Born in ice, p.27
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       Born in Ice, p.27

         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts
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  "Why don't you sit in it? Get the feel of it?" Encouraged by her laugh, he took her arm and tugged her toward the driver's side. "It only has about twenty thousand miles on it."

  Murphy had warned him that bringing back a new car would be as foolish as spitting into the wind.

  Willing to humor him, Brianna climbed in and set her hands on the wheel. "Very nice. It feels just like a car."

  "But do you like it?" He propped his elbows on the base of the window and grinned at her.

  "It's a fine car, Gray, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the driving of it."

  "It's yours."

  "Mine? What do you mean it's mine?"

  "That old crate of yours is going to junkyard heaven. Murphy and I agreed it was hopeless, so I bought you this."

  He yelped when she jerked open the door and caught him smartly on the shin. "Well, you can just take it back where it came from." Her voice was ominously cool as he rubbed his throbbing shin. "I'm not ready to buy a new car, and when I am I'll decide for myself."

  "You're not buying it. I'm buying it. I bought it." He straightened and faced the ice with what he was certain was sheer reason. "You needed reliable transportation, and I've provided it. Now stop being so stiff-necked."

  "Stiff-necked, is it? Well, 'tis you who's being arrogant, Grayson Thane. Going out and buying a car without a by-your-leave. I won't have such decisions taken out of my hands, and I don't need to be tended to like a child."

  She wanted to shout. He could see she was fighting the urge with every breath, covering raging temper with an icy dignity that made him want to smile. Being a wise man, he kept his expression sober.

  "It's a gift, Brianna."

  "A box of chocolates is a gift."

  "A box of chocolates is a cliche," he corrected, then backtracked. "Let's just say this is my version of a box of chocolates." He shifted, cleverly trapping her between his body and the side of the car. "Do you want me worried about you every time you drive off to the village?"

  "There's no need for you to worry."

  "Of course there is." Before she could evade, he slipped his arms around her. "I visualize you tottering back up the road with nothing more than a steering wheel in your hand."

  "It's your imagination that's to blame for that." She turned her head, but his lips managed to brush her neck. "Stop it. You won't get around me that way."

  Oh, but he thought he would. "Do you really have a hundred pounds to toss away on a lost cause, my practical Brianna? And do you really want to ask poor Murphy to tinker with that useless heap every other day just so you can keep your pride?"

  She started to snarl, but he covered her lips firmly with his. "You know you don't," he murmured. "It's just a car, Brianna. Just a thing."

  Her head was starting to spin. "I can't accept such a thing from you. Will you stop nuzzling me! I've guests in the parlor."

  "I've been waiting all day to nuzzle you. Actually, I've been waiting all day to get you back in bed. You smell wonderful."

  "It's the rosemary from the herb bed. Stop this. I can't think."

  "Don't think. Just kiss me. Just once." If her head hadn't been reeling, she would have known better. But his lips were already on .hers, and hers were softening, parting. Welcoming.

  He took it slow, deepening the kiss degree by lazy degree, savoring her gradual warming, the delicate scent of

  the herbs that clung to the hands she lifted to his face, the gentle, almost reluctant yielding of her body to his.

  For a moment he forgot the move had been one of persuasion, and simply enjoyed.

  "You have such a wonderful mouth, Brianna." He nibbled at it, pleasing himself. "I wonder how I managed to stay away from it for so long."

  "You're trying to distract me."

  "I have distracted you. And myself." He drew her back to arm's length, marveling that what he'd intended to be a playful kiss had set his heart thundering. "Let's forget practicality, and all the other intellectual reasons I was going to use to convince you to take the damn car. I want to do this for you. It's important to me. It would make me happy if you'd accept it."

  She could have stood firm against the practical, ignored the reason of the intellect. But how could she refuse this quiet request, or hold back from the steady look in his eyes?

  " Tisn't fair to use my heart," she murmured.

  "I know that." He swore impatiently. "I know it. I should walk away from you right now, Brianna. Pack up, move out and get gone." He swore again as she kept her eyes level. "There'll probably come a time you'll wish I had."

