Lorcan couldn't feel his face, or his feet for that matter, as he watched Indra glide down the staircase toward him.
She wore a hunter green velvet dress that skimmed her shoulders and hugged her breasts and waist. Then it flared into an uneven hemline, which dipped almost to her ankle on one side, but allowed the occasional glimpse of the smooth skin above her knee on the other.
With her long dark hair swept up at the front and then curling down at the back, the sight of her was enough to render him speechless.
At the bottom of the stairs she did a pirouette, which sent her skirt swinging out before it fell to caress her legs once more.
"Will I do?"
Lorcan swallowed and said the first thing that came to mind. "You're gorgeous. You'll be the most beautiful woman there."
She chuckled and took his proffered arm. "I hope not, or your ex won't be happy."
"I don't care if she is or not. That's not my responsibility anymore."
She paused just outside the inn and touched his arm with her other hand. When he looked down at her, her caring expression made his heart clench.
"I know you said you're not upset about Mae getting married again, but I'm sure this must feel so incredibly weird. Why'd you agree to go? You could have cited work or a prior commitment. I doubt anyone would fault you for that."
He hesitated, unwilling—even with Indra—to explain fully. So all he said was, "I don't have any feelings for her anymore, and to skive off would make people think I did. Maybe it's just pride, but I didn't want that."
Smiling softly, she squeezed his arm and replied, "Okay then. Let's go."
Lorcan had a fair idea of what to expect when Mae was in charge, but even he had to be impressed by the sheer grandeur of the castle setting and the tasteful decorations. He knew he wasn't alone. Indra gave a little gasp as they were led into the long gallery and to their seats.
Despite what he'd said, Lorcan wasn't sure what he'd feel when he saw Mae for the first time in so many years. He was glad when, as he caught sight of her, all he felt was a lingering sense of relief and a healthy dose of dislike.
He hoped that, somewhere along the line, she'd gained some control of her wild and destructive emotions. If she hadn't, he was doubly glad to be completely out of her life.
What he hadn't expected was that during the cocktail hour he'd suddenly find himself face-to-face with her, as though she'd sought him out.
"Lorcan." Mae had one of those voices that purred—until it screeched. He used to find it attractive, but now he just saw it as another facade that hid her true nature. "I'm so glad you came."
"Mae, I'd like to introduce my friend, Dr. Indra Hughes. Indra, Mae."
It was a less-than-enthusiastic greeting, but Indra just smiled. "Best wishes on your marriage."
"Thanks." Mae turned back to him and raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. "Lor, be a love and get me a glass of champers, would you? This one's already warm."
Although the last thing he wanted was to leave the two women alone, there were no waiters to hand, and to refuse would look churlish. So, with a regretful glance Indra's way, he went in search of champagne.
Mae Jerico, or McKinney as she was now, was the type of tall, willowy, blonde beauty that used to make Indra feel every pound and rue every inch she didn't have.
Thankfully, she'd grown out of that nonsense.
Now, as the point of focus of Mae's very cold green eyes, she smiled again, which made those eyes narrow.
"How long have you and Lorcan been together?"
"A while," she replied mildly, surprised at the turn the conversation had taken. Wasn't this the woman who'd just stood all dewy-eyed before the officiant and said I do? Why was she now sticking her nose into her ex-husband's business?
"Did he tell you that I helped him get through medical school, then he dumped me?"
"No. That's none of my business, is it?"
"Maybe not." Mae lifted a hand to smooth her hair. "But you should at least know the kind of man you're involved with."
"I do know," Indra replied, keeping her voice unconcerned, refusing to give Mae the satisfaction of seeing her lose her temper. "He's the kind of man who treats everyone with quiet courtesy and patience. A good, kind, caring man. So, if he left you the way you say he did, then I'd have to wonder what you did to cause that."
Mae's face reddened, and then, without another word, she turned and walked away.
It clicked for Indra. She'd seen it before. Lived it. Mae and Mum were alike. Controlling women with terrible tempers who couldn't bear to see their ex move on and be happy.
They hid it from outsiders—that mean, selfish streak—and saved it for those closest to them, until even those people couldn't deal with it anymore and left.
Indra wished she could say she wasn't like them, but she couldn't be sure. She'd never gotten close enough with anyone to find out.
And Lorcan was the last person she'd want to find out she was, deep down, like Mae.
"She's gone, then?" Lorcan's voice startled her back to the present.
"Yes, thankfully." She accepted the glass of champagne from him and took a sip.
Lorcan put his hand on her wrist, lightly, but the shock of awareness traveled all the way up her arm and through her torso.
"Was she nasty to you?"
His voice had a dangerous edge Indra had never heard before, and when her gaze met his, she was reminded of why she'd once thought his eyes ice-cold.
"Not that I noticed," she said, putting the glass down on a handy table and taking his hand. "Let's dance."
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