Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 63

His lips folded into a thin, derisive smile. “A bird in the hand. That’s what the twit told me when I found out. And how did I find out? I’ll tell you,” he said with a triumphant ring in his voice. “I found out when Mrs. K came in unexpectedly yesterday afternoon to see it. Just couldn’t wait, she told me. And she brought two friends. Two, Mal. I could cry.”

“What happened? What did she say?”

“I took her over to see it, and there’s a Sold sign tucked under the base. I assumed it was a mistake, but I went to check. Pamela sold it that morning, apparently while I was in the back on the phone trying to soothe Alfred because Pamela the Putrid had accused him of overcharging for the crating for the marble nudes.”

“Alfred? Overcharging?” Malory pressed her hands to her temples. “I can’t keep up.”

“It was horrible, just horrible. It took me twenty minutes to talk him down, and even then I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t stomp in and beat her with his hammer. Maybe I should’ve let him,” Tod considered, then waved the thought away with both hands. “Anyway, while I was busy with Alfred, Pamela sold Mrs. K’s Deco to a stranger. To some fly-by-night, some wanderer in off the street!”

He flopped back, splaying a hand over his chest. “I still can’t believe it. Mrs. K was, naturally, very upset, and demanded to see you. Then I had to tell her you weren’t with us any longer. And the doo-doo hit the fan. Big time.”

“She asked for me? That’s so sweet.”

“It gets sweeter. Pamela came down. And they got into it. Boy, did they. Mrs. K asking how an item on hold for her could be sold. Pamela getting snippy and says how it’s not gallery policy to hold a piece without a cash deposit. Can you imagine?”

“Cash deposit?” Horrified, Malory could only goggle. “From one of our oldest and most reliable clients?”

“Exactly! Then Mrs. K’s all, Well, I’ve been patronizing The Gallery for fifteen years, and my word has always been good enough. And where is James? And Pamela’s, I beg your pardon, but I’m in charge here. And Mrs. K shoots back that if James has put a moron in charge he’s obviously gone senile.”

“Oh, go, Mrs. K!”

“Meanwhile, Julia runs into the back and calls James to let him know there’s a big, fat problem. Pamela and Mrs. K are practically coming to blows over the bronze when he comes rushing in. He’s trying to calm them both down, but they’re too into it. Mrs. K’s saying she won’t deal with this woman. I loved the way she said it. This woman. It sang. And Pamela’s saying The Gallery’s a business and can hardly run on one customer’s whim.”

“Oh, my God.”

“James is frantic, promising Mrs. K he’ll sort all this out, but she’s furious. Her face is positively puce. She tells him she won’t set foot in the place again as long as that woman is associated with The Gallery. And, you’ll love this—if he let a jewel like Malory Price slip through his fingers he deserves to go out of business. And with that she sails out the door.”

“She called me a jewel.” Delighted, Malory hugged herself. “I love her. This is good stuff, Tod. It’s really started my day off on a high note.”

“There’s even more. James is pissed. When’s the last time you’ve seen James pissed?”

“Um. Never.”

“Bingo.” Tod punched a finger in the air. “He was pale as a sheet, his mouth was all tight and grim. And he told Pamela between clenched teeth”—Tod clamped his together to demonstrate—“ ‘I need to speak with you, Pamela. Upstairs.’ ”

“What did she say?”

“Well, she stormed up, and he went behind her. Then he closed the door, which was very disappointing. I couldn’t hear much of what he said, even though I went up and lurked around hoping to. But you could hear her clearly enough when she started raging. I’m making something out of this place, she tells him. You said I was in charge. I’m tired of having Malory Price thrown in my face every time I turn around. Why the hell didn’t you marry her instead of me?”

“Oh.” Malory thought about that scenario for a couple of seconds. “Eeuuw.”

“Then she started crying, saying she was working so hard and nobody appreciated her. And she ran out. I barely scrambled away in time. It was all so exhausting, yet oddly exhilarating.”

“Crying? Damn it.” A little worm of sympathy crawled into Malory’s chest. “Were they I’m-really-hurt-and-sad tears, or were they just I’m-really-pissed-off tears?”

“Pissed-off tears.”

“Okay, then.” She squashed the worm without mercy. “I’m probably going to hell, right, for getting such a charge out of all this?”

“We’ll get a nice little condo together. But while we’re still shuffling on this mortal coil, I think James is going to ask you to come back. In fact, Mal, I’m sure of it.”

“Really?” Her heart gave a quick leap. “What did he say?”

“It’s not so much what he said, as what he didn’t say. He didn’t go running after the weeping Pamela to dry her beady eyes. In fact, he stayed for the rest

of the day, going over accounts. And he looked grim when he left. Absolutely grim. I’d say Pamela’s reign of terror is at an end.”

“This is a good day.” Malory let out a long sigh. “A really good day.”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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