Born in ice, p.20
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       Born in Ice, p.20
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         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts

  Oh, he needed a bit of a coming down, he did. She walked to him slowly, ice in her eyes and heat on her tongue. "And what do you have to be so cheerful about this morning?"

  Sometimes, even a writer understood that actions can speak louder than words. Without giving either of them time to think he hauled her against him, took one satisfied look at the shock that raced over her face, then crushed her mouth with his.

  It was rough and hungry and full of frustration. Her heart leaped, seemed to burst in her head. She had an instant to fear, a moment to yearn, then he was yanking her away again.

  His eyes, oh, his eyes were fierce. A wolfs eyes, she thought dully, full of violence and stunning strength.

  "Got it?" he tossed out, furious with her, with himself when she only stared. Like a child, he thought, who'd just been slapped for no reason.

  It was a feeling he remembered all too well.

  "Christ, I'm going crazy." He scrubbed his hands over his face and fought back the beast. "I'm sorry. Get in the car, Brianna. I'm not going to jump you."

  His temper flashed again when she didn't move, didn't blink. "I'm not going to fucking touch you."

  She found her voice then, though it wasn't as steady as she might have liked. "Why are you angry with me?"

  "I'm not." He stepped back. Control, he reminded himself. He was usually pretty good at it. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "Stop looking at me as if I'd just punched you."

  But he had. Didn't he know that anger, harsh words, hard feelings wounded her more than a violent hand? "I'm going inside." She found her defenses, the thin walls that blocked out temper. "I need to call Maggie and tell her I can't be there."

  "Brianna." He started to reach out, then lifted both hands in a gesture that was equal parts frustration and a plea for peace. "How bad do you want me to feel?"

  "I don't know, but I imagine you'll feel better after some food."

  "Now she's going to fix me breakfast." He closed his eyes, took a steadying breath. "Even tempered," he muttered and looked at her again. "Isn't that what you said I was, not too long ago? You were more than a little off the mark. Writers are miserable bastards, Brie. Moody, mean, selfish, self-absorbed."

  "You're none of those things." She couldn't explain why she felt bound to come to his defense. "Moody, perhaps, but none of the others."

  "I am. Depending on how the book's going. Right now it's going badly, so I behaved badly. I hit a snag, a wall. A goddamn fortress, and I took it out on you. Do you want me to apologize again?"

  "No." She softened, reached out and laid a hand on his stubbled cheek. "You look tired, Gray."

  "I haven't slept." He kept his hands in his pockets, his eyes on hers. "Be careful how sympathetic you are, Brianna. The book's only part of the reason I'm feeling raw this morning. You're the rest of it."

  She dropped her hand as if she'd touched an open flame. Her quick withdrawal had his lips curling.

  "I want you. It hurts wanting you this way."

  "It does?"

  "That wasn't supposed to make you look pleased with yourself."

  Her color bloomed. "I didn't mean to-"

  "That's part of the problem. Come on, get in the car. Please," he added. "I'll drive myself insane trying to write today if I stay here."

  It was exactly the right button to push. She slipped into the car and waited for him to join her. "Perhaps if you just murdered someone else."

  He found he could laugh after all. "Oh, I'm thinking about it."

  Worldwide Gallery of Clare County was a gem. Newly constructed, it was designed like an elegant manor house, complete with formal gardens. It wasn't the lofty cathedral of the gallery in Dublin, nor the opulent palace of Rome, but a dignified building specifically conceived to house and showcase the work of Irish artists.

  It had been Rogan's dream, and now his and Maggie's reality.

  Brianna had designed the gardens. Though she hadn't been able to plant them herself, the landscapers had used her scheme so that brick walkways were flanked with roses, and wide, semi-circular beds were planted with lupins and poppies, dianthus and foxglove, columbine and dahlias, and all of her favorites.

  The gallery itself was built of brick, soft rose in color, with tall, graceful windows trimmed in muted gray. Inside the grand foyer, the floor was tiled in deep blue and white, with a Waterford chandelier overhead and the sweep of mahogany stairs leading to the second floor.

  " 'Tis Maggie's," Brianna murmured, caught by the sculpture that dominated the entranceway.

  Gray saw two figures intwined, the cool glass just hinting of heat, the form strikingly sexual, oddly romantic.

  "It's her Surrender. Rogan bought it himself before they were married. He wouldn't sell it to anyone."

  "I can see why." He had to swallow. The sinuous glass was an erotic slap to his already suffering system. "It makes a stunning beginning to a tour."

  "She has a special gift, doesn't she?" Gently, with fingertips only, Brianna stroked the cool glass that her sister had created from fire and dreams. "Special gifts make a person moody, I suppose." Smiling a little, she looked over her shoulder at Gray. He looked so restless, she thought. So impatient with everything, especially himself. "And difficult, because they'll always ask so much of themselves."

  "And make life hell for everyone around them when they don't get it." He reached out, touched her instead of the glass. "Don't hold grudges, do you?"

  "What's the point in them?" With a shrug, she turned a circle, admiring the clean and simple lines of the foyer.

