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From the Heart

Nora Roberts

  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.


  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 1996 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: 1-101-14627-3


  Jove Books first published by The Jove Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  Jove and the “J” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

  Electronic edition: May, 2002

  Titles by Nora Roberts



















  FROM THE HEART (anthology)







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


  in hardcover from G. P. Putnam’s Sons


  in hardcover from G. P. Putnam’s Sons

  Titles written as J. D. Robb









  (anthology with Susan Plunkett,

  Dee Holmes, and Claire Cross)

  To my parents who’ve proven

  through sixty years of marriage

  that love never goes out of style.

  Thanks for being mine.


  Tonight and Always

















  A Matter of Choice














  Endings and Beginnings

















  It was dusk, that strange, almost mystical interlude when light and dark are perfectly balanced. Within moments the soft blue would be transformed by the fiery colors of sunset. Shadows were lengthening; birds were quieting.

  Kasey stood at the foot of the steps leading to the Taylor mansion. She glanced up at the massive white pillars and old rose brick with huge expanses of plate glass. Three stories. Here and there lights shone dimly through drawn drapes. There was a monied dignity about the place. Old money, inherent dignity.

  Intimidating, she thought, letting her eyes roam up and down again. But it did have a certain style. Under the cover of dusk the house looked serene.

  Lifting a large brass knocker, she thudded it against the thick oak door. The noise boomed into the twilight. She smiled at the sound, then turned to watch the colors bleed slowly into the sky. Already it was more night than day. Behind her the door opened. Turning back, Kasey saw a small, dark woman dressed in a black uniform and white apron.

  Just like the movies, she decided, and smiled again. This just might be an adventure after all.


  “Good evening, ma’am.” The maid spoke politely and stood in the center of the doorway like a palace guard.

  “Good evening,” Kasey said, amused. “I believe Mr. Taylor’s expecting me.”

  “Miss Wyatt?” Dubiously, the maid scanned her. She made no move to admit her. “I believe Mr. Taylor is expecting you tomorrow.”

  “Yes, well, I’m here tonight.” Still smiling, she strode past the maid and into the main hall. “You might want to let him know I’m here,” she suggested and turned to stare at a three-tiered chandelier that dripped light onto the carpet.

  Watching Kasey warily, the maid shut the door. “If you would just wait here.” She indicated a Louis XVI chair. “I’ll inform Mr. Taylor of your arrival.”

  “Thank you.” Her attention was already caught by a Rembrandt self-portrait. The maid moved soundlessly away.

  Kasey studied the Rembrandt and went on to the next painting. Renoir. The place is like a museum, she decided, then continued to move idly down the hall, viewing paintings as she would in an art gallery. To Kasey, such works of art were public property—to be respected, admired and most of all, seen. I wonder if anybody really lives here, she thought and flicked a finger over a thick, gold frame.

  The murmur of voices caught her attention. Instinctively, she drifted toward the sound.

  “She is one of the leading authorities on American Indian culture, Jordan. Her last paper was highly acclaimed. Being only twenty-five, she’s rather a phenomenon in anthropological circles.”

  “I’m well aware of that, Harry, or I wouldn’t have agreed with your suggestion that she collaborate with me on this book.” Jordan Taylor swirled a pre-dinner martini. He drank slowly, contemplatively. The drink was dry and perfect, with only a hint of vermouth. “I do find myself wondering how we’re going to get on over the next few months. Professional spinsters are intimidating, and not my favorite companions.”

  “You’re not looking for a companion, Jordan,” the other man reminded him and plucked the olive from his own glass. “You’re looking for an expert on American Indian culture. That’s what you’re getting.” He swallowed the olive. “Companions can be distracting.”

  With a grimace, Jordan Taylor set down his glass. He was restless without knowing why. “I hardly think I’ll find your Miss Wyatt a distraction.” He slipped his hands into the pockets of his perfectly tailored slacks and watched his companion polish off the martini. “I have a composite picture: mud-colored hair scraped back from a bony face, thick glasses with three-inch lenses perched on a prominent nose. Sensible suits to accent her lack of shape, and size ten orthopedic shoes.”

  “Size six.”

  Both men turned to the doorway and stared.

  “Hello, Mr. Taylor.” Kasey e
ntered. Crossing the room, she extended her hand to Jordan. “And you must be Dr. Rhodes. We’ve done quite a bit of corresponding over the past weeks, haven’t we? I’m glad to meet you.”

  “Yes, well. I . . .” Harry’s thick brows lowered.

