A Woman Without Lies, p.1Elizabeth Lowell
Books by Elizabeth Lowell
A Woman Without Lies (1997)
A Woman Without Lies (1997)
To those who have risked love—win, lose or draw
Angelina Lange stood quietly amid the rainbow blaze of her stained glass creations. She was barely aware of the people milling slowly around in the art gallery, murmuring about the beautiful art she had made from pieces of sharp-edged glass.
Some panels of glass gleamed in shades of green and blue, forest and ocean and sky, mountain ridges falling away into the distance. Other panels radiated the iridescent beauty of Tiffany glass touched by shafts of gold, evoking British Columbia’s cloud-swept summers.
A handful of panels were impressionistic swirls of color and movement, a sensual richness that was as compelling as a lover’s whispered invitation.
The stained glass works came in all sizes and shapes. Most were set in wooden frames and hung against the gallery’s huge wall of ocean-facing windows. A few panels were suspended from the high ceiling.
Light from both natural and artificial sources struck rich colors from the pieces of glass, making the room quiver with shadows of every hue.
A summer cloud came and went, concealing and then revealing the sun. Murmurs of pleasure rose from the people inside the room as Vancouver’s clear sunlight poured through the gallery’s wall of windows. The stained glass art glittered with brilliant colors.
Unconsciously, Angel tipped her face toward the cataract of light, letting it wash over her. Her pale, curling hair glowed molten gold, a color as pure and beautiful as any she had used in her stained glass. For a moment she simply stood, filling herself with light, keeping shadows at bay.
Angel opened her haunted, sea-colored eyes and turned toward the diffident voice.
Bill Northrup, the gallery owner, stood nearby, quietly waiting for her attention. At one point in their relationship, he had wanted considerably more than her attention. Now he settled for what she would give him—her friendship and her art.
Angel smiled at Bill, but her eyes were still haunted by the sadness that was as much a part of her as her long legs and slender body.
“I always feel that I should sign my pieces ‘Angelina and Sun,’ ” Angel said, “because without that incredible light, my stained glass is nothing.”
Bill shook his head unhappily.
“You’re too modest,” he said. “Look around. You’re selling very well, especially for a first show.”
Angel looked, but she had eyes only for the art itself. Brilliant shards of light and shadow, a shifting play of colors, the feeling of being in the center of a fantastic, slowly turning jewel.
She was pleased that she was selling her creations, because that was how she earned her living. Money as such didn’t give her any particular joy, however. Colors did. That, and knowing that other people enjoyed her rainbow visions.
“I’m glad,” Angel said simply. “Beauty should be shared.”
Bill sighed. “You’re not hard enough for this life.”
“A hardcase angel?” she asked, laughing lightly, turning aside the old argument. “Not very likely, is it?”
“So I’ll be the hardcase and you be the angel,” retorted Bill.
“That was our agreement.” Her lips curved in a tiny, teasing smile. “You’ve held up your end very well.”
“The guy waiting for you could give me lessons.”
Angel’s honey eyebrows arched in silent question.
“On the phone,” explained Bill. “Miles Hawkins.”
Angel shook her head in a gesture of bafflement that made her breast-length hair shimmer and run with light.
“I don’t know him,” she said.
“He knows you.”
“Are you certain?”
“He said it was something about Derry and he had to see you immediately.”
Angel’s smile vanished.
“I explained that the show won’t be over for an hour,” Bill said, “but the man wouldn’t listen to reason. I’ll tell him to—”
“No,” Angel interrupted. “If it’s about Derry, I’ll take the call.”
“I thought so. Derry’s the only male you care about.”
Angel gave Bill a swift, blue-green look, sensing the beginning of another old argument.
“Derry is like a brother to me,” she said quietly. “Nothing more. And certainly nothing less.”
Bill sighed and muttered to Angel’s retreating back, “Yeah, and he’s one handsome kid who isn’t related to you in any way.”
Angel heard and was momentarily surprised. She didn’t think of Derry as physically handsome, although she had to agree that he was. Derry’s blond looks and muscular body had turned more than one feminine head.
But when Angel thought of Derry, she thought of his dedication to becoming a doctor, the ruthless discipline that kept him studying even in the summer, his anguish and rage the night he had dragged her clear of the wrecked car.
If anyone, even an utter stranger, wanted to talk to her about Derry, Angel would listen.
She walked into Bill’s private office, punched in the lighted button on the front of the phone, and put the receiver to her ear.
“Mr. Hawkins?” she said quietly, but her question and hesitation were clear. “I’m afraid I don’t remember you.”
“I suppose Derry spoke of me as Hawk,” said the deep male voice at the other end of the line.
“Oh . . . that Mr. Hawkins. Derry’s letters have been full of ‘Hawk this’ and ‘Hawk that’ for weeks. I didn’t recognize your full name.”
There was a pause.
Angel wondered for a moment if she had insulted him. She hoped not. Hawk was crucial to Derry’s hopes of becoming a doctor.
