Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 57

“One reason is I was struck how much the middle figure resembled Dana.” It was true enough, Brad thought, if not the whole truth. “The overall painting, the power of it, caught me first, then that detail drew me in. And . . .” He hesitated, his gaze tracking across the painting. Then, feeling foolish, he shrugged. “You could say it spoke to me. I wanted it.”

“Yes, I understand that.” She took her glasses off, folded them and, slipped them carefully back in their case, then slid the case into her purse. “Flynn must have told you about the painting at Warrior’s Peak.”

“Sure, I told him. And when I saw this, I figured—”

“Ssh.” Malory tapped him on the knee, then held up a hand for him to help her to her feet. “It has to be a series. There’s another painting that comes before or after or in between. But there have to be three. It’s consistently three. Three keys, thr

ee daughters. The three of us.”

“Well, there are five of us now,” Brad put in. “But, yeah, I follow you.”

“You followed me when I said the same damn thing a half hour ago,” Flynn complained. “My theory.”

“Sorry.” This time Malory patted him on the arm. “It’s all tumbling around in my head. I can almost make out the pieces, but I can’t quite see the shape, or where they go. What they mean. Do you mind if we sit down?”

“Sure. Sorry.” Immediately, Brad took her arm, led her to a sofa. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“Got any brandy? I know it’s early, but I could really use just a little brandy.”

“I’ll find some.”

Flynn sat beside her as Brad left the room. “What is it, Mal? You look a little pale all of a sudden.”

“It hurts me.” She looked toward the painting again, then closed her eyes as tears gathered in them. “Even as it dazzles my mind and my spirit, it hurts to look at it. I saw this happen, Flynn. I felt this happen to them.”

“I’ll put it away.”

“No, no.” She caught his hand, and the contact comforted her. “Art’s supposed to touch you in some way. That’s its power. What will the third be? And when?”


She shook her head. “How flexible is your mind, I wonder? I’m just starting to find out how flexible mine is. You’ve told Brad all of it?”

“Yeah.” Something here, he realized as he watched her. Something she wasn’t quite sure she could say. “You can trust him, Malory. You can trust me.”

“The question will be if either of you will trust me after I tell you both what I found out this morning and what I think it means. Your old friend might politely nudge me out the door and bolt it behind me.”

“I never lock beautiful women out of the house.” Brad walked back in with a snifter of brandy. He handed it to her, then sat on the coffee table, facing her. “Go ahead, knock it back.”

She did just that, downing the brandy as she might a quick dose of medicine. It slid smoothly down her throat and soothed her jittery stomach. “It’s a crime to treat a Napoleon that carelessly. Thanks.”

“Knows her brandy,” he said to Flynn. Color was seeping back into her cheeks. To give her a chance to recover more fully, he rapped Flynn with his elbow. “How the hell did you manage to get a woman with taste and class to look twice at you?”

“I had Moe knock her down, pin her to the ground. Better, Mal?”

“Yes.” She blew out a breath. “Yes. Your painting’s seventeenth century. That’s absolutely conclusive?”

“That’s right.”

“I found out this morning that the painting at Warrior’s Peak is twelfth century, possibly earlier but no later.”

“If you got that from Pitte or Rowena—” Flynn began.

“No. I got that from Dr. Stanley Bower, of Philadelphia. He’s an expert, and a personal acquaintance. I sent him scrapings of the painting.”

“How’d you get scrapings?” Flynn wanted to know.

More color rose in her cheeks, but it wasn’t the brandy that caused it. She cleared her throat, fussed with the clasp of her purse. “I took them when you went up there with me last week. When you and Moe distracted them. It was completely inappropriate, absolutely unethical. I did it anyway.”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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