  “I’m Kathleen Wyatt.” She gave him a dazzling smile before turning back to Jordan. “As you can see, I don’t scrape back my hair. It probably wouldn’t stay scraped back if I tried.” She tugged on one of the loose curls that surrounded her face.

  “And rather than mud-colored,” she continued smoothly, “this shade is generally known as strawberry blond. My face isn’t particularly bony, though I do have rather nice cheekbones. Have you got a light?”

  She rummaged through her purse for a cigarette, then looked expectantly at Harry Rhodes. He fumbled in his pocket and found his lighter. “Thanks. Where was I? Oh, yes,” she continued before either man could speak. “I do wear glasses for reading—when I can find them—but I doubt that’s quite what you meant, is it? Let’s see, what else can I tell you? Can I sit down? My feet are killing me.” Without waiting for a reply, she chose a gold brocade chair. She paused and flicked her cigarette in a crystal ashtray. “You already know my shoe size.” Sitting back in the chair, she regarded Jordan Taylor with direct green eyes.

  “Well, Miss Wyatt,” he said at length. “I don’t know whether to apologize or applaud.”

  “I’d rather have a drink. Do you have any tequila?”

  With a nod, he moved to the bar. “I don’t believe we do; would vermouth do?”

  “That would do fine, thank you.”

  Kasey surveyed the room. It was large and perfectly square with rich paneling and heavily brocaded furnishings. An intricately carved marble fireplace dominated one wall. Dresden porcelain reflected in a wide, mahogany-framed mirror above it. The carpet was thick, the drapes heavy.

  Too formal, she thought, observing the structured elegance. She would have preferred the drapes opened wide, or better yet, removed completely and replaced with something a bit less somber. There was probably a beautiful hardwood floor under the carpeting.

  “Miss Wyatt.” Jordan brought her attention back to him as he handed her a glass. Each one curious about the other, their eyes met, then a movement in the doorway distracted their attention.

  “Jordan, Millicent tells me that Miss Wyatt has arrived, but she must have wandered—oh.” The woman who glided into the room halted as she spotted Kasey. “You’re Kathleen Wyatt?” With the same wariness the maid had shown, she surveyed the woman dressed in gray trousers and a brilliant peacock blue blouse.

  Kasey sipped and smiled. “Yes, I am.” She made her own survey of the elegantly groomed society matron. Jordan Taylor’s mother, Beatrice Taylor, was carefully made up, impeccably groomed and stylishly attired. Beatrice Taylor knew who and what she was, Kasey thought.

  “You must forgive the confusion, Miss Wyatt. We weren’t expecting you until sometime tomorrow.”

  “I got things organized more quickly than I expected,” Kasey said and sipped at her drink. “I caught an earlier flight.” She smiled again. “I didn’t see any point in wasting time.”

  “Of course.” Beatrice’s face creased for a moment in a frown. “Your room’s prepared.” She turned her eyes to her son. “I’ve put Miss Wyatt in the Regency Room.”

  “Adjoining Alison?” Jordan paused in the act of lighting a thin cigar and glanced at his mother.

  “Yes, I thought perhaps Miss Wyatt would enjoy the company. Alison is my granddaughter,” she explained to Kasey. “She’s been with us since my son and his wife were killed three years ago. She was only eight, poor dear.” Her attention shifted back to Jordan. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll see about your bags.”

  “Well.” Jordan took a seat on the sofa when his mother slipped from the room. “Perhaps we should discuss business for a moment.”

  “Of course.” Kasey finished off the vermouth and set the glass on the table beside her. “Do you like a strict routine—you know, designated hours? Nine to two, eight to ten. Or do you just like to flow?”

  “Flow?” Jordan repeated and glanced up at Harry.

  “You know. Flow.” She made a descriptive gesture with her hands.

  “Ah, flow.” Jordan nodded, amused. This was definitely not the straight-laced, low-key scientist of his imagination. “Why don’t we try a little of both?”

  “Good. I’d like to go over your outline tomorrow and get a better feel for what you have in mind. You can let me know what you want to concentrate on first.”

  Kasey studied Jordan for a moment as Harry fixed himself another martini. Very attractive, she decided, in a smooth, Wall Street sort of manner. Nice hair; warm brown with just a few light touches. He must get out of this museum now and then to get sunstreaked, she thought, but she doubted whether he was much of a beachcomber. She had always liked blue eyes in a man, and Jordan’s were very dark. And, she thought, very shrewd. A lean face. Good bones. She wondered if he had any Cheyenne blood in him. The skull structure was very similar. The sophisticated clothes and manners were offset by a certain sensuousness around the mouth. She liked the contrast. He was built like a tennis player, she mused. Good shoulders, trim, strong hands. His tailor was obviously exclusive and conservative. Too bad, she thought again.

