Vivvie wasn't sure how you were supposed to kiss a man when you knew the photo of the kiss was going to be everywhere the next day, so she went with as chaste as possible, in the heat of the spotlight, and in the chaos that overtook them as soon as Evan slipped the ring on her finger, everyone wanting to see it, congratulate them, ask them questions, there was no time to talk to Evan at all. It was as if she was swept away from him on a wave of people, on the giddy exclamations from Rachel and Penelope, on the rather reserved good wishes from her brother, and it wasn't until they were in the limo, on the way home, that Evan said he loved her. The first time she'd heard those words from him, on the night he had proposed. There was something troubling about that, but Vivvie was feeling slightly helpless. She loved Evan, naturally. She had fallen in love with him at first sight. What woman wouldn't? She had netted the most fantastically eligible bachelor in all of Great Britain. She should have been ecstatic.
Except she strangely wasn't. Oh, it wasn't that she wasn't happy. She was happy. She just wasn't the way people seemed to be in romantic novels. She wasn't the way she'd always imagined she would be as an engaged woman. She was just...She was just Vivvie, still in a job she disliked, with a boss whose wandering hands were not at all deterred by the obscene diamond ring on her finger, only now she also had to plan a highly visible wedding.
Glancing out the door to make sure the coast was clear of both Andy and juvenile delinquents, Vivvie wrapped her scarf around her neck and pulled her coat on, buttoning it. The phone on her desk rang, and she frowned at it, contemplated how long the conversation would take her, if it would make her late for lunch with Rachel and Penelope. It could be Michael, though. She kept hoping Michael would, by some miracle of God, get her letter in his warzone and give her a call to wish her luck and tell her that of course she was doing the right thing.
So, with the eternal hope that it was Michael, she picked up the phone. In case it wasn't Michael, she said, professionally, "Vivvie Westcott."
"Vivvie," said the voice on the other line, familiarly. "This is Gwendolen Dunover."
Gwendolen Dunover. Vivvie had forgotten all about her. There were so many other things going on now. "Uh, hi," she said, patting her pockets to locate her gloves.
Gwendolen must have picked up on her air of distraction, because she said, "Is this a bad time?"
Vivvie, as she sometimes did, became distracted by the sheer size of the diamond on her finger. She forced her attention back to Gwendolen, pulled the glove over the ring, said, "I was just heading out for lunch, but I have a couple of seconds."
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to schedule a day when I could tag along with you."
Damn. She had told her she could do that, hadn't she? "Um, of course. How soon would you like to come?"
Gwendolen laughed. She had a merry laugh. Vivvie couldn't help but smile on the other line. "How soon can I come? I've rather run out of column ideas. That's supposed to happen after thirty years, I think." She laughed again.
"Well, every day is pretty much the same here. You could come whenever you want." Vivvie glanced at her appointment book, but she knew what it looked like. It was basically blank. Evan kept track of their social engagements and told her about them. She thought that was another thing she was supposed to do, but he didn't fight her on that, because the engagements were too important to fall by the wayside like the grocery-shopping.
"Could I come the day after tomorrow?" she asked.
Vivvie hadn't thought she would pick a day so soon, but, having told her she could come any day, she didn't see any reason why not. That day was as good as the next. Shrugging mentally, she said, "Sure."
"I could drop by your flat in the morning."
"That would be fine. I live-"
"Oh, I know where you live," Gwendolen cut in, cheerfully. "I'll see you around eight o'clock, the day after tomorrow?"
"Sounds good," said Vivvie.
"Thanks so much," said Gwendolen, gaily, and then hung up the phone.
Vivvie hung up her end, considered telling Andy that Gwen Longworth was going to be wandering around the place in a couple of days, decided against it because she just couldn't be bothered, headed to the restaurant.
Penelope was already there, head buried in Cosmopolitan. Vivvie sat opposite her, waited for her to look up from the pages of the magazine.
