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At 11:26 A.M. on a Tuesday morning in April, Kyra Tierney's telephone rang. When she picked it up, her life tilted sideways and spilled into another realm entirely.
But at 11:23 she'd stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the converted warehouse that contained the empire she'd built and wondered why she didn't feel more satisfied. From where she stood, she could see a hallway of studioslarge and smallwith old redbrick walls and green plants thriving in the sunlight cascading down from skylights placed at intervals throughout the building to allow natural light to heat and illuminate the space below. There was a café, the Ganesha Room, sprawling in one corner, with large windows overlooking the downtown Denver street beyond.
This was Yogariffic, the megastudio grown from a tiny storefront seed Kyra and her college roommate, Africa, had planted the day after their college graduation. Africa, who was not, as people often imagined, a willowy black woman with hair cut close to her head and cheekbones to die for, but a willowy white one with flowing hair down to her tiny bottom and lips like Angelina Jolie's. Her real name was Amanda, which was much too soft a name for a woman like that, a crusader andwell, it had to be saidsometimes a flake. Someone in college nicknamed her Africa when she was raising funds for some crisis or another in that war-and famine-torn place. It stuck.
Below, in the warehouse, the day was cranking up to full speed. Businesswomen on their lunch hours hurried in to take one of the seven varieties of yoga they offeredhatha and vinyasa, kundalini and Iyengar, among othersor belly dancing or hulaor Nia. College students came in to curl up and study in the all-organic, all-vegetarian café. Yogariffic employed an acupuncturist, two massage therapists, an Ayurvedic practitioner and an herbalist who consulted in a tiny bricked room.
Kyra was the vision and brains behind it. Africa was the face and personalityat least when she was around. At the moment, Africa was extremely pregnant and living in Wales with her husband until the baby was born, when she promised to be back.
Kyra somehow doubted it. For the first time, Africa was deeply in love. She'd met her Welshman, Thomas Rhys, on a business trip to London, and the pair had fallen wildly, instantly in love. After carrying on a long-distance love affair for a few months, they'd eloped, then commuted between Denver, Londonwhere Africa supervised a new Yogariffic being establishedand the tiny village in southern Wales where Thomas was born.
Africa's defection left Kyra wondering what in the world she was doing with her own life. How was it possible that she was thirty-eight years old with no husband or children, no family at all? And the business into which she'd poured all her energies sometimes seemed out of control, a thing separate from her.
Looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows, she felt absolutely nothing. It was highly profitable and green and honorable enough, she supposed, but where was yoga in all of this, that balancing, quieting practice? In her seventy-hour weeks and the ordering of yoga mats in thirteen colors (some with paisleys, some with stripes) and the extremely expensive teas they sold in extremely expensive tins and the glossy magazines that touted new products to make you more lithe and flexible and have better sex and look greatwhere was the yoga? Africa loved all the extras and insisted that they would turn a profit with them. It turned out they were doing much better than just making a profitthey were getting quite wealthybut sometimes Kyra wondered where the original vision was. Buried in the café beneath the yerba maté in earth-friendly mugs?
When she picked up the telephone that rang at 11:26, a male voice with a thick, rolling accent said, "May I speak to Kyra Tierney?"
"This is she."
"My name is Dylan Jones." The voice moved right through her like the perfect opening cords of a song she wanted to learn to sing. "I'm afraid I'm calling with some bad news, Kyra. It's about Africa."
"What?" Kyra sat down, air leaking out of her as if she were a punctured balloon. "Is she all right?"
"I'm afraid she's not," the man said. Obviously the accent was Welsh. It was somewhere between Irish and Scottish. Sort of.
"What is it?"
The man said simply, "She and Thomas were in a car accident. I'm so sorry to tell you they were both killed."
Kyra heard him, but the words might well have been spoken in some other language. Swahili, say. Or Japanese. "Pardon me?" she asked. "Killed? Both of them?" Her lungs were empty and she tried to bring air back into them.
"Thursday last. We didn't know to phone you till the will was read after the funerals."
The will Kyra had insisted Africa write and keep with her. "I see." Though she didn't. "How did it happen, the accident?"
