Home to Harmony Dawn Atkins Ëèòàãåíò HarperCollins EUR What is this? The '60s? The era of protests, free love and communal living has passed. So when Christine Waters falls for one of the guests at her mother's commune, she wonders if she's stepped into a parallel universe. Sure, Dr. Marcus Bernard's steady logic is a delectable counterpoint to Christine's energetic, do-it-now personality. But is there room in her life for a sizzling romance?Between helping her prickly mother recover and keeping her teenage son from going off the rails, indulging in Marcus seems, well, indulgent. Maybe the magic of that long-ago time still lingers at Harmony House. Because as Christine works to update the place and mend relationships, a vision of her future emerges. One that has more than enough room for a certain doctor. Marcus pressed his lips softly against hers Desire built inside Christine, like a wave slamming again and again. She could feel how much Marcus wanted her, too, could sense his struggle, and she was so aroused she felt like she’d levitated. He put his arms around her and pulled her against his chest, inundating her with the delicious smell of cologne mixed with sundried cotton. His fingers pressed into her back, kneading her muscles, starting up a trembling in them both. He broke off the kiss. “Christine,” he whispered near her ear as if he’d been dying for this moment. He pressed her face against his. He kissed the side of her neck, tucking his hand beneath her hair to cradle her head. Oh, she wanted this. Needed it. His arms around her, his desire obvious, his struggle for restraint obvious in the tension and quiver of his every muscle. A white-hot ribbon of desire twisted through her body. She wanted more, much more of him burying his mouth in her neck. “I want us to try.” Dear Reader, What makes a home a home, a family a family and love love? The question fascinates me. In this story, Christine Waters gets surprising answers to each. This book has special significance to me. I’ve worked on it off and on for several years, so I’m thrilled to finally see it on the shelves. The journey home to Harmony turned Christine’s expectations and beliefs about her mother, her father, her son, her lover, even her ex-husband upside down and backward before she’d finished sorting it all out. Her struggle with her teen son David was particularly difficult for me to write. What mother hasn’t lain awake at night wondering if she’s raised her child right? Marcus was such a gift to Christine, helping her see clearly who she was and could be. Christine saved Marcus from the numb isolation he’d sunk into due to past tragedies. These two needed each other. I mean needed. As to physical chemistry, Marcus was lighter-fluid and cool water to Christine’s crackling bonfire, intensifying and soothing in exactly the right way. I was so happy when they earned their happily-ever-after. I hope you enjoy Christine and Marcus’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please visit me online at www.dawnatkins.com. Best, Dawn Atkins Home to Harmony Dawn Atkins ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award-winning author Dawn Atkins has written more than twenty novels for Harlequin Books. Known for her funny, poignant romance stories, she’s won a Golden Quill Award and has been a several-times RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award finalist. Dawn lives in Arizona with her husband and son. To Wanda Ottewell, who believed in this story from the beginning and understood it better than I ACKNOWLEDGMENTS A world of thanks to Laurie Schnebly Campbell and Laura Emileanne for sharing their therapy expertise. Any errors, distortions or inaccuracies are completely my own. CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN CHAPTER FIFTEEN CHAPTER SIXTEEN CHAPTER ONE CHRISTINE WATERS PARKED her sturdy Volvo in front of the main building of Harmony House, the commune where she’d grown up, her heart pinched as tight as her hands on the steering wheel, a spurt of panic overriding her determination. What the hell was she doing back here? When she’d left this place at seventeen, it had been for good. She knew why she’d come, of course. She had two good reasons: to give her fifteen-year-old son a fresh start and to help her mother recover from heart surgery. Simple. Easy. Except nothing about David, her mother or Harmony House itself was simple or easy. Ever. David shoved off his ever-present headphones, which shut out the world—especially her—and jumped out of the car, enthusiastic for the first time since Christine had announced they would be here for the summer. “It’s like an old-time hotel,” David said, surveying the two-story building surrounded by gardens, the clay works barn and the animal stable. “It was a boarding house back in the thirties, I think,” she said, joining him. In the years she’d been gone—eighteen of them—the place had become stooped with age, the yellow paint gone as faint as cream and the different-colored doors were milky pale. The wraparound terraces looked as though they’d give way in a breeze. This shocked and saddened her, like seeing a lively friend wan and weak in a hospital bed. She’d never liked the place, but it had always seemed bright and vibrant. “Cool,” David said, nodding. Cool? Christine hid her smile of relief. The one thing in her favor was that David’s girlfriend, who shaped his every opinion, approved of communes. Well, la-di-dah. “Check out the school bus,” David said, indicating the ancient vehicle painted with hippie rainbows and peace signs. “I can’t believe Bogie still has that monster. Wonder if it even runs.” She used to hate when it broke down on the winding road to town. Being late for school had been mortifying, not to mention all the stares at her homemade clothes. Christine was seven when Bogie had talked her mother into moving out of the cozy apartment in Phoenix to the commune in the middle of nowhere. To Christine’s young eyes, beyond the bright paint, the place was all mud, stink and chaos. Now, weary after the four-hour drive from Phoenix, Christine peeled her sweat-drenched tank top off her back. The cooler air in the hills was a relief, at least, though there would be many hot hours in the clay works, as well as tending the gardens, the animals and the kitchen, helping out until her mother and Bogie were back on their feet. Bogie, her mother’s old friend and partner in the commune, was recovering from prostate cancer. Absently, Christine scratched the back of one arm, then examined the itchy red bump. Mosquitoes already? The flying pests bred in stagnant irrigation water or at the nearby river’s edge and they’d eaten her alive as a kid. As if on cue, both her legs began to itch, too. She bent down to scratch them. “Remind me to get bug spray in town.” “No way. Too toxic. Just cover yourself up,” David said. He would say that, dressed in his usual flannel shirt over a ratty T-shirt and shapeless cords, all too hot for early May in Arizona. “We’ll see. Grab a suitcase, okay?” He went for the backseat, crammed with luggage, his too-long straw-colored hair hanging over his face, hiding his gorgeous eyes. Dragging out one of the bigger bags, he stumbled a little. The two inches he’d grown in the past year had made him as gangly as Pinocchio, not quite able to work the long limbs he’d suddenly gotten. How she missed the old David. They used to be Team Waters against the world, as close as a mother and son could be. She’d been so proud of the way she’d raised him. She’d been open, direct, affectionate and accepting, and always, always talking things out. So different from the way she’d been raised, with all her questions unanswered, Aurora mute or dismissive. From the moment she found herself pregnant she’d sworn to be a better mother than Aurora and she’d succeeded. Until David slipped into puberty’s stew of hormones and hostility. After that, and so much worse, came Brigitte. Two years older and snottier than David, she’d wrapped him around her sexually active little finger in no time flat. He was too young. Only fifteen. Too young for sex, for drugs, for dangerous friends, for any of it. Christine’s anxious heart lurched with sorrow. Watching him drag the bag across the gravel, she made a vow: I will not lose you. “What? What’s wrong?” he demanded, letting the suit case drop to the dirt. He assumed she was criticizing him. “Nothing’s wrong,” she said, managing a smile. Not so far, anyway. Away from Brigitte and drugs, David’s head would clear. He’d get involved in the commune, finish his schoolwork, talk to a counselor and, eventually, to her, and gradually get back on track. That was Christine’s plan, along with helping Aurora without damaging their fragile relationship. Oh, and doing some ad agency projects on the side. She would make this work. She had to. A goat’s baa drew her attention to a side garden, where a man in a straw hat was pulling weeds, watched over by a black-and-white sheep dog perched on its haunches. Bogie? She headed over to see, lifting her bag because of the gravel. When he shooed the goat with his hat, Christine saw the gardener wasn’t Bogie. Not at all. He was mid-thirties, not mid-sixties, and tanned, not leathery. He was also handsome. Strikingly so. The goat trotted past her and Christine caught the sour stench that had gotten her labeled “Goat Stink Girl” at New Mirage Elementary. Ah, the good times. The sheepdog gave an excited woof and galloped at David as if he knew him. Once he got close, though, the dog drew back, turned and shot off toward the cottonwood grove. “Did we scare your dog?” Christine asked. “Lady’s shy. She tolerates me only because I feed her.” The gardener smiled at her so quickly she wasn’t sure she’d seen it, but when he looked at David his face went tight, as if in unpleasant recognition. Odd. “I’m Christine Waters. This is David.” “Marcus Barnard,” he said, whipping off a leather glove to shake her hand. He looked her over with cool green eyes that held a glimmer of masculine interest…or maybe that was a trick of sunlight. It hardly mattered. She was not about to reciprocate. “You’re Aurora’s daughter,” he said, nodding. “She said you’d be coming.” “How is she doing?” Bogie had told her the prognosis was good, but Christine was anxious to see for herself. The news that her mother was ill had hollowed her out. Aurora had always seemed indestructible. “She seems weak, but managing. I’ve done whatever extra Aurora will allow.” He shot her a brief smile. “Allow? That sounds like my mother. Bogie asked me to say I’m here because he needed help, not her.” She smiled, but she felt far from happy. If Bogie hadn’t called, she was certain Aurora never would have. That hurt deeply, though Christine told herself it was Aurora’s