Key of Light (Key 1) - Page 134

“Having made that choice, knowing it was the right one, I can’t take what’s yours. But thank you,” she said as she rose. “It’s nice to know I can be happy doing what I do. I’m going to make a beautiful shop, and a successful business. And a damn good life,” she added.

“I have no doubt. Will you take this, then?” Rowena gestured, smiling when Malory let out a shocked gasp.

“The Singing Goddess.” She rushed to the framed canvas that rested on a table. “The painting I did when Kane . . .”

“You painted it.” Rowena joined her, laid a hand on her shoulder. “Whatever his trick, this was your vision, and your heart that found the answer. But if having this, if seeing it is painful, I can put it away.”

“No, it’s not painful. It’s a wonderful gift. Rowena, this was an illusion. You brought it into my reality. It’s solid. It exists.” Bracing herself, she stepped back, kept her eyes level with Rowena’s. “Can you—have you done the same with emotions?”

“You question if your feelings for Flynn are real?”

“No. I know they are.” She pressed a hand to her heart. “This is no illusion. But his for me—if that’s some kind of reward . . . it’s not fair to him, and I can’t accept it.”

“You would give him up.”

“No.” Her expression went combative. “Hell, no. I’d just deal with it, and him, until he fell in love with me. If I can find some mystical key, I can sure as hell make Michael Flynn Hennessy realize I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Which I am,” she added. “Which I absolutely am.”

“I like you, very much,” Rowena said with a grin. “And I’ll promise you this. When Flynn walks into this room again, whatever he feels or doesn’t feel will be a true reflection of his heart. The rest is up to you. Wait here, I’ll send him in.”

“Rowena? When will we begin the second round?”

“Soon,” Rowena called out as she left the room. “Very soon.”

Which one of them would be next? Malory wondered as she studied the portrait. And what would the second one risk? What would she win or lose in the search?

She’d lost one love, she thought, lifting her painting. One love, so briefly tasted. And now, with Flynn, she had to risk another. The most vital love of her life.

“I brought you some of this very jazzy champagne,” Flynn said, walking in with two brimming flutes. “You’re missing the party. Pitte actually laughed. It was a moment.”

“I just needed a couple of minutes first.” She set the painting down and reached for a glass.

“What’s this? One of Rowena’s?” He hooked an arm companionably around Malory’s shoulder, and she felt his body stiffen when he understood. “It’s yours? This is what you did? The painting you did in the attic, with the key. It’s here.”

He brushed his fingers over the gold key, only painted now, at the feet of the goddess. “It’s amazing.”

“Even more when you’re the one who reached into a painting and pulled out a magic key.”

“No. I mean, yeah, that’s out there. But I meant the whole thing. It’s beautiful, Malory. Hell, it’s stupendous. You gave this up.” He spoke softly, then looked over at her. “You’re the one who’s amazing.”

“I’ll have this. Rowena clicked her heels together, twitched her nose, whatever she does, and brought it here for me. It means a lot to have it. Flynn . .


She had to take a drink, had to put some distance between them. Whatever she’d said to Rowena, she understood now that she was a about to do something much more wrenching than giving up a talent with paint and brush.

“This has been a strange month, for all of us.”

“And then some,” he agreed.

“Most of what’s happened, it’s beyond the scope of anything we could have imagined, anything we might have believed a few weeks ago. And what’s happened, it’s changed me. In a good way,” she added, turning toward him. “I like to think it’s a good way.”

“If you’re going to tell me you turned the key in that lock, and now you don’t love me anymore, that’s too damn bad for you. Because you’re stuck.”

“No, I’m . . . Stuck?” she repeated. “What do you mean stuck?”

“With me, my ugly couch and my sloppy dog. You’re not wiggling your way out of it, Malory.”

“Don’t take that tone with me.” She set the flute down. “And don’t think for one minute you can stand there and tell me I’m stuck with you, because you’re stuck with me.”

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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