“There you are, Miss Donovan.”
It was Langley’s voice. With a sigh, Serena dropped her hand and turned. There he was, standing not an arm’s length away, with Jonathan Dane at his side.
Jonathan’s wide, sensuous mouth hadn’t changed in shape, but its turn seemed more cynical, more inclined to smirk rather than display the genuine, joyful smiles she remembered. His lips were parted, and she could see the hint of teeth behind them.
She remembered those lips. How often she’d kissed them, had run her tongue over those teeth.
“Good evening.” Serena’s voice emerged smooth and deep and contained no tremor. It reminded her of her voice when she was with Jonathan before, when she was aroused and could only think she wanted more, she wanted him to take her to the pinnacle.
He had taken her to those heights, not only physically, but emotionally as well, and she had counted on it never to end. But then it had ended with an abruptness that had shattered her.
He gazed at her as if startled, a slight frown forming between his brows. “Serena?”
The cheerful roar of the ballroom faded to nothing behind the din of her shock. She glanced at Langley to see him blanch. Everyone standing nearby had turned to gape at them.
She stared up at Jonathan, unable to speak, to breathe.
He stared back at her, his eyes dilated in the shadows until they looked black. She remembered them, though. They were midnight blue, like the deepest ocean on a sunny day. They always appeared quite dark whenever there wasn’t enough light to illuminate their true color. In broad daylight, his eyes were exotic, their dark cobalt sparks contrasting with the gold streaks in his hair and the broad slashes of his eyebrows. Such a handsome man.
Langley gave an awkward laugh and clapped Jonathan on the shoulder. “No, this is Meg, man. Meg Donovan, my betrothed.”
Jonathan shook his head, as if flinging away a fog that had descended over him. He blinked hard, and seeming to come to his senses, he bowed. “Of course,” he murmured. “Of course. Forgive me. Miss Donovan, it is a pleasure to see you again.”
The low timbre of his voice made something within Serena clench. She remembered that voice, had dreamed about it more times than she could count. That voice had whispered in her ear, caressed the most private parts of her body, told her wicked things she was certain she’d never hear again. The words he had uttered to her had made her first fall madly in love and later tremble in ecstasy.
It had nearly killed her when she learned all those words had been lies.
Was he still a liar?
Such characteristics were usually ingrained in a person by the time he reached adulthood. If a man was a liar at twenty-two, he probably was at twenty-eight as well.
Serena couldn’t answer him. She simply stared. Langley gave her an apologetic look, as if asking for forgiveness that he hadn’t warned her about the arrival of the man who had defiled her sister. Serena sucked in a steadying breath. Suddenly, she felt perilously close to bursting into tears.
Langley came to her rescue. “Were you going to take some air?”
She nodded dumbly.
He gave her a gentle smile. “May I accompany you?”
His kind words made her find her voice, and she waved her hand. “No, no, please. It looked like you two were headed toward the punch bowl.” She gave them a game smile. “I certainly wouldn’t want to deprive two gentlemen of their punch.”
Langley returned her smile and inclined his head. “But I won’t have you outside alone.” He clasped Jonathan’s shoulder. “If you’ll excuse—”
Just then, an arm slipped through hers. Lady Montgomery squeezed her wrist. “Oh, do come onto the terrace with me, Miss Donovan. I was just thinking about taking some air myself.”
Serena swallowed hard, then smiled at her savior. “Thank you. I’d love to join you outside.”
She gave a faltering, watery smile to Langley, silently thanking him for his thoughtfulness. The two men bowed, Langley looking understanding and Jonathan looking as bewildered as if he’d just been awakened from a year-long sleep. They turned toward the punch bowl, Langley holding on to Jonathan’s shoulder, guiding him away and across the room.
Keeping her arm tightly entwined about Serena’s, Lady Montgomery flung open the door and led her toward freedom and the outside.