Vivvie was swearing, long and hard and repetitively, in her head, as she raced out of the cab to Evan's building, ducked through the doorway, waited for the excruciatingly slow elevator. As soon as she finally opened the door to the flat, Evan said, "You're late."
"I know, I know, I know." She dropped her coat on the floor in the foyer, dashed past Evan, who was standing at the kitchen island reading the paper. "You wouldn't believe-" She stopped halfway to the bedroom door, paused, came back to the kitchen, looked at the roses sitting in a vase on the counter. "New roses?" She looked a him quizzically. "We haven't quarrelled."
He glanced up briefly from the newspaper. "No, but I assumed we would before the night was over." He turned the page calmly.
"Pretty good prediction," Vivvie muttered, as she headed into the bedroom, shed the clothing she'd spent all day in. She looked longingly at the shower, but she was late enough as it was, so she quickly pulled on the little black dress she'd chosen for the night. Simple. Hopefully classic. Hopefully something Sir Nigel and Lady Thorne-Brighton would like. Oh, God. Taking a deep breath, she smoothed her hands over her dress as she studied her reflection in the mirror.
"Vivvie! We're late!" Evan called for perhaps the tenth time.
"Okay." She leaned forward to check her make-up, decided it would have to do the way it was. "You know," she remarked, grabbing the choker Evan had gotten her for her birthday and walking into the great room, "I heard you the first nine times you told me we were late. I was going as quickly as I could." She handed him the necklace and presented him with her back.
"Uh-huh," he said, draping it over her neck and fastening it, then leaning forward to brush a brief kiss below her ear. "I just would like to act as a buffer between our parents. I hope they're not sitting there trying to make conversation."
"They could make conversation," Vivvie said, hopefully, following Evan out of the apartment.
"Your mother could make conversation?" Evan double-checked the locked door.
"My father could make conversation."
"And hopefully your mother could stay quiet."
She was not going to fight with him. Not again, not over her mother, not right before she met his parents for the first time. For the first time. "Evan." She turned to him in the elevator.
"Why didn't you ever introduce me to your parents before this?"
His eyebrows skidded upward. "I don't know. Is that a choice that needs to be defended?"
"Well, I think it's strange. I mean, you've met my parents."
"I didn't think of it, Vivvie. Really." He placed a hand on the small of her back, guided her out of the elevator. "Don't read so much into it, luv. You're tense this evening."
"I'm nervous," she admitted, settling her wrap tighter around her as they stepped into the arctic outdoors.
"Nervous?" Evan lifted his hand, pressed the unlock button on his keychain. The BMW parked a little way down the street responded instantly, flashing its lights and beeping in greeting. "What is there to be nervous about? There's nothing you can do about it."
"'Nothing I can do about it?'" Vivvie repeated, walking quickly in her heels on the sleet-encased sidewalk to keep up with Evan. "What are you talking about?"
"Your mother, of course." Evan walked around the car to open the door for her. "You cannot change your mother."
Vivvie slid into the car, waited for Evan to get in on his side. "I'm not worried about my mother. I'm worried about me. What if your parents don't like me? I'm marrying their son. Their only child. And you've never bothered to introduce me to them, which leads me to believe-"
"You're reading too much into this." Evan sounded irritated, as he revved the car down the road in the headlong fashion in which he usually drove. Vivvie pulled on her seatbelt and leaned over to punch up the heat. "I don't introduce women to my parents."
Well, he wouldn't, she supposed. How would his parents have ever hoped to keep up with the parade of women Evan had dated? And the parade of women had never bothered her before, but bothered her now. I don't introduce women to my parents. And, up until three days ago, he had apparently preferred to classify her as just another of the women. "The Latest," she murmured out loud, without meaning to.
"What was that?"
Vivvie frowned, pulled her wrap more tightly against her, and vowed not to think of Morgan Dunover for the rest of the night. She had already devoted far too much time to thinking about him. "Nothing, it's..."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him slant a quick glance at her. "What's really going on here?"
She took a second before she answered, so that every bloody stupid thing that had been crowding her head since he had proposed wouldn't come gushing out. She had a fear of commitment, apparently. That's all it was. "What do you mean?"
"This is your thing. Getting people to like you? This is what you do. You're damn good at it, and you know it. So why the sudden panic, luv? What are you really worried about?"
"This is different, though, Evan. These aren't people at a dinner party. These are your parents. It's important that they like me. So much more important than being liked by those stuffy MPs."
