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“Do you require more?” Pitte demanded, and Rowena turned on him with a kind of stunning female fury.

The words they hurled at each other were unintelligible. Gaelic, Flynn thought. Maybe Welsh. But the gist was clear enough. Their temper rocked the room.

“Okay, take five.” With three determined strides, Brad moved forward, stepped between them. “This isn’t getting us anywhere.” His voice was calm and controlled, and had both of them snarling at him. Still, he stayed where he was and glanced back at Flynn. “Our host just pulled . . . how much?”

“Looks like about five thousand.”

“Five grand out of thin air—and boy, have I got some stockholders who’d like to talk to you. He seems to think you want cash for information. Do you?”

“Tough as it is to turn down five thousand magic dollars, no.” It stung, he could admit it, but Flynn set the stack on the table. “I’m worried about three women who haven’t hurt anyone, and I’m a little worried about myself. I want to know what’s going on.”

“Tell us the rest, and we’ll tell you what we can. Tell us freely,” Rowena added as she moved back to Flynn. “I’d prefer not to make you tell us.”

Irritated now, Flynn leaned forward. “Make me?”

Her voice was winter cool against the heat of his when she spoke. “My dear, I could make you quack like a duck, but as I imagine your brave and sensible friend would say, such an incident wouldn’t accomplish anything. You think we wish harm to you, or to your women? We don’t. We wish harm to none. That I can tell you freely. Pitte.” She shifted, angled her head. “You’ve insulted our guest with this crass display. Apologize.”


“Yes.” She sat again, brushed at her skirts. Waited.

Pitte bared his teeth. He tapped his fingers restlessly on his thighs. “Women are a plague to man.”

“Aren’t they just?” Jordan agreed.

“I’m sorry to have offended you.” Then he flicked a wrist. The money vanished. “Better?”

“There’s no reasonable way to answer that question, so I’ll ask one instead. Who the hell are you people?” Flynn demanded.

“We’re not here to answer your questions.” Pitte walked over to the silver pot, poured coffee into a Dresden cup. “Even a journalist—which I warned you would be an annoyance,” he added as an aside to Rowena—“should be aware of certain rules of behavior when invited into someone’s home.”

“Why don’t I just tell you who you are,” Flynn began, then broke off as the delighted bark banged into the room seconds before Moe arrived. “Oh, shit.”

“There he is!” Rowena simply spread her arms in welcome, and had them full of dog when the women walked into the room. “How nice, how lovely. It’s like a party.”

“Sorry to burst in on you this way.” Malory scanned the room, then zeroed in on Flynn. “But there’s an issue of certain people thinking they should take over from the womenfolk.”

“That’s not exactly true.”

“Really? And what would be exactly true?”

“Just following a lead, that’s all. You were busy rushing into business partnerships, buying houses.”

“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.”

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