“Okay by me. So long as I’m the only guy in your private collection.”
“You will be,” she said.
More footsteps echoed in the hall. Kyle appeared in the doorway.
“What’s with all these creepy old mirrors?” he asked.
“The original owner of the house collected them,” she said. “What are you doing here, Kyle?”
He flicked a glance at Thomas. “Came to see if you wanted to join me for lunch.”
“Thanks, but I’m busy.”
“You heard the lady.” Thomas took her arm and started toward the door. “See you around, Delling.”
“Leo, wait.” Kyle grabbed Leonora’s free hand. “I’ve got to talk to you.”
“Some other time.” Thomas did not break his stride.
Kyle ignored him. He kept his grip on her wrist. “Listen to me, time is running out. I can’t hang around here much longer. I’ve got to get back to my classes.”
Both men tugged on opposite arms.
“I’ve always had this fantasy,” Leonora murmured.
Thomas halted and turned around. “Let go of her, Delling.”
Something in his expression must have rattled Kyle. Leonora found her hand suddenly free. But Kyle’s desperation was apparent and made her pause.
“It’s all right, Kyle,” she said quietly. “I’ll call Helena this afternoon.”
It took a few seconds for comprehension to sink in.
“You mean it?” Kyle asked.
“Yes. No promises regarding the final results, though. The decision is made by her committee, and I can’t predict what she’ll do. But I’ll make the call.”
“Thanks.” Exuberant relief lit Kyle’s eyes. “I knew you’d come through for me, honey.”
Before she realized his intentions, he grabbed her by the shoulders and aimed an enthusiastic kiss at her mouth.
She started to turn her head so that she would take the caress on the cheek, but at the same instant Thomas used his grip on her arm to draw her out of Kyle’s path.
Kyle wound up kissing air. He was too euphoric to notice.
“This calls for a celebration.” He opened his hands in an expansive gesture. “Let me take both of you to lunch.”
“Forget it,” Thomas said.
He whisked Leonora out of the library.
“So much for my fantasy,” she said.
“Two men, dueling over my honor.”
“Hey, you want me to go back and beat the crap out of him in your honor? No problem.”
“Never mind,” she said. “You’re worth two of Kyle Delling. Make that a dozen.”
He grinned, obviously pleased. He reminded her a bit of Wrench when she accepted one of his doggy gifts.
“Think so?” Thomas said.
Roberta passed them on the stairs before Leonora could answer. She gave them a slightly harried smile.
“There you are, Leonora,” she said. “A very nice man came to my office asking for you a moment ago. I sent him up here. Did he find you?”
“He found me,” Leonora said.
“Preparations for the reception under control?” Thomas asked.
“I’m a wreck. It’s complete chaos down there. The news about the Rhodes murder and Professor Kern’s suicide has distracted everyone, including me, I must admit.”
“I’m sure the affair will go off right on schedule,” Leonora soothed.
Roberta chuckled. “Easy for you to say. You two off to lunch?”
“Yes,” Leonora said. “The pub. Want us to bring you anything?”
“Very kind of you to offer, but no, thanks. I brought a sack lunch with me today. I knew that I wouldn’t have time to leave.” She continued on up the stairs. “I’ll see you later.”
Leonora walked beside Thomas through the busy confusion that gripped the first floor of the mansion. Neither of them spoke until they went out onto the terrace.
“You’re really going to make that phone call to your friend, Helena?” Thomas asked neutrally.
“Whatever happened to sweet revenge?”
She thought about that as they went down the stone steps to the parking lot. What had happened to sweet revenge? She wondered silently.
“I found something tastier,” she said.
Shortly before four o’clock that afternoon, Thomas wandered into his favorite store in Wing Cove, Pitney’s Hardware & Plumbing Supply. It was one of the oldest stores in town and one of the few that hadn’t been gentrified to appeal to the tastes of the college community.
He found what he was looking for three-quarters of the way down one of the long aisles.
The elegant, compact household tool kit included an array of screwdrivers, including a Phillips head, a gleaming crescent wrench, a small hammer and a set of pliers. The tools were attractively boxed in a black plastic storage case.
He removed the hammer and hefted it in one hand, feeling for balance and weight.
A figure darkened the far end of the aisle. Thomas lowered the hammer and suppressed a groan when he saw Kyle coming toward him.
“Thought I saw you come in here, Walker,” Kyle said. “I was having coffee across the street. Glad I caught you.”
“I was sort of hoping you’d be on your way out of town by now, Delling.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be leaving soon. But I wanted to talk to you first.” Kyle came to a halt in the middle of the aisle. “It’s about Leo.”
Thomas did not move. “I don’t really want to discuss her. Especially with you.”
“She’s a nice person,” Kyle said, looking serious and profound. “A genuinely nice person.”
“Translated, that means that you came here knowing that you could talk her into making that phone call to her friend for you.”
“Well, sure.” Kyle raised one shoulder in an easy, unconcerned shrug. “She was bound to do it eventually. I know her, you see. She wouldn’t sabotage someone else’s career by refusing to make a simple phone call.”
“You got what you wanted. You can leave now.”
Kyle looked amused. “You’re in a hurry to get rid of me, aren’t you?”
“Take it easy, I’m on my way. But before I go I thought I’d give you a little advice about Leo. Don’t make the same mistake I did.”