They went downstairs and into the dining room. Elena felt self- conscious in Margot's dress and was aware of several heads turning, but whether any were staring at her she was uncertain. Margot's purple was just as startling.
Ian was waiting by the door, as he'd said he would be. He had his back half toward them, talking to a dark-haired man about his own age, tall and pleasant-looking. It was he who saw Elena and his eyes widened.
Ian turned and, recognizing her, came toward them. "You look marvelous," he said simply. "And you must be Margot." He did not mention having seen her dancing in the red dress. He held out his hand. "Ian Newton, how do you do?"
Margot smiled. "Margot Driscoll. How do you do, Mr. Newton?" Ian turned to the other man. "Walter Mann, Margot Driscoll and Elena Standish."
Walter Mann took a moment or two to regain his composure.
Elena was surprised and amused. Was the black dress so breathtaking? "How do you do, Mr. Mann?"
"Miss Standish," he replied, scrambling to catch up with the moment. He had level brows and very dark eyes. He turned to Margot. "Miss Driscoll."
"Mrs. Driscoll," Margot corrected, but with a smile. Widows of Margot's age were too many to count.
Ian took Elena's arm very lightly. "I have taken the liberty of reserving a table for four." He looked at Elena and Margot. "I hope that's all right?"
"Of course," said Margot. What else could she say?
Margot walked across the dining-room floor toward the far side with its exquisite view of the sea. Walter Mann was charming, and he did not attempt to hide his admiration for her. She was not overwhelmed by this; it happened quite often.
They reached their reserved table and while Ian drew out a chair for Elena, Walter Mann asked Margot if she would rather face the sea or the room.
"Oh, the room, please," she replied. "I love the sea, but it doesn't change very much. The people are always changing."
"You're a people watcher?" He smiled as she took her place, and then sat beside her.
Margot laughed. "That's more my sister. She's a professional photographer. Half her attention is on expressions, light and shadow, and framing a picture."
"And she's good?" He seemed interested.
Margot saw Elena and Ian Newton were deep in conversation already. "How honest do you want me to be?"
"Ah, have I stepped into a riptide?" Walter Mann was too polite to laugh, but it was there in his eyes.
"Yes. Actually, she's on the edge of being very good indeed, if she'd just let the emotions keep up with her technical skill," she replied. That was the truth.
When dinner was served, Margot ate with pleasure, but part of her attention was on Elena, lost in the moment with Ian Newton. She seemed happier and more alive than Margot could remember seeing her in ages. It was the way she used to be, before Aiden's betrayal of his country and, more personal, of Elena herself. She was so afraid of being hurt again. Who wasn't? And yet, to deny feeling was to kill part of yourself.
Margot had thought that she would find someone else to love, after a reasonable time of mourning Paul. But how long was "reasonable"? For her, even fifteen years after his death, nothing was more than casual. She had idiotically hoped that there might be another love out there for her and yet she felt guilty at even the possibility. How could she go on, when Paul was gone? But there had, however, never been anyone else who mattered. Perhaps half of Europe was like that, if you could see beneath the wine and the laughter.
But for Elena it was different. There were no perfect memories with Aiden. They were all painful and needed to be obliterated, replaced by something that was at least honest.
While paying surface attention to Walter Mann, Margot watched Ian Newton. Even from the little she had overheard she learned he had been at Cambridge. So many of her family had been there, too. Her grandfather, Lucas Standish, although she didn't know what he had studied. It was probably history and classics, or something like that. Her father, Charles Standish, had studied languages and modern history, obvious really, for someone who was going into the Foreign Office. Mike, her brother, had been going to read classics but war had interrupted all of that.