way and always would be. “People as self-sufficient as your mother often find it difficult to accept help,” Marcus said. “Self-sufficient, huh? That’s one way to put it, I guess.” It irked her that this stranger felt the need to explain her mother. Over the years, Christine had tried to bridge the chasm between them, but her mother hated questions and wasn’t much for phone calls. E-mail was out, too, since Aurora didn’t approve of computers. Christine sent cards and called, but made no headway. “So how long have you been a guest, Marcus?” She figured him for a short-timer. He carried himself like a business guy dressed for a hike in a neat chambray shirt and newish jeans, not a bit like the grubbier, weather-worn and laid-back commune residents. “Almost three months, I guess.” His eyes were piercing, but cool, lasering in, but warning you away at the same time. As striking in demeanor as he was in good looks, he seemed wound tight, watchful, and there was a stillness about him…. Not a man easy to ignore. That was clear. “Can I help you with your bags?” he asked. “We don’t know where we’ll be yet, so, thank you, no.” “When you do, I’m here.” He settled his straw hat onto his head in a firm, deliberate way. Sexy. Definitely sexy. “And good luck in there.” He flashed her a smile. “Can you tell I’ll need it?” When she walked away, following David to the porch, she stupidly wondered if Marcus Barnard was watching her go. At the door to Harmony House, all thoughts of anything but what she faced fled. Christine paused to collect herself. Ready or not, here I come. For better or worse, Christine was home. Once inside, she was startled by how everything looked the same as she remembered. There was the same hammered-tin ceiling, dark carved paneling, marble fireplace and antique furniture. It even smelled the same—like smoke, old wood and mildew. She was swamped with memories, her feelings a jumble of fondness, nostalgia, dread and anxiety. She followed David down the hall into the big kitchen, which was empty and eerily quiet, unlike the old days when it was always crammed with people cooking, talking, eating or drinking. Christine had loved mealtimes, when everyone was in a good mood, not too high or drunk or argumentative. As a child, Christine had stayed alert to the vibe, braced to scoot when it got ugly. Remembering made her pulse race the way it used to. Ridiculous, really. The back door opened and Bogie entered with a canvas holder of firewood in his arms. “Bogie.” Christine’s heart leaped at the sight of him. Bogie had always been kind to Christine, offering a gentle word on her behalf during the daily arguments with Aurora over food, clothes, toys and Christine’s free time. “Crystal!” He dropped the wood into the box by the woodstove and approached her, a grin filling his gaunt face, which was sun-brown and webbed with wrinkles. His ponytail had gone completely gray. He’d aged so much, though his cancer treatment might have temporarily set him back. “Who’s Crystal?” David asked her. “I’ll explain later,” she murmured. God. She’d forgotten about the name thing. Bogie shifted his weight from side to side, lifted then dropped his arms, as if not knowing whether or not to give her a hug. She decided for him, throwing her arms around him. He was skin and bones. “It’s good to see you,” she said. He ended the embrace fast, blushing beneath his tan, and studied her. “You’re so pretty, like I expected, but your eyes look tired. We’ll help you with that for sure.” She flushed at his close attention, surprised and warmed by his obvious affection for her. He’d always been in the background here. “Bogie, this is my son, David.” “Nice to meet you, young man,” Bogie said, ducking his head. So humble. He’d organized the commune, yet he’d let the much younger Aurora take charge. “Aurora’s lying down. Let me tell her you’re here.” “Oh, no, let her sleep. Please.” Feeling as rattled as she did, she wouldn’t mind delaying her first contact with her irascible mother. “She’d never forgive me.” Bogie thudded down the wooden floor of the back hall. Christine was dripping with sweat, ridiculously nervous. Her mother needed her help and she was here to give it. Maybe it would be as simple as it sounded. “So…Crystal? What’s that about?” David asked. “Lord. Aurora changed our names when we got here.” “She named you Crystal Waters?” “And she wasn’t joking, either. She wanted it to be a spiritual rebirth, like a baptism. I was to be sharp and true and sweet as the truth.” She’d resisted at first, but her mother had been so excited and happy, she’d given in. “That is so whack.” “You’re telling me.” Seeing David so amused, she told more of the story. “Picture the whole second grade laughing their heads off when I got introduced that first day.” “That would be harsh for sure.” He smiled his old smile and Christine’s heart lifted. So far, so good. “What about Grandma’s name? Aurora sounds made up.” “It was. Her real name’s Marie. Aurora means dawn. She wanted to experience daybreak as a bright new woman.” The words had stayed with Christine. When her mother had been that happy, Christine had felt swept away on a merry current. When she turned sad or angry, the trip became a churning tumble over sharp rocks. Probably how all kids felt. “That’s so trippy,” David said, just as Aurora tromped in from the hall, Bogie on her heels. “I can get out of bed on my own, dammit. Quit treating me like an invalid, Bogart.” Christine sucked in a breath at how small and frail her mother looked. Aurora had always seemed larger than life and tough as an Amazon warrior, even once Christine became an adult. When David was five, Aurora had come to Phoenix for a short, awkward visit and seemed as substantial and strong as ever. Christine hid her alarm with a smile. “Aurora, hi.” As always, her mother’s brown eyes slid away without making contact. “It’s about time you got here. Bogie, get them iced tea. It’s rose hip,” she said to Christine. “No need to fuss. We snacked the whole trip.” But Bogie was already in the fridge. “You look wrung out to me,” Aurora insisted. “What are you doing in a silk top out here?” “I don’t know. It’s light and cool.” She smoothed her hair as if to prove how fresh she was. God. She’d automatically defended herself against her mother’s tossed-off criticism. “Look at you, David, tall as hell.” Aurora started to move forward—to hug him perhaps?—but instead sank into a chair, breathing heavily. “Should you be resting?” Christine asked, alarmed at her mother’s weakness. Aurora drilled her with a look. “Don’t you start the invalid treatment, too.” She swung her gaze to David. “Nice tat.” She meant the ring of yin-yang symbols around David’s heartbreakingly thin upper arm. “I think it’s awful,” Christine said. It was a Brigitte idea, along with the eyebrow stud. “It’s a kid’s job to rebel,” Aurora said. “That’s how they individuate. You rebelled by conforming.” She turned to David. “Your mother loved to iron. Can you imagine that around here?” She winked at him. “She brushed her hair a hundred strokes, flossed her teeth every night, followed every rule. We didn’t have many, so she made up some of her own.” “She still loves rules, that’s for sure,” David said. “I’m not that bad, am I?” If being the butt of a joke or two helped David get comfortable here, Christine would dance around the room with boxer shorts on her head. “Get the herbed goat cheese and some pita, Bogart,” Aurora said gruffly. Bogie had already set out four mason jars of iced tea. “So, David, how’d you get kicked out of school anyway?” “He wasn’t expelled, Aurora. We talked the principal down to a suspension. As long as David keeps his side of the bargain.” Her son colored, not pleased about being reminded. “So what kind of hell did you raise?” Aurora asked. “Back talk? Independent thought? Authority figures in institutions hate people who think for themselves.” “No shit,” he said. “Language,” Christine warned. “It was for fighting, disrespecting teachers and—other things.” Suspected marijuana possession, which was the part that most worried Christine. He had been using pot, she knew. Stopping was part of their deal. David had promised to finish his schoolwork online and return in the fall with a new attitude. And Christine would do everything in her power to make that happen, including getting David some counseling. Aurora had told her about a therapist in nearby New Mirage, which was a lucky break in such a minuscule town. “Christ, kids are kids, Crystal. They’re not all taking Uzis into social studies class.” “Aurora…” Christine shot her mother a look. They’d discussed this over the phone, since Christine was concerned about her mother’s permissive style and the free-to-be atmosphere at Harmony House. “Okay,” Aurora said. “Your mother wants me to remind you to obey the rules. There aren’t many, but the ones we have we mean. No fighting. No smarting off…well, maybe a little smarting off. No drugs, of course. A fresh start, right? Pull your weight with chores. We all share and care. That’s our motto. Always has been.” She nodded at the commune rules posted next to the chore board, where everyone was assigned duties. It looked as though there were only a half-dozen residents at the moment. “Are we agreed?” Christine said to David. They had to be on the same page if they had any hope of her plan working. “Chill, okay?” David said. “I got it.” “We’ll have fun anyway,” Aurora pretended to whisper behind her hand. That was typical Aurora. When she’d visited, she’d let David sip mescal, skip dinner and stay up all night watching vampire movies that gave him nightmares for a week. David, of course, had adored her. “Here we go.” Bogie set down a plate of creamy cheese and big triangles of pita bread. “Sit down, you two,” Aurora said, spreading blobs of the cheese onto the pita, then handing them out. “Eat, Bogie,” she said. “Since the radiation, he hardly eats.” “I do fine,” he said. “I have…uh…medicine.” Christine felt a twinge of worry. Bogie grew a few marijuana plants for medicinal use, since pot was good for pain suppression, nausea and poor appetite. He’d promised to never smoke around David and to keep his half-hidden grow-room locked. In the old days pot had been everywhere at Harmony House, a fact that had annoyed Christine immensely, since it led to so much silly, lazy behavior in the grown-ups. Christine took a bite of the pita. The cheese was lemony and so delicate it melted like butter on her tongue. “Mmm,” she said, then sipped the rose-hip tea, which tasted fresh and healthy. David grimaced at the tea and barely nibbled the pita. He was a junk-food maniac, so the grow-your-own meals would be an adjustment for him. She’d take him to Parsons Foods in town for a stash of processed sugar and