Blue dahlia, p.23

Blue Dahlia, page 23

 part  #1 of  In the Garden Series

 

Blue Dahlia


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Epilogue

  "Amelia. " Stella shivered, despite the dry clothes and the brandy Roz had insisted on. "Her name. I saw it written on the glass of the door just before she vanished. She wasn't going to hurt them. She was furious with me, was protecting them from me. She's not altogether sane. "

  "You're all right?" Logan stayed crouched in front of her. "You're sure?"

  She nodded, but she drank more brandy. "It's going to take a little while to come down from it, but yes, I'm okay. "

  "I've never been so scared. " Hayley looked toward the stairs. "Are you sure all the kids are safe?"

  "She would never hurt them. " Stella laid a reassuring hand on Hayley's. "Something broke her heart, and her mind, I think. But children are her only joy. "

  "You'll excuse me if I find this absolutely fascinating, and completely crazy. " Mitch paced back and forth across the floor. "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes - " He shook his head. "I'm going to need all the data you can put together, once I'm able to get started on this. "

  He stopped pacing, stared at Roz. "I can't rationalize it. I saw it, but I can't rationalize it. An . . . I'll call it an entity, for lack of better. An entity was in that room. The room was sealed off. " Absently he rubbed his shoulder where he'd rammed against the solid air. "And she was inside it. "

  "It was more of a show than we expected to give you on your first visit," Roz said, and poured him another cup of coffee.

  "You're very cool about it," he replied.

  "Of all of us here, I've lived with her the longest. "

  "How?" Mitch asked.

  "Because this is my house. " She looked tired, and pale, but there was a battle light in her eyes. "Her being here doesn't change that. This is my house. " She took a little breath and a sip of brandy herself. "Though I'll admit that what happened tonight shook me, shook all of us. I've never seen anything like what happened upstairs. "

  "I have to finish the project I'm working on, then I'm going to want to know everything you have seen. " Mitch's eyes scanned the room. "All of you. "

  "All right, we'll see about arranging that. "

  "Stella ought to lie down," Logan said.

  "No, I'm fine, really. " She glanced toward the monitor, listened to the quiet hum. "I feel like what happened tonight changed something. In her, in me. The dreams, the blue dahlia. "

  "Blue dahlia?" Mitch interrupted, but Stella shook her head.

  "I'll explain when I feel a little steadier. But I don't think I'll be having them anymore. I think she'll let it alone, let it grow there because I got through to her. And I believe, absolutely, it was because I got through mother to mother. "

  "My children grew up in this house. She never tried to block me from them. "

  "You hadn't decided to get married when your sons were still children," Stella announced, and watched Logan's eyes narrow.

  "Haven't you missed some steps?" he asked.

  She managed a weary smile. "Not any important ones, apparently. As for the Bride, maybe her husband left her, or she was pregnant by a lover who deserted her, or. . . I don't know. I can't think very clearly. "

  "None of us can, and whether or not you think you're fine, you're still pale. " Roz got to her feet.

  "I'm going to take you upstairs and put you to bed. "

  She shook her head when Logan started to protest. "You're all welcome to stay as long as you like. Harper?"

  "Right. " Understanding his cue, and his duty, he got to his feet. "Can I get anyone another drink?"

  Because she was still unsteady, Stella let Roz take her upstairs. "I guess I am tired, but you don't have to come up. "

  "After a trauma like that, you deserve a little pampering. I imagine Logan would like the job, but tonight I think a woman's the better option. Go on, get undressed now," Roz told her as she turned down the bed.

  As the shock eased and made room for fatigue, Stella did what she was told, then slipped through the bathroom to take a last look at her children for the night. "I was so afraid. So afraid I wouldn't get to my boys. "

  "You were stronger than she was. You've always been stronger. "

  "Nothing's ever ripped at me like that. Not even. . . " Stella moved back to her room, slipped into bed.

  "The night Kevin died, there was nothing I could do. I couldn't get to him, bring him back, stop what had already happened, no matter how much I wanted to. "

  "And tonight you could do something, and did. Women, women like us at any rate, we do what has to be done. I want you to rest now. I'll check on you and the boys myself before I go to bed. Do you want me to leave the light on?"

