Home > The Mech Who Loved Me

The Mech Who Loved Me
Author: Bec McMaster

One

 

 

THE BRIDE WAS resplendent, the groom was nervous, the drawing room decked out in enough flowers to make a florist envious, and someone had seen to it there was enough blud-wein to satisfy even the most ravenous blue blood.  Ava McLaren stood at the back of the room as the man she’d once thought she loved married the woman of his dreams.

 And she wasn't quite certain how she felt about that.

 Happy, of course. They were her dearest friends. But there was also a lonely little feeling in her chest—a feeling that wondered if she'd ever be the one standing there stating her vows with a man she loved.

"I now pronounce you man and wife," the celebrant called, and Caleb Byrnes captured Ingrid's face in his hands as he leaned down to kiss her.  All of Ava's wistful feelings swept away. It was a beautiful moment shared between two people she loved, and if she took herself out of the equation, then she was genuinely happy to be here.

And then of course, he appeared.

The storm clouds to her sunshine. The bah humbug to her Christmas.

A warm presence brushed against her bare elbow. Deliberately, she was certain. Kincaid knew what sort of effect he had upon her. Ava clapped her gloved hands as the groom kissed his bride, all of her senses locked onto that one imposing figure behind her. The faint hint of mechanical oil contrasted sharply with his lemon verbena aftershave. He was an enormous man who towered over her, and it always felt like some internal furnace threw heat out from his body like some sort of aura. Or perhaps that was simply the fact he was human, when she was a blue blood, and therefore had a lower temperature.

"Well, there goes fifty quid," Kincaid muttered in her ear. "Thought Byrnes would see sense in the end."

Ava's spine stiffened.

"Then you're a fool," she whispered, half craning her head toward him, even as her hands continued clapping. She caught a glimpse of a smooth jaw—at least he'd shaved for the occasion, even if his jaw would bear dark stubble by this afternoon. "Byrnes loves Ingrid. And he's a lucky man to have a woman like her by his side. Anyone who knew how much they've been through in the past couple of months would see this is the happiest day they've had in a long time."

"Easy, kitten." Kincaid breathed out an amused laugh, the faint lines at the corners of those devastatingly blue eyes creasing. His fingertips rested against the small of her back. "With such fervency, you'll scare off the local bachelors."  A swift retort died on the tip of her tongue. All she could feel were those warm fingers against her back.

Kincaid seemed to sense her hesitation. He looked down just as she looked up, and suddenly it felt as though all sound drained out of the room.  He rarely touched her.

Or at least he hadn't in recent weeks.

Ever since that night she'd gotten lost in the gardens of a pleasure house, and Kincaid found her. Ava had been suffering one of her hysteria fits, and somehow he'd calmed her down. By the time she'd realized they were alone and his coat was around her shoulders, the predator within her had roused.

At first she'd thought she wanted his blood. Her affliction with the craving virus had forced her to endure many moments like that over the years. But the second he touched her, something in her body had shifted, and suddenly she wasn't thinking about his blood at all.

And he'd known it.

Damn him.

"The only bachelors in this room are Charlie and yourself," she said, finally finding her voice. "Charlie's barely a man grown, and you... well you're entirely unsuitable. If you feel the need to flee then please don't hesitate. The rest of us are here to celebrate a wedding."

That hand splayed across her lower back, his palm caressing her spinal muscles. Good heavens. Ava's mind went vacant for a moment.

She swiftly tugged out of her reticule the small flask of protein solution she'd been using to keep the craving at bay. Ava unscrewed the cap, tipping it to her lips. It tasted vile and it barely assuaged her thirst, but it seemed her body was surviving on this last batch better than any of the others she'd concocted. It kept the crawling itch in her throat to a tolerable level, and stopped her vision from slipping into the sharp black-and-white-tinted relief that heralded the rise of her bloodlust.

"Tempting," Kincaid murmured, "but Byrnes has promised me the finest bottle of brandy he could get his hands on. He owes me for the broken nose."  A nose which had healed slightly wrong, giving Kincaid a somewhat rakish look. Ava's lips thinned as she glanced away from his face. "So there's no other reason you're here at this moment? Not a single reason?"

"I was still holding the carriage to Calais out front," he jested.

Or at least, she hoped it was a jest. "Too late now. They're married and about to start the rest of their lives together."

"It's never too late."

"Why are you so cynical?" she demanded in a hoarse whisper, still trying to keep her voice low enough so none of the others would hear.

"Why are you such a dreamer?"

Touché. Ava glanced back at the bride and groom as guests greeted them. Ingrid glowed with happiness. "Because this world can be a horrible place," she said softly, "and it's moments like this that remind me there can be joy and happiness sometimes too. This moment is a lovely one, and I shall cherish it for as long as I live. My friends are happy. They're married. They're about to step into a long, blessed future. It's perfect."

She felt that knowledge fill her from within, softening all the lonely little hollows that lay tucked in her heart. On the darkest night, in the worst moments of her nightmares, she could look back on this moment now and it would fill her with hope.  "It's a fairy tale," Kincaid murmured, and he too was watching the bride and groom, almost as if he saw something she didn't. "And how long does the fairy tale last? Nobody ever thinks about what happens to Cinderella after she marries the prince. Maybe her life is not all hope and dreams, as she spends the rest of her days with a man who couldn't even recognize her. I'm not a cynic. I'm a realist."

Ava punched him lightly in the arm.

He looked down in surprise.

"Stop ruining my moment. Take your scowling elsewhere. Cinderella lives happily ever after and I will not accept a different conclusion."

"You like weddings," he accused, his dark brows drawing together as if he'd only just realized this fact.

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