"First of all, that's not true. It is important that the stuffy MPs like you, much more important than my parents liking you, which brings me to my second point, and that is that I don't give a damn what my parents think of you. I think you're perfect for me, and that's all there is to it. So just relax. God, it's hot in here." He turned the heat down.
Just relax. She leaned back against the seat, closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Relax. That was all she had to do. Just relax. Yes, she had the wedding of the year to plan but it didn't have to be planned just yet. And yes, she had never met her future in-laws. But she was meeting them tonight. And it didn't matter if they liked her. Because Evan loved her.
Evan drew to a stop in front of the restaurant, turned and looked at her seriously. "You know that I love you, don't you?"
It was a strange thing for him to say, considering that he had never thought to tell her before thrusting the bloody Hope Diamond at her. But she only answered, with a smile, "Yes."
He smiled as well, obviously pleased. "Good." He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Let's go."
The valet opened her door for her, helped her out, and Vivvie wondered if the chances were good that her parents hadn't gotten to the restaurant yet.
The chances were not good. The restaurant was a fancy one, and the waiting area was done as a traditional hunting lodge, dark green walls and rich brown leather couches. Paintings of pheasants and beagles on the walls. A pleasant fire crackling in the fireplace, making the room welcomingly cozy. In such a setting, her mother stood out as surely as if she had been naked.
Her hair was lavender now. Apparently, she had grown tired of the royal blue. She had also had lots of it chopped off. Had probably done the job herself, judging from the jagged edges of it. She was dressed in a hugely oversized Hawaiian shirt, an ankle-length, black pencil skirt, and sneakers. The Hawaiian shirt and sneakers were quintessentially her mother. The skirt, Vivvie knew, had been her attempt to blend in with the elite echelon her daughter insisted on associating with. Her heart went out to her suddenly. Yes, her mother was insane, but at least she cared about her children. And at least, thought Vivvie, glancing at the man who was sitting next to her mother, she had stuck around for the raising of them instead of slinking off to London to bury himself in his job, leaving a ten-year-old son alone with an imbalanced mother and two squalling infants. How Geoff had survived Vivvie still couldn't comprehend. Her father may have been blending perfectly into the dor of the restaurant, but Vivvie wished fervently he hadn't come. She didn't really understand why he was still married to her mother in the first place.
"Well," said Vivvie, brightly, trying to discreetly return her mother's frenzied waving, "at least my parents beat your parents here."
"No, they didn't," said Evan, and it occurred to Vivvie that, naturally, her parents and Evan's parents would not have recognized each other.
Vivvie glanced away from her mother, caught a glimpse of a dour-looking couple standing close to the fireplace, heads bent in conversation.
"I'll go get my parents," she said.
Evan was studying her parents. "I don't suppose you could lend your mother your wrap?" he suggested, as he moved off toward his parents.
Oh, hell, she thought, heading toward her parents.
Her mother had stood and leaped upon her as she came up, burying her in a fierce hug. "Oh, darling," she exclaimed, giving her an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek. Then she drew back and frowned. "But you look pale. And I think you've lost weight. You should move back home. London is obviously not-"
"Quite a ring," said her father, picking up her left hand and studying it closely. "Have you had it appraised?"
"I...Not yet. Evan did-"
Her father scoffed disapprovingly. "You should never take at face value what a man tells you jewelry costs."
Vivvie tried to come up with an answer, but her mother demanded her attention, complaining, "I haven't heard from Michael. Have you heard from Michael?"
"Uh, no, Mother. Not lately-"
"He's dead," announced her mother, her eyes welling with tears. "Oh, God, he's-"
"He's not dead, Margaret," his father cut in, flatly. "And I don't know why you should care, anyhow. He abandoned this family-"
"Wonder where he got that from," commented Vivvie, and then turned to her mother. "I'm sure he's not dead, Mother. You know how seldom he can-"
"This is Vivvie," said Evan, heartily, and she turned in his direction and found his parents directly on top of her.
They did not look like happy people. And it wasn't just that they were momentarily unhappy. They looked like the sort of people who didn't smile very often, so the fact that their son was so relentlessly sunny must be one of life's great mysteries, Vivvie thought. Along with the fact that she and Geoff and Michael had all turned out pretty decent in spite of the parents they had had.
