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Dance to the Piper: The O'Hurleys

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


  Irish Born Trilogy

  Born in Fire

  Born in Ice

  Born in Shame

  Dream Trilogy

  Daring to Dream

  Holding the Dream

  Finding the Dream

  Chesapeake Bay Saga

  Sea Swept

  Rising Tides

  Inner Harbor

  Chesapeake Blue

  Gallaghers of Ardmore Trilogy

  Jewels of the Sun

  Tears of the Moon

  Heart of the Sea

  Three Sisters Island Trilogy

  Dance Upon the Air

  Heaven and Earth

  Face the Fire

  Key Trilogy

  Key of Light

  Key of Knowledge

  Key of Valor

  In the Garden Trilogy

  Blue Dahlia

  Black Rose

  Red Lily

  Circle Trilogy

  Morrigan’s Cross

  Dance of the Gods

  Valley of Silence

  Sign of Seven Trilogy

  Blood Brothers

  The Hollow

  The Pagan Stone

  Bride Quartet

  Vision in White

  Bed of Roses

  Savor the Moment

  Happy Ever After

  The Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy

  The Next Always


  The O’Hurleys

  Skin Deep

  Without a Trace

  Dance to the Piper

  The Donovan Legacy





  Cordina’s Royal Family

  Affaire Royale

  Command Performance

  The Playboy Prince

  Cordina’s Crown Jewel

  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

  New York to Dallas


  From the Heart

  A Little Magic

  A Little Fate

  Moon Shadows

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

  The Once Upon Series

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

  Once Upon a Castle Once Upon a Rose

  Once Upon a Star Once Upon a Kiss

  Once Upon a Dream 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 Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  The Unquiet

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

  Also available…

  The Official Nora Roberts Companion

  (edited by Denise Little and Laura Hayden)


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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. The publisher does not have control over and does not have any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author


  Harlequin Books edition / June 1988

  InterMix eBook edition / January 2012

  Copyright © 1988 by Nora Roberts.

  Excerpt from The Witness copyright © by Nora Roberts.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 978-1-101


  InterMix Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  INTERMIX and the INTERMIX design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  For my brother Bill.

  Thanks for taking me backstage.

  Table of Contents


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Excerpt from The Witness


  During the break between lunch and cocktails, the club was empty. The floors were scarred but clean enough, and the paint on the walls was only a little dull from fighting with cigarette smoke. There was the scent intrinsic to such places—old liquor and stale perfume mixed with coffee that was no longer fresh. To a certain type of person it was as much home as a cozy fire and plump cushions. The O’Hurleys made their home wherever audiences gathered.

  When the after-dinner crowd strolled in, the lights would be dimmed, and it wouldn’t look so grimy. Now, strong sunlight shone through the two small windows and lighted the dust and dents mercilessly. The mirror in back of a bar lined with bottles spread some of the light around but reflected mostly on the small stage in the center of the room.

  “That’s my girl, Abby, put a nice smile on.”

  Frank O’Hurley took his five-year-old triplets through the short dance routine he wanted to add to the show that night, demonstrating the prissy moves with his wiry body. They were playing a family hotel at a nice, reasonably priced resort in the Poconos. He figured the audience would have a soft spot for three little girls.

  “I wish you’d time your brainstorms better, Frank.” His wife, Molly, sat at a corner table, hurriedly sewing bows on the white dresses her daughters would wear in a few hours. “I’m not a bloody seamstress, you know.”

  “You’re a trouper, Molly, my love, and the best thing that ever happened to Frank O’Hurley.”

  “There’s nothing truer than that,” she muttered, but smiled to herself.

  “All right, my darlings, let’s try it again.” He smiled at the three little angels God had blessed him with in one fell swoop. If the Lord saw fit to present him with three babies for the price of one, Frank figured the Lord was entitled to a sense of humor.

  Chantel was already a beauty, with a round cherub’s face and dark blue eyes. He winked at her, knowing she was more interested in the bows on the dress she’d wear than in the routine. Abby was all amiability. She’d dance because her pop wanted her to and because it would be fun to be onstage with her sisters. Frank urged her to smile again and demonstrated the curtsy he wanted.

  Maddy, with an elfin face and hair already hinting toward red, mimicked his move perfectly, her eyes never leaving his. Frank felt his heart swell with love for the three of them. He laid his hand on his son’s shoulder.

  “Give us a two-bar intro, Trace, my boy. A snappy one.”

  Trace obligingly ran his fingers over the keys. It was Frank’s regret he couldn’t afford lessons for the boy. What Trace knew of playing he’d learned from watching and listening. Music rang out, jumpy and bright.

  “How’s that, Pop?”

  “You’re a pistol.” Frank rubbed a hand over Trace’s head. “Okay, girls, let’s take it from the top.”

  He worked them another fifteen minutes, patiently, making them giggle at their mistakes. The five-minute routine would be far from perfect, but he was shrewd enough to recognize the charm of it. They’d expand the act bit by bit as they went on. It was the off-season at the resort now, but if they made a bit of a mark, they’d secure a return engagement. Life for Frank was made up of gigs and return engagements. He saw no reason his family shouldn’t be of the same mind.

  Still, the minute he saw Chantel losing interest he broke off, knowing her sisters wouldn’t be far behind.

  “Wonderful.” He bent to give each of them a smacking kiss, as generous with affection as he’d have liked to be with money. “We’re going to knock them dead.”

