Born in ice, p.22
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       Born in Ice, p.22

         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts
 

  "It may hurt you more to find them." He looked down at their joined hands. "The past has a lot of nasty trapdoors. It's a tenuous tie, Brianna, between you and Amanda's child. Stronger ones are broken every day."

  "My father loved her," she said simply. "The child she bore is kin. There's nothing else to do but look."

  "Not for you," he murmured as his eyes scanned her face. There was strength there mixed with the sadness. "Let me help you."

  "How?"

  "I know a lot of people. Finding someone's mostly research, phone tag, connections."

  "Rogan's hired a detective in New York."

  "That's a good start. If he doesn't turn up something soon, will you let me try?" He lifted a brow. "Don't say it's kind of me."

  "All right I won't, though it is." She brought their joined hands to her cheek. "I was angry with you for pushing me to tell you. But it helped." She tilted her face toward his. "You knew it would."

  "I'm innately nosy."

  "You are, yes. But you knew it would help."

  "It usually does." He stood, scooped her from the rock. "It's time to go back. I'm ready to work."

  Chapter Eleven

  The chain the story had around his throat kept Gray shackled to his desk for days. Curiosity turned the key in the lock now and again as guests came and went from the cottage.

  He'd had it to himself, or nearly so for so many weeks, he thought he might find the noise and chatter annoying. Instead it was cozy, like the inn itself, colorful, like the flowers that were beginning to bloom in Brianna's garden, bright as those first precious days of spring.

  When he didn't leave his room, he would always find a tray outside his door. And when he did, there was a meal and some new company in the parlor. Most stayed only a night, which suited him. Gray had always preferred quick, uncomplicated contacts.

  But one afternoon he came down, stomach rumbling, and tracked Brianna to the front garden.

  "Are we empty?"

  She glanced up from under the brim of her garden hat. "For a day or two, yes. Are you ready for a meal?"

  "It can wait until you're finished. What are you doing there?"

  "Planting. I want pansies here. Their faces always look so arrogant and smug." She sat back on her heels. "Have you heard the cuckoo calling, Grayson?"

  "A clock?"

  "No." She laughed and patted earth tenderly around roots. "I heard the cuckoo call when I walked with Con early this morning, so we're in for fine weather. And there were two magpies chattering, which means prosperity will follow." She bent back to her work. "So, perhaps another guest will find his way here."

  "Superstitious, Brianna. You surprise me."

  "I don't see why. Ah, there's the phone now. A reservation."

  "I'll get it." As he was already on his feet, he beat her to the parlor phone. "Blackthorn Cottage. Arlene? Yeah, it's me. How's it going, beautiful?"

  With a faint frown around her mouth, Brianna stood in the doorway and wiped her hands on the rag she'd tucked in her waistband.

  "Any place I hang my hat," he said in response to her question of whether he was feeling at home in Ireland. When he saw Brianna start to step back and fade from the room, he held out a hand in invitation. "What's it like in New York?" He watched Brianna hesitate, step forward. Gray linked his fingers with hers and began to nuzzle her knuckles. "No, I haven't forgotten that was coming up. I haven't given it much thought. If the spirit moves me, sweetheart."

  Though Brianna tugged on her hand and frowned, he only grinned and kept his grip firm.

  "I'm glad to hear that. What's the deal?" He paused, listening and smiling into Brianna's eyes. "That's generous,

  Arlene, but you know how I feel about long-term commitments. I want it one at a time, just like always."

  As he listened, he made little sounds of agreement, hums of interest, and nipped his way down to Brianna's wrist. It didn't do his ego any harm to feel her pulse scrambling.

  "It sounds more than fine to me. Sure, push the Brits a bit further if you think you can. No, I haven't seen the London Times. Really? Well, that's handy, isn't it? No, I'm not being a smartass. It's great. Thanks. I-what? A fax? Here?" He snickered, leaned forward, and gave Brianna a quick, friendly kiss on the mouth. "Bless you, Arlene. No, just send it through the mail, my ego can wait. Right back at you, beautiful. I'll be in touch."

  He said his goodbyes and hung up with Brianna's hand still clutched in his.

  When she spoke, the chill in her voice lowered the temperature of the room by ten degrees. "Don't you think it's rude to be flirting with one woman on the phone and kissing another?"

  His already pleased expression brightened. "Jealous, darling?"

  "Certainly not."

  "Just a little." He caught her other hand before she could evade and brought both to his lips. "Now that's progress. I almost hate to tell you that was my agent. My very married agent, who though dear to my heart and my bankbook is twenty years older than I and the proud grandmother of three."

  "Oh." She hated to feel foolish almost as much as she hated to feel jealous. "I suppose you want that meal now."

  "For once, food's the last thing on my mind." What was on it was very clear in his eyes as he tugged her closer. "You look really cute in that hat."

  She turned her head just in time to avoid his mouth. His lips merely skimmed over her cheek. "Was it good news then, her calling?"

  "Very good. My publisher liked the sample chapters I sent them a couple weeks ago and made an offer."

  "That's nice." He seemed hungry enough to her, the way he was nibbling at her ear. "I suppose I thought you sold books before you wrote them, like a contract."

