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Book Jacket

1593100159
Trade Paperback
368 pages
Aug 2003
Barbour Publishing

Shadows of Light, Shadow of Dreams Series #3

by Eva Marie Everson

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

Dark Asian eyes, set perfectly against a honey complexion, peered through the bare windows and onto the French countryside beyond. The woman behind them leaned against the window frame. Before her—through the glass panes—the gentle hills were covered in snow, glistening like white diamonds in the early morning sunlight. Behind her, the living room of the warm and inviting chalet—decorated heavily in floral and stripe chintz, winter floral arrangements, and worn quilts—was homey and bright. She sighed heavily, looking upward. From the looks of the sky, it would snow again today. Another day, unable to leave this place. Another day spent with the man she had lived with platonically for nearly two years . . . the man she loved . . .the man who she feared would never love her.

She closed her eyes and allowed herself to remember how they had come to be here, then shuddered, opened her eyes, and pushed herself away from the window. It was nearly time for breakfast, and he would be hungry and wanting her to sit with him at the table where they would sip the strong coffee she made and speak about what they would do with the day.

She left the brightness of the living room, walked through the dark stone and panel dining room and into the cozy and rustic simplicity of the kitchen. She had set the table the night before, using a faded, floral cotton tablecloth she purchased the first part of the week at a local flea market. She hoped it would make the day a bit cheerier . . . brighter . . . happier. It certainly enhanced the scarred pine tabletop that had come with the rented chalet.

On her way to the counter, where coffee brewed atop the stove and a waffle iron stood hot and ready next to an old farm bowl half-filled with batter, she stopped briefly at the table to adjust one of the china teacups that hadn't set quite right on its saucer and to shift the centerpiece of dried flowers slightly to the right. Next, she poured the coffee, a cup for her . . . a cup for him. The intoxicating scent of it reached her nostrils on the cloud of steam rising from each cup. No sooner was that done than she heard him walking into the room behind her. He smelled of soap. She turned her pretty face slightly and smiled. "Good morning."

"Good morning." He inhaled deeply. "Coffee smells delicious. Did you sleep well?"

She returned the coffeepot to the stove and began to prepare their waffles. "Yes. And you?"

It was the same every morning. The same routine . . . the same questions . . . the same answers.

"Fairly well," he answered, sitting at the table.

"Did you wake at all?"

She heard him sip his coffee and return his cup to the saucer. "Once. Maybe twice." She turned to look at him, resting her slender hip against the counter as the waffles were cooking. He was buttoning the cuffs of the long-sleeved black shirt he wore under a gray and white sweater. "Do you think I'll ever know what these dreams mean?" He turned and looked up at her, thin and boyishly handsome.

She turned back to the waffle iron, opened it, and lifted the waffles from the griddle and onto a waiting plate. "I'm sure you will, one day." She brought the plate over to the table, sat across from him, and dropped a waffle onto his plate and then one onto hers. She smiled. "When your mind is ready to understand, you will."

He reached across the table and took her hand. "I can never thank you enough for being here for me. You've been like an angel who dropped from a cloud in the sky."

"No need to thank me." She slipped her hand away from his and reached for the small jar of syrup she'd placed on the table earlier. "Your friendship is payment enough."

He didn't speak. He leaned back in his seat, crossed his arms over his abdomen, and looked out the window beside him, contemplating something . . . she could see that . . . but it was something she couldn't quite read in his eyes. She picked up her fork and knife and began to cut her waffle. "What are you thinking about so serious over there?"

He shook his head no.

"No? No, what? No, you don't know, or no, you aren't telling?" She slipped a forkful of the warm waffle into her mouth. It was light and deliciously sweet. "Mmmm," she said, hoping to encourage him to eat as well. The man ate hardly enough to survive.

He turned his eyes back to hers. They seemed mysterious and yet, at the same time, bewildered. "If I ask you a question, will you be honest with me?"

Her eyebrows raised and she swallowed hard. "Haven't I always been?"

He nodded. "I think you have, yes."

"Then, of course, I will now." She felt her fingers gripping the utensils they held.

He leaned over, rested his forearms against the table, and looked intently into her eyes. "Do I know a woman named Katie?"

Andi Daniels took a deep breath, blinked twice, looked out the window once, then down to her waffle. When her eyes finally met his, she whispered, "Yes."

