“I’ve been rushing into a lot of things lately. Maybe we should debate the fact that I rushed you into bed.”
The twin claws of embarrassment and annoyance pricked him as he got to his feet. “Sure, we can do that. Maybe we can find a more appropriate time and place for it.”
“You want to talk about appropriate when you and your testosterone team try to take over my responsibilities, my business? Just because I’m in love with you, just because I sleep with you, doesn’t mean I’ll sit back and let you run my life.”
“Who’s running whose life?” Frustration had him flinging out his arms. “You’re the one who has mine mapped out. I’m in this, Malory, whether I want to be or not. And I’m here to find out what that means. And if it’s heading where I think it is, you’re out. All of you.” He shot scathing looks at Dana and Zoe. “Out.”
“Who made you boss?” Dana demanded. “You couldn’t tell me what to do when I was ten. You sure as hell can’t pull it off now.”
“Oh, you watch me. You made it seem like a game.” He shot the accusation at Rowena. “Even some sort of romantic quest. But you didn’t tell them what might be at stake.”
“What are you talking about?” Malory jabbed at his shoulder.
“The dreams.” Ignoring Malory, Flynn continued to speak to Rowena. “They’re warnings, aren’t they?”
“You never finished telling us. Perhaps everyone should sit down, and you can start from the beginning.”
“You had a dream? Like mine?” Malory jabbed at him again. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Just shut it down a damn minute.” Out of patience, he nudged her onto the couch. “Just be quiet,” he ordered. “I don’t want to hear anything out of you until I’m finished.”
He started at the beginning, with him wandering the house, with the sensation of being watched, stalked. He related the experience on the parapet, the fear and pain, and ended with his waking in his own bed, drenched with rain.
“He—it—wanted my soul, was letting me know that that could be the price for being in this.”
“This isn’t the way.” Pitte clamped a hand on Rowena’s and spoke to her as if no one else was in the room. “This can’t be the way. They aren’t to be harmed. That was the first and most sacred promise.”
“We can’t know. If we’re not allowed behind the Curtain, we can’t know what situation now exists. If he’s broken the vow, he must believe he can escape the consequences. He must believe . . . they are the ones,” she said in a whisper. “It can be done, and they can succeed. He’s opened the Curtain to stop them. He’s come through.”
“If they fail—”
“They cannot fail.” She spun around, her face set with purpose. “We’ll protect you.”
“Will you?” Shaken, Malory folded her hands on her lap, squeezing her fingers until the pain cleared her head. “The way you protected the Daughters of Glass? Teacher and warrior. Somehow, you are.” She got up, walked to the portrait. “You’re here,” she said, gesturing to the couple in the background. “And here, in this room. In this place. And you think that what’s there, in the shadows of the trees is here too. You don’t show his face.”
“He has more than one.” Rowena spoke in a matter-of-fact tone that was utterly chilling.
“You painted this, and the two that we have.”
“Painting is one of my passions,” Rowena confirmed. “One of my constants. Pitte.” She turned to him. “The
y know this much.”
“I don’t know a damn thing,” Dana declared.
“Step over here, to the cynical side of the room,” Jordan invited.
“It’s what Malory knows that matters now.” Rowena held out a hand. “All that I have will be used to keep you safe.”
“Not good enough.” Flynn shook his head. “She’s out of it. They’re all out of it. You want your money back, we’ll—”
“Excuse me, I can speak for myself. This isn’t a matter of a refund, is it?” she asked Rowena. “There’s no turning back, no saying, uh-oh, the stakes are higher than I realized, game over.”
“The agreement was made.”
“Without full disclosure,” Brad put in. “Whatever sort of contract these women signed with you won’t hold up legally.”
“The issue isn’t legal,” Malory said impatiently. “It’s moral. And more than that, it’s destiny. As long as I am, as long as I know, I’m part of it. Until the four weeks are up. And if I find the first key, one of them is next.” She looked at Dana and Zoe. “One of them will be at risk for the next phase of the moon.”