“Derry said you’d be up to your blond curls in admirers,” Hawk said impatiently, “but that you’d meet me in the Golden Stein if he asked you to.”
Angel smiled to herself, hearing Derry’s soft teasing in the curt rhythms of the stranger’s voice.
“Derry is a tease, Mr. Hawkins. The people here are admiring stained glass, not me. But he was right about the rest. If he wants me to meet you, I will.”
“Just like that?” Hawk said sardonically. “You’d meet a stranger?”
The words sent a shiver of uncertainty over Angel’s skin. Hawk wasn’t teasing or really questioning her. His voice was hard, disdainful, the tone both dark and cold.
“Just like that,” Angel agreed quietly. “I’ll be at the Golden Stein in ninety minutes.”
“What?” asked Angel, not believing that she had heard correctly.
“Now, Angel.” Then, coldly, “Your Derry needs you.”
The line went dead.
Angel stared at the phone, confused and more than a little irritated. Hawk had been rude, demanding, and abrupt. There was also the fact that nobody called her Angel, not even Derry.
Angelina, yes. Angie, yes. Angel? Never. Only in the privacy of her own mind did Angel acknowledge that name, the name she had begun to call herself when she woke up in the hospital after surviving a wreck she’d had no right to survive.
“Trouble?” asked Bill, standing at Angel’s elbow.
Angel looked up from the receiver. She replaced it very gently.
“I don’t know,” she said unhappily.
Then Angel turned away from both the phone and Bill. She bent over to remove her purse and lightweight black shawl from a desk drawer.
“Make my apologies, Bill.”
“Angelina, you can’t just walk out on your own show,” began Bill in a voice that tried to be reasonable.
“Derry needs me.”
“Your career needs you more!”
Angel looked out into the full gallery.
“They’re buying my stained glass, not me,” Angel said.
Bill swore, started to argue, then gave up. Angel was immovable on two subjects. Her art was one of them.
Derry Ramsey was the other.
Angel pulled the silk shawl over her black dress as she stepped out the back door of the gallery. Even in midsummer, Vancouver could be cool, especially when clouds and sun played tag across the afternoon sky.
When Angel arrived at the Golden Stein, she wasn’t surprised to find it crowded. The place was a favorite watering hole with tourists and natives alike. Normally she would have avoided the noisy, smoky, exuberant bar.
This afternoon wasn’t normal. This afternoon Derry had asked her to meet a rude man called Hawk, even though Derry knew that she was in the midst of her first stained glass show in the Northrup Gallery.
In a way, Angel was almost grateful to Hawk for his rudeness. It kept her from dwelling on all the unhappy reasons Derry might have for needing her.
Impatiently Angel stood just inside the Stein’s door, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dim carmine light favored by the bar’s habitués.
The man called Hawk watched Angel intently from a nearby table. His dark eyes took in her black silk dress, her fringed black shawl thrown carelessly over her shoulders, her pale hair that seemed to gather and concentrate light.
The Stein’s front door opened again, bathing Angel in light, making her long, bright hair shimmer and float in the breeze. Derry’s description—tall, blond, and skinny—barely skimmed the reality of the slender, self-contained woman standing by the door.
Yet Hawk was sure that she was Derry’s Angie. No one else could have eyes like that, too large for her face, too haunted to belong to a woman her age.
Hawk’s mouth formed a cynical, downward-curving line as he realized how young Angie—no Angel—was.
Any woman who looks like this isn’t an Angie, Hawk told himself sardonically. She undoubtedly isn’t an Angel either, no matter how ethereal she appears.
Hawk’s lips thinned as he remembered the last innocent-looking blond he’d taken for a while, an actress with nothing beneath her soft exterior but emptiness and lies.
The actress was, in short, like every other woman Hawk had known. Like Angel standing so quietly, staring at him.
A three-dimensional lie, Hawk thought coldly. But a beautiful one. Damned beautiful.
The worst ones always are.
So I’ll call her Angel, and each time I use the name, it will remind me that she’s anything but angelic.
Angel looked back at the man who was watching her from only a few feet away. She sensed with utter certainty that the man watching her was Hawk.
In the atmosphere of forced bonhomie that pervaded the Stein, Hawk was like a rocky island at sunset, darkness condensed amid color, immovable certainty anchored in an aimlessly shifting sea.
Then the front door opened again, spearing the man with light, and Angel knew why he was called Hawk. It wasn’t the blunt angles of his face or his thick, black hair and upswept eyebrows. It wasn’t his hard, lean body. It wasn’t even his predatory grace as he walked toward her.
It was his eyes, the eyes of a hawk, a crystalline brown that was clear and deep, lonely and wild.
“Hawk,” she said.
His voice was deep, gritty, as essentially uncivilized as his eyes.
“People call me Angie.”
There was a moment of uncanny stillness while Hawk measured her.
“People call me Mr. Hawkins to my face,” he said. “Even friendly puppies like Derry Ramsey.”
Angel hesitated, wondering at the abrasive description of Derry. She knew that Derry thought Hawk all but walked on water. Abruptly she wanted to know more about the man who had earned Derry’s unqualified hero worship.