  “Is our name going on the poster?” Chantel demanded, and Frank roared with delighted laughter.

  “Want billing, do you, my little pigeon? Hear that, Molly?”

  “Doesn’t surprise me.” She set down her sewing to rest her fingers.

  “Tell you what, Chantel, you get billing when you can do this.” He started a slow, deceptively simple tap routine, holding a hand out to his wife. Smiling, Molly rose to join him. A dozen years of dancing together had them moving in unison from the first step.

  Abby slid onto the piano bench beside Trace and watched. He began to improvise a silly little tune that made Abby smile.

  “Chantel’s going to practice till she can do it,” he murmured.

  Abby smiled up at him. “Then we’ll all get our names on the poster.”

  “I can show you how,” he whispered, listening to his parents’ feet strike the wooden stage.

  “Will you show us all how?”

  As an old man of ten, Trace was amused by the way his little sisters stuck together. He’d have gotten the same response from any of them. “I just might.”

  Content, she settled back against his shoulder. Her parents were laughing, enjoying the exertion, the rhythm. It seemed to Abby that her parents were always laughing. Even when her mother got that cross look on her face, Pop would make her laugh. Chantel was watching, her eyes narrowed, experimenting a bit but not quite catching the movements. She’d get mad, Abby knew. But when Chantel got mad, she made sure she got what she wanted.

  “I want to do it,” Maddy said from the corner of the stage.

  Frank laughed. With his arms around Molly’s waist, the two of them circled the stage, feet tapping, sliding, shuffling. “Do you, now, little turnip?”

  “I can do it,” she told him, and with a stubborn look on her face she began to tap her feet—heel, toe, toe, heel—until she was moving center stage.

  Caught off balance, Frank stopped on a dime, and Molly bumped heavily into him. “Look at that, will you, Molly?”

  Pushing her hair out of her eyes, Molly watched her youngest daughter struggling to capture the basics of their tap routine. And she was doing it. Molly felt a mixture of pride and regret only a mother would understand. “Looks like we’ll be buying another set of taps, Frank.”

  “That it does.” Frank felt twice the pride and none of the regret. He released his wife to concentrate on his daughter. “No, try this now.” He took the moves slowly. Hop, shuffle, stamp. Brush, step, brush, step and step to the side. He took Maddy’s hand and, careful to keep his steps small to match hers, moved again. She moved right with him.

  “Now this.” His excitement growing, he looked at his son. “Give me a downbeat. Listen to the count, Maddy. One and two and three and four. Tap. No body weight here. Toe stab front, then back. Now a riff.” Again he demonstrated, and again she imitated the steps.

  “We’ll put it all together now and end with a step slide, arms like this, see?” He brought his arms out to the side in a sharp, glitzy move, then winked at her. “You’re going to sell it.”

  “Sell it,” she repeated, frowning in concentration.

  “Give us the count, Trace.” Frank took her hand again, feeling the pleasure build as she moved in unison with him. “We’ve got ourselves a dancer here, Molly!” Frank hefted Maddy into his arms and let her fly. She squealed, not because she feared he wouldn’t catch her but because she knew he would.

  The sensation of dropping through the air was every bit as thrilling as the dance itself had been. She wanted more.

  Chapter 1

  Five, six, seven, eight!

  Twenty-four feet hit the w
ooden floor in unison. The echo was wonderful. Twelve bodies twisted, swooped and plunged as one. Mirrors threw their images right back at them. Arms flowed out on signal, legs lifted, heads tilted, turned, then fell back.

  Sweat rolled. And the scent was the theater.

  The piano banged out notes, and the melody swelled in the old rehearsal hall. Music had echoed there before, feet had responded, heartbeats had raced, and muscles had ached. It would happen again and again, year after year, for as long as the building stood.

  Many stars had rehearsed in that room. Show business legends had polished routines on the same boards. Countless unknown and unremembered line dancers had worked there until their muscles had gone stringy with fatigue. It was a Broadway that the paying public rarely saw.

  The assistant choreographer, his glasses fogging a bit in the steamy heat, clapped out the beat constantly as he shouted the moves. Beside him the choreographer, the man who had sculpted the dance, stood watching with eyes as dark and alert as a bird’s.

  “Hold it!”

  The piano music stopped. Movement stopped. The dancers drooped with a combination of exhaustion and relief.

  “It drags there.”


  The dancers, still a unit, rolled their eyes and tried to ignore their aching muscles. The choreographer studied them, then gave the signal to take five. Twelve bodies dropped against the wall, shifting together so that heads fell on convenient shoulders or abdomens. Calves were massaged. Feet flexed, relaxed, and flexed again. They talked little. Breath was an important commodity, to be hoarded whenever possible. Beneath them, the floor was battle-scarred, covered with masking tape that had set the marks for dozens of other shows. But there was only one show that mattered now: this one.

  “Want a bite?”

  Maddy O’Hurley roused herself to look down at the chocolate bar. She considered it, coveted it, then shook her head. One bite would never be enough. “No, thanks. Sugar makes me light-headed when I’m dancing.”

  “I need a lift.” The woman, her skin as dark and rich as the candy, took a huge bite. “Like now. All that guy needs is a whip and a chain.”

  Maddy glanced over at the choreographer as he bent over the accompanist. “He’s tough. We’ll be glad we’ve got him before this is over.”