sodium nitrates. She had enough issues with David. Nutrition could wait. “You’ll love Doctor Mike, David,” Aurora said. “He’s brilliant. So intuitive. He sees right into you.” David shrugged, not enthused about the counseling. The guy would have to be good to get through to him. “If you don’t like him, we’ve got Doctor B.,” Aurora said. “Doctor B.?” Christine asked. “Marcus Barnard. He’s a big shrink in LA. He’s working on a book while he’s here.” So the man in the garden was a psychiatrist. That certainly explained his cool formality and intense gaze, along with his attempt to interpret Aurora’s obstinacy for her. “He’s a hard worker, too,” Bogie said. “A good thing since we’re low on residents right now. Lucy—she runs the clay works operation—thinks you should hire part-time kids, Crystal.” “Crystal doesn’t need to mess with any hiring,” Aurora grumbled. “I’ll be back in a week.” “The heart doctor said six weeks,” Bogie said quietly. “We’re here to work, Aurora,” Christine said. Bogie had warned her that her mother might resist help. “You’ll have your hands full with the animals, the gardens and Bogie’s greenhouse,” Aurora said. “Let’s just see how it goes.” If she had to hog-tie her mother to her bed to make her take it easy, she would. She’d need her A game to manage Aurora, that was clear. Christine was a pro at finessing difficult clients, but here with her mother in the Harmony House kitchen, she felt herself shrinking into her childhood self, like Alice in Wonderland eating the cake that made her very small. “If that travel article brings more folks out, we’ll have more hands,” Bogie said. “There was an article?” Christine asked. “It was about out-of-the-way travel spots. It said we’re the oldest continuously inhabited commune in the western U.S. We got a couple of hikers from Tucson due to the story.” “Harmony House is the oldest?” That fact fired up Christine’s professional instincts. “We could market that in ads, up your census, then raise your rates.” It was a relief to talk about something she knew how to do. “We don’t have rates,” Aurora said. “We ask for a contribution to cover food and laundry services and whatnot.” “What about your cash flow? Is it predictable?” Christine’s mind was spinning with the key questions she’d ask a client. “This is a commune,” David said. “It’s about living off what you produce and being sustainable. It’s not about cash.” Thank you, Brigitte. “Even Harmony House needs income.” She pointed at the Parsons Foods bag on the counter. “I doubt the grocery story lets them barter.” “They do buy our eggs and goat cheese,” Bogie said. David made an impatient sound. “Just because your job is getting people to buy crap they don’t need, doesn’t mean the rest of us want to live that way.” He was showing off for Aurora and Bogie, she could tell. “It was my evil capitalist job that paid for your cell phone, laptop and Xbox,” she said, hoping he would joke back. “Whatever, Christine.” She winced. Calling her by her first name was another Brigitte brainstorm: We’re all peers on this planet. But Christine was not about to object at the moment. She had to pick her battles or they’d be in a never-ending war. “Hell, we all start where we are and do what we can, right, Crystal?” Aurora said, surprising Christine with her kindness. Maybe her mother’s brush with death had softened her a little. “Your boss is cool with you taking off the summer?” “I’ve brought projects to do from here.” If the commune work tied her up too much, she’d have to dip into savings, but that would be fine. Within a year, she intended to leave Vance Advertising and open her own agency. “The main thing is for you to get your strength back.” Her mother bristled. “I am not an—” “Invalid, yeah. That’s what you said.” “And I mean it,” her mother said sharply. Except the emotion that flashed in her eyes wasn’t anger. It was fear. A chill climbed Christine’s spine. She’d never seen Aurora afraid and it made the world tilt on its axis. Aurora was clearly weaker than she wanted to be. Oh, dear. “How about we get you settled in now and tomorrow Aurora can show you around the clay works?” Bogie said, evidently trying to smooth the moment. “That sounds great,” Christine said before her mother could object. “So I’ll stay in my old room and put David in the spare one next door?” Christine and Aurora had lived in the old boarding house owners’ quarters at the back of the building. “The spare’s got furniture at the moment,” Bogie said. “We could move it if you like.” “Nonsense,” Aurora said. “David can pick one of the empty rooms on the far end of the second floor. Once you’ve picked it, grab a key.” She nodded at a rack by the kitchen door. “Okay. Cool.” He’d be too far away from her, but seeing the delight on David’s face, Christine wouldn’t object. “We never used to lock a door,” Bogie said, shaking his head sadly. “People insist these days. Your room’s open, Crystal. I figured you’d want to stay there.” Outside, David barreled up the stairs to pick out his room. Christine grinned at his eagerness. Of course, dragging buckets of table scraps to the compost heap might chill his excitement, not to mention the lack of cell service or high-speed Internet, but Christine hoped he’d be so busy learning and exploring that he’d forget all about Brigitte. She caught up with him halfway down the terrace, opening doors. When he reached a faded blue one, Christine got a jolt of electric memory. That was Dylan’s room, where she’d lost her virginity not exactly on purpose. “Not that one!” she called, then saw that David had opened the door to Marcus Barnard, who was buttoning up a blue shirt. “Sorry,” David said, the moved on to the next room. “He didn’t realize the room was occupied,” she said, watching Marcus’s fingers on the buttons. His ring finger had a pale indentation. He was divorced or widowed and not long ago. Hmmm. “No problem,” he said, tucking in his shirt. “I’ll get the dolly.” Before she could object, he was loping down the terrace. “Thanks!” she called as he took the stairs down to the yard. Leaning on the terrace rail, she watched him cross to the clay barn, moving with the easy grace of an athlete, strong, but not showy about it. Easy on the eyes. Maybe she shouldn’t stare, but, heck, window-shopping didn’t cost a dime, did it? CHAPTER TWO MARCUS ROLLED THE clay-spattered dolly toward Christine’s car, not certain what bothered him more: how much David looked like Nathan or how abruptly he’d been caught by Christine. She was pretty, of course, and lively, a coil of energy ready to spring into action. It had to be the contrast to his quiet life. She was like an explosion of confetti, a surprise that made you smile. And when she’d burst in on him dressing, he’d all but expected her. He’d felt abruptly alert. Awake. Which made him realize he’d been numb for a while, since long before the divorce. The sensation almost hurt, like the tingling ache of a sleep-numbed arm regaining circulation. Then there was her son. The last thing Marcus needed was a walking, talking reminder of his stepson. His memories and regrets were difficult enough. He got to the car as Christine staggered beneath the huge suitcase she’d dragged from the overhead luggage rack. He lunged to catch it before it hit the gravel. If she’d waited… But, then, Christine Waters didn’t strike him as the kind of woman who waited for much at all. She jumped in with both feet, which at the moment were clad in heeled sandals, not exactly stable on uneven ground. She was dressed for the city in a filmy top, white shorts and flashy jewelry. It was as if she hadn’t wanted to admit she was coming to a commune. Her mother was clearly a source of tension, too. What the hell was he doing analyzing the woman anyway? “That’s David’s bag,” she said, nodding at the one he held, her face flushed from exertion. “Let’s load his stuff first.” Marcus put the bag on the cart and David added an electric guitar case. “You play?” Marcus asked. David nodded. He had the same long blond hair, scrawny frame, soulful eyes and narrow face as Nathan. Even Lady had been fooled, barreling at him with joy, her owner home at last. “His teacher says he’s gifted, but he hardly practices,” Christine said. “He’ll have time when we’re here to—” “I’m not gifted,” David blurted, glaring at his mother. “I didn’t practice much until I got into a band,” Marcus said to smooth the moment. “You play, too?” Christine locked gazes with him. Her eyes were an unusual color—a soft gray. “Acoustic these days, but yes, I play.” “Maybe you and David could jam.” Her face lit up, but her son’s fell, clearly mortified. “God, Mom.” “If you’re interested, of course.” But he was certain the boy would decline. A good thing. Marcus would prefer to keep his distance. “David…? Answer the man!” Easy, Mom, Marcus wanted to warn her. “Maybe, whatever,” David mumbled, clearly fuming. He yanked the cart forward just as Christine tossed a bag. When it hit the ground, she teetered and Marcus steadied her arm. Balance restored, Christine stepped back, her cheeks pink. He noticed that in the swelter of early summer the woman smelled like spring. “Sorry,” David muttered, tossing the fallen suitcase onto his load and shoving the cart toward the house. “Everything I say pisses him off,” she said with a light laugh, though she looked sad and confused. “That’s not uncommon with teenagers.” “Really? So, in your opinion, he’s normal?” She faced him dead on, standing too close, digging in with her eyes. “Aurora told us you were a psychiatrist.” “I’m a partner at a mental health institute near L.A., yes.” Until they offered to buy him out, which he expected when he returned. Better for everyone. “But you’ve treated clients, though, right?” “In the past, yes, but—” “I mean, I wasn’t asking for free therapy…well, not yet anyway.” Another grin. “I bet that happens at parties a lot, huh? People hitting you up for advice?” “At times.” Not that there had been any parties after all that had happened—the controversy over his research, Nathan, his crumbling marriage. Fewer phone calls. A handful of e-mails and cards. Mostly silence. Christine had turned to watch David drag the dolly to the terrace. “He’ll be seeing a counselor in New Mirage, which I hope will help. Michael Lang? Do you know him? Is he good?” “I don’t know him, no.” It surprised him to learn the tiny town had a therapist of any kind. His friend Carlos Montoya, a GP, offered the only medical care, a three-daya-week clinic, with Carlos driving over from Preston. “It should help, right? I mean, the counseling?” “It can,” he said. “If the therapist’s style suits the client. Assuming your son wants to be treated.” “I was afraid you’d say that. David’s not exactly into it. He agreed to it to keep from getting expelled. Plus, it