“What do people call you to your back?” Angel asked.
Hawk’s eyes narrowed.
“A lot of names that angels wouldn’t know about,” he said.
His clear, hard eyes measured her impersonally, lingering on the nimbus of light that was her hair.
“Angel. It suits your looks.”
Hawk’s tone said that her name was Angel so far as he was concerned, and Angel was what he would call her.
She bridled at his arrogance, then forced herself to relax. Derry needed Hawk. In any case, Hawk couldn’t know the meaning of the name Angel for her.
Something alive that once had died.
“Then I will call you Hawk,” Angel said, her voice soft, “and we both will be unhappy with our names.”
Hawk’s left eyebrow lifted, emphasizing the ruthless lines of his face. He turned away from Angel and took a step back toward his table.
As he turned, he spoke. “What do you drink, Angel?”
Hawk turned back so suddenly that Angel couldn’t suppress a startled sound. She had never seen such quickness in a man. Yet for all his speed, his motions were smooth, utterly controlled, and as graceful as wind.
“Sunlight,” he said, gesturing to the smoky room, “is in short supply here.”
“I didn’t come here to drink, Hawk. I came because Derry needs me.”
Though Angel’s voice was soft, there was real determination in it. It was the same tone that had warned Bill she wasn’t prepared to be reasonable on the subject of Derry.
“What does Derry need?” Angel asked.
Hawk hadn’t missed the changed quality of Angel’s voice.
“A new leg,” he said bluntly. “He had an accident.”
The room swirled darkly around Angel, sound spinning into cries of pain, red light splintering into broken glass frosted by moonlight, the smell of raw gas choking her, fear and pain clawing in her throat.
Angel tried to say something, to ask questions, to reassure herself that Derry was all right, that this wasn’t a return to the horrible car wreck three years ago when her mother, her father, and her fiancé had died, and she had been broken almost beyond healing.
But Angel could ask nothing, do nothing, except tremble and fight for breath.
Derry had saved her life three years ago. She could not bear to think that he was hurt, needing her, and she wasn’t there.
Even in the Stein’s dim light, Angel’s sudden loss of color was obvious. Hawk heard her harsh intake of breath, saw her sway, felt the coldness of her skin as he grabbed her, steadying her.
“D-Derry?” asked Angel, forcing the word between gritted teeth.
“It’s just a broken leg,” Hawk said harshly.
As he spoke, he shook Angel to make sure that he had her attention. Then he saw the fear and pain in the depths of her eyes and his hands instinctively gentled.
“He’s all right, Angel.”
Angel stared at him. Hawk’s voice had been gentle, reassuring, sympathetic. It was surprising in a man who looked so ruthless.
“Just a broken leg,” Hawk repeated. “Derry’s all right.”
“Car wreck,” Angel said hoarsely. “All that glittering broken glass and twisted metal. And screams. Oh God, the screams . . . .”
Hawk’s eyes narrowed as a chill moved over him. Angel sounded so positive that Derry had hurt himself in a car wreck. T
His hands tightened on Angel’s arms, drawing her attention back to him.
“Soccer, not a car wreck,” Hawk said distinctly.
The word was impossible for Angel to form.
“Derry and some friends were playing soccer,” Hawk said clearly. “He went up to deflect the ball, came down wrong, and broke his ankle in two places.”
For an instant Angel sagged against Hawk. Then her head came up and her spine straightened. She looked up at him with eyes that were too large and too dark for her face, wondering if he had meant to be cruel with his first, brutal words describing what was wrong with Derry.
He needs a new leg.
Angel searched the uncompromising lines of Hawk’s face for long moments. Finally she realized that he could have had no way of knowing the impact his words would have on her. He didn’t know about the car wreck that had shattered her life.
Hawk’s fingertips found the pulse beating erratically in her throat.
“Did you hear me?” he asked deeply.
“Yes . . . .”
Angel’s voice was so soft that Hawk had to lean close to understand. His fingers slid around her throat and lost themselves in her smoothly curling hair, but his thumb remained on her pulse. Hawk pulled Angel close, cradling her against his chest, rocking her slowly. The gestures were instinctive, surprising him as much as they surprised her.
Yet what he did was natural, what he wished someone had done for him when he was young. Or even when he was not. He had seen horror-shadowed eyes before, seen broken glass and wrecked cars and death. The horror and some of the wrecks had been his, but nobody had comforted him.
Is that why I’m holding Angel now? Hawk asked himself silently. Or is it because she’s soft and smells like sunshine and her skin is warming beneath my touch?
When Hawk’s lips brushed Angel’s temple, her closed eyes, the sensitive corner of her mouth, he felt the sudden surge of her heartbeat beneath his thumb. She moved subtly, clinging to his comforting touch without holding him, and her breath came out in a ragged sigh.
Hawk’s expression changed, cynical again. Angel was indeed like other women he had known.
A Woman Without Lies by Elizabeth Lowell / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes