“Cool.” Pure admiration shone in Flynn’s tone. “So that means either Brad’s experts or yours is off, or you’re wrong about both being done by one artist. Or . . .”
“Or, the experts are right and so am I.” Malory set her purse aside, folded her hands tight in her lap. “Dr. Bower would have to run more complex and in-depth tests to verify the date, but he wouldn’t be off by centuries. I’ve seen both paintings, up close. Everything I know tells me they were done by the same hand. I know it sounds crazy. It feels crazy, but I believe it. Whoever created the portrait at Warrior’s Peak did so in the twelfth century, and that same artist painted Brad’s five hundred years later.”
Brad slid his gaze toward Flynn, surprised that his friend wasn’t goggling, or grinning. Instead, Flynn’s face was sober and considering. “You want to believe that my painting was executed by a five-hundred-year-old artist?”
“Older, I think. Much older than that. And I think the artist painted both from memory. Rethinking bolting the door?” Malory asked him.
“I’m thinking both of you have gotten caught up in a fantasy. A romantic and tragic story that has no basis in reality.”
“You haven’t seen the painting. You haven’t seen The Daughters of Glass.”
“No, but I’ve heard about it. All accounts place it in London, during the Blitz. Where it was destroyed. Most likely answer is that the one at the Peak is a copy.”
“It’s not. You think I’m being stubborn. I can be,” Malory admitted, “but this isn’t one of those times. I’m not a fanciful person either—or I haven’t been.”
She shifted her attention to Flynn, and her voice grew urgent. “Flynn, everything they told me, everything they told me and Dana and Zoe that first night was absolutely true. Even more amazing is what they didn’t tell us. Rowena and Pitte—teacher and warrior—they’re the figures in the background of each painting. They were there, in reality. And one of them painted both those portraits.”
“I believe you.”
Her breath shuddered out in relief at Flynn’s simple faith. “I don’t know what it means, or how it helps, but learning this—and believing it—is why I was picked. If I don’t find the key, and Dana and Zoe don’t find theirs after me, those souls will keep screaming inside that box. Forever.”
He reached out, ran a hand over her hair. “We won’t let that happen.”
“Excuse me.” Zoe hesitated at the entrance to the room. She was hard-pressed not to rub her hands over the satiny trim, or kick off her shoes to slide barefoot across the glossy floors.
She wanted to rush to the windows and study every view.
“The men outside said I should come right in. Um, Flynn? Moe’s out there rolling around in something that looks a lot like dead fish.”
“Shit. Be right back. Zoe, Brad.” And he ran outside.
Brad got to his feet. He wasn’t sure how he managed it when his knees had dissolved. He heard his own voice, a bit cooler than normal, a bit stilted, over the roar of blood in his head.
“Come in, please. Sit down. Can I get you something?”
“No, thanks. Sorry. Malory, I got your message and came right out. Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know. Brad here thinks I’ve slipped a few gears, and I don’t blame him.”
“That’s ridiculous.” In her instant leap to defend, she forgot the charm of the house, the aloof charm of the man. Her cautious and apologetic smile turned into a chilly scowl as she strode across the room to Malory’s side. “And if you said any such thing, you’re not only wrong, you’re rude.”
“Actually, I didn’t get around to saying it yet. And as you don’t know the circumstances—”
“I don’t have to. I know Malory. And if you’re a friend of Flynn’s, you should know better than to upset her.”
“I beg your pardon.” Where had that stiff, superior tone come from? How had his father’s voice popped out of his mouth?
“It’s not his fault, Zoe. Really. As to being upset, I don’t know what I am.” Malory shoved back her hair and, rising, gestured toward the painting. “You should take a look at this.”
Zoe moved closer. Then clutched her throat. “Oh. Oh.” And her eyes filled with hot tears. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so sad. But it belongs with the other. How did it get here?”
Malory slipped an arm around her waist so they stood joined together. “Why do you think it belongs with the other?”
“It’s the Daughters of Glass, after the . . . the spell or the curse. The box, with the blue lights. It’s just the way you described it, from your dream. And it’s the same—the same . . . I don’t know how to say it. It’s
like a set, or part of a set, painted by the same person.”
Malory glanced over her shoulder at Brad, cocked a brow.