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The Novels of Nora Roberts, Volume 4

Nora Roberts

  The Novels of Nora Roberts, Volume 4

  Blue Smoke

  Angels Fall

  High Noon


  Nora Roberts

  Nora Roberts

  Hot Ice

  Sacred Sins

  Brazen Virtue

  Sweet Revenge

  Public Secrets

  Genuine Lies

  Carnal Innocence

  Divine Evil

  Honest Illusions

  Private Scandals

  Hidden Riches

  True Betrayals

  Montana Sky



  The Reef

  River’s End

  Carolina Moon

  The Villa

  Midnight Bayou

  Three Fates


  Northern Lights

  Blue Smoke

  Angels Fall

  High Noon


  Black Hills

  The Search

  Chasing Fire



  Born in Fire

  Born in Ice

  Born in Shame


  Daring to Dream

  Holding the Dream

  Finding the Dream


  Sea Swept

  Rising Tides

  Inner Harbor

  Chesapeake Blue


  Jewels of the Sun

  Tears of the Moon

  Heart of the Sea


  Dance Upon the Air

  Heaven and Earth

  Face the Fire


  Key of Light

  Key of Knowledge

  Key of Valor


  Blue Dahlia

  Black Rose

  Red Lily


  Morrigan’s Cross

  Dance of the Gods

  Valley of Silence


  Blood Brothers

  The Hollow

  The Pagan Stone


  Vision in White

  Bed of Roses

  Savor the Moment

  Happy Ever After

  Nora Roberts & J. D. Robb

  Remember When

  J. D. Robb

  Naked in Death

  Glory in Death

  Immortal in Death

  Rapture in Death

  Ceremony in Death

  Vengeance in Death

  Holiday in Death

  Conspiracy in Death

  Loyalty in Death

  Witness in Death

  Judgment in Death

  Betrayal in Death

  Seduction in Death

  Reunion in Death

  Purity in Death

  Portrait in Death

  Imitation in Death

  Divided in Death

  Visions in Death

  Survivor in Death

  Origin in Death

  Memory in Death

  Born in Death

  Innocent in Death

  Creation in Death

  Strangers in Death

  Salvation in Death

  Promises in Death

  Kindred in Death

  Fantasy in Death

  Indulgence in Death

  Treachery in Death


  From the Heart

  A Little Magic

  A Little Fate

  Moon Shadows

  (with Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Marianne Willman)


  (with Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Marianne Willman)

  Once Upon a Castle

  Once Upon a Star

  Once Upon a Dream

  Once Upon a Rose

  Once Upon a Kiss

  Once Upon a Midnight

  Silent Night

  (with Susan Plunkett, Dee Holmes, and Claire Cross)

  Out of This World

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Susan Krinard, and Maggie Shayne)

  Bump in the Night

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  Dead of Night

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  Three in Death

  Suite 606

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  In Death

  The Lost

  (with Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, and Ruth Ryan Langan)

  The Other Side

  (with Mary Blaney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  Also available…

  The Official Nora Roberts Companion

  (edited by Denise Little and Laura Hayden)

  Table of Contents

  Blue Smoke

  Angels Fall

  High Noon


  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Blue Smoke

  A G. P. Putnam’s Sons Book / published by arrangement with the author

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 2005 by Nora Roberts

  This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

  For information address:

  The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is

  ISBN: 1-101-14677-X


  G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books first published by The G. P. Putnam’s Sons Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS and the “P” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

  Electronic edition: November, 2005

  For my own Carpenter Guy






































  The specific location at which a fire was ignited.

  Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.

  William Shakespeare


  Fire became in heat and smoke and light. Like some preternatural beast clawing its way from the womb, it burst to life with a cackle that rose to a roar.

  And changed everything in one magnificent instant.

  Like that b
east, it slithered, snaked its way over wood, and scored what had been clean and bright with its black and powerful fingers.

  It had eyes, red and all seeing, and a mind so brilliant, so complete, it memorized everything in its orbit.

  He saw it as a kind of entity, a gilded, crimson god that existed only to destroy. And it took what it wanted without remorse, without mercy. With such ardor.

  Everything fell before it, kneeling supplicants that worshipped even as they were consumed.

