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Authors: Nora Roberts

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Kathleen found her in the living room, sprawled on the sofa with a magazine and a glass of wine. She had to fight back the surge of impatience. She'd just spent the day battling to push something into the minds of a hundred and thirty teenagers. The parent consultation had gotten her nowhere, and her car had begun to make ominous noises on the way home. And here was her sister, with nothing but time on her hands and money in the bank.

With the bag of groceries in her arm, she walked over to the radio and switched it off. Grace glanced up, focused, and smiled. “Hi. I didn't hear you come in.”

“I'm not surprised. You had the radio up all the way.”

“Sorry.” Grace remembered to put the magazine back on the table rather than let it slide to the floor. “Rough day?”

“Some of us have them.” She turned and walked toward the kitchen.

Grace swung her feet to the floor, then sat for a minute with her head in her hands. After taking a few
deep breaths, she rose and followed her sister into the kitchen. “I went ahead and beefed up the salad from last night. It's still the best thing I cook.”

“Fine.” Kathleen was already lining a broiling pan with foil.

“Want some wine?”

“No, I'm working tonight.”

“On the phone?”

“That's right. On the phone.” She slapped the meat onto the broiler pan.

“Hey, Kath, I was asking, not criticizing.” When she got no response, Grace reached for the wine and topped off her glass. “Actually, it crossed my mind that I might be able to use what you're doing as an angle in a book.”

“You don't change, do you?” Kathleen whirled around. In her eyes, the fury was hot and pulsing. “Nothing's ever private where you're concerned.”

“For heaven's sake, Kathy, I didn't mean I'd use your name or even your situation, just the idea, that's all. It was simply a thought.”

“Everything's grist for the mill, your mill. Maybe you'd like to use my divorce while you're at it.”

“I've never used you,” Grace said quietly.

“You use everyone—friends, lovers, family. Oh, you sympathize with their pain and problems on the outside, but inside you're ticking away, figuring out how to make it work for you. Can't you be told anything, see anything without thinking how you can use it in a book?”

Grace opened her mouth to deny, to protest, then closed it again on a sigh. The truth, no matter how unattractive, was better faced. “No, I guess not. I'm sorry.”

“Then drop it, all right?” Kathleen's voice was abruptly calm again. “I don't want to argue tonight.”

“Neither do I.” Making an effort, she started fresh. “I was thinking I might rent a car while I'm here, play tourist a little. And if I was mobile, I could do the shopping and save you some time.”

“Fine.” Kathleen switched the broiler on, shifting her body enough so that Grace couldn't see her hand wasn't steady. “There's a Hertz place on the way to school. I could drop you off in the morning.”

“Okay.” Now what, Grace asked herself as she sipped her wine. “Oh, I met the guy next door this morning.”

“I'm sure you did.” Her voice was taut as she slid the meat under the flame. She was surprised Grace hadn't made friends with everyone in the entire neighborhood by now.

Grace sipped her wine and worked on her temper. It was usually she who lost it first, she remembered. This time she wouldn't. “He's very nice. Turns out to be a cop. We're having dinner tomorrow.”

“Isn't that lovely.” Kathleen slammed the pot on the stove and added water. “You work fast, Gracie, as usual.”

Grace took another slow sip, then set her glass carefully on the counter. “I think I'll go for a walk.”

“I'm sorry.” With her eyes closed, Kathleen leaned against the stove. “I didn't mean that, I didn't mean to snap at you.”

“All right.” She wasn't always quick to forgive, but she only had one sister. “Why don't you sit down? You're tired.”

“No, I'm on call tonight. I want to get this done before the phone starts ringing.”

“I'll do it. You can supervise.” She took her sister's arm and nudged her into a chair. “What goes in the pan?”

“There's a package in the bag.” Kathleen dug in her purse, pulled out a bottle, and shook out two pills.

Graced dipped in the grocery bag and took out an envelope. “Noodles in garlic sauce. Handy.” She ripped it open and dumped it in without reading the directions. “I'd just as soon you didn't jump down my throat again, but do you want to talk about it?”

“No, it was just a long day.” She dry-swallowed the pills. “I've got papers to grade.”

“Well, I won't be able to do you any good there. I could take the phone calls for you.”

Kathleen managed a smile. “No, thanks.”

Grace took out the salad bowl and set it on the table. “Maybe I could just take notes.”

“No. If you don't stir the noodles, they'll stick.”

“Oh.” Willing to oblige, Grace turned to them. In the silence, she heard the meat begin to sizzle. “Easter's next week. Don't you get a few days off?”

“Five, counting the weekend.”

“Why don't we take a quick trip, join the madness in Fort Lauderdale, get some sun?”

“I can't afford it.”

“My treat, Kath. Come on, it'd be fun. Remember the spring of our senior year when we begged and pleaded with Mom and Dad to let us go?”

“You begged and pleaded,” Kathleen reminded her.

