A Different Blue Page 77

“The lab called today. They said they have a match. They know who I am, Tiffa. They know who my mother is. They asked me to come to Reno.”

“Ohhhh, Blue,” Tiffa drew the words out in one long sigh. Her gaze was full of compassion and a lump rose in my throat. I swallowed hard and tried to laugh.

“I hope I didn't scare you, showing up here, wild-eyed and panic-stricken. I just needed to tell someone. And I thought of Melody, and how I need these answers for her sake, even if sometimes I would rather never know.”

“I'm so glad you did. It was time. And you weren't wild-eyed and panic-stricken. You are always as cool as a cucumber, Blue Echohawk. I read people pretty well, but you are always so self-contained, so private. What's that saying? Still waters run deep? In that way, you and Darcy are so much alike.” When I didn't comment, Tiffa just shook her head in exasperation, as if my silence proved her point.

“He came by yesterday, you know,” Tiffa said casually. “I think he's smitten.”

My heart dropped to my toes. My face must have registered my distress because Tiffa stopped rocking abruptly.

“What? Blue, what did I say?”

“Nothing,” I lied, shaking my head. “I figured as much.”

Tiffa cocked her head to the side, confused. “Figured what?”

“That he was smitten,” I responded flatly. I felt sick.

“He's smitten with Melody!” Tiffa cried, and shook her head, disbelieving. “You should have seen your face. Who did you think I was talking about? Pamela?”

I looked down at my feet, unwilling to answer.

“Blue. What in the world is going on with you two? I thought after New Year's that you would both finally admit you have feelings for each other. It's so obvious! I asked Wilson about you yesterday and he acted so aloof. I didn't know what to make of it.”

“Yeah. Wilson must be a rare breed of bird. Definitely not an owl because I've become completely invisible.”

“Oh, luv,” Tiffa sighed. “My brother is my mother's son. Maybe not biologically, but in every other way. His sense of propriety is positively archaic. I've been surprised he's allowed himself to get as close to you as he has. And that kiss? Alice and I were crowing about it for days.”

I kept my face averted, uncomfortable with the turn in the conversation, but Tiffa kept rocking and talking. “What my brother needs is a push. It sure worked when we dangled you in front of Justin. Maybe it's time for you to spread your wings and force him to make a choice,” she mused, patting Melody's back. The bottle was long gone and Melody was too, snoring softly with milk dribbling from the corner of her bow shaped mouth.

“I have been working on something, but I haven't wanted to tell you until it was a sure thing. I had an artist scheduled to be part of a exhibit at the Sheffield next Saturday night. He decided he wanted to renegotiate his contract, and ended up renegotiating himself right out the door. It just so happens that I think your work will gel nicely with the entire exhibit. In fact, I think your work will stand out. I've been holding back 'Bird Woman' and a few other pieces, simply because they demand a certain kind of audience. I think we will be able to sell 'Bird Woman' for $5,000 at the exhibit, where it might sit for months in the gallery.”

I gulped and swore under my breath. Tiffa just winked at me. “That's a bargain, luv. Someday your work will sell for far more, I guarantee it. 'Bird Woman,' 'Rubicon,' 'Witch,' and the one you named 'Armor' are the only pieces I have left. All of those will be stunning, but I need more. What do you have completed?”

I had carved one called 'The Saint.' It was St. Patrick immortalized in wood, though the stooped man with a shepherd's staff walking in the curling flames that appeared to dance around him could easily be mistaken for something entirely different. The one Wilson had named 'Loss' was in the basement too, covered by a sheet beside my workbench so I wouldn't have to see it. It might be my best work yet, but it hurt to look at it. And there were several others, including the intertwined branches that I had frenetically lost myself in a month ago.

“I can come up with ten.”

“Then it's set. Get me the pieces, and I will make it happen. And Blue? Don't tell Darcy. It will be our little surprise.”

I finished my shift at the cafe late Thursday night and headed for home, my mind on Saturday's exhibit, on the carvings I had assembled, and on the call to Reno I hadn't yet made. They must think I was nuts. Detective Moody had left two messages on my voicemail and I'd received another from Heidi Morgan at the lab. I told myself after the showcase I would call them.

A big part of my indecision was Wilson. I had shared this journey with him, and in the last month I had hardly seen him. He'd become my best friend, and I missed him desperately, and was angry with him for pulling away. I'd decided “space” was just another one of those, “it's not you, it's me” slogans people use when they want to end a relationship. But friendships weren't supposed to end. I wished we'd never shared that damned kiss. Wilson hadn't been the same since.

I was standing in front of my apartment door, perusing my mail, when I heard Wilson's door open and shut above me. I tensed, listening to his footsteps near the top of the stairs, and then grimaced as I heard Pamela's voice asking him about the exhibit at The Sheffield on Saturday.

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