Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 67

“I like it. It’s good practice.”

“Don’t say ‘practice’ when I’ve got a headful of tinfoil,” Dana complained around a mouthful of chips.

“It’s going to be great,” Zoe assured her. “I want to have a full-service salon, and I need to be sure I can handle all the treatments I want to offer. I looked at this wonderful building today.”

Her face went wistful as she cleaned and blotted Malory’s skin. “It’s way too big for what I need, but it was just great. Two stories with a big attic space. A frame house right on the border of business and residential on Oak Leaf Drive. It’s got a wonderful covered porch, even a garden in the back where you could set tables and benches. High ceilings, solid hardwood floors that need work. The rooms all sort of tumble into each other on the first floor. A really nice flow of space that keeps it all intimate.”

“I didn’t know you were looking at houses,” Malory said.

“I’m just looking. This is the first place I’ve seen that caught at me. You know?”

“Yeah, I know. If it’s too big, and you really love it, maybe you could get somebody to take part of it for another business.”

With the mask removed, Zoe began to stroke on a moisturizer. “I thought of that. Actually, I have this wild idea. Don’t tell me I’m crazy until I finish. Each of us said what we really wanted was to have our own place.”

“Oh, but—”

“Not till I’m finished.” Zoe cut Malory off as she dabbed on eye cream. “The lower floor has two wonderful bow windows. Perfect for displays. There’s a central hall, and on each side are those nice rooms. If someone was interested in opening a tasteful gallery for art and local crafts, she couldn’t find a better place. At the same time, on the other side of that hall there’s a wonderful set of parlors that would make a terrific bookstore, with room for a hip little bistro or tearoom.”

“I didn’t hear anything about a salon in there,” Dana pointed out, but she was listening.

“Upstairs. When someone comes in to get her hair or nails done, or enjoy any number of our wonderful treatments and services, she’ll have to pass by the gallery and the bookstore, coming and going. Perfect time to select that lovely gift for Aunt Mary, or pick up a book to read while she’s being combed out. Maybe even have a nice glass of wine or cup of tea before heading home. It’s all there, in one fabulous setting.”

“You really have been thinking,” Malory murmured.

“I sure have. I even have a name for it. ‘Indulgence.’ People need to indulge themselves from time to time. We could do packages and cross-promotions. I know it’s a big idea, especially when we haven’t known each other very long. But I think it could work. I think it could be great. Just look at it before you say no.”

“I’d like to see it,” Dana said. “I’m miserable at work. And what’s the point of being miserable?”

Malory could almost see the energy and enthusiasm for the idea pumping off Zoe in waves. There were a dozen rational comments she could make to point out why it wasn’t just a big idea but a messy one.

She didn’t have the heart to do that, but she felt obliged to ease carefully back. “I don’t want to muck things up, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be asked to come back to The Gallery. In fact, my old boss called this afternoon and asked if I’d come in and speak with him tomorrow.”

“Oh. Well. That’s great.” Zoe stepped behind Malory’s chair, began to run her fingers through Malory’s hair to get a feel for the weight and the lines. “I know you love working there.”

“It was like home.” Malory lifted a hand, covered one of Zoe’s. “I’m sorry. It did sound like a good idea. A fun one, but—”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Hey.” Dana waved a hand. “Remember me? I’m still interested. I can take a look at the place tomorrow. Maybe we can make it work between the two of us.”

“Great. Mal, let’s wet down your hair.”

She felt too guilty to argue, and with her hair dampened, she sat stoically while Zoe snipped.

“I’d better tell you both why I went by the newspaper this morning to see Flynn, to whom I’m no longer speaking.”

Zoe continued to snip as she told them about the painting in The Gallery and her belief that it was done by the same artist.

“You’ll never guess who bought it,” she continued. “Jordan Hawke.”

“Jordan Hawke?” Dana all but squeaked. “Goddamn it, now I want chocolate. You must have some.”

“Emergency supply, deli drawer of the fridge. What’s the problem?”

“We were semi-involved a million years ago. Damn it, damn it, damn it,” Dana repeated as she yanked open the drawer and found two bars of Godiva. “Godiva’s your emergency chocolate?”

“Why not have the best when you’re feeling your worst?”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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