"The Kama Sutra?" Vivvie guessed, playfully, as she swept her napkin onto her lap.
"No." Penelope slid the magazine over to Vivvie.
Vivvie glanced at the title of the article, then took a closer look. "Really? Cosmo's telling you how to live without a guy?"
"Can you believe that? I'm going to show Rachel. Then maybe she'll shut up about my not having a boyfriend. Also, maybe it'll cheer her up now that she's also single."
"That is, if she's still single." Vivvie handed the magazine back to Penelope. "I'm sure Rachel managed to pick herself up a boyfriend while walking to the cab after she broke up with Maxwell."
"Let's just hope that breaking up with Maxwell doesn't turn out to be a monumental mistake."
"Yeah, I liked him, too. I'll have a cup of tea, please," she said, to the waiter-blandly handsome in a totally prototypical sort of way-who had appeared out of nowhere to hover.
He inclined his head a little and hurried away to fulfill the request.
"Enough about Rachel. Let me see the ring!" Penelope was less prone to hysterical squeals than Rachel, but Vivvie still detected the trace of a squeal in her voice. Suppressing a sigh, Vivvie obediently held out her hand. She was already tired of talking about her engagement. Was that a good sign? "Oh, Vivvie," sighed Penelope, staring doe-eyed at the ring. "Oh, Vivvie, it's absolutely lovely."
"Thank you," said Vivvie, hoping her voice didn't sound too tight and squeaky.
Penelope let go of Vivvie's hand. "So are you happy? You look glowy."
Did she really? She had her doubts about that one. "I-"
"Sorry I'm late." Rachel collapsed into one of the table's two remaining free chairs. "I finally got Cecily interested in shopping for a little while, so I couldn't very well run out on such a miracle."
"You're a personal shopper, for God's sake," commented Penelope. "Stop acting like it's the most difficult job in the world."
"Let me tell you something, being a personal shopper would be a whole lot more fun if I wasn't the personal shopper for the mousiest woman on earth. Gin and tonic, please," she said to the waiter who had just dropped off Vivvie's tea. "And speaking of mousy people," Rachel continued, without breaking stride, lifting an index finger toward Vivvie.
Vivvie, taking a careful sip of her tea, braced herself for the careening jump in subjects that Rachel found completely intuitive.
"Morgan Dunover didn't recognize me."
No matter what change of subject she had been expecting, it hadn't been that one. The last person on earth she wanted to discuss was Morgan Dunover. Morgan Dunover, whose hazel eyes had been divinely, splendidly hot and smoky when he had been holding her on the dance floor. Vivvie was not a stranger to men wanting to kiss her. It happened. She had just been caught totally off guard for Morgan Dunover to want to kiss her. It had never occurred to her that Morgan Dunover ever wanted to kiss anyone. The force of having all his energy focused on her, pulsing toward her, had stunned her. She had not expected it. That's why she had been busy wondering how Morgan Dunover kissed when she should have been hearing Evan propose to her. All she knew was that suddenly he was holding a ring out to her, and she had spent the previous five minutes fantasizing about a completely different man.
And it was so stupid, too. She did not want Morgan Dunover. She had never wanted Morgan Dunover. Rachel was right. Of all the mousy people...
"What are you talking about?" asked Penelope, which saved Vivvie from having to reply.
"I said hullo to him during Evan's birthday party. I thought, since I was single at the time-"
"At the time?" interrupted Penelope.
"Well, yeah. Maxwell and I got back together. I was being stupid about the Mia thing." This momentarily silenced Penelope and Vivvie, so Rachel, oblivious, just forged onward. "So I said hullo to Morgan. I figured, if he remembered you, he must remember me."
Vivvie could just imagine the logical reasoning behind that decision. "And-"
"And he didn't recognize me! Thank you," she said to the waiter, as he set down the gin and tonic.
"Are you ladies ready to order?" he asked, giving them a charming smile.
"Oh." Vivvie glanced down at the menu she hadn't even opened. "Not yet. Sorry."