was my idea and he hates me lately.” She sighed. “The transition to adulthood can be difficult,” he said, moving to the trunk, wanting to get on with the task. “We never used to fight like this,” she said, joining him in surveying the load of office equipment, again standing too close. “We always talked, you know? About everything. He came to me with his problems, talked about school and friends. Now every conversation is a minefield. One wrong word and he explodes.” “It can be that way.” And so much worse. He leaned in to shift a computer into position. “Do you have kids, Marcus?” The question startled him and he jerked upward, banging his head on the trunk lid. “Not of my own, no.” “I didn’t mean to pry.” He realized he’d spoken sharply. “It’s fine.” He braced the CPU on the rim of the trunk with his hip so he could rub the knot on his head. “Sorry about that. Wait, we need the cart.” It sat empty outside the room David had chosen. “David, the cart!” she called. “I swear I taught him better manners.” She dashed after it. It was impossible not to watch her run, graceful and quick, even in heels. The sight of her firm curves and long legs in motion set off an unwelcome reaction below the belt. He was human, of course. And a man. No excuse to gawk. He started emptying the trunk. The rattle of wheels told him she’d returned and he began stacking items onto the cart. “He’s excited about the room,” she said, as if he’d asked the question. “This is just a rough patch, you know? Most parents and their kids survive the teen years, right?” “Most, yes.” But not all. Not all. She stared at him, clearly wondering what he meant. Afraid she’d pry—the woman seemed to have no boundaries—he put the last item, a fax machine, on top and pushed the cart toward Harmony House. “Where to now?” “Toward the back of the house. Through the courtyard.” They walked together, with Christine placing a steadying hand on the stack. “I hate that David’s room is so far from mine. Of course, you’re next door, so can I count on you to make sure he keeps curfew?” He stopped moving and blinked at her. “Joking. I’m joking, Marcus. Jeez.” She laughed, then her smile went rueful. “I just wish I could get in his head and make him make better choices.” “How does David feel he’s doing?” The question was an automatic one, something he’d have said to a client. “Fine, of course. Everyone else has the problem, not him. When he’s disrespectful at school, it’s the teacher’s fault. When he loses his temper, someone else made him. Smoking pot is no big deal, so that’s my problem, not his.” She shifted to block the cart from moving and faced him. “I can’t get through to him. I feel so helpless, you know?” “I do.” Marcus had been as close as Nathan would permit him to be, but he’d never forgive himself for not doing more, for not intervening somehow, no matter what Elizabeth wanted, no matter what his own training and intellect told him was possible. Christine resumed walking. “I can’t believe I dumped all that on you.” She shook her head and her dark hair shivered over her shoulders. “You’re easy to talk to.” “I don’t mind.” Not as much as he’d expect to. Christine was so direct, so in-your-face. Elizabeth had been intense, but quietly so. Angry, Elizabeth smoldered. Christine would no doubt burst into flames. The idea made him smile. “Probably all that listening training, huh?” She stopped to scratch her calf. He noticed insect bites on both her legs and her arms. He could mention the salve he had upstairs, but then she’d know he’d been staring at her body. He sighed. “What I really need is a shower,” she said, shaking her top as if to fan herself. “How’s the water pressure these days?” “Acceptable. Not strong, but steady.” “In the old days it was a hopeless trickle. Which made it no picnic trying to wash off the smell of goats. This way.” She turned them toward the rear entrance to the courtyard. “I can imagine. So you grew up here?” “I was seven when we came and when I left ten years later, I was all Scarlett O’Hara about it— ‘As God is my witness, I’ll never go smelly again!’” Marcus smiled. She joked about things that he could tell clearly troubled her. “And you haven’t been back since?” “No. It’s been eighteen years. That sounds bad, I know, but Aurora and I have a rocky history.” The cart stalled in the grass of the courtyard. Chickens squawked their objection to the interruption. He used force to get it moving again. “My whole goal is to help her without getting into heavy battle.” She bit her lip, clearly worried. “I’ll be walking on eggshells—free-range eggshells.” He smiled at her quip. “She clearly needs your help, so maybe if you focus on what you’re here to do…” “‘Busy hands are happy hands’?” She grinned. “Is that your professional advice?” “It works.” He paused. “Frankly, a psychology practice built around folk wisdom is as sound as any other.” “So, ‘a stitch in time saves nine…people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…an apple a day keeps the doctor away’? Like that?” “All valid, depending on the issue.” “Interesting, Doctor B.” She tapped her lips. “Got one for David? ‘Straighten up and fly right’ maybe?” “Too directive perhaps.” “Also very military-schoolish. Then how about a parenting one for me?” “Hmm. Maybe ‘a watched pot never boils.’” “Nice try. Patience is not one of my virtues.” “Something to work on then.” “You shrinks, always with the assignments.” She sighed. “So how much do I owe you for the session?” “No charge. Consider it part of the bell service at Harmony House.” He held the door for her to step into the hallway. He realized he was enjoying talking with her. Other than lunches in town with Carlos, he didn’t have many lighthearted social contacts, so this was…pleasant. And she smelled like spring. STEPPING INTO THE COOL hallway of the owners’ quarters, Christine’s smile felt easy for the first time since she’d arrived. Joking around with Marcus had been fun. He’d been taken aback at first. She came on strong, she knew, loud and chatty and nosy, while Marcus was quiet and self-contained, a still pool happy to remain ripple free. He’d joked back, though. The wooden floor creaked in a familiar way as they walked past the tiny kitchen, Aurora’s bedroom—its door closed—the bathroom, the spare room, then Christine’s old room. “This is it,” she said, turning the cracked ceramic knob, her heart doing a peculiar hip-hop. The room would be different, of course, after eighteen years. Countless residents had stayed here, she’d bet. But when she stepped inside, she saw it was exactly the same as when she’d left it. “Oh, my God. Nothing’s changed.” “It’s very…pink,” Marcus said, pulling the cart inside. “Bogie painted it for me. It was my princess room, like what I figured Susan Parsons would have. She was the most popular girl at school.” “Susan from Parsons Foods? She’s married to the mayor, I believe.” “She was queen back then, so of course she’d marry the mayor.” She ruled the girls who mocked Christine and the other commune kids. Christine ran her hand over the pink polyester bedspread with the ruffles she’d sewn herself. “I made this, you know.” She touched the sagging canopy netting attached to four broom handles. It looked ridiculous, as did the papier-m?chå French Proven?al frame around the bureau mirror and the pink fur-padded stool she’d made. “This was my haven. Aurora called me Rapunzel and made fun of me for expecting a prince to save me.” “Is that what you wanted?” “Not really, but that didn’t matter to Aurora. Fairy tales were sexist—the girls passive chattel to be bought or rescued.” “Pretty heavy rhetoric for a seven-year-old to absorb.” “All I wanted was our cute apartment, my little Catholic school with the neat plaid uniforms and the strict nuns.” Everything squared-off, peaceful, predictable. “What brought you here?” “Bogie talked Aurora into it. They’d been friends years before and ran into each other and he got her all fired up.” “But you not so much?” “God, no. There were power-outs constantly. No TV. No privacy. People moving in and out.” “Not to mention no water pressure.” “You’re getting it, yeah.” She’d been babbling, but it helped ease how strange she felt being here again. She liked how Marcus honed in on her while she talked, really listened, as if the details were vital to him. “Everything okay?” Bogie stood in the doorway. “My room’s the same,” she said, still amazed. “That’s Aurora. She sits in here and thinks about you.” “You’re kidding. She always laughed at my princess stuff.” “We’re sure glad to have you home again, Crystal,” Bogie said. The affection in his gray eyes tugged at her. He sounded as though she was here to stay. That made her stomach jump. Just for the summer, she wanted to remind him, but couldn’t, not with that happy look on his face. “Well, I’ll let you get settled.” He ducked his gaze, then retreated. That was Bogie’s way, to slip off, disappear, as if he wasn’t worthy of people’s time or attention. How sad. She would spend as much time with him as she could, she decided. Marcus helped her off-load the bags and equipment. “The office stuff looks ridiculous in here, huh?” she said, looking around at the desk, computer and printer. “Actually, the only phone is in the kitchen. I’ll have to set up in that alcove if I want to be online at all.” “The drugstore in New Mirage has computer terminals at the back where the post office is. It’s DSL. That’s what I use.” “I wonder how hard it would be to get DSL out here. Of course, Aurora thinks computers are a plot to destroy our minds.” “Should we move the equipment to the alcove?” he asked. “I’ve kept you too long already. Thanks for the help, Marcus. And for listening to me jabber.” “It was my pleasure.” “Oh, I doubt that,” she said, studying him. “I make you jumpy, don’t I? You keep backing away.” “No.” He looked surprised at her words, then seemed to ponder them. “I haven’t had much social interaction lately….” “And you prefer it that way?” He didn’t answer, but she was curious. “Why? Because of the book you’re writing?” “Aurora mentioned that, too?” “What’s it about? Psychiatry?” He nodded. “So how’s it going?” “It’s…going.” But distress flared in his eyes and he eased toward the door. “I’ll see you at supper then,” he said and was gone. So he didn’t want to talk about that, either. What was the deal with him and kids? None of my own, no. Stepkids then maybe? Why not say so? The man had a lot on his mind, evidently. She wondered why he’d quit seeing clients. Maybe one too many female patients hitting on him. Didn’t every woman crave a man who knew her inside-out, but stayed all the same? Marcus Barnard was a mystery, that was certain. At another place, another time, she might want to solve it. DAVID STUMBLED INTO the Harmony House