Diana exhaled a shaky breath, before ringing the doorbell. Despite herself, she smoothed down her dress, fiddled with the zipper on her leather jacket, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and then untucked it again to curl loose and coppery over her forehead. Fussing over her appearance. The self-loathing swelled beneath her tongue, even if she knew looking pretty would help.
In the last twenty four hours she had stripped the black dye from her hair, removed three ear piercings and found a more adult version of the white dress Lucille always used to like her wearing. Soft. Soft and pretty and innocent.
Her hands dropped as if scalded when the door opened.
It wasn’t Lucille.
The man in front of her was handsome, buttoned up in a three piece suit, and entirely too sharp to be Lucille’s normal brand of toy. She recognized him from the Instagram photos as Tristan de Silva – the newly beloved husband. Dark curls, rich, playboy. Absolutely not Lucille’s type at all. He raised a brow without his hands faltering over the tie he was knotting.
“Is Lucille around?” she asked.
His steel-blue eyes gleamed at the question, his head tilting as he looked her up and down. Making no attempt to hide it whatsoever. “You’re Diana Michaels.”
Diana squared her shoulders, jutting her chin up. “You’ve heard of me?”
“Lucille’s Diana – my wife talks about you all the time.”
Another stab of rage, of panic, shot through her at that. Her knees turned weak and her heart pounded in her chest, but she simply flashed him a smile. “And you’re Tristan De Silva. Congratulations to both of you, I’m sure you’ll be very happy together. Is she in?”
He stepped aside to let her past him, making a vague hand gesture of welcome. “She’s in the bedroom getting ready, if you want to wait.” He shut the door behind them and held out a hand to accept her jacket next, flashing a positively charming smile right back. His eyes didn’t warm up even a fraction.
“Is she going to be long? It’s kind of urgent.” She didn’t want to shrug her jacket off – it felt rather like facing Lucille without battle armour, and she felt outnumbered and exposed enough already.
“She’ll be down in a minute.” He continued to study her with a hungry sort of curiosity, a clinical amusement perhaps even, arm still out for her jacket.
She dumped it into his hand, unable to feel sorry that she was probably intruding on their night. He looked ready to be out the door at any moment, a tornado of tailoring and Hugo Boss. Why had Lucille married him? They’d looked genuinely smitten in the photographs, but that could have been the Lucille Wolverton ™ filter on top of whatever else she decided to edit with. Surely they weren’t actually in love?
He’d called her Lucille’s Diana.
“You said she talks about me a lot,” Diana tried to fish, nauseously. “…what does she say exactly?”
“The type of thing that makes me wonder what you’re doing on our doorstep, out of the blue, when the two of you haven’t spoken for…five years, is it? Champagne?”
Champagne. This was definitely Lucille’s house. Everything about Lucille Wolverton, appearance-wise, was like champagne and it was the only alcohol she drank. Pale gold hair, hazel eyes that seemed gold in the right light, golden skin. Light and floaty to an acquaintance, intoxicating and potentially lethal if you had a bit too much of her.
Diana studied him back, carefully, trying to figure out how much he knew about his wife. About everything. Lucille’s type was soft – attractive, yes – but soft. Enamoured. Or so she’d thought, or so it had been five years ago.
“Well,” he said when she didn’t speak. “I’m having champagne. Come on.”
Somehow, as he swept prowling away into their kitchen, she followed. “Sit.” A bottle of champagne was fished out of the fridge, popped, and frothed into three flutes. He held hers out to her.
“I don’t drink,” she said. She accepted the glass automatically into her hands.
She could hear moving upstairs, the strains of quiet singing, music. She looked around the kitchen as she took a sip, scanning her gaze over glossy cookery books and paintings. It was pristine. Of course it was. A catalogue of a house, white as anything.
“Why do you want to see Lucille?” he asked.
“It’s a personal matter.” She willed herself to exhale another breath, to calm down. She wished she could have a glass of water to soothe the dryness of her mouth.
Quick as flash, he caught hold of the lock of hair curling around her face and gave it a gentle tug. She recoiled, and he smiled, before simply tucking it behind her ear in a caress of warm fingers. “The colour suits you,” he said.
She swallowed hard, stomach flipping out. What the hell was that supposed to mean? She set her champagne glass down on the table to free her hands, back pressed against the kitchen counter.
The next second, footsteps sounded on the stairs. The next second, Lucille fluttered into the kitchen in a white dress, bare-foot and fey, with shorter hair than Diana remembered. “Do you know-”
She stopped dead. Her gaze flicked between them, without a smile.
“Diana’s here,” Tristan said. “Drink?” He held out the champagne flute. Lucille took it, knocked it back, and advanced forward with her stare fixed intent on Diana’s face.
Tristan stepped out of the way.
“What’s happened?” Lucille demanded. “Are you alright?”
Concerned, despite everything.
Diana swallowed. She glanced at Tristan, watching them both with the same continuous and open curiosity, and Lucille seized hold of her jaw.
“Lucille!” she hissed. The panic swelled – Tristan was standing right there! How could she possibly talk about it? Ask? Do anything?
Lucille stared at her, and raised a delicate brow.
“I’ll do anything, please,” Diana said.
Those had always been the magic words.
Lucille’s spine straightened and she dropped her hand, but her expression was unreadable now. Not the one that Diana had been expecting – power drunk and delighted by how desperately she was needed.
“Husband dearest,” her voice stayed light. “It seems you have an extra ticket for tonight. Give that sweet thing of yours a call and make him drop his date plans.”
“So, a serious reunion then.” Tristan dipped in to kiss Lucille’s cheek, grip possessively tight on her hourglass waist. He murmured something into her ear.
Diana didn’t bother looking away.