"A bad road." His lilting, dark voice was laced with regret. "The locals have been on the council to straighten that turn for years."
"The baby," Kyra said. "What about the baby?"
"Now, there is some good news. She's fine. She was with a sitter. Which is why I am calling. You're the child's guardian, are you not?"
"She is. Poor little orphan. She's a beauty, though, I can tell you that."
"An orphan." Kyra felt disoriented, as if she'd walked into a movie that was about someone else. It had been at her own insistence that Africa had made provision for her child-tobe; she had no living relatives, and the baby's grandmother was too old to properly parent an infant. Sensible Kyra insisted Africa make a will and she had agreed to take over parenting rights if anything ever happened.
If anything ever happenedthat never-never land. "Are you all right?" the man asked. "I'm sorry," Kyra said. "I'm just stunned."
"Quite understandable. Would you like to ring me back when you've had a chance to think it over? There are arrangements to make and details to decide. All that."
Kyra peered at the bustling hallways below, thinking of a baby without her mother. "I'll come right away, of course. Let me make my arrangements and I'll give you a call."
"I'll fetch you from the airport. Fly into Cardiff." She wrote down the telephone number he gave her. "That's my mobile," he said. "I always have it with me."
"Thank you, Mr."
"Right. Mr. Jones. I'll make arrangements right away."
DYLAN HUNG UP THE phone and sat with it in his palm, the woman's voice, squashed flat in shock, lingering along the nape of his neck. In the background, a clock tick-tocked on his mother's wall, a noise that always sounded lonely and hollow to himthis is your life, ticking away. Tonight, in the gloomy rain, it seemed even more oppressive than usual.
Trying to dislodge the renewed sense of loss the phone call had given him, Dylan stood up and crossed the room. In a hastily acquired cradle, the infant slept, toes peeking out from beneath her blanket like a string of pink pearls. He reached over and covered them. Dear little thing. His mother would return from the market soon, and he could go get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a busy day. He had a project to get started for a local architectural firm and the visit to poor, addled Mrs. Rhys, his best friend Thomas's mother and the babe's grandmother. She'd been infirm for a time now, and the death of her only son had sent her over the edge. Even if she had wished to adopt the baby, it would not have been possible.
Now he'd have to fetch Africa's chosen surrogate from the airport in Cardiff and make sure she had a place to stay. He was as demolished as a man could be over the accident that had taken his best friend and didn't know where he'd find the energy for it all.
And yet there was no one else. He'd felt a bit sorry for the woman on the phone, the airlessness in her voice. What a sorry tale it was, the ill-fated union of Thomas Rhys and Africa Fletcher, who met by chance and fell in love and both got themselves promptly killed, leaving their child to the same fates that had been so careless with them.
The baby mewled softly in her sleep, a fist bobbing drunkenly in the air. He stood up to look at her, but she settled again, all luminous pinknessears and mouth and rosy cheeksbeneath the thatch of black hair she'd inherited from her father. God, who'd ever realized infants had so much perfectness about them?
He'd been bemused by this magical little creature since her arrival in the world. He'd spent plenty of time with babies, here and there. One did in a small village like this.
But this one stirred something in him. Fierceness. Protectiveness. Love, maybe.
His phone rang. When he answered, Kyra Tierneya good Celtic name, thatsaid in her carefully guarded voice, "Mr. Jones, this is Kyra. I'll be arriving at Cardiff tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Will that be all right?"
"Fine." He brushed his index finger over the baby's tiny big toe. Her little mouth twitched, sucked in, went back out.
"How will I know you?"
"Um I don't know. I guess I can wear uh a turquoise-colored blouse?"
"Dark hair? Blond hair? Tall? Short?"
"Dark hair, a lot of it. Tallish. Skinny."
"That's what too much yoga will do to you," he said lightly.
"I'm afraid I was just born a scarecrow."
Her tone was so forlorn he chuckled. "Surely a blessing in today's world?"
"I suppose. How is the baby, Mr. Jones?"
"All rightDylan. How is the baby?"
He softened, looking at the tiny nose, her mouth smaller than a penny. "She's beautiful. Healthy and strong."
"Good. Give her a kiss for me, will you?"
"Consider it done."
He pressed the phone close to his ear. "Tomorrow."
