfect synchronicity as he washed and she rinsed.
As he dried the last dish and handed it to Indra to put away, the normality of it—the hominess—left him aching.
He'd often told himself his work was what was most important, that he was content without the closeness of a relationship. Reluctant to risk making another wrong choice, he'd convinced himself he needed no one.
It had been a lie, and Indra was the one who'd revealed the truth.
And when she walked him to the door a little bit later, it took every ounce of control he had to simply wish her good-night and walk away, feeling as though he was leaving something valuable behind.
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