Lucille touched his cheek gently, pressed a quick kiss to his lips. Dug her fingers biting into his wrist when his attention turned towards Diana. He stared at his wife, that damnable eyebrow rising, before he stole a last kiss and vanished with his phone and his champagne flute.
They were alone. Abruptly, Diana had no idea what to say or where to start, where to finish, what to even feel. This white kitchen reminded her of Wolverton House. Her stomach cramped.
“So,” Lucille said. She folded her arms across her chest.
“Someone painted an X on my wall – in blood.”
“You want me to recommend you a cleaner?”
“It wasn’t me,” Lucille said. “If that’s why you’re here.”
“I don’t know. I had to talk to you – to — fuck, Lucille.” She bit down on her lip, fists curling. Wished she didn’t notice that Lucille’s gaze flicked down to follow the movement.
“Do you think someone knows?”
“Who could know!? Why would they wait this long if they knew?”
“So you are here to accuse me again?”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“I’m not an idiot.”
Diana took a few quick regrettable gulps of champagne to quell the panic, faster than one should consume anything around Lucille Wolverton really. Well, Lucille De Silva now. “Your husband knew who I was, he said you talked about me.”
Lucille snatched the flute out of her hand and set it aside.
“Of course I’ve talked about you, you’re my ex-girlfriend and my ex-best friend. But not about that. What, do you just pretend I don’t exist to that adorable girlfriend of yours?” Lucille’s eyes narrowed, and she wet her lips after a beat of watching Diana’s face. “Oh my god. You actually didn’t tell her about me. You know, you shouldn’t keep such secrets from people you care about. How do you think she’d react if I called her up right now telling her who you’re spending time with?”
Cold prickled down Diana’s spine and she straightened, heart pounding. “You’re not going to call her.” That seemed like Lucille’s sort of payback for being ignored and forgotten. “You don’t want her involved in this anymore than I do.”
They stared at each other for a beat, two, before Diana rubbed an exhausted hand over her face and looked down. Antagonizing Lucille would be a deadly idea, especially when she needed her help.
“I haven’t told anyone – definitely not her. She has nothing to do with any of this. I don’t want her involved,” she said again. “This is just you and me.”
“I haven’t told Tristan about it. Or anyone else. Our little secret, like I promised.”
Bile burned in Diana’s throat. Your secret, she wanted to protest. Your secret. She couldn’t even remember what happened that night, only what Lucille had told her happened!
“How do you know I have a girlfriend?” Diana changed the subject, her head reeling. She’d been careful. No social media, all photos of her life kept neatly in the house and printed. She was careful with everything after that night.
“Don’t ask questions when the answer will only distress you, it won’t be very good for either of us if you start crying. I’m a married woman, not a saint.”
“I’m not going to start crying!”
“You dyed your hair and put on that dress, you would absolutely start crying, Di, if you’re desperate enough to come to me in the first place. Oh, and it’s a few shades off, that’s why I know it’s dyed. Before you ask.”
“You’re really not screwing with me? It’s not you?”
“But the X–”
Lucille sighed. “Do you really think I’m the type to paint on a wall in blood? It’s a bit crude for my tastes.” Her head tilted in Diana’s periphery vision, before she moved to take another seat at the table. “You seem almost disappointed. Did you miss me?”
Diana glared at her, colour rising to her cheeks and her fists clenching. Screw pretending to be soft and sixteen again. “At least with you I know what I’m getting. A tornado fucks you up, but it’s a known entity. It’s not just X’s-”
Footsteps sounded on the stairs again and Tristan appeared in the hall. She shut up.
“Is he coming with you?” Lucille called.
“Of course, poor boy is smitten,” Tristan said. He glanced over them both again, before focusing on his wife. “I’ve set up the guest bed, if she’s staying over.”
“I’ll make it up to you.”
Okay, it wasn’t just Instagram filters and sweet smiles for the camera. She looked between them, trying to figure it out. Tristan tipped his head in acknowledgement. Glanced at her once more, before retreating into the hallway. A few moments later he was out of the door and gone.
“You actually like him,” Diana said. Wide-eyed with wonder.
“He’s my husband, I adore the heartless bastard. You didn’t come here for a catch up. What do you need from me?”
Seeing Lucille’s fondness threw her off balance, prickled a lump into her throat despite herself. Somehow, she’d expected her to be less confusing now that they were no longer teenagers. Somehow, she thought she’d fully prepared herself for the shock of seeing her again, of being around her again. “Thank you,” she said softly. “I – Luce -”
“-You said it wasn’t just X’s.”
“No. There have been…letters. For the last two months. Scraps from…” The fear began to rise again like a tsunami in her throat, breath quickening. “I shouldn’t have come here, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Scraps from?”
“We destroyed my diary. Did you keep a copy?”
“Again, I’m not an idiot,” Lucille said. “So, someone’s giving you bloody kisses on your wall and sending you back your love notes about me, does that sum it up?”
Lucille made it sound so stupid, saying it like that.
“And it’s really not you?” Diana hated how helpless her voice sounded, hated the way it made Lucille’s eyes spark like she’d just seen a rare butterfly that she wanted to pin with formaldehyde. “Because for god’s sake-”
“It’s not me. I’m married, and we have too many strings. Tristan wouldn’t like it.” She paused. “It might be Tristan – I’ll check and get him to stop if it is and we can call it even.”
“And if it’s not him?”
“You owe me a favour.”
A favour. Diana tensed, a familiar jolt of fear stabbing through her. Making a deal with the devil was probably more likely to go well than making a deal with Lucille, even if she was entirely certain had happened that night. But she couldn’t fault the deal – couldn’t turn it down, certainly. Last time, Lucille had taken care of everything for her. Kept her mouth shut all of these years.
And if she said no…well, Lucille had a habit of getting what she wanted out of people either way.