“Do you always dress like that?” Dana wondered.
With a little laugh, Malory looked down at herself. “I’m afraid so. It’s a compulsion.”
“Looks good on you, too. I’ll probably end up hating you for it. Come on in anyway.”
The room was a compact, informal library. Books stood or were stacked on the shelves that ran along two walls from floor to ceiling, sat on the tables like knickknacks, trooped around the room like soldiers. They struck Malory as more than knowledge or entertainment, even more than stories and information. They were color and texture, in a haphazard yet somehow intricate decorating scheme.
The short leg of the L-shaped room boasted still more books, as well as a small table that held the remains of Dana’s breakfast.
With her hands on her hips, Dana watched Malory’s perusal of her space. She’d seen the reaction before. “No, I haven’t read them all, but I will. And no, I don’t know how many I h
ave. Want coffee?”
“Let me just ask this. Do you ever actually use the services of the library?”
“Sure, but I need to own them. If I don’t have twenty or thirty books right here, waiting to be read, I start jonesing. That’s my compulsion.”
“Okay. I’ll pass on the coffee, thanks. I already had a cup. Two, and I’m wired.”
“Two, and I can just manage to form complete sentences. Bagel?”
“No, but go ahead. I wanted to catch you before you left for work. Fill you in.”
“Fill away.” Dana gestured to the second chair at the table, then sat to finish her breakfast.
“I’m going back up to Warrior’s Peak this morning. With Flynn.”
Dana’s lip curled. “I figured he’d horn in. And hit on you.”
“Are either of those things a problem for you?”
“No. He’s smarter than he comes across. That’s one of the ways he gets people to spill their guts to him. If he hadn’t horned in, I’d have baited him until he helped out. As for hitting on you, I had to figure he’d go for either you or Zoe. Flynn really likes women, and they really like him.”
Malory thought of the way he’d moved in on her in her kitchen, the way she’d gone pliant as putty when he had. “There’s a definite chemical reaction there, but I haven’t decided if I like him or not.”
Dana crunched on her bagel. “Might as well give in to it. He’ll just wear you down, which is another thing he’s really good at. He’s like a damn Border collie.”
“You know how they herd sheep?” She used her free hand, zagging it right and left to demonstrate. “How they keep heading them off, working them around until the sheep end up going where the collie wants them to go? That’s Flynn. You’ll think, nope, I want to go over here, and he’s thinking, well, you’ll be better off over there. So you end up over there before you realize you’ve been herded.”
She licked cream cheese off her finger. “And the hell of it is, when you find yourself there you almost always realize you are better off. He stays alive by never saying I told you so.”
She’d gone to dinner with him, hadn’t she? Malory considered. Kissed him—twice. Three times if she was going to be technical. And he was not only coming with her to Warrior’s Peak, he was driving her. Huh.
“I don’t like being maneuvered.”
Dana’s expression was a combination of pity and amusement. “Well, we’ll see how it goes.” She rose, gathering her dishes. “What are you hoping for with Rowena and Pitte?”
“I don’t expect to get much from them. It’s the painting.” Malory followed Dana into the little kitchen. It didn’t surprise her to find books here as well, stacked in an open-fronted pantry where the average cook would have stored food staples.
“The painting’s important somehow,” she continued while Dana rinsed off the dishes. “What it says, and who said it.”
She took a moment to explain the rest of the tale as Flynn had relayed it to her over dinner.