Born in ice, p.11
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       Born in Ice, p.11

         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts
 

  Hours later it was thoughts of leftover trifle that pulled Gray away from his warm bed and a good book. The house moaned a bit around him as he dug up a pair of sweats, pulled them on. He padded downstairs in his bare feet with greedy dreams of gorging.

  It certainly wasn't his first middle-of-the-night trip to the kitchen since he'd settled into Blackthorn. None of the shadows or creaking boards disturbed him as he slipped down the hall and into the dark kitchen. He turned on the stove light, not wanting to awaken Brianna.

  Then he wished he hadn't thought of her, or of the fact that she was sleeping just a wall beyond. In that long, flannel nightgown, he imagined, with the little buttons at the collar. So prim it made her look exotic-certainly it made a man, a red-blooded one, wonder about the body all that material concealed.

  And if he kept thinking along those lines, all the trifle in the country wouldn't sate his appetite.

  One vice at a time, pal, he told himself. And got out a bowl. A sound from the outside made him pause, listen. Just as he was about to dismiss it as old house groans, he heard the scratching.

  With the bowl in one hand, he went to the kitchen door, looked out, and saw nothing but night. Suddenly the glass was filled with fur and fangs. Gray managed to stifle a yelp and keep himself from overbalancing onto his butt. On something between a curse and a laugh, he opened the door for Con.

  "Ten years off my life, thanks very much." He scratched the dog's ears, and since Brianna wasn't around to see, decided to share the trifle with his canine companion.

  "What do you think you're up to?"

  Gray straightened, rapped his head against the cupboard door he'd failed to close. A spoonful of trifle plopped into the dog's bowl and was gobbled up.

  "Nothing." Gray rubbed his throbbing head. "Jesus Christ, between you and your wolf I'll be lucky if I live to see my next birthday."

  "He's not to be eating that." Brianna snatched the bowl away from Gray. "It isn't good for him."

  "I was going to eat it. Now I'll settle for a bottle of aspirin."

  "Sit down and I'll have a look at the knot on your head, or the hole in it, whatever the case may be."

  "Very cute. Why don't you just go back to bed and-"

  He never finished the thought. From his stance between them, Con abruptly tensed, snarled, and with a growl bursting from his throat leaped toward the hallway door. It was Gray's bad luck that he happened to be in the way.

  The force of a hundred and seventy pounds of muscle had him reeling back and smashing into the counter. He saw stars as his elbow cracked against the wood, and dimly heard Brianna's sharp command.

  "Are you hurt?" Her tone was all soothing maternal concern now. "Here now, Grayson, you've gone pale. Sit down. Con, heel!"

  Ears ringing, stars circling in front of his eyes, the best Gray could do was slide into the chair Brianna held out for him. "All this for a fucking bowl of cream."

  "There now, you just need to get your breath back. Let me see your arm."

  "Shit!" Gray's eyes popped wide as she flexed his elbow and pain radiated out. "Are you trying to kill me just because I want to get you naked?"

  "Stop that." The rebuke was mild as she tut-tutted over the bruise. "I've got some witch hazel."

  "I'd rather have morphine." He blew out a breath and stared narrow-eyed at the dog. Con continued to stand, quivering and ready at the doorway. "What the hell is with him?"

  "I don't know. Con, stop being a bloody fool and sit." She dampened a cloth with witch hazel. "It's probably Mr, Smythe-White. Con was out roaming when he got in. They haven't been introduced. It's likely he caught a scent."

  "It's lucky the old man didn't get a yen for trifle then."

  She only smiled and straightened up to look at the top of Gray's head. He had lovely hair, she thought, all gilded and silky. "Oh, Con wouldn't hurt him. He'd just corner him. There, you'll have a fine bump, you will."

  "You don't have to sound so pleased about it."

  "It'll teach you not to give the dog sweets. I'll just make you an ice pack and-" She squealed as Gray yanked her into his lap. The dog's ears pricked up, but he merely wandered over and sniffed at Gray's hands.

  "He likes me."