  "Rogan wanted the gallery to be a home, you see, for art. So there's a parlor, a drawing room, even a dining room, and sitting rooms upstairs." Brianna took his hand and drew him toward open double doors. "All the paintings, the sculptures, even the furniture, are by Irish artists and craftsmen. And-oh."

  She stopped dead and stared. Cleverly arranged over the back and side of a low divan was a soft throw in bold teal that faded into cool green. She moved forward, ran her hand over it.

  "I made this," she murmured. "For Maggie's birthday. They put it here. They put it here, in an art gallery."

  "Why shouldn't they? It's beautiful." Curious, he took a closer look. "Did you weave this?"

  "Yes. I don't have much time for weaving, but..." She trailed off, afraid she might weep. "Imagine it. In an art gallery, with all these wonderful paintings and things."

  "Brianna."

  "Joseph."

  Gray watched the man stride across the room and envelope Brianna in a hard and very warm embrace. Artistic type, Gray thought with a scowl. Turquoise stud in the ear, ponytail streaming down the back, Italian suit. The look clicked. He remembered seeing the man at the wedding in Dublin.

  "You get lovelier every time I see you."

  "You get more full of nonsense." But she laughed. "I didn't know you were here."

  "I just came in for the day, to help Rogan with a few details."

  "And Patricia?"

  "She's in Dublin still. Between the baby and the school, she couldn't get away."

  "Oh, the baby, and how is she?"

  "Beautiful. Looks like her mother." Joseph looked at Gray then, held out a hand. "You'd be Grayson Thane? I'm Joseph Donahue."

  "Oh, I'm sorry. Gray, Joseph manages Rogan's gallery in Dublin. I thought you'd met at the wedding."

  "Not technically." But Gray shook in a friendly manner. He remembered Joseph had a wife and daughter.

  "I'll have to get it out of the way and tell you I'm a big fan."

  "It's never in the way."

  "It happens I brought a book along with me, thinking I could pass it along to Brie to pass it to you. I was hoping you wouldn't mind signing it for me."

  Gray decided he could probably learn to like Joseph Donohue after all. "I'd be glad to."

  "It's kind of you. I should tell Maggie you're here. She wants to tour you about herself."

  "It's a lovely job you've done here, Joseph. All of you."

  "And worth ever
y hour of insanity." He gave the room a quick, satisfied glance. "I'll fetch Maggie. Wander around if you like." He stopped at the doorway, turned, and grinned. "Oh, be sure to ask her about selling a piece to the president."

  "The president?" Brianna repeated.

  "Of Ireland, darling. He offered for her Unconquered this morning."

  "Imagine it," Brianna whispered as Joseph hurried off. "Maggie being known to the president of Ireland."

  "I can tell you she's becoming known everywhere."

  "Yes, I knew it, but it seems..." She laughed, unable to describe it. "How wonderful this is. Da would have been so proud. And Maggie, oh, she must be flying. You'd know how it feels, wouldn't you? The way it is when someone reads your books."

  "Yeah, I know."

  "It must be wonderful, to be talented, to have something to give that touches people."

  "Brie." Gray lifted the end of the soft teal throw. "What do you call this?"

  "Oh, anyone can do that-just takes time. What I mean is art, something that lasts." She crossed to a painting, a bold, colorful oil of busy Dublin. "I've always wished... it's not that I'm envious of Maggie. Though I was, a little, when she went off to study in Venice and I stayed home.

  But we both did what we needed to do. And now, she's doing something so important."

  "So are you. Why do you do that?" he demanded, irritated with her. "Why do you think of what you do and who you are as second place. You can do more than anyone I've ever known."

  She smiled, turning toward him again. "You just like my cooking."

  "Yes, I like your cooking." He didn't smile back. "And your weaving, your knitting, your flowers. The way you make the air smell, the way you tuck the corners of the sheets in when you make the bed. How you hang the clothes on the line and iron my shirts. You do all of those things, more, and make it all seem effortless."

  "Well it doesn't take much to-"

  "It does." He cut her off, his temper rolling again for no reason he could name. "Don't you know how many people can't make a home, or don't give a damn, who haven't a clue how to nurture. They'd rather toss away what they have instead of caring for it. Time, things, children."

  He stopped himself, stunned by what had come out of him, stunned it had been there to come out. How long had that been hiding? he wondered. And what would it take to bury it again?

  "Gray." Brianna lifted a hand to his cheek to soothe, but he stepped back. He'd never considered himself vulnerable, or not in too many years to count. But at the moment he felt too off balance to be touched.

  "What I mean is what you do is important. You shouldn't forget that. I want to look around." He turned abruptly to the side doorway of the parlor and hurried through.

  "Well." Maggie stepped in from the hallway. "That was an interesting outburst."

  "He needs family," Brianna murmured.

  "Brie, he's a grown man, not a babe."

  "Age doesn't take away the need. He's too alone, Maggie, and doesn't even know it."

  "You can't take him in like a stray." Tilting her head, Maggie stepped closer. "Or can you?"

  "I have feelings for him. I never thought I'd have these feelings for anyone again." She looked down at her hands that she'd clutched together in front of her, deliberately loosened then. "No, that's not true. It's not what I felt for Rory."

  "Rory be damned."

  "So you always say." And because of it, Brianna smiled. "That's family." She
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