Born in ice, p.12
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       Born in Ice, p.12

         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts
 

  doesn't know. He's working, and he can't just-"

  "Sure he does," Gray cut her off. "When do we leave?" "Good. You'll stay at our house there. That's settled."

  Maggie brushed her hands together. "Now, who's going to tell Mother?"

  "I-"

  "No, let me," Maggie decided before Brianna could answer. She smiled. "She'll really hate it. We'll have the plane take her out Saturday morning so you won't be badgered by her the whole trip. Have you a suit, Gray?"

  "One or two," he murmured.

  "Then you're set, aren't you?" She leaned forward, kissed Brianna firmly on both cheeks. "Plan to leave Friday," she ordered. "I'll call you from Dublin."

  Gray ran his tongue around his teeth as Maggie slammed out. "Bossy, isn't she?"

  "Aye." Brianna blinked, shook her head. "She doesn't mean it. It's just that she's always sure she's right. And she has a deep fondness for Uncle Niall and for Rogan's grandmother."

  "Rogan's grandmother."

  "That's who he's marrying." She turned back to her potting, hoping to clear her mind with work.

  "That sounds like a story."

  "Oh, it 'tis. Gray, it's kind of you to be so obliging, but it's not necessary. They won't miss me, really, and it's a lot of trouble for you."

  "A weekend in Dublin's no trouble for me. And you want to go, don't you?"

  "That's not the point. Maggie put you in a difficult position."

  He put a hand under her chin, lifted it. "Why do you have such a hard time answering questions? You want to go, don't you? Yes or no."

  "Yes."

  "Okay, we go."

  Her lips started to curve, until he leaned toward them. "Don't kiss me," she said, weakening.

  "Now, that's a lot of trouble for me." But he reined himself in, leaned back. "Who hurt you, Brianna?"

  Her lashes fluttered down, shielding her eyes. "It may be I don't answer questions because you ask too many of them."

  "Yes,

  "Did you love him?"

  She turned her head, concentrated on her pots, very much."

  It was an answer, but he found it didn't please him. "Are you still in love with him?"

  "That would be foolish."

  "That's not an answer."

  "Yes, it is. Do I breathe down your neck when you're working?"

  "No." But he didn't step back. "But you have such an appealing neck." To prove it, he bent down to brush his lips over the nape. It didn't hurt his ego to feel her tremble. "I dreamed of you last night, Brianna. And wrote of it today."

  Most of her seeds scattered on the workbench instead of in the soil. She busied herself rescuing them. "Wrote of it?"

  "I made some changes. In the book you're a young widow who's struggling to build on a broken past."

  Despite herself, she was drawn and turned to look at him. "You're putting me in your book?"

  "Pieces of you. Your eyes, those wonderful, sad eyes. Your hair." He lifted a hand to it. "Thick, slippery hair, the color of the coolest sunset. Your voice, that soft lilt. Your body, slim, willowy, with a dancer's unconscious grace. Your skin, your hands. I see you when I write, so I write of you. And beyond the physical, there's your integrity, your loyalty." He smiled a little. "Your tea cakes. The hero's just as fascinated with her as I am with you."

  Gray set his hands on the bench on either side of her, caging her in. "And he keeps running into that same shield you both have. I wonder how long it'll take him to break it down."

  No one had ever said such words about her before, such words to her. A part of her yearned to wallow in them, as if they were silk. Another part stood cautiously back.

  "You're trying to seduce me."

  He lifted a brow. "How'm I doing?"

  "I can't breathe."

  "That's a good start." He leaned closer until his mouth was a whisper from hers. "Let me kiss you, Brianna."

  He already was in that slow, sinking way he had that turned all her muscles to mush. Mouth to mouth. It was such a simple thing, but it tilted every thing in her world. Further and further until she was afraid she would never right it again.

  He had skill, and with skill a patience. Beneath both was the shimmer of repressed violence she once sensed in him. The combination seeped into her like a drug, weakening, dizzying.

  She wanted, as a woman wanted. She feared, as innocence feared.

  Gently he took the fingers she gripped on the edge of the bench, soothed them open. With his mouth skimming over hers, he lifted her arms.

  "Hold me, Brianna." God he needed her to. "Kiss me back."

  Like a crack of a whip, his quiet words spurred her. Suddenly she was clinging to him, her mouth wild and willing. Staggered, he rocked back, gripping her. Her lips were hot, hungry, her body vibrating like a plucked harp string. The eruption of her passion was like lava spewing through ice, frenzied, unexpected, and dangerous.

  There was the elemental smell of earth, the wail of Irish pipes from the radio, the succulent flavor of woman in his mouth, and the quivering temptation of her in his arms.

  Then he was blind and deaf to all but her. Her hands were fisted in his hair, her panting breaths filling his mouth. More, only wanting more, he slammed her back against the shed wall. He heard her cry out-in shock, pain, excitement-before he muffled the sound, devouring it, devouring her.

