Leaning forward she decided to fall, chasing the tears that had went ahead of her like a drops of rain. As her toes left the platform, a voice came out of the silence.
Startled, she twisted in the air to recover, muscling herself into a pike position. Her hands punching a hole in the water, feet arched on instinct to pull the splash under with her. Looking up through the shifting surface she could seem someone standing in the morning light. Kyle was waiting for her above the water, just like in her dream last week end. Had he really only come back into her world only a week and a day ago? It seemed like such a short time for her world to be turned upside down. Last time, it had taken only a night and a day. Sinking, she didn’t want to face him, not yet, but the ache for air forcing her to porpoise kick up to the surface. They stared at each other.
“What do you want Kyle?”
“I want to know the truth about Willamina’s accident and why you lied to us?” He demanded.
He didn’t mean for it to come out as harshly as it did. He had laid awake the whole night trying to figure out exactly what to say, but now that she was in front of him, he only wanted the truth so he could justify the pain he went through. Head and shoulders bobbed slightly as she treaded water effortlessly looking up at him. He remembered that she once said she could do that for hours.
Her pride spoke for her, “I never said she was dead, I said Mina and her baby never made it to the airport.”
“You let us believe she died in the accident,” he accused.
“You let us believe you and Kent were decent men who loved us,” she snapped, falling back into the familiar icy pain of betrayal. It chilled her in spite of the warm water around her, in spite of the story Kyle told Tank, and Tank told her.
“We were and we did,” he said quietly in the dripping stillness, “Can you please come out of the water?”
Her pain, written in the jade and agate of her eyes, cut him as it did that day, the day she wouldn’t listen. The day Hurricane Camille dropped a bomb in his world and he was the only survivor.
“I think you owe me,” he chided.
“I think you’ll be safer if I stay in the water,” she glared, making no move toward the edge. “Especially after last night.”
He begged, “I know I shouldn’t have kissed you, I’m sorry. Please Camille, I just want to talk, get a few answers, and tell you my side. If you don’t like it, you can drown me after.”
“Fine.” Her tongue licked her lips.
He stared at them, remembering how they felt against his, how she felt in his arms before she slapped him and they fell in the pool. He had to look away.
She back-stroked rapidly over to the ladder near where her robe hung on the wall. He watched her climb out of the pool like an apparition of Venus. Her body was still toned but slightly softer and more curved than it once was. It would still be the envy of women years younger. Pulling on her robe she turned and his eyes were immediately drawn to the v-neck of her suit and the part of her butterfly he could see. He looked back to the pool to quash the flow of blood from his brain to another part of his body. He couldn’t think about her that way right now, not when they were on the verge of ending their war after all these years. Too much depended on him being calm.
She snatched the towel he offered and sat down, rubbing the water out of her hair roughly as she unbraided it. It gave her a beautifully tousled appearance that reminded him of the last morning they shared and the days in Cancun. He took a deep breath, pushing those memories away. That happiness was lost to him, and now he had to lay in the cold bed his brother’s selfish foolhardiness had made for him.
“How did you know I’d be here?”
“Sheriff Tanner told me.”
Angrily, Camille abused her hair, unbraiding and drying it. Fighting to keep the images from the nights they shared out of her mind, and not feel the feelings that stirred last night. She made herself not look at him as he sat down. Reminding herself that Kyle cheated after he said he wanted them to be exclusive. Reminding herself that he had admitted to Tank he knew it wasn’t her. Drunk or not, he should have stopped if he knew it wasn’t her, she just couldn’t let it go until she heard the truth from him.
“I’m sorry about those pictures, I know if I had seen you doing what I did. I would have hated you as much as you hate me,” he stated bluntly.
“I don’t hate you, Kyle.”
Minutes ticked by before either spoke again.
“If Mina was in the hospital, why let us think she died? What happened that morning?” Kyle’s voice had a vulnerability she had never heard.
