Excerpt from Smoke Screen by Kyle Mills, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Smoke Screen

By Kyle Mills

Smoke Screen
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2003,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2004,
    400 pages.

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I shrugged, and surprisingly the conversation moved back in my direction.

"So if you don't work here, what do you do?"

"I'm a, uh, trustafarian."

She scrunched up her nose in away that was irresistibly cute. "A trustafarian? What's a trustafarian?"

I considered my answer, sipping what was left of my warm vodka tonic to cover up the fact that I was stalling. As with all things, the answer to her question was a matter of perspective...

Trustafarian 'trst--'far-¯e-an n. 1: A person who inherited his or her money in the form of a trust, which pays said funds out in installments. 2: One who lives off the hard work and resourcefulness of dead relatives who weren't smart enough to blow their money on women and booze. 3: A person who lives well but contributes nothing of value to society. 4: A lazy, good-for-nothing leech on society who will never get anywhere in life with that attitude... "So you don't do anything? Nothing at all?" She waved her hand around. "You go to parties?"

I sighed inaudibly at her description of the European-Arab ideal. In those more civilized societies, having old money and never working a day in your life made everyone think you were better than they were. It was so much more complicated in America.

"I work in the family business," I said.

She nodded, actually looking interested as opposed to just trying to wrangle the conversation back around to Darius the Great. When she pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket, that expression of interest faded into one of apology.

"Do you mind?" she said, patting her pockets for a lighter. I pulled mine out and lit the cigarette for her.

"You want one?" she asked.

They weren't my brand but I took one anyway, lighting it and taking a characteristically shallow drag.

"You were telling me about your family's business," she shouted.

"Was I?"

"Well, you were about to."

Oddly, I am not a liar by nature. But I do occasionally succumb, if the lies are white and ultimately temporary.

"We invented those little felt things that go on the bottoms of chairs to keep them from scratching your floor."

"Felt?"

"Not felt per se—just the application of felt to the legs of furniture." In my experience, it is virtually impossible to talk about felt for more than three minutes. The current record was about two and a half.

"Who'd have thought there was a ton of money in that?"

"There's not," I said. "Honestly, it's not a very good trust. But every little bit—" I fell silent when I saw the well-defined edge of the crowd on the dance floor turn liquid and a small wave form as people briefly retreated toward the middle and then moved back out to the edge. I couldn't be sure what was causing the strange disturbance, but I had a pretty good guess.

"Every little bit what?" I heard The Girl say. I moved closer to her and turned toward the wall, trying to hide and block her from view at the same time. It was too late, though. The volume of the music started to decline at an almost imperceptible rate and was soon down to a level that would allow communication at a slightly more dignified volume.

"Programmer. Tina. New, right?"

Darius tended to talk like that. Single. Words. Particular order? None. I stepped reluctantly aside and he moved in, casually smoothing the silky brown hair hanging loosely around his shoulders. For some reason—sheer willpower probably—the blue-tinted, rectangular glasses he loved so much hadn't been fogged by the wet heat surrounding us and he peered over them at the girl whose name I now knew. "Um, yeah, right...," Tina said, compulsively twisting her hair around her index finger. "How did you know?"

Darius put his hands out in front of him and wiggled his fingers like a proud magician. The music faded another subtle notch. "I own the company. I know all. I've never seen you here. Is this your first party?"

Copyright 2003 by Kyle Mills. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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