“Did you want a drink before you go?” he asked.
“Sure.” I followed him into the bar area.
“What would you like?” He went behind the bar.
“Whatever you’re having.”
He poured two short whiskeys, straight up, no ice, no water. I felt my scalp prickle. Scottish descent notwithstanding, he didn’t drink whiskey unless he wanted to get drunk. His mounting unhappiness was a tangible thing, and I had no idea what to say or do.
John handed me one of the short tumblers. “¡Arriba.” He touched the rim of his glass to mine.
“Abajo,” I said, and we touched the weighted bases.
“Al centro.” We clicked the glasses against each other.
I said, “Adentro.”
“What happened to abracadabra?” John asked after a second swallow.
“Hm? Oh. I got the feeling you don’t like it.”
He was silent for a moment, and then he said, “I didn’t mind when I thought you were being ironic. Now that I know you’re serious, it’s less amusing.”
I surprised us both by laughing. “Despite what you may think, I’m not a junior magician. I can’t say I was being ironic with the abracadabra, but I did think I was being funny. Apparently not.”
His lip curled. “Sorry. I seem to be losing my sense of humor.”
I put my glass down. “Look, if you want to talk, let’s talk. I’ll cancel dinner. Maybe I should anyway.”
“The obvious. Do you really still want to get married?”
When he didn’t answer at once, my heart seemed to stop too.
“Do you?” John asked finally.
Not the answer I’d hoped for. In fact, it took me a second or two to get command of my voice.
“I’m the one suspected of murder. Not you.”
“That’s not an answer.”
I said huskily, “I haven’t changed my mind about you, John. About us. I never will.”
“I haven’t changed my mind either.” The words were right. The tone…a little flat. Like leftover champagne. Like a hangover pill the morning after.
After a moment, I said, “So then…full speed ahead?”
“It seems so.”
I nodded. I was not remotely reassured—and it didn’t seem to me that he was either.
We sipped our drinks. He glanced at the clock. “When are you leaving?”
Was he in a hurry to get rid of me so he could finally relax? That’s how it felt.
“Andi’s picking me up at seven.”
He nodded curtly.
I couldn’t leave it like this. Obviously things were not okay between us.
I said abruptly, “Can I ask you something?”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me that you went to Andi when you were trying to find me after the auction at Bonhams?”
He shrugged. “What would there be to say? We both know your friends and family detest me. I assumed she told you.”
“Detest is pretty strong.”
“Also pretty accurate.”
Yes. Also pretty accurate. I said, “It’s the same on your side. With the exception of Jinx, I don’t think your friends or family approve of our marriage.”
“I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks.”
“Neither do I, but I care what you think, and it’s pretty obvious to me that you’re having second thoughts.”
He didn’t deny it.
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