“Thanks for that much, at least.” He closed the space between them. “While we’re on the subject, I’d like to clarify a couple of other issues here. Meredith and I had a very short-lived relationship. You want to know who ended it?”
Leonora took another step back and came up against the window ledge. “I’m sure it was Meredith who ended it. She was always the one who ended things. There’s no need to go into the details.”
“Tough shit. We’re already into the details.” He planted one hand on the windowsill behind her head and leaned in close, wanting her to get the point. “I’m the one who called a halt to the relationship, if you can call it that. Want to know why?”
She blinked and then cleared her throat. “I’m sure you had your reasons.”
“Damn right I had my reasons. I ended things with Meredith because I got bored. That’s why.”
“Bored? With Meredith?”
“Yeah. Bored. That overgrown, sexy cheerleader routine wears thin fast. At least it did with me. I knew it was time to call it off when I realized I was a whole lot more interested in finishing the tile work in the bathroom than I was in enduring another dinner with Meredith. You got any idea how hard it is to talk to a woman who is always watching you to see if you’re responding to her?”
“Tile work, huh?” She pursed her lips. “I’ve never heard of any man getting that bored with Meredith.”
He took his hand off the window, straightened and turned away. He realized that he still held the gold bracelet. He tossed it lightly in her general direction and watched her snatch it out of the air with a quick, reflexive movement.
“I can’t figure out why I’m bothering to explain myself to you,” he said. “Probably a complete waste of time.”
She looked at the bracelet in her palm. “I wouldn’t say that.”
“I would.” He went to the counter, leaned back, crossed his arms and took a grip on his temper. “You’re right. We’ve got more important things to discuss.”
“Just one thing before we change the subject.”
“Yeah? What would that one thing be?”
“You should know that I never thought of you as just another one of Meredith’s casual conquests.”
“Like hell you didn’t.”
“No. It’s true. I knew from the first moment I met you that you weren’t her usual type.” She closed her hand around the bracelet. “I couldn’t figure out why she had gotten involved with you in the first place. Later, when I found out about the money, I assumed she made a play for you because she thought you might be useful. It was the only thing that made any sense.”
“If that’s your not-so-subtle way of telling me that I’m not as sexy or interesting as her standard seduction targets, you can stop right there. Leave me with a few shreds of masculine pride.”
Her quick laugh came out of nowhere, momentarily dazzling his senses. He was transfixed. Probably looked like some stupid deer caught in the headlights.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to put any dents in your ego,” she responded. “Look, since we’re setting the record straight, it’s my turn to clarify a few issues. The reason I said you weren’t Meredith’s type is because she wasn’t in the habit of spending a lot of time on men who would probably turn out to be difficult.”
“You think I’m difficult?”
“In a word? Yes. What’s more, Meredith would have sensed that straight off.”
“The thing about Meredith was that she didn’t go after men because she liked a challenge. She didn’t even enjoy sex. She told me once that, at its best, she considered it a form of exercise. Sort of like jogging.”
He hesitated, thinking of how things had been with Meredith. Not great.
“I wondered about that,” he said finally. “Figured it was me.”
“It wasn’t you.”
“Did she prefer women?”
“No. She didn’t like any kind of sex. Remember me telling you about all the men who came and went in her mother’s life?”
“One of them assaulted Meredith when she was ten.”
“Yes. In some ways she never got past the trauma. Oh, sure, she knew she had a body that men found attractive and she took advantage of that fact. But she never learned to enjoy the experience.”
“Explains a few things.”
The room grew quiet except for the crackling of the fire.
“You really think I’m difficult?” he said eventually.
“Uh huh. Interesting, but definitely difficult.”
She sank down onto the curved and padded arm of the sofa. One leg swung gently. She dropped the bracelet on the coffee table and watched him intently.
He shoved his fingers through his hair. “You know, I’m not the only one here who could be labeled difficult.”
To his surprise, she gave him a slow smile.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said. “I’d rather be difficult than easy.”
“There is nothing easy about you, Leonora Hutton.”
“And nothing easy about you, Thomas Walker. Where does that leave us?”
He walked to where she sat and lifted her gently to her feet. She made no move to resist.
“They say two negatives make a positive.” He put his hands on the curve of her shoulders. Testing. “Maybe two difficult people would find it easy to have an affair.”
She slid her arms around his neck. “I doubt that it would be easy but it’s bound to be interesting.”
He covered her mouth with his own.
Her response was immediate and electric in its intensity, just as it had been last night when he had kissed her in her kitchen. She gave a soft, husky little moan and tightened her arms around his neck. Energy exploded in the air around them.
The sense of urgency that swept through him made his blood pound. He had some vague goal of carrying her into the bedroom but it seemed too far away. He fell with her onto the sofa instead.
She ended up on top, her legs tangled with his, fingers splayed across his chest. He shoved one hand through her hair, pulling it free of the pins that had anchored the sleek knot. A curtain of dark silk tumbled over his fingers and brushed his jaw. He gripped her head with both hands and deepened the kiss until she opened her mouth for him.