  "He's easily charmed. Let me up or I'll tell him to bite you."

  "He wouldn't. I just gave him trifle. Let's just sit here a minute, Brie. I'm too weak to bother you."

  "I don't believe that for a minute," she said under her breath, but relented.

  Gray cradled her head on his shoulder and smiled when Con rested his on her lap. "This is nice "

  "It is."

  She felt a little crack around her heart as he held her quietly in the dim light from the stove while the house settled m sleep around them.

  Chapter Six

  Brianna needed a taste of spring. It was chancy, she knew, to begin too early, but the mood wouldn't pass. She gathered the seeds she'd been hording and her small portable radio and carted them out to the little shed she'd rigged as a temporary greenhouse.

  It wasn't much, and she'd have been the first to admit it. No more than eight feet square with a floor of hard-packed dirt, the shed was better used for storage than planting. But she'd imposed on Murphy to put in glass and a heater. The benches she'd built herself with little skill and a great deal of pride.

  There wasn't room, nor was there equipment for the kind of experimentation she dreamed of. Still, she could give her seeds an early start in the peat pots she'd ordered from a gardening supply catalog.

  The afternoon was hers, after all, she told herself. Gray was closeted with his work, and Mr. Smythe-White was taking a motor tour of the Ring of Kerry. All the baking and mending were done for the day, so it was time for pleasure.

  There was little that made her happier than having her hands in soil. Grunting a bit, she hefted a bag of potting mix onto the bench.

  Next year, she promised herself, she'd have a professional greenhouse. Not a large one, but a fine one nonetheless. She'd take cuttings and root them, force bulbs so that she could have spring any time of year she liked. Perhaps she'd even attempt some grafting. But for the moment she was content to baby her seeds.

  In days, she mused, humming along with the radio, the first tender sprigs would push through the soil. True it was a horrid expense, the luxury of fuel to warm them. It would have been wiser to use the money to have her car overhauled.

  But it wouldn't be nearly so much fun.

  She sowed, gently patting dirt, and let her mind drift.

  How sweet Gray had been the night before, she remembered. Cuddling with her in the kitchen. It hadn't been so frightening, nor, she admitted, so exciting, as when he'd kissed her. This had been soft and soothing, and so natural it had seemed, just for a moment, that they'd belonged there together.

  Once, long ago, she'd dreamed of sharing small, sweet moments like that with someone. With Rory, she thought with an old, dull pang. Then she'd believed she'd be married, have children to love, a home to tend to. What plans she'd made, she thought now, all rosy and warm with happy ever after at the end of them.

  But then, she'd only been a girl, and in love. A girl in love believed anything. Believed everything. She wasn't a girl now.

  She'd stopped believing when Rory had broken her heart, snapped it into two aching halves. She knew he was living near Boston now, with a wife and a family of his own. And, she was sure, with no thought whatever of the young sweet springtime when he'd courted her, and promised her. And pledged to her.

  That was long ago, she reminded herself. Now she knew that love didn't always endure, and promises weren't always kept. If she still carried a seed of hope inside that longed to bloom, it hurt no one but herself.

  "Here you are!" Eyes dancing, Maggie burst into the shed. "I heard the music. What in the world are you up to in here?"

  "I'm planting flowers." Distracted, Brianna swiped the back of her hand over her cheek and smeared it with soil. "Close the door, Maggie, you're letting the heat o
ut. What is it? You look about to burst."

  "You'll never guess, not in a thousand years." With a laugh, Maggie swung around the small shed, grabbing Brianna's arms to twirl her. "Go ahead. Try."

  "You're having triplets."

  "No! Praise God."

  Maggie's mood was infectious enough to have Brianna chuckle and fall into the rhythm of the impromptu jig. "You've sold a piece of your glass for a million pounds, to the president of the United States."

  "Oh, what a thought. Maybe we should send him a brochure. No, you're miles off, you are, miles. I'll give you a bit of a hint then. Rogan's grandmother called."

  Brianna blew her tumbling hair out of her eyes. "That's a hint?"