Chapter One
January 2002

Katharine Morgan Webster, known to her friends as Katie, sat curled like a kitten on the sofa in her living room. With one hand she gripped a cordless phone to her ear; with the fingertips of the other she played with the draperies at the windows behind her. Beyond was the gray skyline of the city she loved, her home: New York, New York. It was early January and bitterly cold outside. On the streets below the fifth floor apartment of The Hamilton Place, the hotel she both owned and was interim president of, she watched pedestrians scurry to and fro. Then, looking up, she noticed steam from the building's heating systems rising at various levels, forming thin veils of clouds over her little section of Midtown Manhattan.

Nestled in the comfort of her apartment, she wore warm leggings, an oversized quilted shirt, and thick socks. Maggie, her British housekeeper, had tucked a throw around her legs and backside before retiring for an afternoon nap. Feeling quite content, Katie smiled as she listened to her best friend in the whole world, Marcy Waters, on the other end of the line.

"So then what happened?" Katie asked, holding back a laugh.

"So then Mark says, 'Parlex vous French fries?' You can imagine how angry that made Michael with his brother. Michael takes his French so seriously."

Michael, Marcy's son. A senior in high school with three years of French studies behind him and a desire to continue his education in college. Katie remembered the day she'd met him. She'd been gone from their hometown of Brooksboro, Georgia, for twenty-five years when she'd seen Marcy for the first time in as many years. When she went to Marcy's for coffee and a game of catch-up, Marcy filled Katie in on her life as a wife to Charlie and mother to Michael, Melissa, and Mark. Later, Michael and Katie had engaged in a fun conversation spoken entirely in French. Marcy had given her grief over it, but Katie didn't go into an explanation of how her husband had insisted she take lessons in cultural things like French, art, literature, and the like.

"Mark is a rascal," she commented on Michael's younger brother, the mischievous youngest of her childhood friend.

"So what's new up there in New York? Georgia is freezing cold, but I assume it's twice as cold up there."

"You know New Yorkers. We like to do everything bigger and better than the rest of the world."

"I hear you."

Katie breathed in and out her nose, then replied, "Nothing really. I'm just so happy that today is Sunday I could croak." She shifted back on the sofa, turning away from the window.

"You sound tired."

"I am tired. Being president of a large hotel during the holiday season is no easy task, you know. I'm surprised no one's called me, even today. We have three functions going on this afternoon." Katie kept a lilt of jest in her voice, knowing that still—even from a thousand miles away—Marcy could hear the seriousness of the words. "Alright, Marcy, stop frowning," she added knowingly.

"You're right there. I am frowning. I'm also remembering not to mention that you almost got yourself killed just before Christmas. And involved your very best friend in the whole wide world, I might add."

There was a pregnant pause. "I did do that, didn't I?"

"Any words on your twin friends?"

"Zane and Zandra? No." Zane and Zandra McKenzie were twins who had tried to kill Katie the month before. Their motive had been simple: revenge.

Katie had never met them before they became the managers of Jacqueline's, the troubled boutique in THP. Zandra had been the lover of David Franscella, a man who'd kept Katie "back in the day." Strange, she thought, how he continued to haunt her, even after her marriage to Ben. Even after his sudden demise at the hands of Maggie, who had killed him the night—nineteen months ago—when he'd attacked Katie in her home in the Hamptons.

"Nothing?"

"Other than that they're still sitting in Rikers, no."

"I've been subpoenaed for the trial; did you know that?"

Katie sighed. "When did that happen?"

"Friday. I didn't want to burden you with it. I figured you'd find out soon enough anyway."

"Let's talk about something else, shall we?"

"My friend, the control guru. Just like in the boardroom, she speaks and I obey." Marcy teased. When Katie remained silent, she added, "Okay. Okay. What do you want to talk about?"

Katie chuckled. "I love it when you submit to my power," she joked, then gave her best Bela Lugosi laugh. When she sobered, she said, "Let's talk about my new spa and resort."

"Sounds like a plan."

"It is a plan. And only a plan at this stage."

"Tell me something."

"What's that?"

"And just shoot me out of my chair if this is too personal, but . . .

Katie giggled. Conversations with Marcy were like a tonic, and she thanked God for her renewed relationship with her old pal.

"How do you fund something like that? I mean, do you just have all that money sitting around in a coffee can or . . . well, how does that work exactly?"

Katie laughed again, then sobered. "You're so unbelievably funny. It's called stocks, Marce."

"Oh. Not an area I'm all that sharp in, I'll have to be honest with you."