“Mina was supposed to fly to Colorado later that morning but she decided to fly to Vegas on an earlier flight instead. She was driving herself to the airport when the accident happened; a Good Samaritan pulled her out of her burning car. When I got to the hospital they told me she had burns on 80% of her body and would be dead when they turned off the ventilator. She had burned her lungs breathing smoke. They thought I was crazy to tell them to keep her alive, but I couldn’t let her go without trying. I couldn’t give up on Willow. Her feet were charred off. Her left arm and lower legs burned to the bone in places. She looked like a charbroiled steak. They had to cut off both her legs and her left arm. At the time of the wedding, she still wasn’t stable because of her heart valve issue and injuries.” Camille almost gagged getting the words out, seeing her sister like that had been the worst day of her life.
Kyle resisted the urge to reach out to her as she rocked back and forth slightly. He couldn’t imagine how horrible Mina must have looked as he waited for Camille to start talking again. In his mind he could still see Kent lying in a pool of his own blood, he had spent a few minutes watching his brother dying. Camille had spent months watching her sister die.
“Violet and Nicky handled calling everyone on our side of the wedding and making the video. The only thing keeping me vertical was how much I hated you and Kent for it all. If you hadn’t screwed those women who looked like us, posted those pictures, Mina never would have been driving toward Hobby Airport that morning. I wanted to throw gasoline on both of you. I wasn’t lying when I said I had the ring cut off to give back to Kent. I wanted him to hurt like I was hurting. I wanted him to feel what I heard in her voice after seeing those pictures.” She trembled with the violence of her emotions, wiping tears away on the towel.
“Her body lived for almost five months, but my sister died that day. I held her hand every day, talked to her, pleaded with her, but she never woke up, not even when they cut Willow from her body. Her heart stopped a few minutes later and that time they let her go.” She choked on her memories, unable to speak for several minutes as she sobbed.
Finally, she gasped out, “Why Kyle? Why did you and Kent do it? Why the doppelgangers? Couldn’t you see how sick that was?” She had heard it from Tank but she needed to hear it from him. Hear that he hadn’t meant it, she had loved him so much. He was the first man she had ever loved.
Her pain made Kyle’s eyes water as his own burned a hole in his soul, it was all so pointless. His own voice sounded cold and far away to him as he explained, “Kris did it because he needed money. He drugged Kent and I, and took the pictures so he could blackmail us out of his share of Dad’s estate. He owed some mafia bookie in Vegas a half million and they said they’d kill him. Rather than tell us, he tried that stupid stunt, he didn’t know about the image sharing thing. I barely remember any of it. But that’s no excuse; on some level I knew she wasn’t you. I can’t imagine how you both felt looking at those pictures. You even tried to stop us when you sent me that text. Kent and I looked at the pictures the day after the wedding. Ohgawd, Cami, I’m sorry.”
Kyle rubbed his forehead as if he had a headache. “I figured out what happened and Kris and I had a fight, Kent went to his room, then he... he couldn’t live without her or with what he’d done. He killed himself. I... I had just told Kris we never wanted to see him again when we heard the gunshot. Kris took off after the funeral; he died in a DUI two years later. After I buried Kent, I tried to find you. I even bought your house hoping to see you at the closing, so I could explain. I never should have gotten into that cab and gone to Vegas, because I didn’t want to, I wanted to stay with you.”
“Then why did you go?” Camille asked so softly he almost didn’t hear.
“Because Kris insisted we do one last trip as brothers before we got married.”
She turned her head to stare at him; her heart was pounding so hard it hurt. “We?”
“I was going to ask you to marry me at the reception. I had the ring in my pocket the whole time. I know those pictures looked bad, Camille, but honestly Kent and I had no idea what had happened after dinner. I thought she was you, except she wasn’t, I... I don’t know how to explain it. But Kris kept call her Cami and the other one Mina. I was so drugged I was hallucinating; her butterfly had a weird texture and kept crawling around on her body. When I woke up in our hotel, showered and hungover, I thought it was a dream. That it had all been a crazy drunken dream because I missed you so much. Kent never remembered anything. He was so broken by those pictures, that Mina had seen them, had died believing that he’d do that... He couldn’t live with it,” Kyle repeated.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“I am too,” he answered.
