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.