He’d always felt the complete opposite. He’d never felt at home here, or part of their world. When he was in the kitchen with the family cook, and the people they paid to clean, he felt at home. They had more love inside them than any of these people.
They were what was wrong with the world today, no one else.
“Please, Ian. We don’t have time for your ridiculous games. I mean, seriously. She’s your wife? No, that’s not happening,” his mother said.
Lucy tensed up by his side.
“This is my wife. We’re together. She holds my name.” He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her in close. “You see, Lucy, this is my family. I can’t guarantee this is going to be a pleasing experience. They can’t stand that you don’t come from their circle of wealthy assholes.” He looked at all of them.
Some of them couldn’t meet his gaze, and he didn’t mind. It was why he never did business with any of them.
“This is ridiculous,” his father said. “You want to make a mockery of our name, is that it?”
“It was already a mockery long before I married her. Lucy is my wife. You’re going to have to get used to it.”
“You’re nothing,” his mother said to Lucy. “She’s not worthy to stand by your side, to bear our name. How dare you do this to your own family?”
He held Lucy’s hand tighter, and refused to let her go. Lucy visibly looked uncomfortable, but he couldn’t blame her. Ian couldn’t handle it anymore.
This was what he’d wanted when he first decided to get a mail order bride. Not now, not like this. Lucy didn’t deserve this kind of treatment.
She was all things good and kind. Nothing like the people he grew up with.
They didn’t deserve to know her.
Staring at his family, he realized that they weren’t that. They were never a family.
The cruelty and greed was clear to see in their eyes, and he wasn’t going to allow himself to be brought down to their level anymore.
Lucy made him a better man, and he was going to be better for her, always for her.
Lucy stared out the window, her nervousness and anxiety rising to anger. The things his family had said about her, the way they’d looked at her … She clenched her jaw in annoyance, in rage. Their expressions as they gazed her up and down had been like she was a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of their shoe. They couldn’t wait for her to go, couldn’t wait for Ian to agree with them.
She glanced over her shoulder at where he stood by the bar. He poured himself a scotch, and she could see how tense he was. But he hadn’t left her, hadn’t agreed with them. He’d told them how things would be and that was that. He’d held her hand, kept her close. Ian had told his family that he didn’t care what they thought, that she was his wife.
She’d had to excuse herself so she didn’t hear any more, so she could get her bearings. And so she’d walked out, assuming Ian would stay with his family, maybe try and work it out with them. But he hadn’t. Ian had followed her. He’d taken her into this room, closed the door, and for the last ten minutes they hadn’t said anything.
Maybe he was worried about how this would all play out?
Surely he’d seen this coming. Lucy didn’t come from money; she wasn’t thin, svelte. She had no family, was a foster care child. To his family she was the worst of the worst.
But still he stayed by me. Still he told them how it would be.
She faced the window again and stared out at the perfectly manicured gardens. She saw Ian’s reflection in the glass as he moved up behind her, a square cut glass in his hand. He didn’t touch her as he stood right next to her, looking out the window as well, the tension surrounding him tangible. For long moments they stood like that, neither speaking, but the air starting to become thick and hot, uncomfortable.
“I can’t say enough how sorry I am,” he finally said but didn’t look at her. He brought his glass up and took a long drink from it.
“It’s not your fault,” she responded and turned to face him. He did the same seconds later, this wounded look on his face.
“It is my fault.” He closed his eyes for a second and exhaled roughly. When he opened his eyes again she saw how raw and bared his emotions were.
“It’s not your fault.”
“But it is. It’s my fault because I knew the kind of people my family were. And I hate them for it. I loathe the fact that they made you feel that way, that I should have said more, put them in their place. Hell, I should have said fuck them and left.”