They sat in silence listening to the condensation dripping into the pool. The sun had filled the room, shining in behind them, so warm and welcoming and contrary to the dark cloud surrounding them. Camille was glad she always gave her team Sundays off; she wouldn’t be able to do her job today. She felt tired like she had in the days leading up to Mina’s death and Willow’s birth.
“When did you know about Gracie?” Kyle asked softly.
“About 4 months after the wedding, I fainted at the hospital. When they told me I laughed, I thought they were kidding. I thought I was gaining weight because I had quite diving and working out and that the stress over Mina had me vomiting everything I ate.”
She shook her head slowly, “Gramma Dorine insisted I tell you that I got pregnant the night of the last night we were together, but... gawd Kyle, I was so hurt and angry. I know it wasn’t right. I... I just hated you both so much and every day I sat with Mina made it worse. I couldn’t remember what her voice sounded like except for that night when she was crying over Kent’s betrayal. Watching the images of you touching that woman who looked like me, it made me feel sick that I let you touch me that way. I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have kept the girls from you and Kent... if I hadn’t maybe he’d still be alive. Maybe Willow would still have her father.”
She leaned forward, elbows on her knees and her head in her hands, sobbing. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”
“I do, forgive me?” Kyle pleaded.
Not looking up, she could only nod rapidly as her pain bubbled in her throat, robbing her of speech. He pulled her into his arms for only the second time in almost 15 years, and held her tightly as tears ran down his face and dripped into her almost dry hair. They grieved together, crying over their loved ones lost, the pain that had lingered, and the time they lost. Their sorrow and resentment funneled away like water down the drain.
Camille was still leaning against Kyle when her cell phone went off, and then her office phone rang. She didn’t want to move or breathe, her soul felt like pulled taffy. She lifted her head surprised when it happened again.
“What is it?” Kyle murmured into her hair.
“I don’t know but only Gramma or the girls would call me here on a Sunday morning. The team doesn’t practice today.” Camille answered as she hurried along the edge of the still water. Picking up the phone that had just started ringing again, she answered it.
“Mom, it’s Willow, she’s gone.” Grace blurted out. “We had a fight cause her dad’s dead and mine isn’t and she was saying mean things and I hit her and she pulled my hair and Gramma said she had to stay in her room but when I brought her pancakes she was gone and Gramma went to check the barn and...”
“Whoa, Gracie! Slow down, what happened from the beginning?” Camille flashed a worried look at Kyle, who leaned in to listen.
“I went to get Willow for breakfast this morning and she was drunk. She said some really mean things about you and I said so mean things back. Then she pulled my hair and called you a slut so I punched her in the face. Then Gramma heard us screaming and told Willow she had to stay in her room but when I brought her breakfast she was gone. Gramma went to see if she went for a ride and told me to call you. I’m sorry, mom. I... I didn’t mean to tell her I hated her." Gracie started crying.
“Gracie, sweetie, listen to me. Tell Gramma, I’m on the way, to saddle me Cajun and get my rifle out of the gun safe; the bears are going to be stirring. If Gramma heads out ahead of me make sure she takes a rifle too, and call Tank." Camille stated calmly.
“I’m worried, mom. What if the bears get her like Grampa Ben?”
“They won't. Willow is just upset. We’ll find her.”
“I love you. I’m sorry she got mad.” Gracie sniffed.
“It’s not your fault. I love you too; I’ll be home as fast as I can.” She hung up and turned to Kyle, “I have to go, my daughters need me.”
Kyle nodded his head, “I’m going with you. They’re ours. You don’t have to do this alone anymore. Is Beau back?”
Camille was pulling a sweatsuit over her damp swimsuit, “No. He and Katherine drove to South Carolina to tell her family they were engaged.”
“Good, I’d hate to have to shoot your cousin in self-defense,” Kyle smirked, following her out to the parking lot.
Camille flashed him a guilty half-smile, “He hated you as much as I did. Mina was his softest spot. I’m... I’m sorry.”
Kyle pulled her into his arms, hugging her, “Camille, I promise. I am going to spend the rest of my life changing the opinion of this family about me. Let’s go find my niece.”