Key of Light Page 77

She studied the little blue stone again. Maybe it would work. She’d accepted bigger things than having a piece of rock under her pillow as the cure for the insomnia that was plaguing her.

Or maybe she hadn’t. Maybe she really hadn’t accepted any of it, not in that deep-down way Dana spoke of. She was exhausted, yet she wasn’t putting the stone under her pillow and letting herself try.

She claimed to love Flynn, yet she was waiting, tucking a small part of herself safely away and waiting for the feeling to pass. And at the same time, she was annoyed and hurt that he didn’t simply fall over in love with her and even things out.

After all, how could she keep her balance, outline plans, and keep it all tidy if everything between them wasn’t equal?

Everything belongs in its place, doesn’t it? Everything has its slot. And if it doesn’t fit just right, well, you’re not the one who’s going to change. That’s up to the other guy.

With a sigh, she dropped down on the couch. She’d pursued a career in art like a demon because while fate hadn’t cooperated by giving her talent, she wasn’t about to admit that all those years of study and work had been wasted.

She made it fit.

She’d stayed at The Gallery because it was comfortable, because it was sensible and convenient. She’d made noise about striking out on her own one day. But she hadn’t meant it. Too big a risk, too messy. If Pamela hadn’t come along, she would still be at The Gallery.

And why did she resent Pamela with every fiber of her being? All right, the woman was pushy and had all the taste of overcooked trout, but a more flexible woman than Malory Price would’ve found a way around that. She resented Pamela primarily because she’d shifted the balance, she’d changed the lines.

She just hadn’t fit.

Now there was the business she and Dana and Zoe were starting. She’d been the one to drag her feet on that. Oh, she’d come through in the end, but how many times had she questioned that decision since? How many times had she considered backing out because it was too hard to see how it could all be neatly done?

And she hadn’t moved forward on it. Hadn’t gone back to the property or made any plans, put out any feelers for artists and craftspeople.

Hell, she hadn’t even mailed off the application for her business license. Because once she did, she was committed.

She was using the key as an excuse not to take the final step. Oh, she was looking for it, giving the quest her time and her energy. One thing she took seriously was responsibility.

But here and now, alone and awake at three in the morning, it was time to admit one undeniable fact. Her life may have changed in a dozen strange and fascinating ways in three weeks’ time, but she hadn’t changed at all.

She put the stone under her pillow. “There’s still time,” she murmured, and curled up to sleep.

Chapter Eighteen


WHEN she woke, the apartment was silent as a tomb. She lay still a moment, studying the lance of light that sneaked through the chink in the patio drapes and onto her floor.

Morning, she thought. Full morning. She didn’t remember falling asleep. Better, much, much better, she didn’t remember tossing and turning and worrying about sleep.

Slowly, she slid a hand under her pillow, feeling for the stone. She frowned, groping now, then sat up to lift the pillow. There was no stone under it. She searched under the cushions, on the floor, under the couch, before sitting down again with a huff of confusion.

Stones didn’t just disappear.

Or maybe they did. When they’d served their purpose. She’d slept and slept well, hadn’t she? Just as promised. In fact, she felt wonderful. As if she’d had a nice, relaxing vacation.

“Okay, thanks, Rowena.”

She stretched out her arms, took a deep breath. And drew in the unmistakable scent of coffee.

Unless the gift included morning coffee, someone else was up.

She walked into the kitchen and found a pleasant surprise.

Zoe’s coffee cake was on the counter, set on a pretty plate and protected with Saran Wrap. The coffeepot was on warm and was three-quarters full, and the morning paper was neatly folded and placed between.

Malory picked up the note tucked under the cake plate and read Zoe’s somewhat exotic mix of cursive and printing.

Good morning! Had to get going—have a teacher’s conference at ten.

Ten, Malory thought with an absent glance at the kitchen clock. Her mouth fell open when she saw that it was nearly eleven.

“That can’t be right. Can it?”

Didn’t want to wake either of you, tried to be quiet.

“You must move like a ghost,” Malory said aloud.

Dana’s got to be at work at two. Just in case, I set the alarm clock in your room for her. Set it for noon so she wouldn’t have to rush and would have time for breakfast.

I had the best time. Just wanted to tell you, both of you, that whatever happens I’m so glad I found you. Or we found each other. However it worked, I’m just really grateful you’re my friends.

Maybe next time we can get together at my place.

Love, Zoe.

“Looks like it’s a day for gifts.” Smiling, Malory set the note down where Dana would find it, too. Hoping to extend her good mood, she cut a sliver of cake, poured the coffee. She arranged them on a tray, added the paper and a small glass of juice, then carried it all out to her patio.

Fall was teasing the air. She’d always enjoyed the faint, smoky scent that autumn brought with it when the leaves began to take on hints of the vibrant colors to come.

She needed to pick up some potted mums, she noted as she broke off a piece of coffee cake. She was behind schedule on that. And some pumpkins and gourds for festive arrangements. She would gather some leaves, the maple ones once they’d turned scarlet.

She could pick up some extra things and do something fun for Flynn’s front porch.

She sipped coffee while she skimmed the front page. Reading the morning paper was a different experience now that she’d met Flynn. She liked wondering how he decided what went where and how he juggled it all—stories, ads, pictures, typeface, tone—and made it one cohesive whole.

She nibbled and sipped her way through, then felt her heart give a quick jolt when she came to his column.

Odd, wasn’t it, that she’d seen it before. Week after week. What had she thought? she wondered. Cute guy, nice eyes, or something just that casual and forgettable. She’d read his column, had either agreed or disagreed. She hadn’t taken any notice of the work and effort he put into it, what turned his mind to whatever subject he wrote about that week.

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