Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 84

friends, and . . . oh, my God.”

Light slanted across both paintings as they stood propped carelessly against the wall just where Flynn had left them. Her heart squeezed with admiration and envy at the sight.

She walked toward them slowly, as she might a lover who both dazzled and titillated. Her throat ached as she knelt on the floor in front of them.

“They’re beautiful,” Zoe said from behind her.

“They’re more.” Gently, Malory lifted the portrait of Arthur, tilting it toward the light. “It’s not just talent. Talent can be technical, achieve a kind of perfection of balance and proportion.”

She came close to that, she thought, when she painted. Fell just short of technical perfection. And miles away from the magic that made an image art.

“It’s genius when you’re able to take that talent beyond technique and into emotion,” she continued. “To message, or just to simple beauty. When you have that, you light up the world. Can’t you feel his heart pounding?” she asked as she studied the young Arthur. “His muscles quivering as he takes the hilt? That’s the power of the artist. I’d give anything—anything—to be able to create like this.”

A shiver ran through her, twin snakes of hot and cold. For a heartbeat her fingers seemed to burn. And for that heartbeat something inside her opened, and lit, and she saw how it could be done. Must be done. How she could explode on canvas into art.

The knowledge filled her to bursting, left her breathless.

Then was gone in an instant.

“Mal? Malory?” Zoe crouched down, took her shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

“What? Nothing. I got dizzy for a second.”

“Your eyes went funny. They went huge and dark.”

“It must’ve been the light.” But she felt strangely queasy as she pulled her purse over and took out her magnifying glass.

Using the natural light, she began a slow, careful study of each painting.

There was the shadow, just the hint of a form lurking deep, deep in the green of the forest. And two figures—a man and a woman—watching the boy, the sword, the stone, from the far background. From a chain at the woman’s waist hung three gold keys.

“What do you think?” Dana demanded.

“I think we’ve got a couple of choices.” Considering them, Malory sat back, rolled her shoulders. “We can convince Brad and Jordan to have these sent to experts for verification of whether or not it’s the same artist. And by doing so, we risk this entire business getting out.”

“What’s the other choice?” Zoe asked her.

“We can take my word for it. Everything I know, everything I’ve studied and learned tells me the same person painted both of these. The same person who painted the portrait at Warrior’s Peak.”

“If we go with that, what do we do with it?” Dana demanded.

“We figure out what the paintings are telling us. And we go back up to Warrior’s Peak. We ask Rowena and Pitte how at least two of these works were done more than a century apart.”

“There’s another part that goes with that,” Zoe said quietly. “We accept the magic. We believe.”

“I always have time to entertain three handsome men.” Rowena all but purred it as she showed Flynn, Brad, and Jordan into the parlor where the portrait of the Daughters of Glass dominated.

She paused, waiting until all attention was focused on it. “I assume the painting interests you, Mr. Vane. Your family has quite an extensive and eclectic art collection, I’m told.”

He stared at the portrait, at the figure carrying both a short sword and a little dog. Zoe’s eyes stared back at him. “Yes, we do.”

“And has the interest passed down to you?”

“It has. As a matter of fact, I believe I own another painting by this artist.”

She sat, a secret smile playing around her mouth as she spread the long skirts of her white dress. “Is that so? What a small world.”

“It gets smaller,” Jordan put in. “I seem to have another painting that may be by this artist.”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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