“Whatever, we went. For three days we partied, got sunburned, and met dozens of guys. Remember that one, Joe or Jack, who tried to climb in the window of our motel room?”

“After you told him I was hot for his body.”

“Well, you were. Poor guy nearly killed himself.” With a laugh, she stabbed a noodle and wondered if it was done. “God, we were so young, and so stupid. What the hell, Kath, we've still got it together enough to have a few college guys leer at us.”

“Drinking sprees and college boys don't interest me. Besides, I've arranged to be on call all weekend. Switch the noodles down to warm, Grace, and turn the meat over.”

She obeyed and said nothing as she heard Kathleen setting the table. It wasn't the drinking or the men, Grace thought. She'd just wanted to recapture something of the sisterhood they'd shared. “You're working too hard.”

“I'm not in your position, Grace. I can't afford to lie on the couch and read magazines all afternoon.”

Grace picked up her wine again. And bit her tongue. There were days she sat in front of a screen for twelve hours, nights she worked until three. On a book tour she was on all day and half the night until she had only enough energy to crawl into bed and fall into a stuporous sleep. She might consider herself lucky, she might still be astonished at the amount of money that rolled in from royalty checks, but she earned it. It was a constant source of annoyance that her sister never understood that.

“I'm on vacation.” She tried to say it lightly, but the edge was there.

“I'm not.”

“Fine. If you don't want to go away, would you mind if I did some puttering around in the yard?”

“I don't care.” Kathleen rubbed her temple. The headaches never seemed to fade completely any longer. “Actually I'd appreciate it. I haven't given it much thought. We had a beautiful garden in California. Do you remember?”

“Sure.” Grace had always thought it too orderly and formal, like Jonathan. Like Kathleen. She hated the little stab of bitterness she felt and pushed it aside. “We could go for some pansies, and what were those things Mom always loved? Morning glories.”

“All right.” But her mind was on other things. “Grace, the meat's going to burn.”

Later, Kathleen closed herself in her office. Grace could hear the phone ring, the Fantasy phone, as she'd decided to term it. She counted ten calls before she went upstairs. Too restless to sleep, she turned on her computer. But she wasn't thinking of work or of the murders she created.

The contented feeling that had been with her the night before and most of the day was gone. Kathleen wasn't all right. Her mood swings were too quick and too sharp. It had been on the tip of her tongue to mention therapy, but she'd been too aware of what the
reaction would have been. Kathleen would have given her one of those hard, closed-in looks, and the discussion would have ended.

Grace had mentioned Kevin only once. Kathleen had told her she didn't want to discuss him or Jonathan. She knew her sister well enough to realize that Kathleen was regretting her visit. What was worse, Grace was regretting it herself. Kathleen always managed to point out the worst aspects of her, aspects that under other circumstances Grace herself managed to brush over.

But she'd come to help. Somehow, despite both of them, she was going to. But it would take some time, she told herself for comfort, resting her chin on her arm. She could see lights in the windows next door.

She couldn't hear the phone ring now with the office door closed and her own pulled to. She wondered how many more calls her sister would take that night. How many more men would she satisfy without ever having seen their faces? Did she grade papers between calls? It should have been funny. She wished it were funny, but she couldn't stop seeing the tension on Kathleen's face as she'd pushed her food around her plate.

There was nothing she could do, Grace told herself as she rubbed her hands over her eyes. Kathleen was determined to handle things her way.

I
T
was wonderful to hear her voice again, to hear her make promises and give that quick, husky laugh. She was wearing black this time, something thin and flimsy that a man could tear away on a whim. She'd like that, he thought. She'd like it if he were there with her, ripping off her clothes.

The man she was talking to barely spoke at all. He was glad. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine she was talking to him. And only him. He'd been listening to her for hours, call after call. After a while, the words
no longer mattered. Just her voice, the warm, teasing voice that poured through his earphones and into his head. From somewhere in the house a television was playing, but he didn't hear it. He only heard Desiree.

She wanted him.

In his mind he sometimes heard her say his name. Jerald. She would say it with that half laugh she often had in her voice. When he went to her, she would open up her arms and say it again, slowly, breathlessly. Jerald.

They would make love in all the ways she described.

He would be the man to finally satisfy her. He would be the man she wanted above all others. It would be his name she said over and over again, on a whisper, on a moan, on a scream.

Jerald, Jerald, Jerald.

He shuddered, then lay back, spent, in the swivel chair in front of his computer.

He was eighteen years old and had made love to women only in his dreams. Tonight his dreams were only of Desiree.

And he was mad.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nora Roberts was the first writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. The
New York Times
bestselling author of such novels as
Montana Sky, Born in Ice, True Betrayals
, and
Divine Evil
, she has become one of today's most successful and best-loved writers. Nora Roberts lives in Maryland.

SACRED SINS

A Bantam Book

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1987 by Nora Roberts

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information address: Bantam Books.

eISBN: 978-0-307-56818-2

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Random House, Inc., New York, New York.

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