kitchen, so frustrated he wanted to smash a mason jar or one of those big pottery plates. His legs ached and he was dying of thirst from climbing hill after hill looking for a cell signal to call Brigitte. He’d failed. No bars. No signal. No Brigitte. “How’d the exploring go?” his mother asked, all eager and excited. Like he was out having fun, not sweating his balls off for no good reason. “What did you see?” “I can’t get a cell signal!” He tossed his phone to the floor, instantly sorry he had. If he broke it, Christine wouldn’t replace another one. Why did he get so mad? “Just use the house phone,” his grandmother said, pointing at a squat black one so old it had finger holes. “Get permission first,” his mother just had to add, looking up from her laptop. “Toll calls add up fast.” And we’re not made of money. That was always the next line. “Did you know there was no cell service here?” he asked. “We can live a few weeks without mobile phones and broadband connections,” she said, holding out a glass of water. “Wait. You mean there’s no Internet?” That would kill him. “Dial-up only and we don’t want to tie up the phone a lot.” “Dial-up’s too slow.” “Drink the water. You look dehydrated.” “You’re not one of those computer addicts, are you, David?” his grandmother said, sewing a hole in some overalls. “That’s no way to relate to the world.” “May I please use your phone, Grandma,” he said, ignoring her jab, being so polite it hurt his throat. “Anytime you want,” she said. “And call me Aurora, for God’s sake.” “You can call Brigitte once a day, but keep it brief,” his mother said. One call a day with the love of his life? No texts, no phone photos, barely e-mail? He was so mad he might explode. Shaking, he dialed Brigitte’s number one digit at a time, rattle, rattle, rattle. It took forever. This was what they meant by dialing a phone. He carried the handset around the corner into the little den for privacy. Brigitte should be between classes right now. He had to talk to her. Had to. He listened for a ring, his heart racing, but the call went straight to her voice mail. Her phone was off. David’s insides seemed to empty out. He squeezed his eyes shut and forced himself to calm down. Hanging up, he headed straight for his room. At least he had a room to escape to. He hated that he was here. His mother had used Grandma Waters’s surgery as an excuse to drag him away from Brigitte. Brigitte. Her name was a wail in his head. Up the stairs, he saw Lady was sitting outside his door. Was she waiting for him? He slowed as he approached to keep from scaring her, then crouched and held out his hand. She took a gingerly sniff. “You lonely, girl?” Me, too. The dog watched him, rigid and wary, but her tail made one flop onto the wood. A yes that warmed his heart. “I should warn you that she howls at night.” He turned to look at Marcus Barnard, who’d come up behind him. “I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted a different room.” “It’s all right.” David knew how the dog felt. He’d howl, too, if they wouldn’t put him in a mental hospital for it. Already, he had to see a shrink. “Why is she so sad?” “She misses her owner.” “Where is he?” “He died. About a year ago.” “Wow.” Looking again into Lady’s sad eyes, he felt his own sorrow well up and his eyes start to water. “Sorry, girl.” Marcus cleared his throat. “She could use a friend and she seems to like you.” “Yeah?” Would she come into his room? He opened his door and stepped inside. “Want in, girl?” Lady shivered, whined and stepped toward him, then back. She sat again. David’s heart sank. “Give her time.” Marcus acted so calm, like nothing could shock him. He was a psychiatrist, so maybe nothing did. “Yeah. Sure. Thanks.” He closed the door, leaving Lady outside. Maybe she thought he needed guarding. Inside his room, David felt worse. He’d thought it would be cool to have his own place, like in a hotel, but it smelled dusty and neglected and the bed was creaky-ancient and he didn’t have any of his posters. This wasn’t his place. It was a beat-up cell in a nowhere prison. He didn’t even have Internet. To calm down, he fished a joint from his small stash, then the bag of Cheetos he’d brought from home. He meant to eat only organic from the commune like he and Brigitte had discussed, but that goat cheese had tasted like ass. He took a giant hit, then flopped onto the bed. From the ice chest he’d put beside his bed he popped a can of Dr Pepper. He would quit junk food once he felt better. He wanted back to Phoenix now. Brigitte was going to a bunch of parties this weekend. He’d miss the whole summer with her. In August, she was doing a backpack-hitchhike deal, heading to Seattle, then across the country. By Thanksgiving, she’d be in Europe. If he didn’t lose his nerve, he’d go with her, screw school. It was all a fascist factory of mind control anyway. He took another toke, holding it in a long time, but the pot didn’t erase how raw he felt inside. He should run. Hitch a ride to the pathetic town and take the bus home. If a bus even came to New Mirage. If he knew how to drive, he’d borrow the Volvo, or one of the commune’s pickups or, hell, maybe that school bus of Bogie’s painted with hippie crap. Brigitte would love how retro it was. But he didn’t know how to drive because Christine said no permit until his grades went up. She killed every hope every time. David studied the smoke curling up from the spliff. His mom would go nuts if she knew he’d brought weed. Everything freaked her out. She always had her eye on him, making him nuts with questions: Where are you going? Who will be there? How’s school? Do you like your English teacher? Are you using drugs? Promise me this, swear that, agree to x, never do y. His thoughts smeared and echoed. The bud was doing its trick. Good. He needed the world to blur. He took a long swallow of soda and a handful of the cheesy curls, which now tasted creamy and tangy and melted amazingly on his tongue. Christine didn’t know anything that went on inside him. Whenever he tried to say something real to her, she went pale and scared or red and mad. At times like this, loaded, he thought about his father. If he only knew where he was. Christine refused to find him. She claimed he would disappoint David, hurt him, that he had a terrible temper, that he was a flake and a jerk. David didn’t believe that. His dad would relate to him. He would know that smoking a little dope was no big deal. David wasn’t a druggie, he wasn’t “using” like his mother claimed. Like he was on meth or heroin. He’d done mushrooms a couple times, Ecstasy once and a kid at a party had some Vicodin, but that was just recreation. And he didn’t do booze. Too harsh. He didn’t need drugs. All he needed was Brigitte. His mother hated her because she was older, because she had ideas of her own. So unfair. Thinking that sent the red flood into his head and he wanted to break something—a wall, a door, a window. It scared him when he got this angry. His mother said that was how his father was. Even if it was true, he probably had good ways to handle it he could teach David. Brigitte could always talk him down. Brigitte was his steady center. Brigitte was his life. He had to get to her. So much burned inside him. He wrote stuff—poetry, mostly, like Brigitte, but also song lyrics. He should practice guitar. Once he got better he could compose. Except it took so long to get better. So, so long… And he’d be here so, so long…. He remembered Christine asking Marcus if he would jam with David, like David was a needy geek. He loved his mom, but she wanted to stroke his hair and read him bedtime stories like he was still five and scared of the dark. He couldn’t take her anymore. And he hated being mean to her. She’d be sad when he left with Brigitte, but she should get it. She’d left home when she was a teenager, too. Knock, knock. “Can we talk?” Christine again. He put on his headphones for her own good. If he opened the door he’d just hurt her again. CHAPTER THREE THE NEXT MORNING, when Christine opened her eyes and saw gauze over her bed, she shot bolt upright. Where am I? Then her mosquito bites kicked in, itching madly, and it all came back to her. She flopped back onto the creaky, saggy mattress of her childhood bed. Her cheek itched with a new bite. So did both elbows. Damn. Mosquito repellant and calamine lotion were going on her grocery list, no matter what David thought. “We said breakfast, not lunch,” Aurora grumbled when Christine met her in the kitchen for their visit to the clay works barn. “It’s only seven-thirty, Aurora,” she said on a sigh. “Well, let’s go then,” Aurora huffed. Christine grabbed a slice of fruit bread and joined her mother, who was walking so slowly it seemed painful. Worry tightened Christine’s chest. Twice, she reached to support her, but gave up, knowing her mother would slap her hand away. The barn that housed Harmony House Clay Works was cool and dim and smelled of moist earth. Sunlight slanting in from windows lit wide swaths of thick dust in the air. A crew of four young men shifted items from potter’s wheels to shelves that already held drying pots, bowls and bells. “Hey there.” A woman in a red-paisley do-rag left the clay she was kneading, wiped her hands on her overalls and came close. “You must be Crystal,” she said, holding out a callused hand. “I’m Lucy. Pleased to meecha.” “Happy to meet you, too.” “Lucy runs the show when I’m not here,” Aurora said. “She’ll tell you what she needs you to do. Lucy?” “Mostly you’ll handle the orders. Also make sure I got crew and clay. Help us load and carry when we’re in a bind and such. I’ll show you the books.” Lucy led Aurora and Christine to a makeshift table at the rear of the barn—plywood resting on sawhorses with beat-up bar stools for chairs. On top were a ledger, a small invoice pad, an index-card box and a clay-grimy calculator. Not much of an office, Christine thought with dismay. “Is the income steady?” She flipped through the handwritten ledger. “About half the year,” Lucy said. “Trouble is we turn down jobs when it gets too busy.” “We get backed up,” Aurora said, shrugging. “No big thing.” “That’s a shame,” Christine said, hating the idea of inefficiency or lost profits. Maybe this was an area she could help. “Do you have a Web site?” “No. And no computers,” Aurora said. “We’re not a factory, Crystal.” “I’ve been telling her we could do a lot better with a Web site,” Lucy said, her eyes lit with energy. “That’s absolutely true,” Christine said. Aurora snorted. “Take this order for wind chimes.” Lucy motioned at a cardboard box full of ceramic bells. “This guy has a gift shop in Sedona. He looked for our Web site but no luck. He stuck to it and tried the phone book, but who knows how many sales we lose that