They were frowning now, but they looked as if they couldn't decide where to direct their frowns: at her outrageous mother, or at her, which distressed Vivvie, because they had, after all, just met her, and she couldn't imagine what she had done. But they were nonetheless frowning deeply, and at least some of the disapproval was radiating in her direction. Physically, she could see Evan in both of them. They were both tall and handsome and commanding. He resembled more strongly his mother, who shared his classic features, his clear blue eyes, his blond hair, although hers was beginning to turn brassy. But, personality-wise, Vivvie could not imagine any resemblance existing.
For a moment, she felt swamped with panic. Then she reminded herself. They were only people. They were just like stuffy MPs. "Hullo," she said, sending them her foolproof smile.
It had no effect. If anything, their frowns seemed to deepen.
"These are my parents," explained Evan, helpfully, as if she were in doubt about this. "Sir Nigel, Lady Thorne-Brighton."
Sir Nigel? Lady Thorne-Brighton? Was he joking? She was on a first name basis with the Duke and Duchess of Ashfield, for God's sake, and she was really expected to call Evan's parents Sir Nigel and Lady Thorne-Brighton? She kept her smile plastered on her face and said, "It's lovely to finally meet you." She wasn't sure if she was supposed to shake their hands. Or curtsey. She was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to hug them or kiss their cheeks. So she said instead, "These are my parents. My mother, Margaret. My father, Alexander."
"Well," bubbled Evan, cutting through the silence that followed her announcement, "shall we sit?" He raised his hand toward the maitre d', a dark-haired man with the negligent arrogance of a man used to serving only a certain quality of person. The maitre d' took his time walking over-best not to appear hurried, ever, in this restaurant. They all drove Vivvie crazy here, but Evan adored their duck.
They sat at the table. Evan ordered wine. Vivvie stared at Sir Nigel and Lady Thorne-Brighton as they studied their menus. Every once in a while, one of them would glance up at her with a hard look, then look back down, brows more furrowed than ever before. What the hell was with these people?
"Vivvie." Her mother leaned toward her, whispering her name and nudging her shoulder.
"What?" asked Vivvie, distracted, still watching her future in-laws and deciding Evan was going to have a lot to make up for here.
"They don't have vegetable soup here."
"Huh? What?" Vivvie tore her eyes away from the Thorne-Brightons, looked at her mother, who was worrying her lower lip in anxiety.
"They don't have vegetable soup," she repeated.
Vivvie took a deep breath to keep herself from strangling the woman. She loved her mother, but really. She would only eat vegetable soup. How bloody difficult could you be? She glanced at the menu, written in French, which luckily she knew well enough to discern the soup they did have. "They have onion soup."
"It will have to do, Mother," Vivvie bit out. God, she could not deal with a fit at the moment. She must have said it sharply enough that it got through, because her mother fell silent, looking devastated. Vivvie decided she would make it up to her later. She had enough on her plate at the moment.
The waiter arrived, all flashing teeth and a nose far too big, just begging for some sort of cosmetic surgery. Vivvie felt uncharitable thinking it, but hey, it was the truth. He poured the wine for Evan with a flourish, but Evan passed the glass over to his father, which was a surprise, because Evan prided himself on his knowledge of wines. His father approved the wine, and the waiter filled their glasses with one bottle, started in on a second, then stepped back and asked, "Shall we start with-"
"No," Sir Nigel said, brusquely. "We are simply going to have entrees. I am going to have the roast duck. My wife is going to have the souffle." Sir Nigel folded his menu, took his wife's, handed them both decisively over to the waiter.
"I will also have the roast duck," said Evan.
"Me, too," Vivvie murmured, a little too dazed to figure out if she actually felt like roast duck or not.
"Is the roast duck good?" asked her father. Vivvie watched the Thorne-Brightons glare at him. Evan was busy watching his wine swirl in his glass. He had been to dinner with her parents before. He had also been to dinner with his parents before. Apparently, none of this was fazing him in the least.
"Yes, sir," replied the waiter.
"Hmm," mused her father, studying in the menu. "But I'm not sure about it. I have heard it's your specialty. Is it your speciality?"
"I don't know. What about the-"
"Daddy," interjected Vivvie, smiling sweetly. "Just get the duck. You won't regret it. I absolutely promise."
"He'll have the roast duck," Vivvie told the waiter. "And my mother is going to have the onion soup. Just the onion soup."
"Do you have vegetable soup?" her mother asked, plaintively.
The waiter regarded her quizzically. "I'm sorry, ma'am?"
"The onion soup," Vivvie repeated, feeling her smile freeze into brittleness on her face, as she handed over their three menus.
"And we're going to need a couple more bottles of wine," said Sir Nigel.