  "I don't do multiples. Makes me feel caged in." So much so that he had just turned down a spectacular offer for three projected novels. "We deal one at a time, and with Arlene in my corner, we deal nicely."

  A warmth was spreading in her stomach as he worked his way leisurely down her neck. "Five million you told me. I can't imagine so much."

  "Not this time." He cruised up her jaw. "Arlene strong-armed them up to six point five."

  Stunned, she jerked back. "Million? American dollars?"

  "Sounds like Monopoly money, doesn't it?" He chuckled. "She's not satisfied with the British offer-and since my current book is steady at number one on the London Times, she's squeezing them a bit." Absently he nipped her by the waist, pressed his lips to her brow, her temple. "Sticking Point opens in New York next month."

  "Opens?"

  "Mmm. The movie. Arlene thought I might like to go to the premiere."

  "Of your own movie. You must."

  "There's no musts. Seems like old news. Flashback's now."

  His lips teased the corner of her mouth and her breath began to hitch. "Flashback?"

  "The book I'm working on. It's the only one that matters." His eyes narrowed, lost focus. "He has to find the book. Shit, how could I have missed that? It's the whole thing." He jerked back, dragged a hand through his hair. "Once he finds it, he won't have any choice, will he? That's what makes it personal."

  Every nerve ending in her body was humming from the imprint of his lips. "What are you talking about? What book?"

  "Deliah's diary. That's what links past and present. There'll be no walking away after he reads it. He'll have to-" Gray shook his head, like a man coming out, or moving into a trance. "I've got to get to work."

  He was halfway up the stairs, and Brianna's heart was still thudding dully. "Grayson?"

  "What?"

  He was already steeped in his own world, she noted, torn between amusement and irritation. That impatient gleam was in his eyes, eyes she doubted were even seeing her. "Don't you want some food?"

  "Just leave a tray when you have a chance. Thanks."

  And he was gone.

  Well. Brianna set her hands on her hips and managed to laugh at herself. The man had all but seduced her into a puddle, and didn't even know it. Off he went with Deliah and her diary, murd
er and mayhem, leaving her system ticking like an overwound watch.

  For the best, she assured herself. All that hand kissing and nibbling had weakened her. And it was foolish, wasn't it, to go weak over a man who would be gone from her home and her country as carelessly as he'd gone from her parlor.

  But oh, she thought as she walked to the kitchen, it made her wonder what it would be like. What it would be like to have all that energy, all that attention, all that skill focused only on her. Even for a short time. Even for only one night.

  She would know then, wouldn't she, what it felt like to give pleasure to a man? And to take it. Loneliness might be bitter after, but the moment might be sweet.

  Might. Too many mights, she warned herself and fixed Gray a generous plate of cold lamb and cheese croquettes. She carried it up, taking it into his room without speaking.

  He didn't acknowledge her, nor did she expect it now. Not when he was hulked over his little machine, his eyes slitted, his fingers racing. He did grunt when she poured the tea and set a cup at his elbow.

  When she caught herself smiling, checking an urge to run a hand down that lovely gold-tipped hair, she decided it was a very good time to walk over to Murphy's and ask him about fixing her car.

  The exercise helped work out those last jittery frissons of need. It was her time of year, the spring, when the birds called, the flowers bloomed, and the hills glowed so green your throat ached to look at them.

  The light was gilded, the air so clear that she could hear the putt-putt of Murphy's tractor two fields over. Charmed by the day, she swung the basket she carried and sang to herself. As she climbed over a low stone wall, she smiled at the spindly legged foal that nursed greedily while his mother cropped grass. She spent a moment in admiration, another few stroking both mother and baby before wandering on.

  Perhaps she would walk to Maggie's after seeing Murphy, she thought. It was only a matter of weeks now before the baby was due. Someone needed to tend Maggie's garden, do a bit of wash.

  Laughing, she stopped, crouching down when Con raced over the field toward her.

  "Been farming, have you? Or just chasing rabbits. No, 'tisn't for you," she said, hooking the basket higher as the dog sniffed around it. "But I've a fine bone at home waiting." Hearing Murphy's hail, she straightened, waved her arm in greeting.

  He shut off his tractor and hopped down as she walked over the newly turned earth.

  "A fine day for planting."

  "The finest," he agreed and eyed the basket. "What have you there, Brie?"

  "A bribe."

  "Oh, I'm made of stronger stuff than that."

  "Sponge cake."

  He closed his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh. "I'm your man."

  "That you are." But she held the basket tantalizingly out of reach. " Tis my car again, Murphy."

  Now his look was pained. "Brianna, darling, it's time for the wake there. Past time."

  "Couldn't you just take a peek?"

  He looked at her, then at the basket. "The whole of the sponge cake?"

  "Every crumb."

  "Done." He took the basket, set it up on the tractor seat.

  "But I'm warning you, you'll need a new one before summer."

  "If I do, I do. But I've my heart set on the greenhouse, so the car has to last a wee bit longer. Did you have time to look at my drawings for the greenhouse, Murphy?"

  "I did. Could be done." Taking advantage of the break, he pulled out a cigarette, lighted it. "I made a few adjustments."

 
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