way?” “The kiln only holds so many pieces,” Aurora said. “Not if we add more shelves,” Lucy insisted. “And what about the crew? Huh?” “We hire more when we need them,” Lucy said. This was obviously an argument they’d had before. “Maybe I could help with that,” Christine said, not wanting Aurora to get upset. “I can probably get the design guy at my agency to put up a simple Web site for free. If we buy a cheap computer, you could see how it would work.” “Let’s just get through a week or so,” Aurora grumbled, shooting her a look. “Bogie’s not up to much in the gardens and someone should supervise the animals—feeding, milking, collecting eggs. Plus, you have your own work, don’t you?” “If I can help your business, I want to.” Aurora’s dismissal of her ideas hurt, but she refused to let that show. “We’re fine as we are, Crystal.” Behind Aurora, Lucy shook her head. No, we’re not. “We were fine before you came, we’ll be fine after you’re gone. Because you are going…right?” Before she could answer, the plea in her mother’s question stopped her cold. Her mother wanted her to stay? Christine felt her jaw drop. That made no sense. Aurora was as uncomfortable around Christine as Christine was around her. They’d be lucky to survive the summer without tearing into each other and Aurora wanted her to stay? She must be more frightened than Christine realized. Her heart squeezed at the thought. “How about this? Before I leave, I’ll be certain any change is dialed in tight. What do you say?” “I don’t know….” Her mother’s pride surely would keep her from admitting she needed help. “Marketing is my profession, Aurora,” she said gently. “I’m good at it. Why not let me see what I can do for you?” Aurora heaved a sigh. “No changes without approval from me or Lucy. We can’t have a bunch of crazy stuff disrupting our operation.” “Of course not,” she said, irritated by her mother’s insult. Crazy stuff. Really. Enough already. She wanted to say so, but then she remembered what Marcus had said. Focus on the work. He was right. The important thing was that there were improvements she could make here. And Aurora was feeling weak and out of control in the place she usually ran. “I won’t do anything you don’t approve of, Aurora,” she said. “As long as we’re clear, then all right.” Behind Aurora, Lucy did a yes fist pump, which made Christine smile. Aurora lowered herself onto one of the benches, her breathing shaky. Was she too tired? “Lucy can show me the operation from here,” Christine said. “Maybe you need to head back inside.” To bed, to rest. Please. Aurora waved off the idea. “You ever throw a pot, Crystal?” “Throw a…?” “Work with clay. Create something with your own two hands.” Her mother’s eyes were bright now, and full of mischief. “You want to see the operation, you gotta get your hands dirty.” “Okaaay…” “I didn’t start in until after you left, you know. It took a while to develop my style. Better late than never for you.” Her mother pushed to her feet, arms trembling, and led Christine to a half-dozen pedal-powered potter wheels and motioned Christine onto a clay-splattered stool. “Now sit.” In for a penny, in for a pound, Christine thought, sitting. She’d have to share that with Marcus, when she told him his advice had worked. “BUT I CAN’T do MY homework,” David whined as Christine drove him into New Mirage for his first appointment with Dr. Mike. “Dial-up’s too slow. It freezes all the time.” “You don’t need the Internet once you’ve downloaded the assignments. Look, do you want to be a junior when school starts or not?” She gritted her teeth and twisted her hands on the steering wheel. Losing her temper wouldn’t help a bit. “You made a deal, David.” “I’m sick of the deal. Let’s go home. I hate it here. It’s boring and stupid. There’s nothing to do.” “There’s plenty to do. You’re just not doing any of it.” He’d been assigned to work in the garden with Marcus and help Bogie in the greenhouse, but he was constantly wandering off. Sullen with her, full of complaints, he stayed mostly in his room, except when he talked to Brigitte, and he was sneaking in extra calls, Christine was certain. David showed no improvement, but at least Christine had made progress at the clay works in the past week. The agency’s designer was putting together the Web site using digital shots Christine had sent of Aurora’s most beautiful pieces and Christine had been contacting previous clients about new orders, as well as generating new business with cold calls to tourist boutiques around the state. Maybe boosting the commune’s income made Christine a slave to the capitalist overlords, but she didn’t care. Aurora and Bogie must have huge medical bills to handle. This was a way Christine could help. Aurora came out to the barn each morning to issue opinions, question everything and generally slow things down. The first two days, Christine steamed with annoyance, barely holding her tongue. But she gradually saw this was Aurora’s way to hang on to the place a little. She looked so relieved when Christine would suggest Aurora head back to “handle things in the house,” which was code for lying down. Christine had downloaded heart surgery postoperative instructions and read them out loud to Aurora, over her strenuous objections. She was supposed to rest every day, take breaks between activities, avoid stairs, not cross her legs, not lift anything over five pounds and not drive. The good news was that if she followed the rules, in six to eight weeks, she’d be back to normal, with decades of life ahead of her, which relieved Christine immensely. Christine parked in front of Dr. Mike’s office, which used to be a Laundromat, crossing her fingers that this visit would change things. Dr. Mike wore an Indian tunic and flowing pants, and his office smelled of patchouli and was ringed with shelves of crystals, stoppered bottles of herbal remedies and books on alternative medicine. Okay, so not traditional therapy, but if the man helped David, Christine didn’t care if he used a Ouija board and danced under a full moon. Leaving David in his hands, Christine headed to Parsons Foods to pick up a few things. She saw that Susan Parsons was “filling in” at the register again and she reminded Christine of the dinner at her house Saturday night. On her second day, Christine and Marcus had gone on a grocery run together and Susan had insisted they both come to supper and bring David to meet her twin sixteen-year-old sons. To get David friends, Christine would endure a night of Susan showing off her husband—she’d mentioned that he was the mayor at least five times before the groceries got bagged—and her, no doubt, perfect princess home. Back at Dr. Mike’s office, Christine wrote a check and walked a smiling David out to the car. Her hopes soared. Maybe this would help. In the car, she asked, “So how was it?” “He looked into my eyes and told me my nutrition is bad.” “He what?” Christine’s hopes dropped like stones. “Didn’t you talk about your problems?” “I don’t have any problems. He said my irises were muddy, which means my bowels are blocked.” “Just great.” “He gave me some breathing exercises to clear my heart chakra.” He demonstrated, huffing while patting his stomach. “Then we talked about the Phoenix Coyotes. He likes hockey.” Dammit, Aurora. Dr. Mike was no more capable of counseling David than he was of doing Aurora’s heart surgery. “You’re not going back there.” “Why not? It’ll get the principal off your back.” “More roughage is not going to help us here. We’ll have to find someone in Preston.” Which meant a two-hour round-trip. “Come on. He said he’d hypnotize me next time.” David was clearly loving this. Christine shook her head. Now what? “NOT THAT PLATTER, the swirled glaze one,” Aurora ordered Christine, whose only wish was to keep the couscous as moist as her own skin in this boiling-hot kitchen. She and Marcus had kitchen duty, instructed by Bogie and Aurora, who were supposedly resting, though Bogie had been up and down seasoning things and Aurora had been barking commands. “If you’d keep the trays in the same place, it would be easier,” Christine said, forcing herself not to snap at her mother. She was dying to say, Go lie down, for Pete’s sake. “Here you go.” Marcus handed Christine the tray. It was one of her mother’s surreal creations in green, blue and turquoise. “And the serving utensil and leftover pita she’s about to tell you about.” He winked. “Saving you time.” “Thanks,” she said, vividly aware of how close he stood. After a week of seeing Marcus, mostly at meals, Christine could no longer deny how attracted she was. Whenever he was near, she felt a low electric hum start up inside. It was delicious. She wasn’t going to do anything about it, it was just…fun. She rarely dated, but when she did she kept it casual and mostly physical. She had David and engrossing work, of course. Plus she’d been burned the few times she’d gotten serious by charmers who let her down—like David’s father, Skip—or pursued her relentlessly until she fell for them, then disappeared or went cold on her. Not good. Her judgment when it came to relationships plain reeked. Short-term hookups were fine for now. Maybe some day, when she got smarter, less emotional or developed better mating instincts, she’d go for more, the whole picket-fence deal. Marcus felt the attraction, too, she could tell. It was thrilling to get a man as restrained as Marcus all charged up. She liked making him laugh, too. And talking to him. She realized she didn’t spend much relaxed social time with men, so this was a nice change. It was all good fun. She enjoyed the tease and retreat and he seemed to, too. She had too much on her hands with David, her mother and her work to even think about sex. Well, she could think about it. But that was it. Marcus seemed equally reluctant, pulling back from any accidental contact, when they brushed hips in the entry to the dining room or tangled fingers over the dishes they washed. Marcus had the goulash pot in both hands and gestured for her to pass in front of him. She did, then glanced over her shoulder to catch him watching her backside. She got that roller-coaster dip in her stomach. “Watch your step,” she said, nodding at the bump in the floorboard, but she was grinning and he cleared his throat. This was such a kick. At the entrance to the dining room, Christine paused to admire the rough-wood table holding the ceramic plates in her mother’s singular style, the pewter flatware and Mason jar water glasses. Bogie had let David choose the cuttings for the bouquet of fragrant herbs, river bamboo and exotic amaryllis in the center of the table. There were ten people at the table tonight. Aurora and Bogie emerged with the salad and bread and Christine handed the couscous to the wife of the