  "It would be if you'd put your mind to it. Brie, she's getting married. She's marrying Uncle Niall, next week, in Dublin."

  "What?" Brianna's mouth fell open on the word. "Uncle Niall, Mrs. Sweeney, married?"

  "Isn't it grand? Isn't it just grand? You know she had a crush on him when she was a girl in Galway. Then after more than fifty years they meet again because of Rogan and me. Now, by all the saints in heaven, they're going to take vows." Tossing back her head, she cackled. "Now as well as being husband and wife, Rogan and I will be cousins.

  "Uncle Niall." It seemed to be all Brianna could manage.

  "You should have seen Rogan's face when he took the call. He looked like a fish. His mouth opening and closing and not a word coming out." Snorting with laughter, she leaned against Brianna's workbench. "He's never gotten accustomed to the idea that they were courting. More than courting, if it comes to that-but I suppose it's a difficult thing for a man to imagine his white-haired granny snuggled up in sin."

  "Maggie!" Overcome, Brianna covered her mouth with her hand. Giggles turned into hoots of laughter.

  "Well, they're making it legal now, with an archbishop no less officiating." She took a deep breath, looked around. "Have you anything to eat out here?"

  "No. When is it to be? Where?"

  "Saturday next, in her Dublin house. A small ceremony, she tells me, with just family and close friends. Uncle Niall's eighty if he's a day, Brie. Imagine it."

  "I think I can. Oh, and I do think it's grand. I'll call them after I've finished here and cleaned up."

  "Rogan and I are leaving for Dublin today. He's on the phone right now, God bless him, making arrangements." She smiled a little. "He's trying to be a man about it."

  "He'll be happy for them, once he gets used to it." Brianna's voice was vague as she began to wonder what sort of gift she should buy the bride and groom.

  "It's to be an afternoon ceremony, but you may want to come out the night before so you'll have some time."

  "Come out?" Brianna focused on her sister again. "But I can't go, Maggie. I can't leave. I have a guest."

  "Of course you'll go." Maggie straightened from the bench, set her jaw. "It's Uncle Niall. He'll expect you there. It's one bloody day, Brianna."

  "Maggie, I have obligations here, and no way to get to Dublin and back."

  "Rogan will have the plane take you."

  "But-"

  "Oh, hang Grayson Thane. He can cook his own meals for a day. You're not a servant."

  Brianna's shoulders stiffened. Her eyes turned cool. "No, I'm not. I'm a businesswoman who's given her word. I can't dance off for a weekend in Dublin and tell the man to fend for himself."

  "Then bring him along. If you're worried the man will fall over dead without you to tend him, bring him with you."

  "Bring him where?" Gray pushed open the door, eyed both women cautiously. He'd seen Maggie go dashing into the shed from his bedroom window. Curiosity had eventually brought him out, and the shouting had done the rest. "Shut the door," Brianna said automatically. She fought back embarrassment that he should have walked in on a family argument. She sighed once. The tiny shed was now crowded with people. "Was there something you needed, Grayson?"

  "No." He lifted a hand, brushing his thumb over the dirt on her cheek-a gesture that had Maggie's eyes narrowing. "You have dirt on your face, Brie. What are you up to?" "I'm trying to put in some seeds-but there's hardly room for them now."

  "Mind your hands, boy-o," Maggie muttered. He only grinned and stuck them in his pockets. "I heard my name mentioned. Is there a problem?"

  "There wouldn't be if she wasn't so stubborn." Maggie tossed up her chin and decided to dump the blame at Gray's feet. "She needs to go to Dublin next weekend, but she won't leave you."

  Gray's grin turned into a satisfied smile as his gaze shifted from Maggie to Brianna. "Won't she?" "You've paid for room and board," Brianna began. "Why do you need to go to Dublin?" he interrupted. "Our uncle's getting married," Maggie told him. "He'll want her there, and that's as it should be. I say if she won't leave you behind, she should take you along."

  "Maggie, Gray doesn't want to be going off to a wedding, with people he
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