His lip curled. “So it is with mortals always. Love, they say, is what matters more than even life. But it’s wealth and it’s glory that they really crave. Take
it all, then.”
“And you, what will you take?”
“I have already taken it.”
She nodded, switched brushes. “You’ll have to excuse me. I need to concentrate.”
She painted in the warm bath of sunlight while the music soared.
FLYNN hit the door with his shoulder, then gripped the knob and prepared to ram it again. The knob turned smoothly in his hand.
Zoe gave him a jittery smile. “I must’ve loosened it for you.”
“Stay down here.”
“Save your breath,” Dana advised and pushed up behind him.
The light seemed to pulse now, thicker and somehow animate. Moe’s growling became wet snarls.
Flynn saw Malory, standing at the far end of the attic. Relief was like a hammer blow to his heart.
“Malory! Thank God.” He leaped forward, and hit the solid wall of mist.
“It’s some sort of barrier.” He spoke frantically now as he pushed and slammed against it. “She’s trapped in there.”
“I think we’re trapped out here.” Zoe pressed her hands against the mist. “She doesn’t hear us.”
“We have to make her hear us.” Dana looked around for something to batter against the wall. “She must be somewhere else, in her head, the way we were. We have to make her hear us so she’ll snap out of it.”
Moe went wild, leaping up to tear and bite at the wall of mist. His barks echoed like gunshots, and still Malory stood like a statue, her back to them.
“There has to be another way.” Zoe dropped to her knees, pressed her fingers along the mist. “It’s freezing. You can see her trembling from the cold. We have to get her out.”
“Malory!” Helpless rage had Flynn pummeling the wall until his hands bled. “I’m not going to let this happen. You have to hear me. I love you. Damn it, Malory, I love you. You listen to me.”
“Wait!” Dana gripped his shoulder. “She moved. I saw her move. Keep talking to her, Flynn. Just keep talking to her.”
Struggling for calm, he pressed his forehead to the wall. “I love you, Malory. You’ve got to give us a chance to see where we can go with it. I need you with me, so either come out or let me in.”
Malory pursed her lips at the image taking shape on canvas. “Did you hear something?” she asked absently.
“There’s nothing.” Kane smiled at the three mortals on the other side of the mist. “Nothing at all. What are you painting there?”
“Uh-uh-uh.” She wagged a playful finger at him. “I’m temperamental. I don’t like anyone looking at my work until it’s done. My world,” she reminded him and daubed on color. “My rules.”
He gave a single, elegant shrug. “As you wish.”
“Oh, don’t pout. I’m nearly done.” She worked quickly now, all but willing the image from her mind onto the canvas. It was, she thought, her masterpiece. Nothing she’d ever done would be so important.
“Art isn’t just in the eye of the beholder,” she said. “But in that, in the artist, in the subject, in the purpose, and in those who see.”
Her pulse skipped and stumbled, but her hand remained steady and sure. For a timeless moment, she shut everything out of her mind but the colors, the textures, the shapes.
And when she stepped back, her eyes glittered with triumph.
“It’s the finest thing I’ve ever done,” she declared. “Perhaps the finest thing I will ever do. I wonder what you’ll think of it.”