hiking couple, Lisa Manwell, who loaded up, then passed to Carl, a scary guy with the smeared ink of a prison tattoo. Aurora said he was a teddy bear and Bogie declared him a wizard of a mechanic who kept the school bus purring. If he didn’t murder them all in their sleep, Christine would be grateful. The good karma here is too strong for anything negative, Aurora had told her. Lord. No wonder her mother liked Dr. Mike. “Enjoy the bounty of the earth through our hands,” Aurora said, head down. “May we all find here what we need.” Carl mumbled an amen. Silently, Christine put in her own request: Please bring David back. Make us a family again. The commune food was grainy and dense, made with whole grains, lentils and beans, with Middle Eastern spices, fresh and healthy and there was always plenty. It had taken Christine forever to get the dirt off the tender lettuce and celery Marcus had picked for the salad that afternoon. “So you’re in high school?” The question for David came from Gretchen, across the table, a pretty twenty-something poet on retreat. Beside her were two college students, Mitch and Louis, researching sustainable living for a college project. “I’ll be a junior,” David answered, his face aflame, “but school’s bullshit.” “David!” Christine said, embarrassed by the swear word. The Manwells exchanged disapproving glances. “Creativity can suffer in school, for sure,” Gretchen said. “That’s what my girlfriend says. She writes poetry. Also political pieces. She’s really good.” Christine’s heart clutched at his wistful tone and love-sick look. A week hadn’t eased his feelings for Brigitte at all. “Do you drive?” Gretchen asked him. “Not yet.” He glared at Christine. Learning to drive had been a sore subject. She’d said no permit without a B average. “Hell, you can learn while you’re here,” Aurora said. “He doesn’t have a permit,” Christine said. “Who cares?” “I care. It’s illegal.” “We rarely see a deputy, so who’d write the ticket?” Aurora waved away the issue like a gnat over her plate. “Aurora…” “I might as well learn. I’ve got nothing else to do.” “Now isn’t the time to talk about this,” she said quietly. “It’s never the time with you,” David blurted. He’d been in a bad mood since his call to Brigitte. He looked around, clearly aware of how rude he’d sounded, jerked to his feet, knocking off his knife and loudly scraping his chair before he stomped away. “Teenagers,” Christine finally said into the awkward silence. Heads nodded. Forks clicked, water glasses clinked. “Kids are so out of control these days,” Lisa Manwell said. “It’s shameful. My sister’s teens rule the house.” Christine bit her tongue to keep from suggesting Lisa try a stroll in her sister’s Free Spirits before she criticized her. “Since Socrates, adults have thought kids ran wild and parents were lax,” Aurora said, winking at Christine. “That’s how you know you’re old, when you start saying, kids today….” Lisa sniffed at the insult. “David’s a good kid,” Aurora said. “Thank you.” Christine was touched by her mother’s kindness. Aurora really was trying to do what they’d agreed—support Christine’s parenting of David. “He’s at loose ends out here in the country,” she said. “So let him drive, Crystal. Where’s the harm?” Lord. So much for Aurora’s good intentions. “How about if I get the dessert?” Christine said, happy to escape to the kitchen. Marcus stood and began gathering plates. Taking a knife from the cupboard to slice the cinnamon carrot bread, she noticed the phone was missing its handset. The cord stretched around the corner into her office alcove. David sat on the floor there, knees up, back to her, his voice low and fervent. “I’ve got to see you. I’m so alone here. Christine’s such a…she’s so… Exactly. Controlling. I hate her.” Christine’s cheeks stung, as if she’d been slapped. He didn’t really mean that, but it still hurt. She tried to back away without being seen, but when he saw her, she knew she had to say something about the rule. “You already called today. You need to hang up.” He covered the phone and gave her a desperate look. “This is all I have. Do you want me to go psycho?” He said into the phone, “Yeah, she’s making me hang up. I’m sorry. ’Bye.” He jerked to his feet, charged around the corner and slammed down the receiver. “Are you happy? You made my life a complete hell.” Marcus was slicing the bread, so he’d heard. “I’m simply asking you to keep your word, David.” “No, you’re not. You hate Brigitte and you want to break us up. You can cut me off from everyone I care about, but you can’t change me. I’ll never be your perfect son with straight As and straight friends, on the student freaking council.” “That’s not what I want and you know it.” His eyes flashed with a hatred that scared her. “I don’t have to stay here, you know. I can leave.” “That wouldn’t solve anything.” This was the first time he’d threatened to run away and it terrified her. “If I found my father it would.” “What?” Skip was the last thing David needed at the moment. Angry, flaky and mean, Skip would break David’s heart for sure. “Just because you won’t look for him, doesn’t mean I can’t.” Skip’s bad credit history meant he never had a listed number, thank God, but still… “That’s not what you want, David,” she said as kindly as she could manage. “You don’t know what I want.” He brushed past her, pausing when he noticed Marcus holding the tray of bread, then barreled out the back door. She wanted to go after him, but she knew better. David needed to cool off before they talked. Talked. Right. It had become a pointless exercise. He stonewalled every question. Christine fought despair. “I can take over,” she said to Marcus, putting her hands beneath the tray, enjoying the comfort of his warm fingers for an instant. She liked that his face showed neither pity nor embarrassment over the outburst. Together they served the dessert and when it was over started on the dishes, since cooking means cleanup was a commune rule. She tried to stay cheerful, but David’s anger was wearing her down. She’d begun to become discouraged. “I’m sorry you heard that fight,” she said, glancing at Marcus. “Living with his father would be a disaster for David.” “‘The grass always seems greener…’” “More folk-saying therapy?” She couldn’t quite smile. “You probably think it’s bad that I won’t let him see his father, but if you knew Skip…” “You don’t need to justify yourself to me, Christine.” “He would break David’s heart.” She scrubbed fiercely at the plate she was cleaning, then plopped it into the rinsing sink so hard that water splashed Marcus’s face. “Sorry, sorry.” She brushed away the drops from his smooth cheek. “I’m fine, Christine,” he said, low and reassuring, catching her hand in his. The touch felt so good, she just stood there letting him hold her hand and look into her eyes, sending calm all the way through her. She blew out a breath, then went back to the dishes, more gently this time. “Skip calls now and then, drunk or stoned, wanting to connect with David. I used to set up a day and time for him, but he always bailed. Thank God I never told David in advance. The man is an overgrown child, so distractible, with a scary temper—” She wiped a blob of lentils from a plate. “Lately, I just let the machine take his calls.” A month before, he’d left her his most recent number and address. She paused for Marcus to comment, but he kept rinsing and stacking, allowing her to fill the silence if she chose. “Even if Skip did show up, he’d throw out pie-in-the-sky promises, then break them. David is too vulnerable now.” She stopped washing and turned to him. “Don’t you think waiting until he’s eighteen is better? He’ll have more maturity to put the hurt in perspective and by then he’ll be done hating me.” She managed a half smile. “Are you asking for my professional opinion again?” “Would you give it to me? In an emergency?” “I’m in no position to give advice,” he said. A shadow crossed his face and she realized her request disturbed him more than he had let on. “Want to hand me those?” he said, indicating the dishes she’d let pile up while she talked. She wanted to ask him about that, but he was sending out leave-it-alone signals like mad, so she stuck to the dishes, glancing at him now and then. He had such a strong face—straight nose, solid jaw and a great mouth, sensual and masculine. His hair brushed his collar, as if he’d been too busy for a haircut and he smelled of a lime aftershave with a hint of sandalwood. His presence calmed her, as well as the slow, sure movements of his strong hands. He was so quiet. “If I didn’t talk, would you ever break the silence?” she finally said. “Excuse me?” He stopped rinsing and looked at her. “You hardly ever talk,” she said. “When I need to, I do.” “So is it that after all those years of listening to people bitch and moan, you’ve had enough?” His mouth twitched. She’d amused him. That felt like a prize. “Meanwhile, I hate silence. I say whatever comes into my head. I’m probably annoying the hell out of you, huh?” “No. I enjoy you. Kitchen duty is flying by.” “That’s flattering. I’m more amusing than greasy plates.” He laughed, looking almost boyish. “I didn’t mean it quite like that, no.” “You have a great laugh,” she said. “You should do it more.” He pondered that. “You think I’m too serious?” “At times, I guess. But I like how you are, Marcus.” She touched his forearm and felt another, stronger frisson of desire. “You’re…soothing.” “I soothe you?” He lifted an eyebrow, looking wry. “That’s not exactly flattering, either.” “Well, you have other effects on me, too,” she said softly, moving closer. “The opposite of soothing.” “I see.” Heat sparked in his eyes, but only for an instant. Then his eyes went sad, almost haunted, and she sucked in a breath. Something awful had happened to Marcus. She wondered if she’d ever find out what it was. CHAPTER FOUR MARCUS LEFT THE KITCHEN as soon as the dishes were done, saying he needed to work on his book, but he was clearly avoiding more sexual byplay or, perhaps, thoughts of the old hurt he’d remembered. Possibly his ex-wife? What if he withdrew altogether? Christine would hate that. He provided the only spice and spark to her time at Harmony House. Dammit. For all its thrills, sex could be such a pain. If she lost Marcus’s friendship because of her stupid libido… What did he think about her anyway? Men were a puzzle to her. Maybe because she’d never really known her father and had only Harmony House’s hippies and drifters as examples of manhood. There was Bogie, of course, who was sweet, but mostly a ghost in her life. Her first sex with Dylan had confused and kind of scared her. After that came Skip, a smooth operator who’d promised much and given little, then one, two, three more screwups before she