Page 75 of Smoke in Mirrors

“Don’t worry, I won’t.”

“She’s a little old-fashioned in some ways. Probably because she was raised by her grandparents. Some things she just can’t handle.”

“Like finding her fiancé in bed with her sister? Gosh, Delling. Think she overreacted?”

“It was a one-time thing.” Kyle grimaced. “You sound as uptight as Leonora. Trust me, if you’d ever met Meredith, you’d know why I ended up in bed with her that day. She came on to me, not the other way around.”

“I knew Meredith. We dated for a while.”

Kyle looked momentarily confused. Then understanding dawned. “You screwed Meredith? No shit.”

Thomas did not respond.

“This is not good,” Kyle said. “Not good at all. Does Leo know?”

“She knows.”

Kyle went back to looking bewildered. “I don’t get it. Why the hell is she still seeing you if she knows that you and Meredith had a fling?”

“I dated Meredith before I met Leonora. You screwed around with Meredith while you were engaged to Leonora. Can you grasp the basic distinction here, Delling?”

Kyle’s gaze dropped briefly to the hammer. “No offense, but I don’t need a lecture on semantics from a guy who knows how to use large and dangerous tools.”

“I’m not delivering a lecture,” Thomas said patiently. “I’m insulting your honor and integrity.”

“I get the point. If you’re looking for a fight, forget it. My doctorate is in English Lit. In my field, we prefer to settle our arguments in print.”

“There you go, spoiling my whole afternoon.”

Kyle sighed. “If you knew Meredith, you know why I screwed around and ended up shooting myself in the foot.”

“No,” Thomas said. “I don’t understand why you risked losing Leonora for a fling with a woman who was cold as ice.”

“Meredith? Cold?” Kyle looked startled. Then he chuckled. “Don’t know how she was with you but with me she was one hot little firecracker.”

“You bought into her act, huh? And here I thought you Ph.D. types were supposed to be smarter than the average single-celled animal.”

“What act?” Kyle demanded.

“Meredith didn’t like men.”

“Didn’t like men? You’re out of your mind.”

Thomas shrugged. “Ask Leonora. Meredith was sexually assaulted when she was a kid. Turned her off sex for life. She didn’t like or trust men. Used her body to get what she wanted, but once she had obtained her objective, she ended the relationship.”

“I don’t believe that. Why the hell did she seduce me if she wasn’t interested?”

“You really don’t have a clue about what that one afternoon in Leonora’s bed was all about, do you?” Thomas said. “It was designed to destroy your relationship with Leonora. Meredith didn’t want her sister to marry you, so she seduced you to prove that you couldn’t be trusted.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Hey, it worked, didn’t it? Meredith knew Leonora well enough to know that cheating was the one thing her sister wouldn’t forgive.”

“That’s pure bullshit.”

“Use your head, Delling. Why do you think Meredith made sure it happened in Leonora’s bed? Who do you think called Leonora a half hour before the big seduction scene to make sure she would walk in the door at the right moment?”

Kyle looked shocked. “Meredith called Leonora? So, that’s why she came home early.”

“You never figured that part out, huh?”

“Now just a damned minute here, you’re twisting this.”

“Tell me something,” Thomas said. “Did Meredith ever make another play for you after you and Leonora broke up?”

Kyle’s mouth compressed. “The situation was complicated. I doubt if you’d understand.”

“Sure, I understand. You tried to call Meredith afterward and she didn’t give you the time of day, did she?”

Kyle reddened. “She had some issues. She and Leo were half sisters, after all.”

“Meredith didn’t have issues. Meredith had agendas. Once she had finished with you, she moved on.”

Kyle looked as if he wanted to argue the point. But he must have reconsidered.

“Leo told you all this?” he asked.


“She knew that her bitch of a sister set me up?”


“I don’t get it.” Kyle spread his hands. “If Leo knows that it wasn’t my fault, why didn’t she give me a second chance? It’s not like her to just walk away from a relationship after putting so much into it.”

“She may be willing to work hard at a relationship, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have certain standards. You failed to meet those standards, Delling.”

Kyle’s face worked. “Failed? That’s hardly the appropriate word.”

“It’s the perfect word, when you get right down to it.”

“I’ve never failed at anything in my life. I’ve aced everything, from my SATs to my comps. I’ve got a dozen peer-review papers in print. Who are you to tell me I failed?”

Thomas put the hammer aside and selected a gleaming screwdriver. “Think of yourself as one of these. You’re bright and shiny, but you’re made out of some weak alloy instead of good-quality steel. You won’t stand up to extended use. Nothing for it but to chuck you into the discard pile.”

Kyle turned livid. His hands clenched at his sides. “Leonora didn’t discard me, you son of a bitch.”

“You’re the English Lit man here. I’d think you’d want to use the correct word. But suit yourself. The point is, she did what any smart person does with a poorly made tool that isn’t up to the job. She junked it.”

“Shut up,” Kyle said through his teeth. “Just shut the f**k up. You know nothing about Leonora. From what I can see you’ve got zip-all in common with her.”

“Because I don’t have a couple of advanced degrees?”

“Get real, Walker.” Kyle snorted softly. “You’re hardly her type. She might enjoy the macho tool man routine for a while, but it won’t last long.”

“If you knew Leonora as well as you think you do,” Thomas said softly, “you’d have realized that the fastest way to lose her was to prove to her that she couldn’t trust you.”

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