Key of Light Page 61

He would have his father’s hair, she thought, as she cooed and swayed. It was already coming in dark, with those hints of chestnut shining through when the light caught it.

He was so perfect. So absolutely perfect.

But as she carried him toward the changing table, her legs went weak.

What was his name? What was her baby’s name? Panicked, she clutched him close, then whirled as she heard Flynn come to the door.

“You look so beautiful, Malory. I love you.”

“Flynn.” Something was wrong with her eyes. It was as if she could see through him, as if he were fading away. “Something’s wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s exactly right. Everything’s just the way you wanted it to be.”

“It’s not real, is it?” Tears began to sting her eyes. “It’s not real.”

“It could be.”

A light flashed, and she was standing in a studio awash with light. Canvases were stacked against the walls or rested on easels. She faced another, brilliant with color and shape. A brush was in her hand, and she was already daubing it on her palette.

“I’ve done this,” she whispered as she stared at the canvas. It was a forest, misty with green light. The figure walking on the path was alone. Not lonely, she thought, but solitary. There was home at the end of the path, and a bit of time yet to enjoy the quiet and the magic of the woods.

Her hand had done that. Her mind, her heart. She could feel it, just as she could feel and remember every brushstroke on every canvas in the room.

The power of that, the glory of it with all its pain and pleasure.

“I can do this.” With a kind of frantic glee, she continued to paint. “I have to do this.”

The joy was like a drug, and she was greedy for it. She knew how to mix just the right tone of color, when to sweep it on, when to switch for the fine, fine details.

How to create that light, that shadow so one might feel as if he or she could slip inside, walk that path, and find home at the end of it.

But even as she painted, tears began to run down her cheeks. “It’s not real.”

“It could be.”

The brush clattered to the floor, splattering paint, as she whirled.

He stood beside her, with the sun’s rays flooding over him. And still he was dark. His hair, black and glossy, spread like wings to his shoulders. His eyes were a strong stone gray. Sharp, high cheekbones hollowed his cheeks, and his mouth was full, appealingly wicked.

Beautiful, she thought. How could he be beautiful?

“Did you think I’d look like a demon? Like something out of a nightmare?” His amusement only added charm. “Why should I? They’ve made you think poorly of me, haven’t they?”

“You’re Kane.” Fear was alive in her, with its cold hands closing around her throat. “You stole the souls from the Daughters of Glass.”

“It needn’t concern you.” His voice was beautiful as well. Melodic, soothing. “You’re an ordinary woman in an ordinary world. You know nothing of me or mine. I wish you no harm. The opposite, in fact.” With a dancer’s grace, he wandered the room, his soft boots silent on the paint-splattered floor. “This is your work.”

“No.”

“Oh, yes, you know it.” He lifted a canvas, studied the sinuous lines of a mermaid lounging on a rock. “You remember painting this, and the others. You know now how it feels to have that power. Art makes gods out of men.” He set the canvas down again. “Or women. What are we, in my world, but artists and bards, magicians and warriors? You want to keep the power, Malory?”

She swiped at the tears, saw her work through them. “Yes.”

“You can have it, all of it, and more. The man you want, the life, the family. I’ll give them to you. The child you held in your arms? It can all be real, it can all belong to you.”

“At what price?”

“So little.” He slid a finger over her damp cheek, and the tear he stole flamed on its tip. “So very little. You’ve only to stay within this dream. To wake and sleep within it, to walk, to speak, to eat, to love. All you can wish for will be here for you. Perfection—without pain, without death.”

She let out a shuddering breath. “There are no keys in this dream.”

“You’re a clever woman. Why care about keys, about bastard goddesses who have nothing to do with you? Why risk yourself and those you love for foolish girls who should never have been born? Would you give up your own dream for strangers?”

“I don’t want a dream. I want my life. I won’t trade my life for your illusions.”

His skin went white, his eyes black. “Then lose all!”

She screamed as he reached for her, and again when the cold speared through her. Then she was pulled clear, tumbled free, to wake gasping in her own bed.

She heard the banging on the door, the shouting. Terror leaped out of bed with her. She made it to the living room at a stumbling run and spotted Flynn on the other side of her patio doors, about to smash one of her chairs through the glass.

He tossed it aside as she unlocked the door, shoved it open.

“Who’s in here?” He grabbed her shoulders, lifted her right off her feet, and set her out of his way. “Who hurt you?”

“Nobody’s here.”

“You were screaming. I heard you screaming.” He strode into the bedroom, fists ready.

“I had a nightmare. It was just a bad dream. No one’s here but me. I have to sit down.” She braced a hand on the couch, lowered herself.

His own legs felt a little shaky. She’d screamed as if something was tearing her to pieces. He’d had a good taste of terror the night before, but it had been nothing compared to what had pumped into him on the other side of that glass door.

He marched into the kitchen, poured a glass of water. “Here, drink some. Take it slow.”

“I’ll be okay in a minute. I woke up, and you were pounding and shouting. Everything’s still confused.”

“You’re trembling.” He glanced around, spotted a chenille throw. Wrapping it around her shoulders, he sat on the couch beside her. “Tell me about the dream.”

She shook her head. “No. I don’t want to talk about it, or think about it right now. I just want to be alone for a while. I don’t want you here.”

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