The smile stayed on his face but his eyes flickered daggers at them.
Penelope said, "Hmm," and Vivvie thought it was a comment on the rude waiter until she finished, "So Morgan Dunover only remembers Vivvie." Penelope looked across at her, sipping her glass of water. "Isn't that interesting?"
Vivvie drew her eyebrows together in what she hoped was a threatening manner. The last thing she wanted to talk about was Morgan Dunover and how incredibly sexy those hazel eyes of his were and how she had behaved like some nae, giddy virgin over the thought that he wanted to kiss her and badly. "No, it's not interesting."
"Not interesting? The only person he remembers from university is you." Penelope took another sip of water, managing to look incredibly smug while doing it.
"I am not the only person he remembers from university."
"How do you know?" asked Rachel, frankly.
"Look, don't be ridiculous. Naturally he remembers someone else."
"He doesn't remember me."
"And if he doesn't remember Rachel, who does he remember?"
"You," finished Rachel, solemnly.
"You two have lost your minds. He only remembers me because I'm all over the place with Evan. He pointed that out to me, and it makes perfect sense."
"He pointed that out to you while the two of you were dancing?" inquired Penelope, taking another relentless sip of her water.
Vivvie wanted to throw her hands up in frustration, so she carefully made sure that one was settled calmly in her lap and the other was taking dainty hold of her teacup. "So we danced," she said, keeping her voice even. "So what? Why are you making a big deal out of it?"
Surprise showed on Rachel and Penelope's faces. They exchanged a look. "We didn't think we were making a big deal out of it," Rachel said, slowly, and Vivvie realized she'd shown her hand. No one had been making a big deal out of it except her, in her head. And how was she going to explain it away? She couldn't possibly be honest. She'd just accepted the proposal of one of the sexiest men in Great Britain, and she was really going to say to her friends, You know how Morgan Dunover never seems interested in anything? Well, he seemed interested in me, and I wanted him to tell me in delicious detail exactly how interested he was. Morgan Dunover, for God's sakes! When she had Evan Thorne-Brighton! They would think she was mad.
Luckily, Penelope saved her. "Has Evan been giving you a hard time over dancing with Morgan?"
They would believe that. Evan's personality didn't usually leave room for jealousy, and he certainly would never think to be jealous of Morgan Dunover, but they were so used to her quarreling with Evan over everything that they would believe there had been a quarrel over Morgan, too. So she just said, "Really it's...Let's not talk about it, okay?"
"Sure," said Penelope, supportively. "Of course. But everything's okay, isn't it?"
"Ready to order?" chirruped the waiter, returning and still looking daggers at them. Vivvie assumed he'd been watching them and knew that they still hadn't opened their menus.
"I'll just have a salad," she said, handing the menu over.
"Make that three," said Rachel, taking the liberty of ordering for Penelope, too.
The waiter looked a little disgusted that they had taken so long to order three salads, sent them a phony smile, and minced away.
"I hate this place," Rachel complained. "They're always rushing you."
"That's because people like me and Vivvie, people with real jobs, need to be rushed."
Rachel waved her hand dismissively.
Penelope turned back to Vivvie. "Everything is okay, right?"
Vivvie didn't even know where to start answering that question. Sure, everything was okay. "I...Everything's fine. We just...We're going to dinner with our parents tonight."
"Evan's parents?" said Penelope.
Vivvie nodded. "And mine. It's a recipe for catastrophe."
"Have you ever even met Evan's parents?"
No. No, she hadn't. She was engaged to a man who had never even bothered to introduce her to his family. What did that mean? "Uh, no, not yet." She tried a smile. "I can't tell you how happy it makes me to introduce my parents to Evan's parents at the same time I'm introducing myself to Evan's parents."
Penelope got that the smile wasn't all there, sent her a sympathetic one in return.
Rachel said, off-handedly, "You and Evan are the two most charming people I know. I'm sure you'll be just fine."