Vivvie thought she caught the ghost of genuine amusement around the waiter's mouth. "Very good," he said, as he moved off.
There was a moment of awkward silence. Vivvie shifted from staring at Evan's parents to staring at Evan. She had seen him make witty conversation with strangers hundreds of times. He was even better at it than her, having perfected it in the political arena. And, since his parents were not exactly gregarious, Vivvie decided it was Evan's responsibility to make this all a little less painful.
"You were with the Navy, I believe, Sir Nigel?" said her father.
Sir Nigel looked alarmed at being directly spoken to. "Yes," he answered, finally.
"I," continued her father, "am a vice-president with-"
"Vivvie," said Lady Thorne-Brighton, and Vivvie almost forgave her for cutting off her father since she was actually acknowledging her existence. "It's an unusual name, isn't it?"
"Uh, yes," Vivvie agreed. "It's short for Vivian, though."
"Vivian," repeated Lady Thorne-Brighton, as if this were an exotic name she had never encountered before, clearly as exotic as Vivvie itself.
"Yes. Like Vivian Leigh."
Lady Thorne-Brighton frowned so deeply that Vivvie thought she might be in the first stages of a grisly death. "The actress?" Clearly she disapproved of her future daughter-in-law sharing the name of an actress.
"Yes." Vivvie's mother leaned over the table in eagerness. "I adore Vivian Leigh. I have always loved Vivian Leigh. She was married to Laurence Olivier, it was so romantic. I always said-didn't I, Alexander?-that when I had a daughter I would name her Vivian Leigh." Her mother beamed at her. "And I did."
"Vivian Leigh?" Lady Thorne-Brighton repeated.
"Yes. Vivian Leigh Westcott. That is my full name."
Lady Thorne-Brighton looked as if she had nothing to say to that. She appeared to be speechless with horror.
Since Evan still didn't look inclined to venture a topic of conversation, Vivvie decided to give it another try. "Evan and I have been trying to set a date. Do you have any preference?"
"You are very young," said Lady Thorne-Brighton.
Vivvie wasn't sure if she meant that they were both very young, or just she was very young. "Uh-"
"Don't stammer," inserted Sir Nigel.
"Much younger than Evan," continued Lady Thorne-Brighton.
Vivvie glanced at Evan. He shrugged negligently, as if to say, What can you do? "Six years," said Vivvie.
"Six years is a lot of time," said Lady Thorne-Brighton.
"It would be a lot of time if I had met Evan when I was thirteen."
She had meant it as a sort-of joke. No one at the table smiled. Vivvie made a grab for her wineglass. Evan made no move to talk. They sat in silence for a long time.
Vivvie could not stand silence at a dinner table. It made her think of the dinners at home, after Geoff had left and Michael had run off, long and tense and desperate. She knew a fear of silence meant she was not comfortable with herself. She was a psychologist. She had studied such things. It didn't matter. She still hated silence.
"I was sorry you couldn't come to Evan's birthday party." Sir Nigel and Lady Thorne-Brighton both started, as if they had forgotten anybody else was at the table. "Was Rome nice?" she persisted.
Lady Thorne-Brighton regarded her with a strangely detached curiosity, as if, if she could only gather enough energy, this girl would be interesting to figure out.
Sir Nigel blinked with enormous slowness. Then he said, "God, no. I hate Rome." He didn't elaborate.
"Ah," said Vivvie, after a second, and silence fell again.
"Vivvie, I don't know about the onion soup," her mother said, after a second.
This could go to hell, thought Vivvie. She would fill the silence with a monologue, if she had to. "I had lunch with Rachel and Penelope today. They are both doing well. Rachel is back together with Maxwell. Rachel and Penelope are my two best friends. We met at Oxford together. I have a degree in psychology, Evan might have told you. I work at St. Basil's Clinic. Perhaps you've heard of it? We are studying the psychological-"
"Nobody wants to hear about your career, Vivvie," her father cut in, which didn't surprise her. He had never been the least bit interested in her career. The only career he thought his daughter ought to have was catching herself a peer. She had done, in his opinion, phenomenally well with Evan.
Vivvie ignored him, continuing, "I've been hoping to hear from Michael. My brother Michael. Michael Chase, actually. The photographer. He just won a Pulitzer." Vivvie was extraordinarily proud of her brother's accomplishment.
"Nobody wants to hear about Michael, either." Her father was not. Another career he disapproved of. Vivvie herself didn't like Michael running around in warzones finding inspiration for his art, but he was obviously good at it.
