Page 17 of Smoke in Mirrors

It was cold. Leonora slipped on her gloves and tugged the hood of her coat up over her head.

“Think he’s sleeping with Cassie?” Thomas asked abruptly.

The question startled her out of thoughts of old murder and old mirrors.

“Are you talking about your brother?” she asked.

“Yeah. Deke. Think he and Cassie are having an affair?”

She felt herself turn red. “Why on earth are you asking me? He’s your brother, not mine. You know him better than I do.”

“I’m worried. Deke has changed a lot in the past year. He’s been a different man since Bethany died. Depressed. Morbid. Spending too much time on the Net.”

“You think maybe an affair with his yoga instructor would help cheer him up, is that it?”

“Couldn’t hurt.” He warmed to his theme. “You saw Cassie. I think she’d be a good antidote for his obsession with Bethany’s death and all those damned conspiracy theories he’s been weaving for the past few months.”

Leonora halted on the path and rounded on him. “Why do men always think that getting laid will fix everything?”

Thomas stopped. “I didn’t say that getting laid would fix everything,” he muttered. “I just thought it might, you know, lift his spirits. Take him out of himself for a while. He seems to like Cassie. At least, that’s what it looks like to me. Those yoga lessons are the one thing he actually looks forward to every week. I was amazed when he signed up for a whole year’s worth in advance.”

“So in your considered opinion Deke should jump into bed with Cassie? You see sex as a form of therapy for his depression?”

Thomas raised one broad shoulder. “Worth a shot.”

Outrage swept through her. “I don’t know how Cassie feels about your theory but, speaking personally, I can tell you that I certainly would not hop into bed with a man who was just using me to work through some psychological issues.”

Thomas blinked, obviously surprised by her anger. “Take it easy, I’m just saying that I think Cassie would be good for Deke.”

“If you were in your brother’s shoes would you want to go to bed with your yoga instructor merely to see if you could cheer yourself up for a while?”

He thought about that. “Depends on the yoga instructor.”

“Good grief.”

“It was just a thought.”

“Really? How much thinking have you actually done about this bright idea of yours? Have you thought about Cassie, for instance? Have you considered her feelings? Maybe she wouldn’t care to be used as a form of therapy any more than I would.”

“I said forget it.” He turned and started walking again. “I just wanted to see if you thought they might be having an affair. But it’s obvious you’re going to twist everything I say, so there’s no point trying to talk rationally about it.”

Leonora took a deep breath and told herself to get a grip. Thomas was right. She was definitely going over the top here. There was no reason to take this personally. They were discussing Deke and Cassie. Two people she barely knew.

It wasn’t as if Thomas had suggested that she jump into bed with him for therapeutic purposes.

She hurried to catch up with him. “Look, I know you’re concerned about Deke. I’m no expert, but I really don’t think sex is going to fix what’s wrong with your brother.”

“I gotta tell you, he’s scaring me.”

Understanding dawned. “That’s why you’re going along with this plan to investigate Bethany’s death, isn’t it? You see it as a distraction for him.”

“I’m not sure I’m doing him any favors. What if we don’t come up with answers? He might sink even deeper into his depression.”

She contemplated the fog for a while, thinking.

“Closure,” she said eventually.

“What?”

“I think that’s what this is all about for Deke. Not just answers, but some kind of closure.”

Thomas halted on the path once more and searched her face. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m no shrink but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that part of the reason Deke is obsessing on Bethany’s death is because his grief is complicated by some other emotion.”

“You think he feels guilty because he wasn’t able to protect her?” Thomas shoved one hand into his pocket. “I thought about that. Any man would have problems dealing with the fact that he wasn’t able to keep his woman safe. I’ve tried to talk to Deke about it. There was nothing he could have done. There was nothing anyone could have done.”

“Maybe there’s more to it. No marriage is perfect, and sudden death doesn’t give anyone a chance to say good-bye or resolve outstanding issues. Who knows what was going on in Deke’s and Bethany’s relationship in the weeks and months before her death? Maybe they were having problems. Maybe they had argued that morning and Deke feels guilty because he never got a chance to say he was sorry.”

“You think maybe some of those unresolved issues are haunting him?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just saying that he probably needs closure and he has convinced himself that finding Bethany’s killer will give it to him.” She hesitated. “Who knows? Maybe I’m here for the same reason. Closure. I never got to say good-bye to Meredith, either.”

“This is damn complicated, isn’t it?”

“Life is complicated and sex does not make it less complicated. If anything, it only muddles things.”

Thomas said nothing.

She glanced at him. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Well, I’ve got to tell you that sex never seemed all that complicated to me.”

“Which only goes to show.”

He frowned. “What does it show?”

“That men and women view sex from entirely different perspectives.”

“Damn. How the hell did we end up talking about sex?”

“You started it,” she said. “You asked my opinion and I gave it to you. I don’t think Deke can allow himself to be happy again as long as he’s obsessing on the past. So in answer to your question, no, I don’t think he is sleeping with Cassie Murray, and even if he is, I doubt that it would bring him peace or solve his problems.”

“Then we need to get some answers,” Thomas said.

Chapter Five

“Please make yourself at home while you’re working here at Mirror House, Leonora.” Roberta Brinks looked up from pouring coffee. “My staff and I will be very busy for the next several weeks, what with the annual alumni weekend coming up. I’m afraid there will be a lot of coming and going around here.”

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