SHE didn’t like to be told to hurry, especially when she wasn’t given a good reason why. So, on principle, Malory took her time driving to the Vane house.
She had a lot on her mind, and a little drive in the country was just the ticket, she decided, to line those thoughts up in some organized fashion.
And she liked tooling along in her little car over the windy road that followed the river, and the way the sun sprinkled through the leaves overhead to splatter patterns of light on the roadbed.
If she could paint, she would do a study of that—just the way light and shadow played on something as simple and ordinary as a country road. If she could paint, she thought again—which she couldn’t, despite all the desire, all the study, all the years of trying.
But someone sure as hell could.
She should’ve tried to track down Dana and Zoe before driving out here. Really, she was supposed to be working with them, not with Flynn. He was . . . like an accessory, she told herself. A really attractive, sexy, interesting accessory.
Boy, she loved accessories.
Not a productive train of thought.
She switched the car radio off, steeped herself in silence. What she needed to do was find Dana and Zoe, tell them what she’d discovered. Maybe if she said it all out loud she, or they, could decipher what it meant.
Because at the moment she didn’t have a clue.
All she knew, in her gut, was that it was important. Even vital. If not the answer, it was one of the bread crumbs that would lead to the answer.
She turned off the road and onto the private lane. No gates here. No circling walls. The Vanes were certainly wealthy enough to rate them. She wondered why they hadn’t chosen to buy Warrior’s Peak instead of building by the river, closer to town.
Then the house came into view and answered her question. It was beautiful, and it was wood. A lumber baron would hardly build or buy in stone or brick. He would, as he had, build to illustrate the art of his product.
The wood was honey gold, set off by copper trim that had gone dreamy green with age and weather. There was a complex arrangement of decks and terraces, skirting or jutting from both stories. Half a dozen rooflines peaked or sloped, all with a kind of artful symmetry that brought harmony to the whole.
The grounds were informal, as suited the site and the style, but she imagined that the placement of every shrub, every tree, every flower bed had been meticulously selected and designed.
Malory approved of meticulous design and execution.
She pulled up beside a moving van and was about to step out when she heard the wild, delighted barking.
“Oh, no, not this time. I’ve got your number, buddy.” She reached into the box on the floor beside her and pulled out a large dog biscuit.
Even as Moe’s homely face smooshed against the car window, she rolled it down. “Moe! Get the cookie!” And threw the dog biscuit as far as she could manage.
As he raced in pursuit, she nipped out of the car and made a dash for the house.
“Nice job.” Flynn met her at the door.
“I’m a quick study.”
“Counting on that. Malory Price, Brad Vane. Already called it,” Flynn added in subtle warning as he saw the interest light in Brad’s eye.
“Oh? Well, can’t blame you.” Brad smiled at Malory. “It’s still nice to meet you, Malory.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s guy-speak,” Flynn told her, and dipped his head to kiss her. “Just bringing Brad up-to-date. Dana and Zoe on the way?”
“No. Dana’s working, and I couldn’t reach Zoe. I left messages for both of them. What’s this all about?”
“You’re going to want to see it for yourself.”
“See what? You drag me out here—no offense,” she added to Brad, “you have a beautiful house—without any explanation. And I was busy. The time factor—”