"I've been wanting to tell Michael about my engagement. He's difficult to get in touch with. So when the phone rang today at work I thought it might be him, because nobody ever really calls me at work. I mean, everyone who wants to talk to me is either at work or would call my cell phone. But it turned out to be Gwendolen Dunover."
Finally, the Thorne-Brightons had a reaction. Lady Thorne-Brighton dropped her fork abruptly and said, "Gwendolen Dunover?"
"Who's Gwendolen Dunover?" asked Evan, looking at his mother with interest.
Lady Thorne-Brighton scoffed. "No one worth troubling yourself over."
Vivvie was confused by that reaction. "She's the Duchess of Ashfield," she told Evan.
"She is not the Duchess of Ashfield," intoned Lady Thorne-Brighton, with authority.
Vivvie regarded her quizzically. "She's not?"
"If she's the Duchess of Ashfield, then I'm the Queen."
Vivvie couldn't understand this. The woman had been introduced to her as the Duchess of Ashfield. "Are they not...actually...married?" she asked, which was the only explanation she could think of.
"No, they are married. It's just that I will never see her as a duchess. I mean, really. She was so far beneath David Dunover it was amazing he could even see her down there, let alone think to marry the creature. Dukes need not marry women like that. There are other purposes for such women."
Vivvie stared at her. There was no need to say something like that about anyone, never mind about a woman whom Vivvie had found to be perfectly nice.
"What was the Duchess of Ashfield, whoever she is, doing calling you?" Evan asked her. "I mean, how do you even know her?"
"Well, she was at your birthday party."
"Evan, you introduced me to her. And her husband."
Evan frowned a little. "I don't remember. Honestly, all peers start to blend together after a while. Well, what did she have to say?"
"She wants to interview me."
"What?" Lady Thorne-Brighton practically shrieked it.
Vivvie didn't see why this warranted such a reaction. She shrugged. "She wants to tag along with me for a day."
"Why does the Duchess of Ashfield want to tag along with you for a day?" asked Evan, apparently confused.
"She's Gwen Longworth," his mother explained, impatiently.
"Gwen Longworth?" Evan repeated, in obvious shock. "Wait a second. London Personality wants to interview you?"
The food arrived at that moment, the waiter handing out their dishes. Vivvie was hoping Evan would forget about the London Personality thing. She was realizing that bringing it up had been a total mistake.
She picked up her fork.
Her mother squealed her name in a panic and slapped the fork out of her hand, sending it clattering onto the table next to them, where the diners looked up.
Vivvie recovered quickly, smiling at the people at the table next to them. "I'm sorry," she said. "Sorry." Then she turned to her mother, hissing, "What is wrong with you?"
"There was a spot on your fork," her mother reported.
"Why couldn't you just tell me there was a spot on my fork?"
"I don't know, I-I panicked. I-I'm sorry."
"I must apologize for my wife," said her father. "She's-"
"What's this about Gwen Longworth wanting to interview you?" Evan asked, pulling the conversation back to the topic that most interested him.
"I mean, why doesn't Gwen Longworth want to interview me?"
"Well, Evan, I, um...I went to university with her son. I'm sure that's the only reason why she-"
"Who is her son?" asked Lady Thorne-Brighton.
"Uh, Morgan Dunover."
"Please stop stammering," Sir Nigel demanded.
"I have never heard of him." Lady Thorne-Brighton narrowed her eyes, as if she doubted the veracity of what Vivvie was saying. "What does he do?"
"I honestly don't-"
"Did she say anything about me?" asked Evan.
"Well, no, she said-" Vivvie swallowed her words. Not the right thing to say. She would never hear the end of it. "She mentioned that she thinks you're going to be Prime Minister someday. I think she might be trying to get to you through me."
Evan beamed, looking pleased, as he sawed his way through his duck. "Ah. Perhaps I'll arrange to stop by St. Basil's the day after tomorrow."
"That won't even be necessary. She's coming by the flat to pick me up."
Evan looked up, smile even wider. "Even better! This is splendid."
"I don't really approve of this-" began Lady Thorne-Brighton.
"Leave the boy alone," Sir Nigel told her. "He needs as much pubilicity as he can get, and London Personality is a splendid way to get it."
"I suppose." Lady Thorne-Brighton looked less than convinced, as she picked disinterestedly at her souffle.
Vivvie glanced around for the waiter to replace her fork.
"Vivvie." Her mother whispered her name, nudged her again.
"What is it?"
"I don't like this soup."