AS THE PLANE CIRCLED Cardiff, on the southern coast of Wales, Kyra peered out the airplane window. They had flown above the clouds from London and now came out of them again, shaking suddenly free of the muffling cotton to see a world as mystical-looking as a fairy tale. So greenespecially in contrast to the high-altitude grasslands of Denver that she'd left behind. Mossy green hills rolled across the landscape, dotted with lone cottages and a ruin here, a flock of animals there. The drizzling gray weather gave it a moody aspect that lifted Kyra's spirits. People never believed her when she said a person could get sick of sunshine, but it was true.
There had been a layover at Heathrow Airport, where Kyra had washed her face and combed her hair, but she still felt the grime of travel clinging to her skin as she walked down the concourse. She hadn't thought to ask what Dylan Jones looked like or even how old he was, and she found herself holding up her chin self-consciously, trying not to look too hard at the waiting faces.
Trying to scope things out with her peripheral vision, she spied a pale man in a soldier's uniformAfrica's husband had been a soldierbut he looked right through her. A man with the good looks of a film star waited at the edge of the crowd, twisting a cap in his hands. His gaze moved right over her, too, and Kyra felt a rippling of nervousness. Hitching her bag on her shoulder, she tried to appear as if she knew what she was doing. Around her, lovers flew into each other's arms. Families swirled into welcoming knots. It occurred to her that she'd never had anyone meet her at an airport except Africa.
Don't go there, she said firmly to herself. There would be time to grieve later. Right now it was a cool head and a sensible attitude that were required.
But wouldn't it be nice, a voice whispered as she watched the embraces all around her, to have someone who would always be there?
A little girl screeched, "Daddy!" Kyra glanced around to see who the child was so overjoyed to see.
And then she saw a man of about her own age, with wavy black hair that was just a hint too long. He wore an ancient leather bomber jacket with what she thought might be real World War II patches on the shoulders. His jaw was slightly unshaved, his eyes so blue she could see the color from ten feet away. The little girl ran right by him to another man with a shorn head, but Kyra's gaze was snared on the man in the bomber jacket.
She knew him from somewhere. With a frown, she struggled to pull the memory into focus, but nothing gelled. He was the kind of man you couldn't help looking at a second time, as much for the air of the rare and slightly aloof as for the fit of his very well-worn jeans.
He caught sight of her, and a quizzical expression touched his mouth. One eyebrow lifted, and before Kyra could return anything at all, he started toward her.
Great, Kyra thought. Just great. This would be the man with the enchanting voice, wouldn't it? Of course. Just her typeand just the type she knew she had to leave alone. Only twice in her life had Kyra fallen in love. Both times with men who radiated this very same lost-soul charm. Both times her heart had been shattered.
Not this time. Pulling her shoulder blades down her back to straighten her spine, she took a long, slow breath and let it go, adroitly assembling her defenses.
"Ms. Tierney?" he said in that slightly raspy, utterly devastating accent.
A scent of sea and rain came from him, and it made her feel slightly disoriented. "I take it you're Mr. Jones."
He smiled, held out a hand. "Dylan."
It would have been rude not to shake his hand, so Kyra extended her own and crisply pressed her cold hand into his very hot, solid palm, then let go as fast as decently possible. "Please call me Kyra."
He stood there for a moment, a frown between his brows. "Have we met?"
"We must have. You look familiar to me, too."
"I can't think where it would have been," he said, then shook his head. "Never mind. It'll come to us. Do you have bags?"
She shook her head, which again made her feel vaguely dizzy. She pressed her fingers to her temples. "Just this," she said, pointing to the rolling carry-on she'd brought with her.
"I hope you brought some warmer things." He eyed the long-sleeved T-shirt she wore, the sleeves printed with Sanskrit characters.
"Not a lot warmer. It's summer. I didn't think"
"Never mind. You're as jet-lagged as I've ever seen anyone. Let's get you something to eat and a warm bed, shall we? Everything else will wait until morning."
Kyra wanted to weep with gratitude but managed to just nod. "Is it far?"
"A bit of a drive. A couple of hours. Will you eat something first?"
Again she nodded, suddenly overwhelmed. "Yes, please."