"To be honest with you, me neither. And to be further honest, because I didn't have the total backing of my board on this project I've allowed some of the private stock in THP to go public in order to raise the funds."

"Private stock?"

"THP is family owned. And only family owned. Make sense?"

"If you say so."

"Well, anyway, the parent company—or holding company—is THP. THP itself has vested interest in other companies, which are publicly owned, but THP is privately owned. Unless you're family, you don't get a share. For the most part, the shares have been given as gifts throughout the family. A little here and a little there. Naturally, Ben and his parents own the majority of the stock."

"Can you see my eyes from up there?" Marcy teased. "I think they just glazed over."

"Just listen," Katie admonished. "If I repeat this enough, it might just make good sense to me, as well."

"Yes, ma'am."

"When I first approached the board with the spa idea—something totally different from what they were used to, I might add—they balked. Old stuffies." She heard March giggle. "Then my comptroller suggested I offer up 20 percent of my portion of the THP stock to go into a cash position. With the downfall of the industry—and the stock—since 9-11, there's been more than a little threat of a downturn in the economy."

"How will that affect you?"

"Hopefully, it won't. But, if necessary—according to my comptroller, Byron Spooner—I can always up the cash position to 31 percent."

"So when do you start? Officially, I mean?"

"Ashley and I have a meeting tomorrow with the developer and one of his architects from Montana to talk about it."

"You're flying out there or are they flying in?"

"They're flying in." Katie glanced down to her wristwatch. "Actually should be flying in any minute. I'm having Simon pick them up at the airport and bring them to the hotel."

"And how is my favorite chauffeur?"

"Fine. He asks about you all the time. Mrs. Waters this and Mrs. Waters that."

Marcy laughed. "Like an overgrown teddy bear, that one is. Nice guy, too. Hasn't found anyone special yet?"

Katie moaned a bit before answering. "I have some suspicions."

"About?"

"Believe it or not, Ashley."

"No!"

"Yep."

"Well, I'll be dogged. They'd make a cute couple, you know that?"

"I think so."

"When did all this start?"

Katie filled her in on one of the protégées she'd taken from a gentleman's club known as Mist Goddess several months earlier. The three young women, Ashley, Brittany, and Candy (disdainfully called the ABCs of THP by The Hamilton Place General Manager, James Harrington) had been given a second chance when Katie took them out of the dance circuit, giving them jobs in the hotel and a hope for the future. Candy had gone back to dancing and eventually was killed by a maniacal client. Katie had been filled with tremendous grief but had turned that grief into something positive by continuing to focus on Ashley and Brittany, as well as a young woman named Misty, who had fled the manager of the club for an opportunity Katie offered.

Though the women were given jobs initially in housekeeping, Ashley had shown great ability in research and development and had become an apprentice to Katie, helping her in the groundwork for The Hamilton Place Resort and Spa, which was to be built in Wyoming. The land had been purchased before the end of the year and now the difficult phase of getting started was finally under way. Katie was ready to have it done and over with, and she said so to Marcy.

"I know you are," Marcy agreed. "But the work will keep your mind off things."

The work did keep her mind off things, and Katie knew specifically what "things" Marcy was talking about—what everybody was talking about. Her having almost died at the hands of Zane and Zandra. The ever-present concern as to the whereabouts of Bucky Caballero and his sister, Mattie Franscella, ironically the wife of David. The fact that they were now in a new year and another season of not knowing where her husband, William Benjamin Webster, was. It had been June 2000 that he and Katie had discovered an illegal escort service operating out of Jacqueline's, the hotel's boutique. A very long nineteen months ago.

Now, off the telephone and sitting at the desk in her home office, Katie looked at a photo of Ben, held in a silver frame and sitting to the left side of the phone. "Ben," she called him, though everyone else called him William, or if they were hotel employees, Sir. Ben's employees held him in the highest regard, and his contemporaries had profound respect for him. Katie only hoped that one day they would all feel the same way about her.

Not that most of them didn't. They did. With the exception of James Harrington, the man she'd worked so hard to please. There were times when she thought perhaps she'd won the war but discovered later her victories had only been small battles. She still had work to do to prove herself with him, and she hoped the spa would help.

She picked up the photograph and brought it closer to her heart. "If I can put that spa up like you would," she said to the image of her husband, "then perhaps he will take me seriously in my role here." She paused, frowning at the thought of talking with an inanimate object. "Oh, Ben," she sighed. "Where are you?"