"Mother," Vivvie said, helplessly. "Please. Can you please just deal with it? For just this one night? Please?"
Her mother seemed to comprehend that this was truly important, and fell silent, leaving her daughter alone.
Silence fell over the entire table, as a matter of fact. Vivvie didn't try to break it. That had turned out disastrously. She sat in miserable silence, staring at her duck, unable to eat it, drinking her wine steadily and wondering if it would be possible to spend the rest of her married life never encountering these miserable people ever again.
When the waiter came to collect their dishes, he said to her, concerned, "But you didn't touch your duck, ma'am. Was it unsatisfactory?"
"No," she replied. "I didn't have a fork."
"You should have-"
"It's fine," she informed him, firmly. "I'm fine. Thank you."
The waiter looked uncertain, but she noticed he said nothing about her mother's untouched onion soup. Instead, he started to inquire, "May I bring over the dessert-"
"No, nothing else," Sir Nigel answered.
Thank God, thought Vivvie. At least this interminable night was almost over.
"I'm going to walk my parents out," Evan told her, standing. "Pay with the credit card."
She assumed he meant the one he had given her, which she used whenever he commanded it. "Okay." She tried smiling at him, but she was feeling like she had reached the end of her rope. She looked at the Thorne-Brightons to wish them a good night, but they did not even look in her direction.
"You had better not ruin this," her father bit out at her, as soon as the Thorne-Brightons had moved away from the table.
Vivvie blinked at him. "What? Daddy, I-"
"You have managed to catch yourself a brilliant man. Gwen Longworth is right. He's going to be Prime Minister someday, and you're going to be his wife. It's a good deal for you. Make sure you don't do anything silly to jeopardize it."
Vivvie just looked at him. She was too tired to argue. "It was lovely to see you." She kissed her mother's cheek. "I'll let you know as soon as I hear from Michael."
"Oh, that would be so nice," her mother said. "You aren't looking well, Vivvie."
Her mother never thought she looked well, so this wasn't surprising at all. Vivvie managed a wan smile. "I know, Mother. It might be a touch of something."
"Please take care of yourself. You should come back to Bath."
"I might, actually. I have a wedding to plan now. There's lots to do."
"A hell of a lot to do. The wedding of the year, Vivvie," her father informed her.
Great. Just what she wanted to hear. She dug through her bag for her credit card, wondering if Evan would be open to the idea of eloping. Probably not. Probably he wanted the wedding of the year.
"We'll get going," her father said, as she peered into the depths of the bag for the credit card, vowing for the thousandth time that she was going to actually organize her belongings. Someday.
"Huh?" She looked up. "Okay. Fine." She watched them leave, leaving her alone at the table, and she gave up on the credit card. Evan would have to pay when he got back. She leaned her elbows on the table, a faux pas that might have conveniently killed her future mother-in-law if she had thought to do it while Lady Thorne-Brighton had been at the table, and leaned her forehead against her hands, closing her eyes.
Evan's hands appeared out of nowhere, stroking up her back, rubbing comfortingly into the knots at the base of her neck. Then he kissed the top of her head. She felt him take the seat next to her and say, exuberantly, "Well. That was a triumph."
Vivvie lifted her head abruptly, wondering if he'd gone mad. Or maybe she had. "What?"
"They absolutely adored you, luv." He picked up one of her hands and kissed it. "I passed your parents coming back in."
"Yes, they left. What do you mean, ‘adored me?'"
"What does that conventionally mean? Would you like to have dessert? Or have you paid the bill yet?"
"What? No. I can't find the credit card."
"Oh, really, Vivvie," sighed Evan, signaling the waiter. "You didn't eat. You could at least do with some dessert."
"Wait. Forget about the dessert. I don't understand. Your parents adored me? Evan, they didn't-I mean, we didn't-You and your parents are all out of your minds."
He smiled at her as if she were the most adorable creature on earth. "Perhaps a bit. No more than you and your parents. Let's talk about Gwen Longworth. The lady will have chocolate cake, please," he said to the waiter. "And I'll have some brandy."
"Very good, sir," said the waiter, langouring off.
"What? I don't want to talk about Gwen Longworth. I want to talk about us. And our wedding. And your parents really like me?"
"Oh, yes. They think you're splendid. Couldn't you tell, luv?"
He was serious. He was actually serious. Evan didn't have a sarcastic bone in his body. This would never be his idea of a joke. Vivvie stared at him for a moment. Then she said, "My God, Evan. What are they like when they don't like someone?"