Home > Key of Knowledge (Key Trilogy #2)

Key of Knowledge (Key Trilogy #2)
Author: Nora Roberts

Chapter One

DANA Steele considered herself a flexible, open-minded woman, with no less than her fair share of patience, tolerance, and humor.

A number of people might have disagreed with this self-portrait.

But what did they know?

In one month’s time, her life had, through no fault of her own, taken a sharp turn off its course and into territory so strange and uncharted she couldn’t explain the route or the reason even to herself.

But wasn’t she going with the flow?

She’d taken it on the chin when Joan, the malicious library director, had promoted her own niece by marriage over other, more qualified, more dependable, more astute, and certainly more attractive candidates. She’d sucked it up, hadn’t she, and done her job?

And when that completely undeserved promotion had caused a squeeze resulting in a certain more qualified employee’s hours and paycheck being cut to the bone, had she pummeled the despicable Joan and the incessantly pert Sandi to bloody pulps?

No, she had not. Which in Dana’s mind illustrated her exquisite restraint.

When her greedy bloodsucker of a landlord raised her rent to coincide with her pay cut, had she clamped her hands around his scrawny neck and squeezed until his beady eyes popped?

Again, she had demonstrated control of heroic proportions.

Those virtues might’ve been their own reward, but Dana enjoyed more tangible benefits.

Whoever had come up with that business about a door opening when a window closes hadn’t known much about Celtic gods. Dana’s door hadn’t opened. It had been blown clean off its hinges.

Even with all she’d seen and done, with all she’d been a part of over the last four weeks, it was hard to believe that she was now stretched out in the backseat of her brother’s car, once again heading up the steep, winding road to the great stone house of Warrior’s Peak.

And what waited for her there.

It wasn’t storming, as it had been on her first trip to the Peak after receiving that intriguing invitation for “cocktails and conversation” from Rowena and Pitte—an invitation that had gone out to only two other women. And she wasn’t alone. And this time, she thought, she knew exactly what she was in for.

Idly, she opened the notebook she’d brought along and read the summary she’d written of the story she’d heard on her first visit to Warrior’s Peak.

The young Celtic god who would be king falls for a human girl during his traditional sojourn in the mortal dimension. (Which I relate to spring break.) Young stud’s parents indulge him, break the rules and allow him to bring the maid behind what’s called either Curtain of Dreams or Curtain of Power, and into the realm of the gods.

This is cool with some of the gods, but pisses others off.

War, strife, politics, intrigue follow.

Young god becomes king, makes human wife queen. They have three daughters.

Each daughter—demigoddess—has a specific talent or gift. One is art, or beauty, the second is knowledge or truth, the third is courage or valor.

Sisters are close and happy and grow to young womanhood, tra-la-la, under the watchful eye of the female teacher and the male warrior guardian given the task by god-king.

Teacher and warrior fall in love, which blinds the eye enough that it isn’t kept sharp on the daughters.

Meanwhile, bad guys are plotting away. They don’t take to human or half-human types in their rarefied world, especially in positions of power. Dark forces go to work. A particularly evil-minded sorcerer (probably related to Library Joan) takes charge. A spell is cast on the daughters while teacher and warrior are starry-eyed. The daughters’souls are stolen, locked in a glass box, known as the Box of Souls, which can only be opened by three keys turned by human hands. Although the gods know where to find the keys, none of them can break the spell or free the souls.

Teacher and warrior are cast out, sent through the Curtain of Dreams into the mortal world. There, in each generation three human women are born who have the means to find the keys and end the curse. Teacher and warrior must find the women, and these women must be given the choice of accepting the quest or rejecting it.

Each, in turn, has one moon phase to find a key. If the first fails, game over. And not without penalty—each would lose an undisclosed year of her life. If she succeeds, the second woman takes up the quest, and so on. An annoyingly cryptic clue—the only help teacher and warrior are allowed to give the three lucky women—is revealed at the start of the four-week cycle.

If the quest is completed, the Box of Souls will be opened and the Daughters of Glass freed. And the three women will each be awarded a cool one million dollars.

A pretty story, Dana mused, until you understood it wasn’t a story but fact. Until you understood you were one of the three women who had the means to unlock the Box of Souls.

Then it just got weird.

Add in some dark, powerful sorcerer god named Kane who really wanted you to fail and could make you see things that weren’t there—and not see things that were—and the whole business took on a real edge.

But there were good parts too. That first night she’d met two women who had turned out to be really interesting people, and soon she felt as though she’d known them all her life. Well enough, Dana reminded herself, that the three of them were going into business together.

And one of them had turned out to be the love of her brother’s life.

Malory Price, the organized soul with the artist’s heart, not only had outwitted a sorcerer with a few thousand years under his belt but had found the key, opened the lock, and bagged the guy.

All in less than four weeks.

It was going to be hard for Dana and their pal Zoe to top that one.

Then again, Dana reminded herself, she and Zoe didn’t have the distraction of romance to clog the works. And she didn’t have a kid to worry about, as Zoe did.

Nope, Dana Steele was footloose and fancy-free, with nothing to pull her focus away from the prize.

If she was next at bat, Kane had better set for the long ball.

Not that she had anything against romance, she mused, letting the notebook close as she watched the blaze and blur of trees through the window. She liked men.

Well, most men.

She’d even been in love with one, a million years ago. Of course, that had been a result of youthful stupidity. She was much wiser now.

Jordan Hawke might have come back to Pleasant Valley, temporarily, a few weeks ago, and he might have wheedled his way into being part of the quest. But he wasn’t a part of Dana’s world any longer.

   
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