Home > Key of Knowledge (Key Trilogy #2)(9)

Key of Knowledge (Key Trilogy #2)(9)
Author: Nora Roberts

She laughed, drank. “Later on, he told me he’d had the same sort of reaction. Whoa, hold on, this is Flynn’s little sister. Hands off. So we danced around those bombs and each other for a couple of months. We were either bitchy with each other or very, very polite.”

“And then?” Malory prompted when Dana fell silent.

“Then one night he dropped by to see Flynn, but Flynn was out on a date. And my parents weren’t home. I picked a fight with him. I had to do something with all that heat. The next thing you know the two of us are rolling around on the living room rug. We couldn’t get enough of each other. I’ve never had that before or since, that . . . desperation. It was incredible.

“Imagine our chagrin when the smoke cleared and the two of us were naked on Liz and Joe’s pretty Oriental carpet.”

“How did you handle it?”

“Well, as I recall we lay there like the dead for a minute, then just stared at each other. A couple of survivors of a very intense war. Then we laughed our butts off and went at each other again.”

She lifted her glass in a mock toast. “So. We started dating, belatedly. Jordan and Dana, Dana and Jordan. It got to be like one word, whichever way you said it.”

Oh, God, she missed that, she realized. Missed that very intimate link. “Nobody ever made me laugh the way he could make me laugh. And he’s the only man in my life who’s ever made me cry. So, yeah, Christ, yes, I loved that son of a bitch.”

“What happened?”

“Little things, huge things. His mother died. God, nothing’s ever been as, well, monstrous as that. Even when my dad got sick, it wasn’t as bad. Ovarian cancer, and they found it too late. The operations, the treatments, the prayers, nothing worked. She just kept slipping away. Having someone die is hard,” she said softly. “Watching them die by inches is impossible.”

“I can’t imagine it.” Malory’s eyes filled with tears. “I’ve never lost anyone.”

“I don’t remember losing my mother; I was too young. But I remember every day of losing Mrs. Hawke. Maybe it broke something in Jordan. I don’t know—he wouldn’t let me know. After she died, he sold their little house, all the furniture, just about every damn thing. And he cut me loose and moved to New York to get rich and famous.”

“It wasn’t as cut and dried as that,” Malory commented.

“Maybe not. But it felt like it. He said he had to go. That he needed something, and it wasn’t here. If he was going to write—and he had to write—he had to do it his way. He had to get out of the Valley. So that’s what he did, like the two years we were together was just a little interlude in his life.”

She downed the rest of the wine in her glass. “So f**k him, and the bestsellers he rode in on.”

“You may not want to hear this, at least not now. But part of the solution might be to resolve this with him.”

“Resolve what?”

“Dana.” Malory laid both of her hands on Dana’s. “You’re still in love with him.”

Her hands jerked. “I am not. I made a life for myself. I’ve had lovers. I have a career—which, okay, is in the toilet right now, but I’ve got a phoenix about to rise from the ashes in the bookstore.”

She stopped, hearing the way her words tumbled out. “No more wine for me if I mix metaphors that pitifully. Jordan Hawke’s old news,” she said more calmly. “Just because he was the first man I loved doesn’t mean he has to be the last. I’d rather poke my eye with a burning stick than give him the satisfaction.”

“I know.” Malory laughed a little, gave Dana’s hands a squeeze before she released them. “That’s how I know you’re still in love with him. That, and what I just saw on your face, heard in your voice when you took me through what you had together.”

It was appalling. How had she looked? How had she sounded? “So the wine made me sentimental. It doesn’t mean—”

“It means whatever it means,” Malory said briskly. “It’s something you’re going to have to think about, Dana, something you’re going to have to weigh carefully if you really mean to do this thing. Because one way or the other, he’s part of your life, and he’s part of this.”

“I don’t want him to be,” Dana managed. “But if he is, I’ll deal with it. There’s too much at stake for me to wimp out before I even get started.”

“That’s the spirit. I’ve got to get home.”

She rose, then ran a comforting hand over Dana’s hair. “Whatever you’re feeling or thinking, you can tell me. And Zoe. And if there’s something you need to say, if you just need someone to be here when you have nothing to say, all you have to do is call.”

Dana nodded, waited until Malory was at the door. “Mal? It was like having a hole punched in my heart when he left. One hole ought to be enough for anybody’s lifetime.”

“You’d think. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Chapter Three

THE odds of finding a magic key tucked in one of the thousands of books at the Pleasant Valley Library were long and daunting. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t look.

In any case, she liked being in the stacks, surrounded by books. She could, if she let her mind open to it, hear the words murmuring from them. All those voices from people who lived in worlds both fantastic and ordinary. She could, simply by slipping a book off the shelf, slide right into one of those worlds and become anyone who lived inside it.

Magic keys and soul-sucking sorcerers, Dana thought. Incredible as they might be, they paled for her against the power of words on a page.

But she wasn’t here to play, she reminded herself as she began dutifully tidying the stacks while keeping an eye on the resource desk a few feet away. This was an experiment. Maybe she would put her fingers on a book and feel something—a tingle, a hint of heat.

Who knew?

But she worked her way through the mythology stacks without experiencing any tingles.

Undaunted, she wandered to the section of books on ancient civilizations. The past, she told herself. The Daughters of Glass had sprung from the ancients. Well, who hadn’t?

She worked diligently for a time, reordering books that had been misplaced. She knew better, really she did, than to actually open the volume on ancient Britain, but it was suddenly in her hand, and there was this section on stone circles that swept her onto windy moors at moonrise.

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