  His hands streaked over her, hotly possessive, invasive. And her pants turned to moans: Please... She wanted to beg him for something. Oh, please. Such an ache, a deep, grinding, glorious ache. But she didn't know the beginning of it, or how it would end. And the fear was snapping like a wolf behind it-fear of him, of herself, of what she'd yet to know.

  He wanted her skin-the feel and taste of her flesh. He wanted to pound himself inside of her until they were both empty. The breath was tearing through his lungs as he gripped her shirt, his hands poised to rip and rend.

  And his eyes met hers.

  Her lips were bruised and trembling, her cheeks pale as ice. Her eyes were wide with terror and need warring in them. He looked down, saw his knuckles were white from strain. And the marks his greedy fingers had put on her lovely skin.

  He jerked back as if she'd slapped him, then held up his hands. He wasn't sure what or who he was warding off.

  "I'm sorry," he managed while she stood pressed back into the wall, gulping air. "I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?"

  "I don't know." How could she know where there was nothing but this horrible pulsing ache. She hadn't dreamed she could feel like this. Hadn't known it was possible to feel so much. Dazed, she brushed at the dampness on her cheeks.

  "Don't cry." He dragged an unsteady hand through his hair. "I feel filthy enough about this."

  "No, it's not-" She swallowed the tears. She had no idea why she should shed them. "I don't know what happened to me."

  Of course she didn't, he thought bitterly. Hadn't she told him she was innocent? And he'd gone at her like an animal. In another minute he would have dragged her down on the dirt and finished the job.

  "I pushed you, and there's no excuse for it. I can only tell you I lost my head and apologize for it." He wanted to go back to her, brush the tangled hair from her face. But didn't dare. "I was rough, and frightened you. It won't happen again."

  "I knew you would be." She was steadier now, perhaps because he seemed so shaken. "All along I knew. It wasn't that, Grayson. I'm not the fragile sort."

  He found he could smile after all. "Oh, but you are, Brianna. And I've never been quite so clumsy. This may seem like an awkward time to tell you, but you don't have to be afraid of me. I won't hurt you." "I know. You-"

  "And I'm going to try my damnedest not to rush you," he interrupted. "But I want you."

  She discovered she had to concentrate to breath evenly again. "We can't always have what we want."

  "I've never believed that. I don't know who he was, Brie, but he's gone. I'm here."

  She nodded. "For now."

  "There's only now." He shook his head before
she could argue. "This is as odd a place for philosophy as it is for sex. We're both a little wired up, right?"

  "I suppose you could say that."

  "Let's go inside. This time I'll make you some tea."

  Her lips curved. "Do you know how?"

  "I've been watching you. Come on." He held out a hand. She looked at it, hesitated. After another cautious glance at his face-it was calm now, without that odd feral light that was so frightening and exciting-she slipped her hand into his.

  "Maybe it's a good thing we've got a chaperone tonight."

  "Oh?" She turned her head as they stepped outside.

  "Otherwise you might sneak up to my room tonight and take advantage of me."

  She let out a short laugh. "You're too clever for anyone to take advantage of you."

  "Well, you could try." Relieved neither of them were trembling now, he slung a companionable arm around her shoulders. "Why don't we have a bit of cake with the tea?"

  She slid her eyes toward him as they reached the kitchen door. "Mine, or the one the woman makes in your book?"

  "Hers is only in my imagination, darling. Now, yours-" He froze when he pushed the door open. Instinctly he shoved Brianna behind him. "Stay here. Right here."

  "What? Are you-oh, sweet Jesus." Over his shoulder she could see the chaos of her kitchen. Tins had been turned over, cupboards emptied. Flour and sugar, spices and tea were swept onto the floor.

  "I said stay here," he repeated as she tried to shove by him.

  "I'll not. Look at this mess."

  He blocked her with an arm across the doorway. "Do you keep money in your tins? Jewelry?"

  "Don't be daft. Of course I don't." She blinked up at him. "You think someone was after stealing something? I've nothing to steal and no one would."

  "Well, someone did, and they could still be in the house. Where's that damn dog?" he muttered.

  "He'd be off with Murphy," she said dully. "He goes off to visit most afternoons."

  "Run over to Murphy's then, or to your sister's. I'll take

  a look around." She drew herself up. "This is my home, I'll remind you. I'll look myself."

  "Stay behind me," was all he said.

  He checked her rooms first, ignoring her expected shriek of outrage when she saw the pulled-out drawers and tumbled clothes.

  "My things."

  "We'll see if there's anything missing later. Better check the rest."

  "What sort of mischief is this?" she demanded, her temper heating as she trailed behind Gray. "Oh, damn them," she swore when she saw the parlor.

  It had been a quick, hurried, and frantic search, Gray mused. Anything but professional and foolishly risky. He was thinking it through when another idea slammed into him.

 
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