Landon’s daughter swept the door open.
Entering the grand foyer, Theodora plunked down her satchel. Her galoshes were slippery black eels in her weathered hands and she pulled them off with a struggle. Perversity being one of her finer traits, she’d worn the galoshes over her high heels for the shock value. Old age didn’t offer many gifts, but throwing Landon’s daughter for a loop was always a thrill.
Meade toyed with her strand of pearls. “Why are you wearing those…things? They’re far too large.”
“My galoshes? They’re just a little roomy.” Big enough for a man twice her size, but she’d stuffed the heels with balled up pantyhose. “I’ll ask you to keep your comments to yourself.”
“I’m merely saying—oh! What’s under your dress?”
Handing over her coat, Theodora hauled up the pleated hem of the crepe de chine number. “These are ballet pants. Nice, stretchy ones. I bought them online.”
Bending, she snapped the skin-hugging fabric. “Why, if elasticized fabrics hadn’t been invented, the lower half of my body would rearrange itself.”
Meade gasped with horror.
Satisfaction spread through Theodora like oil, and she switched topics. “How’s your father this morning?”
“Just fine. I asked him what this was about. He won’t explain, not without you present. What’s going on?”
“Patience, missy.” Landon had asked Theodora to come, mostly for moral support. He’d never make his daughter understand about the woman he’d seen in town without an ally by his side. “Come along and we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
They entered the library. Theodora was greeted by the pleasing sight of cherry wood shelves stuffed full of books. Landon stood with his back to the fireplace. His attention tracked his daughter as she gracefully seated herself on the couch.
How different they were. Landon never put on airs, yet Meade believed window-dressing was the end-all to life. Outwardly, she resembled him. But on the inside? She was the spitting image of Cat. If Meade’s house ever caught fire she’d walk past the family heirlooms and rescue her chinchilla coat.
Landon approached. “Theodora! Thank you for coming.”
“It was no bother. I’m not due at my daughter’s house for Thanksgiving dinner until this afternoon.”
“Should I have tea brought?” He steered her to a deeply cushioned chair.
“Let’s not dilly-dally.” Pausing, she waited as he sat on the couch. “The top of your daughter’s pretty head might blast clean off if we do.”
Meade stared haughtily at Theodora, then her father. “I don’t know what secrets you’ve both kept from me, but I’m not a child. Dad, are you listening? Stop coddling me.”
The girl looked at her father with exasperation. The urge to protect him rose quickly within Theodora. She smiled at her foolishness. It was darn ridiculous when an old black woman viewed a white, middle-aged banker as something of a son, but there it was in a nutshell.
She pulled from her musings as Meade said, “I believe my father is tongue-tied.”
Landon wavered. “I’m not sure how to begin.”
“Dad, tell me!”
“I’m trying, darling.”
Theodora jumped in. “This is about fornication and the foolishness of men. It’s about sex.”
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