“Fascinating. Ah.” She gestured as a servant rolled a cart in. “Coffee? I assumed you’d prefer it to tea. American men aren’t much on tea, are they?”
“You don’t ask about the subject of the other paintings.” Flynn sat beside her.
“I’m sure you’ll tell me. Cream, sugar?”
“Black. Seems a waste of time when I’m pretty sure you already know. Who’s the artist, Rowena?”
She poured the coffee with a steady hand, taking the liquid to within a half inch of the rim while her gaze stayed level with Flynn’s. “Did Malory ask you to come here today?”
“The quest is hers, as are the questions. Such matters have rules. If she asked you to represent her, that’s a different thing altogether. Did you bring your dog?”
“Yeah, he’s outside.”
Her face went wistful. “I don’t mind if he comes in.”
“White dress, big black dog. You might want to rethink that. Rowena, Malory didn’t ask us to come, but she and the others know we’re helping them look into things. It’s okay with them.”
“But you didn’t tell them you were coming to speak with me. Men often make the mistake of assuming that a woman wishes to be relieved of responsibilities and details.” Her face was open and friendly, her voice carrying the lilt of a laugh. “Why is that?”
“We didn’t come here to discuss male-female dynamics,” Jordan began.
“What else is there, really? Man to man, woman to woman, certainly,” Rowena continued with an elegant spread of her hands. “But it all comes down to people, what they are to each other. What they’ll do for and to one another. Even art is only a representation of that, in one form or another. If Malory has concerns or questions about the painting or paintings she must ask. You won’t find the key for her, Flynn. It’s not for you.”
“I dreamed I was in this house last night. Only it wasn’t a dream. It was more.”
He watched her eyes change, go dark with shock. Or something else, something bigger.
“Such a dream isn’t unusual under the circumstances.”
“I’ve only been in the foyer and in two rooms in this place. Or had been until last night. I can tell you how many rooms are on the second floor, and that there’s a staircase on the east side leading to the third that has a newel post carved like a dragon. I couldn’t see it well in the dark, but I felt it.”
She rose quickly and hurried from the room.
“This is some strange deal you’ve got going here, Flynn.” Jordan poked at the pretty cookies arranged on a glass plate. “There’s something familiar about that woman. I’ve seen her somewhere before.”
“Where?” Brad demanded.
“I don’t know. It’ll come to me. Hell of a looker. A face like that, you don’t forget. And why should she freak over you having a dream? Because freak’s just what she did, in her own classy way.”
“She’s afraid.” Brad walked closer to the portrait. “She went from sly to scared in a heartbeat. She knows the answer to the paintings, and she was having a good time toying with us about that until Flynn dropped his dream adventure on her.”
“And I didn’t even get to the best part.” Flynn got to his feet to explore the room before Rowena got back. “Something’s off here.”
“You just getting that, son?”
Flynn spared a glance at Jordan as he opened a lacquered cabinet. “Not just the already established ‘off.’ That’s a woman in control,” he said with a jerk of his thumb toward the doorway. “Cool, confident, sure of herself. The woman who just took a flyer out of here wasn’t any of those things. Man, there’s some high-class booze in here.”
“Would you care for a drink, Mr. Hennessy?”
Though he winced a little, Flynn turned toward the doorway and spoke equably to Pitte. “No, thanks. A little early for me yet.” He closed the cabinet. “How
’s it going?”
Rowena laid a hand on Pitte’s arm before he could respond. “Finish it,” she ordered Flynn. “Finish the dream.”