  But watch out, she told herself, there’s a bit more here than meets the eye. She had a feeling there was a temper under the cool sophistication. She knew, from reading his books, that he was intelligent. The only fault she had found with his work was a certain coldness.

  “I’m sure we’ll work very well together, Mr. Taylor,” she said aloud. “I’m looking forward to getting started. You’re a fine writer.”

  “Thank you.”

  “Don’t thank me, I didn’t have anything to do with it.” She smiled.

  Jordan’s lips curved in instinctive response even as he wondered what he had gotten himself into.

  “I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to help you with your research,” she went on. “I suppose I really should thank you, Dr. Rhodes, for suggesting my name.” Her gaze shifted and locked on Harry.

  “Well, you, ah—your credentials—were impeccable.” Harry stammered as he tried to connect the Kathleen Wyatt whose papers he had read with the slim, curly haired whirlwind who was smiling at him. “You graduated magna cum laude from Maryland University?”

  “That’s right. I majored in anthropology at Maryland, then took my masters at Columbia. I worked with Dr. Spalding on his Colorado expedition. I believe it was my paper on that which brought me to your attention.”

  “Excuse me, sir.” The dark maid hovered in the doorway. “Miss Wyatt’s baggage has been taken to her room. Mrs. Taylor suggested that perhaps she would like to freshen up before dinner.”

  “I’ll skip dinner, thanks.” Kasey spoke to the maid directly, then turned back to Dr. Rhodes. “I will go up, though. Traveling tires me out. Good night, Dr. Rhodes. I suppose we’ll be seeing each other over the next few months. I’ll see you in the morning, Mr. Taylor.”

  She swept out as she had swept in, leaving both men staring after her.

  “Well, Harry.” Jordan thought he could all but feel the room settle back into order. “What was it you were saying about distractions?”

  After following the maid up the stairs, Kasey stood in the doorway of her room. Pale pinks and golds dominated the color scheme. Pink drapes hung against oyster white walls; pink and gold cushions graced ornately carved Regency chairs. There was a gold skirted vanity table and a large, plush-covered lounge in a deeper shade of rose. The bed was huge and canopied, complete with bed curtains and a pink satin spread.

  “Good grief,” she murmured and stepped across the threshold.

  “I beg your pardon, miss?”

  Kasey turned to the maid and smiled. “Nothing. This is quite a room.”

  “The bath is through here, Miss Wyatt. Would you care to have me draw you one now?”

my—no.” Kasey grinned, unable to do otherwise. “No, thank you—Millicent, right?”

  “Yes, miss. Very well, miss. If you require anything, just press nine on the house phone.” Millicent slipped noiselessly out the door, closing it carefully behind her.

  Kasey dropped her purse on the bed and began to explore the room.

  To her mind, it was entirely too proper and pink. She decided she would ignore it and spend as little time within its walls as possible. Besides, she was too tired from planes and taxis to care where she slept now. She began to search for the nightgown that Millicent had apparently tucked away in a bureau.

  “Come on in,” she called as a knock sounded on the door. She continued to rummage through the carefully folded lingerie. She lifted her eyes to the mirror. “Hello. You must be Alison.”

  She saw a tall, thin child in a simply cut, expensive dress. Her long blond hair was carefully groomed, pulled neatly back with a headband. Her eyes were large and dark, but their expression was neither happy nor unhappy. Kasey felt a stirring of pity.

  “Good evening, Miss Wyatt.” Alison broke the silence but came no further into the room. “I thought I should introduce myself, as we’ll be sharing a bath for the next few months.”

  “Good idea.” Kasey turned from the mirror and faced Alison directly. “Though I imagine we’d have run across each other in the shower before too long.”

  “If you have a preference for your bath time, Miss Wyatt, I would be happy to accommodate you.”

  Kasey moved to the bed to drop her nightgown. “I’m not fussy. I’ve shared bathrooms before.” She sat gingerly on the edge of the bed and glanced up dubiously at the canopy. “I’ll try to stay out of your way in the mornings. You go to school, I imagine.”

  “Yes, I’m attending school this year. Last year I had a tutor. I’m very high-strung.”

  “Is that so?” Kasey lifted her brows and struggled with a smile. “I’m low-strung, myself.”

  Alison frowned at this. Unable to decide whether to advance or retreat, she hesitated on the threshold.

  Kasey noted the uncertainty, the trained manners, the hands that were neatly folded at the waist of the expensive dress. She remembered the child was only eleven. “Tell me, Alison, what do you do around here for fun?”