Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 27

having this one off and dig in around here.”

“You’ve got a pretty house.” She stepped inside the door, looked around. “A very pretty house.”

“Thanks.” Zoe looked around as well, grateful that she’d finished buffing up the living room. The pillows were plumped on the bright and cheery blue slipcovers of the sofa, and the old coffee table she’d antiqued was free of dust and held a trio of bottles filled with late-summer daisies snipped from her own little flower bed. The rug her grandmother had hooked when Zoe herself was a child was freshly vacuumed.

“These are great.” Malory wandered over to look at the framed prints of foreign locales grouped on a wall.

“They’re just postcards I matted and framed. I always ask customers to pick me up a postcard when they go on a trip.”

“They’re really clever, and fun.”

“I like to, you know, put things together. Find stuff at yard sales or flea markets and haul it home, fix it up. It makes it yours that way, plus it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Ah, would you like something to drink?”

“I would, if I’m not holding you up.”

“No. I don’t think I’ve had a Saturday off in . . .” She skimmed her fingers through her hair. “Ever,” She decided. “It’s nice to be home, and to have company.”

Malory had a feeling that she was about to be invited to sit down while Zoe went back to the kitchen. To avoid that, she walked over and angled herself toward the doorway. “Did you plant the flowers yourself?”

“Simon and I did.” With no choice, Zoe led the way into the kitchen. “I don’t have any soft drinks. Sorry, but I can’t keep them around with Simon. I’ve got some lemonade.”

“That’s great.”

She’d obviously caught Zoe in the midst of a major kitchen cleaning, but still the room exuded the same casual charm as the living area.

“I love this.” She trailed a finger over the mint-green paint of a cupboard. “It really shows what someone can do with imagination, taste, and time.”

“Wow.” Zoe took a squat glass pitcher out of the refrigerator. “That’s quite a compliment coming from somebody like you. I mean, somebody who knows art. I wanted to have pretty things but still make a place where Simon could run around like a boy. And it’s just the right size for us. I don’t care about the million dollars.”

She set her company glasses on the counter, shook her head. “Boy, does that sound stupid. Of course I care about the million dollars. What I mean is I don’t need a million. I just want enough so we’re secure. I only got into this because it seemed so interesting, and because the twenty-five thousand was like a miracle.”

“And because that night, up at Warrior’s Peak, was so compelling, so dramatic? Like we were all the stars of our own movie.”

“Yes.” Zoe let out a laugh as she poured. “I got caught up in the idea of it all, but I never considered, not for a minute, that we’d be taking any kind of risk.”

“I don’t know that we are. I’m not going to worry about that until we know more. But I don’t have a child to consider. I wanted to come by and say that if you want to back out, I understand.”

“I’ve been thinking about it. One of the advantages of serious cleaning is it’s good thinking time. Do you want to take these out in the back? I’ve got some chairs out there. It’s kind of a nice spot.”

They walked out, and it was a nice spot—that tidy little yard, the two Adirondack chairs painted the same sunny yellow as the house, and a big, shady maple tree.

Once they were seated, Zoe took a deep breath. “If Pitte and Rowena are some kind of lunatics who’ve targeted us for some reason, there’s no backing out. It won’t matter. And if they are, doing whatever we can to find the keys makes the most sense. If they’re not, then we should keep our word.”

“It sounds like we’re on the same track. I’m toying with going back up there to talk to them again, get another impression. In a day or two,” Malory nodded, “after we—I hope—find out a little more. I know Dana will be zeroing in on the books, and Flynn’s already heating up the Internet. If he finds anything, he’ll tell me at dinner tonight.”

“Dinner? You’re going out with Flynn?”

“Apparently.” Malory frowned into her lemonade. “Five minutes after he left my apartment I was wondering how he talked me into it.”

“He’s awfully cute.”

“Any guy would look cute beside that big, ugly dog.”

“And he was flirting with you.” Zoe gestured with her glass so that the ice clinked. “Big time.”

“That I got. Flirting isn’t on the agenda for the next few weeks if I’m going to focus on finding the first key.”

“Flirting with a cute guy’s a nice side benefit.” Zoe sighed, sat back and wiggled toes that she’d painted poppy pink. “Or at least I seem to recall it was, from the dim, dark past.”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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