Rachel watched as Dan and Ellie set off, hand-in-hand, along the corridor to the stairs, and a frisson of envy shivered through her. They’d had a perfect day and were so happy and in love.
With a sigh, she turned toward the door of the function room. It was only eight-thirty, but if she collected her camera equipment now, she could wait in the entrance lounge. Anything was better than having to watch Elliot dancing with whoever he’d brought with him.
As she reached the door, she was about to push it when it was opened from the other side. She would have toppled forward and landed in a heap on the floor if two firm hands hadn’t grasped her arms.
‘I’m so sorry,’ a man said. ‘Are you okay?’
She looked up, straight into Elliot Quinn’s clear, blue eyes. A fire of embarrassment rushed to her cheeks. In the same moment, he jerked his hands from her arms, almost as if they had been red-hot to touch.
‘Yes, I—’ Her tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of her mouth. ‘Yes. Yes, I’m grand, thanks.’
She didn’t know where to look, but Elliot stepped sideways and held the door open. ‘After you.’
And that was it.
She walked past him and he went out of the room. No smile, no nothing. They could have been total strangers.
Somehow she managed to return to the bar, pick up her camera bag, and head along the corridor toward the hotel entrance. How was it possible to feel numbness and pain at the same time? She bit her lip hard to stop tears flooding her eyes. Hadn’t she shed enough of them seven years ago?
When she reached the lounge, she faltered. Declan, a pint of Guinness in his hand, stood near the fireplace, talking to Guy Sinclair, the owner of the Mist Na Mara Arts Centre.
‘Hi, Rach,’ Declan said, then frowned. ‘Everything all right?’
Was it obvious her world had tilted on its axis?
‘Yes, I—I’ve—Yes, I’m getting ready to take photos of the newlyweds leaving.’
Declan held up a car key. ‘I’ve brought Dan’s car to the bottom of the steps. Of course, I have absolutely no idea what Kevin and Finny are doing right now, but I’m thinking helium balloons might be involved.’
Rachel gave him a weak smile as she placed her bag on one of the coffee tables and pulled out her camera.
Declan turned back to Guy. ‘I’ll probably arrive about seven tomorrow evening. Maddy, my assistant, will also stay overnight, while we get everything organised for the start of the conference on Monday.’
‘We’re ready for you,’ Guy said. ‘It’s the first time we’ve had the Irish History Society at Mist Na Mara, but it sounds like it will be an interesting week. Anyhow, I’d better go and find Jenna now, if Ellie and Dan are about to leave. Not that my wife needs to catch the bridal bouquet,’ he added with a grin. ‘See you tomorrow, Dec.’
‘What’s up, Rach?’ Declan asked once Guy had left.
She gave a small shrug. ‘I was right about a certain person ignoring me.’ After telling him about the encounter at the door, she shrugged again. ‘Silly of me to expect anything different, wasn’t it?’
Declan raised his eyebrows. ‘Were you hoping for something different?’
‘No, of course not.’ The denial came out too abruptly and she backtracked. ‘All right, maybe I half-expected a polite “Hello, Rachel, how are you?” but I’m not really surprised it didn’t happen. It proves the point that Elliot belongs in the past, doesn’t it?’
‘If you say so.’