  "No, I'll be fine. Thanks. "

  "We're right downstairs. "

  In the quiet dark, Stella sighed. She lay still, listening, waiting. But she heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing.

  For tonight - at least for tonight - it was over.

  When she closed her eyes, she drifted to sleep.

  Dreamlessly.

  She expected Logan to come by the nursery the next day. But he didn't. She was certain he would come by the house before dinner. But he didn't.

  Nor did he call.

  She decided that after the night before he'd needed a break. From her, from the house, from any sort of drama. How could she blame him?

  He'd pounded his hands, his big, hard hands, bloody from trying to get to her boys, then to her. She knew all she needed to know about him now, about the man she'd grown to love and respect.

  Knew enough to trust him with everything that was hers. Loved him enough to wait until he came to her.

  And when her children were in bed, and the moon began to rise, his truck rumbled up the drive to Harper House.

  This time she didn't hesitate, but dashed to the door to meet him.

  "I'm glad you're here. " She threw her arms around him first, held tight when his wrapped around her.

  "So glad. We really need to talk. "

  "Come on out first. I got something in the truck for you. "

  "Can't it wait?" She eased back. "If we could just sit down and get some things aired out. I'm not sure I made any sense last night. "

  "You made plenty of sense. " To settle it, he gripped her hand, pulled her outside. "Seeing as after you scared ten years off my life, you said you were going to marry me. Didn't have the opportunity to follow through on that then, the way things were. I've got something to give you before you start talking me to death. "

  "Maybe you don't want to hear that I love you. "

  "I can take time for that. " Grabbing her, he lifted her off her feet and circled them both to the truck.

  "You going to organize my life, Red?"

  "I'm going to try. Are you going to disorganize mine?"

  "No question about it. " He lowered her until her lips met his.

  "Hell of a storm last night - in every possible sense," she said as she rested her cheek against his.

  "It's over now. "

  "This one is. There'll be others. " He took her hands, kissed them, then just looked down at her in the dusky light of the moon.

  "I love you, Stella. I'm going to make you happy even when I irritate the living hell out of you. And the boys . . . Last night, when I saw her in there with them, when I couldn't get to them - "

  "I know. " Now she lifted his hands to kiss his raw, swollen knuckles. "One day, when they're older, they'll fully appreciate how lucky they are to have had two such good men for fathers. I know how lucky I am to love and be loved by two such good men. "

  "I figured that out when I started falling for you. "

  "When was that?"

  "On the way to Graceland. "

  "You don't waste time. "

  "That's when you told me about the dream you'd had. "

  Her heart fluttered. "The garden. The blue dahlia. "

  "Then later, when you said you'd had another, told me about it, it just got me thinking. So . . . "
He reached into the cab of the truck, took out a small pot with a grafted plant. "I asked Harper if he'd work on this. "

  "A dahlia," she whispered. "A blue dahlia. "

  "He's pretty sure it'll bloom blue when it matures. Kid's got a knack. "

  Tears burned into her eyes and smeared her voice. "I was going to dig it up, Logan. She kept pushing me to, and it seemed she was right. It wasn't what I'd put there, wasn't what I'd planned, no matter how beautiful it was. And when I did, when I dug it up, it died. It was so stupid of me. "

  "We'll dig this one in instead. We can plant this, you and me, and the four of us can plant a garden around it. That suit you?"

  She lifted her hands, cupped his face. "It suits me. "

  'That's good, because Harper worked like a mad scientist on it, shooting for a deep, true blue. I guess we'll wait and see what we get when it blooms. "

  "You're right. " She looked up at him. "We'll see what we get. "

  "He gave me the go-ahead to name it. So it'll be Stella's Dream. "

  Now her heart swirled into her eyes. "I was wrong about you, Logan. You're perfect after all. "

  She cradled the pot in her arm as if it were a child, precious and new. Then taking his hand, she linked fingers so they could walk in the moon-drenched garden together.

  In the house, in the air perfumed with flowers, another walked. And wept.

 
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