  But he had made it, created it. So he was the god of fire. More powerful than the flames, more canny than the heat, more stunning than the smoke.

  It hadn’t lived until he gave it breath.

  Watching it become, he fell in love.

  The light flickered over his face, danced in his fascinated eyes. He took a beer, savored its sharp coolness in his throat as his skin streamed with the heat.

  There was excitement in his belly, wonder in his mind. Possibilities flashing through his imagination as the fire streaked up the walls.

  It was beautiful. It was strong. It was fun.

  Watching it become, he became. And his destiny was scored into him, branding heart and soul.



  Catarina Hale’s childhood ended on a steamy August night a few hours after the Orioles demolished the Rangers at Memorial Stadium, kicking their Texas butts—as her dad said—nine to one. Her parents had taken a rare night off to haul the whole family to the game, which made the win all the sweeter. Most nights one of them, often both, put in long hours at Sirico’s, the pizzeria they’d taken over from her mother’s father. And the place where, eighteen years before, her parents had met. Her mother, a young, vibrant eighteen—so the story went—when the twenty-year-old Gibson Hale had swaggered in for a slice.

  Went in for pizza, he liked to say, and got myself an Italian goddess.

  Her father talked weird that way, a lot. But Reena liked to hear it.

  Got himself a pizzeria, too, ten years later when Poppi and Nuni decided it was time to put their traveling shoes on. Bianca, the youngest of five and their only daughter, took it over with her Gib as none of her brothers wanted the place.

  Sirico’s had stood in the same spot in Baltimore’s Little Italy for over forty-three years. Which was even older than Reena’s father, a fact that amazed her. Now her father—who didn’t have even a single drop of Italian blood in his whole body—ran the place, along with her mother—who was Italian all the way through to the bone.

  Sirico’s was almost always busy, and a lot of work, but Reena didn’t mind, even when she had to help. Her older sister, Isabella, complained because sometimes she had to work there on Saturday nights instead of going out on a date, or with her friends. But Bella complained almost all the time anyway.

  She especially complained that their oldest sister, Francesca, had her own bedroom on the third floor while she had to share with Reena. Xander got his own room, too, because he was the only boy even though he was the youngest.

  Sharing with Bella had been okay, it had even been fun until Bella got to be a teenager and decided she was too old to do anything but talk about boys or read fashion magazines or play with her hair.

  Reena was eleven and five-sixths. The five-sixths was an essential addition because it meant she had only fourteen months until she was a teenager. This was currently her most fervent ambition, overtaking previous ambitions such as becoming a nun or marrying Tom Cruise.

  On this hot and heavy August night when Reena was eleven and five-sixths, she awoke in the dark with hard, cramping pains in her belly. She curled up, trying to make herself into a ball and biting her lip to hold back a moan. Across the room, as far as could be managed now that Bella was fourteen and more interested in having big hair than in being a big sister, Bella snored gently.

  Reena rubbed at the ache and thought of the hot dogs and popcorn and candy she’d gobbled up at the ball game. Her mother told her she’d be sorry.

  Couldn’t her mother be wrong, even once?

  She tried to offer it up, like the nuns were always saying, so some poor sinner could benefit from her bellyache. But it just hurt!

  Maybe it wasn’t from the hot dogs. Maybe it was from when Joey Pastorelli hit her in the stomach. He’d gotten in bad trouble for it. For knocking her down and ripping her shirt and calling her a name she didn’t understand. Mr. Pastorelli and her father had gotten into a fight when her dad went to his house to “discuss the situation.”

  She’d heard them yelling at each other. Her father never yelled—well, hardly ever yelled. Her mother was the yeller because she was one hundred percent Italian and had a temper.

  But boy had he yelled at Mr. Pastorelli. And he’d hugged her so hard when he got home.

  And they’d gone to the ball game.

  Maybe she was being punished for being glad Joey Pastorelli was going to get punished. And being a little glad he’d knocked her down and torn her shirt because then they’d gone to the game and watched the O’s stomp all over the Rangers.

  Or maybe she had internal injuries.

  She knew you could get internal injuries and even die because she’d seen it on Emergency!, one of her and Xander’s favorite shows.

  The thought brought on another vicious cramp that had her eyes welling with tears. She started to get out of bed—she wanted her mother—and felt something wet between her thighs.