finally learned her lesson—hold back her heart, stick with short-term fun and friendship. She didn’t blame her past or anything. She’d screwed up all on her own. But she wished to hell she was better with men. Christine closed the last cupboard and sighed. Time to try to talk with David. Outside the front door, the porch smelled of sun-scorched wood, reminding her of summer, returning wet and shivery from a swim in the river to dig into a slice of watermelon warm from the garden, spitting seeds at the other kids, letting the juice run down her chin, not caring about being neat at all. The porch, with its rockers, wooden swing and cable spool tables had always been a popular hangout for talk, cards, music or watching people play Frisbee or dance in the yard. “Nice night.” Aurora’s voice, from a rocking chair, startled her out of her reverie. “Yes, it is.” “Where you headed?” her mother asked, sipping iced tea, the ice cubes rattling gently in her glass. “To check on David. We had an argument.” “I’d leave him be if I were you.” Christine bit back a sharp response. Aurora had hardly been Parent of the Year and now she was dishing out advice? Christine forced down her spike of outrage and sank into the fabric hammock for a moment. Now was as good a time as any to update Aurora on the clay works. Organizing her thoughts, she ran her hands over the colorful braids that formed the hammock. “I recognize this cloth. Where’s it from?” “It used to be my bedspread. Bogie made the hammock. He can make you one if you like. He does that for people.” “Maybe we could sell them. Handcrafted at a commune? I bet the gift shops where we’re placing our ceramics would buy tons.” Her mother chuckled. “You are a slave to profit. David’s right.” She was in a good mood at least. “We all have our gifts.” Christine fingered the familiar cloth, lost in memory for a moment. She’d loved her mother’s bed, the smell of vanilla and patchouli, the orange light through the Indian-print curtains on the window. “I liked your waterbed…the way it jiggled. You used to tell me stories sometimes.” When Aurora allowed it, Christine would cuddle up to her, toying with her mother’s thick braid while Aurora talked and talked. “You and your endless questions,” Aurora said. “You were relentless.” “They were mostly about my father,” she said, remembering vividly. “You would never tell me much about him.” “It wasn’t relevant.” She locked gazes with Christine. “Do you tell David all about Skip?” “Skip is a train wreck. My father was a good man.” A police officer who died in the line of duty when Christine was three. “I told you he loved you. That should have been enough.” “I wanted to know everything.” She remembered the gold buttons on his blue uniform, and the smell of leather and aftershave. “You didn’t even save a picture.” Aurora shrugged. That was that. End of topic. Christine felt a stab of the helpless feeling she used to get over Aurora’s stubborn silences—wanting so much to know about her father and having Aurora lock him away and toss the key. At least Christine had grown out of that pointless pain. All she wanted now was to keep this fragile peace with her mother until it was time to leave. They were too different, her mother too shut down for them to ever be close, which had been her old stupid fantasy. “You went ahead and bought that computer, didn’t you?” Aurora said gruffly. “It was a good price, so, yes.” “But you didn’t clear it with me. We agreed—” “It was the one you chose, Aurora, with the features you liked, remember?” Her mother had pored over the catalog Christine had searched out on her laptop. “Tomorrow I want to show you the draft of the Web site. Also the PayPal account.” “PayPal? This is the first I’ve heard of that,” she snapped, eyes sparking in the dim light of the porch. “You wanted something easy to manage, remember? Lucy and I worked out the details. If you don’t like it we’ll change it.” Her mother rocked angrily for a few seconds. Christine took a slow breath and blew it out. Why did this bother her so much? She never got testy with clients when they second-guessed her. Only Aurora made her temper flare. “Also, I can get agency rates for some advertising at key venues that I know will generate more orders. If that’s all right, I’d like to set that up.” “I told you before we’re not an assembly line.” Calm, calm, calm. Lucy had asked her to push this issue with Aurora, so Christine would do her best. “Lucy and I worked out a plan. By enhancing the kiln, adding a second shift, plus some on-call part-timers, it’ll be easy. No worries for you or pressure. In your condition, you need low stress, so—” “You let me worry about my condition.” Her mother glared at her. “You could stand to lower your stress, too. You act like if you hold still for one minute the world will stop turning.” Christine closed her eyes to collect herself. She tried to rise above, but her mother’s digs and grumbles stung like sandpaper on a sunburn. “It’s your show, Aurora. If you don’t want ads, we won’t buy ads. But Lucy is getting frustrated. If you don’t watch it, you’ll lose her.” Her mother stopped rocking and seemed to consider that. “Just be sure you stick around until every kink is worked out, like you said you would.” There was that underlying plea again: Please stay. The request felt like a weight on Christine’s chest, making it hard to breathe. She couldn’t stay. No way. David hated it here, for one thing. He had school and she had plans to open her own agency. She had a life in Phoenix. Here was an awkward limbo. She comforted herself with the thought that Aurora must be feeling weak still. As soon as she was herself again, she’d probably pack Christine’s bags herself. “I’ll stay until you boot me out. How’s that?” she said, using the cheery voice of a nurse with a grumpy patient. “See that you do,” Aurora said, as if she’d won a fight. “And do something with your room before you go. Paint it, replace that god-awful furniture with stuff from the spare room. That pink-and-gingham mess depresses the hell out of me.” Great. Another mean zing to Christine’s heart. So much for Bogie’s claim that Aurora meditated about Christine in the room she’d kept the same all these years. The man lived in a sunny-side-up haze. “Well, I like my old room,” Christine said just to be stubborn. “It’s darling. It makes me think of fairy tales.” She grinned. “Good God,” her mother groused, looking off across the yard in the dark to where mesquite trees were silhouetted by moonlight. Was she smiling? Maybe. Mission accomplished, more or less, so Christine rose from the hammock to go to David. “You do need to cut David some slack,” Aurora said. Anger spiked in Christine. Do not yell. Stay calm. “Excuse me, Aurora, but you have no idea what I’ve been through with him this last year.” “I see what I see.” Christine made herself count to ten—twice. “You promised to back me up with him.” “I am backing you up. I told him to follow the rules.” “And urged him to drive a car without a license.” Aurora shrugged. “It’s summer vacation. He’s away from his friends. Give him a break.” “A break? I had to beg the principal not to expel him. He’s got schoolwork he has to do if there’s any hope he can rescue enough credits to be a junior. Plus, we agreed to therapy. Real therapy, not crackpot tips from Doctor Mike, who got his doctorate from Wacko State University.” “Doctor Mike is a great guy.” “He’s a joke. Now I have to find someone in Preston.” “Anything else I did wrong?” “Since you asked, I don’t like David in such a faraway room. The last thing he needs is more freedom.” “You weren’t much older when you left home, you know.” “You think that was a good thing?” It was the loneliest she’d ever felt. “It was what you wanted.” Her mother rocked back and forth. She so much wanted to yell, but she kept her voice level. “I was a kid. I didn’t know what I wanted.” Aurora hadn’t even tried to stop her. Christine had hung back for a good hour before buying her bus ticket, secretly hoping Aurora would come to get her. But Aurora had let her go. Just like that. “I will not leave my son to struggle on his own.” “Like I did you?” Aurora said. Christine was startled to see hurt flicker in her mother’s brown eyes. “It was your life, Crystal. Holding you back would have made me a hypocrite after all I preached about choice and self-determination.” “Sorry, but I was your daughter, not a political statement,” she said fiercely. Bitter hurt rose from deep within her. Maybe Aurora loved her, but it wasn’t any love Christine recognized—then or now. Aurora didn’t speak for a long moment and when she did, her tone was softer. “All I know is that my folks tried to lock me in and it made me desperate to escape. I did, but I had a weak moment when I found I was pregnant. The best thing they ever did was not let me back in. It made me stronger. That’s what leaving did for you. It made you independent.” Not even close. Christine had been lost and scared and lonely until she’d latched on to Skip, a life raft in rough waters, she’d thought…until he dumped her into the deep again. But that was old news. She’d learned and grown, so what was the point in rehashing it? What mattered now was David. “David’s growing up too fast. He needs to catch up with himself.” “It’s the nature of kids to break away.” “It’s the nature of kids to change their minds on a dime.” Her mother sighed. “You were always so sure you were right. You had these pictures in your head of home, family, work, life, and nothing ever measured up. You wore me out.” The feeling’s mutual. But saying so would not help. “All I ask is that you don’t undercut my authority with my son and—” Aurora bent forward and coughed, holding on to her chest, her face tight with pain. “Are you all right?” Panic surged inside Christine. She’d let her anger show and it had upset her ill mother. “Can I get you water? A pain pill?” She felt sick. She’d picked a fight with a fragile woman, not the hard-as-nails, blunt mother she’d grown up with. Shame on her. “Stop that. My stitches burn when I cough, that’s all.” “I didn’t mean to agitate you. I’m here to help and—” “I said stop it, dammit. I’m not dying. I’m fine. Better than ever.” Aurora pushed up from her chair and stomped toward the door. Reaching it, she hesitated, then turned around. “Hell, that’s not how I meant that to go.” She lifted a hand as if to reach out to Christine, then dropped it. “So…just…good night then,” she said, disappearing without waiting for Christine’s response. Êîíåö îçíàêîìèòåëüíîãî ôðàãìåíòà. Òåêñò ïðåäîñòàâëåí ÎÎÎ «ËèòÐåñ». Ïðî÷èòàéòå ýòó êíèãó öåëèêîì, êóïèâ ïîëíóþ ëåãàëüíóþ âåðñèþ (https://www.litres.ru/pages/biblio_book/?art=39926402&lfrom=390579938) íà ËèòÐåñ. 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