All the Possibilities

By: Nora Roberts

Chapter One

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Shelby knew Washington was a crazy town. That's why she loved it. She could have elegance and history, if that's what she wanted, or dingy clubs and burlesque. On a trip from one side of town to the other, she could go from grace and style to mean streets

there was always a choice: gleaming white monuments, dignified state buildings, old brick row houses, steel and glass boxes; statues that had oxidized too long ago to remember what they'd oxidized from; cobblestoned streets or Watergate. But the city hadn't been built around one particular structure for nothing. The Capitol was the core, and politics was always the name of the game. Washington bustled frantically

not with the careless ongoing rush of New York, but with a wary, look—

over-your-shoulder sort of frenzy. For the bulk of the men and women who worked there, their jobs were on the line from election to election. One thing Washington was not, was a blanket of security. That's why Shelby loved it. Security equaled complacency and complacency equaled boredom. She'd always made it her first order of business never to be bored.

Georgetown suited her because it was yet it wasn't D.C. It had the energy of youth: the University, boutiques, coffee houses, half-price beer on Wednesday nights. It had the dignity of age: residential streets, ivied red brick walls, painted shutters, neat women walking neat dogs. Because it couldn't be strictly labeled as part of something else, she was comfortable there. Her shop faced out on one of the narrow cobblestoned streets with her living quarters on the second floor. She had a balcony, so she could sit out on warm summer nights and listen to the city move. She had bamboo slats at the windows so she could have privacy if she chose. She rarely did.

Shelby Campbell had been made for people, for conversations and crowds. Strangers were just as fascinating to talk to as old friends, and noise was more appealing than silence. Still, she liked to live at her own pace, so her roommates weren't of the human sort. Moshe Dayan was ' a one-eyed tomcat, and Auntie Em was a parrot who refused to converse with anyone. They lived together in relative peace in the cluttered disorder Shelby called home.

She was a potter by trade and a merchant by whim. The little shop she had called Calliope had become a popular success in the three years since she'd opened the doors. She'd found she enjoyed dealing with customers almost as much as she enjoyed sitting at her potter's wheel with a lump of clay and her imagination. The paperwork was a matter of constant annoyance. But then, to Shelby, annoyances gave life its bite. So, to her family's amusement and the surprise of many friends, she'd gone into trade and made an undeniable success of it.

At six, she locked the shop. From the outset, Shelby had made a firm policy not to give her evenings to her business. She might work with clay or glazes until the early hours of the morning, or go out and mix with the streetlife, but the merchant in her didn't believe in overtime. Tonight, however, she faced something she avoided whenever possible and took completely seriously when she couldn't: an obligation. Switching off lights as she went, Shelby climbed the stairs to the second floor.

The cat leapt nimbly from his perch on the windowsill, stretched and padded toward her. When Shelby came in, dinner wasn't far behind. The bird fluffed her wings and began to gnaw on her cuttle-bone.

"How's it going?" She gave Moshe an absent scratch behind the ears where he liked it best. With a sound of approval, he looked up at her with his one eye, tilting his head so that the patch he wore looked raffish and right. "Yeah, I'll feed you." Shelby pressed a hand to her own stomach. She was starving, and the best she could hope for that evening would be liver wrapped in bacon and crackers.

"Oh, well," she murmured as she went into the kitchen to feed the cat. She'd promised her mother she'd make an appearance at Congressman Write's cocktail party, so she was stuck. Deborah Campbell was probably the only one capable of making Shelby feel stuck.

Shelby was fond of her mother, over and above the basic love of a child for her parent. There were times they were taken for sisters, despite the twenty-five-year difference in their ages. The coloring was the same

bright red hair too fiery for chestnut, too dark