  Sniffling, embarrassed she might have wet her pants like a baby, she crept out of the bedroom, down the hall toward the bathroom. She stepped inside the room with its pink tub and tiles and pulled up her Ghostbusters T-shirt.

  Hot waves of fear rolled through her as she stared at the blood on her thighs. She was dying. Her ears began to ring. When the next cramp seized her belly, she opened her mouth to scream.

  And understood.

  Not dying, she thought. Not suffering from internal injuries. She had her period. She was having her first period.

  Her mother had explained it all, about the eggs, and cycles and about becoming a woman. Both her sisters had periods every month, and so did her mother.

  There was Kotex in the cabinet under the sink. Mama had shown her how to use it, and she’d locked herself in one day to practice. She cleaned herself up and tried not to be a sissy about it. It wasn’t the blood that bothered her so much, but where it came from was pretty gross.

  But she was grown-up now, grown-up enough to take care of what her mama told her was a natural thing, a female thing.

  Because she was no longer sleepy, and she was now a woman, she decided to go down to the kitchen and have some ginger ale. It was so hot in the house—dog days, Dad called them. And she had so much to think about now that she’d become. She took her glass outside, to sit and sip and think on the white marble steps.

  It was quiet enough that she heard the Pastorellis’ dog bark in that hard, coughing way he had. And the streetlights were glowing. It made her feel like she was the only one in the world who was awake. For right now, she was the only one in the world who knew what had happened inside her body.

  She sipped her drink and thought about what it would be like going back to school next month. How many of the girls had gotten their period over the summer.

  She would start to get breasts now. She looked down at her chest and wondered what that would be like. What it would feel like. You didn’t feel your hair grow, or your fingernails, but maybe you could feel breasts growing.

  Weird, but interesting.

  If they’d start to grow now, she’d have them by the time she was finally a teenager.

  She sat on the marble steps, a still flat-chested girl with a tender tummy. Her crop of honey-blond hair going frizzy in the humidity, her long-lidded tawny eyes getting heavy. There was a little mole just above the right corner of her top lip, and braces on her teeth.

  On that sultry night the present seemed absolutely safe, the future a misty dream.

  She yawned once, blinked sl
eepily. As she rose to go back in, her gaze swept down the street toward Sirico’s, where it had stood since even before her father was born. At first she thought the flickering light she saw in the big front window was some kind of reflection, and she thought, Pretty.

  Her lips curved as she continued to study it, then her head cocked in puzzlement. It didn’t really look like a reflection, or like someone had forgotten to turn off all the lights at closing.

  Curious, she stepped down to the sidewalk, the glass still in her hand.

  Too intrigued to consider just how her mother would skin her for walking out alone in the middle of the night, even on her own block, Reena wandered down the sidewalk.

  And her heart began to thud when what she saw began to filter through the dreamy sleepiness. Smoke poured out the front door, a door that wasn’t closed. The lights she saw were flames.

  “Fire.” She whispered it first, then screamed it as she ran back to the house and flew through the front door.

  She would never forget it, not for all of her life, standing with her family while Sirico’s burned. The roar of the fire as it stabbed through broken windows, shot up in quick gold towers, was a constant thrum in her ears. There were sirens screaming, whooshing gusts of water pumping out of the big hoses, weeping and shouting. But the sound of the fire, the voice of it, overpowered everything else.

  She could feel it inside her belly, the fire, like the cramping. The wonder and horror, the awful beauty of it, pulsed there.

  What was it like inside the fire, inside where the firemen went? Hot and dark? Thick and bright? Some of the flames looked like big tongues, lapping out, curling back like they could taste what they burned.

  Smoke rolled, pluming out, rising. It stung her eyes, her nose, even as the whirling dance of flame dazzled her eyes. Her feet were still bare, and the asphalt felt like heated coals. But she couldn’t step away, couldn’t take her eyes off the spectacle, like some mad and ferocious circus.

  Something exploded, and there were more screams in response. Firemen in helmets, faces blackened by the smoke and ash, moved like ghosts in the haze of smoke. Like soldiers, she thought. It sounded like a war movie.

  And yet even the water sparkled as it flew through the air.