He studied the ball in his hand, turned it slowly, spoke softly. “She never did like Lily anyway.”
He gave in to Moe’s desperate excitement and heaved the ball. “Before I make it sound pitiful and pathetic—I did want to go, then. I loved Lily, then. But I didn’t love her enough to pack up and go when she gave me the ultimatum. She didn’t love me enough to stay, or to give me the time to work things out here and meet up with her.”
Then you didn’t love each other at all, Malory thought, but she remained silent.
“Less than a month after she’
d landed in New York, she called and broke our engagement. She needed to concentrate on her career, couldn’t handle the stress of a relationship, much less a long-distance one. I should be free to see other people and make a life, while she was going to be married to her job.
“And in six months she was married to an NBC news exec and moving steadily up the ladder. She got what she wanted, and in the end so did I.”
He turned back to Malory. His face was calm again, the deep green eyes clear as if the fury had never been behind them. “My mother was right—and I really hate that part. But she was right. This is my place, and I’m doing exactly what I want to do.”
“The fact that you see that says a lot more about you than about either one of them.”
He threw the ball one last time. “I made you feel sorry for me.”
“No.” Though he had. “You made me respect you.” She rose, walked to him and kissed his cheek. “I think I remember this Lily from the local news. Redhead, right? Lots of teeth.”
“That’d be Lily.”
“Her voice was entirely too nasal, and she had a weak chin.”
He leaned over, kissed her cheek in turn. “That’s a really nice thing to say. Thanks.”
Moe raced back and spat out the ball on the ground between them. “How long will he do that?” Malory asked.
“For all eternity, or until my arm falls off.”
She gave the ball a good boot with her foot. “It’s getting dark,” she said as Moe raced happily off. “You should take me home.”
“Or I could take Moe home and we could—ah, I see by the way your eyebrows have arched and your lip has curled that your mind is in the gutter. I was going to say we could go to the movies.”
“You were not.”
“I certainly was. In fact, it so happens I have the movie section in the car, for your perusal.”
They were all right again, she realized, and wanted to kiss him—this time in friendship. Instead, she fell into the rhythm and played the game out. “You have the entire paper in the car, because it’s your paper.”
“Be that as it may, I’ll still let you pick the flick.”
“What if it’s an art film with subtitles?”
“Then I’ll suffer in silence.”
“You already know there aren’t any such films playing at the local multiplex, don’t you?”
“That’s neither here nor there. Come on, Moe, let’s go for a ride.”
IT had done her good, Malory decided, to step away from the puzzle and the problems for an evening. She felt fresher this morning, and more optimistic. And it felt good to be interested in and attracted to a complicated man.
He was complicated, she thought. Only more so because he gave the impression, at least initially, of being simple. And so that made him yet another puzzle to solve.
She couldn’t deny that click he’d spoken of. Why should she? She wasn’t a game player when it came to relationships—she was cautious. It meant she needed to find out if the click was merely sexual or tangled around something more.
Puzzle number three, she decided as she hunkered down to continue her research.