  "No, I won't." She folded her hands together, afraid if she touched him she might cling. "Why did you buy me this car, Grayson?"

  "Because you needed it," he tossed out, then steadied himself. "Because I needed to do something for you. It's not that big a deal, Brie. The money's nothing to me."

  Her brow quirked. "Oh, I know it. You're rolling in pound notes, aren't you? Do you think all your fine money matters to me, Grayson? That I care for you because you can buy me new cars?"

  He opened his mouth, closed it again, oddly humbled. "No, I don't. I don't think it matters to you in the least." "Well, then, we understand that." He was so needy, she thought, and didn't even know. The gift had been as much for himself as it was for her. And that, she could accept. She turned around to take another look at the car. "This was a kind thing you did, and I haven't been properly grateful-not for the thought or the deed."

  He felt oddly like a small boy about to be forgiven for some careless bit of mischief. "So, you'll keep it." "Aye." She turned back, kissed him. "And thank you." His grin broke out. "Murphy owes me five pounds." "Wagered on me, did you?" Amusement colored her voice. It was so typical. "His idea."

  "Mmm. Well, why don't I go in and see if my guests are happy, then we can go for a little drive."

  He came to her that night, as she'd hoped he would, and again the night after, as guests slept peacefully upstairs. Her inn was full, as she liked it best. When she sat down with her accounts, it was with a light heart. She was nearly ready to buy her material for the greenhouse.

  He found her at her little desk, bundled in her robe, tapping a pen against her lips, her eyes dreamy.

  "Are you thinking of me?" he murmured, bending down to nuzzle her neck.

  "Actually, I was thinking of southern exposure and treated glass."

  "Second place to a greenhouse." He'd worked his way around to her jaw when his gaze skimmed over a letter she had spread open. "What's this? An answer from that mining company."

  "Yes, at last. They've gotten their bookkeeping together. We'll get a thousand pounds when we turn in the stock."

  He drew back frowning. "A thousand? For ten thousand shares? That doesn't seem right."

  She only smiled and rose to take down her hair. Normally it was a ritual he enjoyed, but this time he only continued to stare at the papers on her desk.

  "You didn't know Da," she told him. "It's a great deal more than I expected. A fortune really, as his schemes usually cost much more than they ever gained."

  "A tenth of a pound per share." He picked up the letter himself. "What do they say he paid for it?"

  "Half of that, as you can see. I can't remember anything

  he ever did that earned as well. I've only to tell Rogan to send them the certificate." "Don't."

  "Don't?" She paused, the brush in her hand. "Why shouldn't we?"

  "Has Rogan looked into the company?"

  "No, he's enough on his mind with Maggie and the gallery opening next week. I only asked him to hold the certificate."

  "Let me call my broker. Look, it can't hurt to get a prospectus on the company, a little information. A few days won't matter to you, will they?"

  "No. But it seems a lot of bother for you."

  "A phone call. My broker loves to bother." Setting the letter down again, he crossed to her and took the brush. "Let me do that." He turned her to face the mirror and began to draw the brush through her hair. "Just li
ke a Titian painting," he murmured. "All these shades within shades."

  She stood very still, watching him in the glass. It shocked her to realize how intimate it was, how arousing, to have him tend to her hair. The way his fingers combed through after the brush. Much more than her scalp began to tingle.

  Then his eyes lifted, met hers in the glass. Excitement arrowed into her when she saw the flare of need in his.

  "No, not yet." He held her as she was when she started to turn to him. He set the brush down, then drew her hair away from her face.

  "Watch," he murmured, then slid his fingers down her to the belt of her robe. "Do you ever wonder how we look together?"

  The idea was so shocking, so thrilling, she couldn't speak. His eyes stayed on hers as he unbelted the robe, drew it away. "I can see it in my head. Sometimes it gets in the way of my work, but it's hard to mind."

  His hands trailed up lightly over her breasts, making her shiver before he began to unbutton the high-necked gown.

  Speechless, helpless, she watched his hands move over her, felt the heat spread under her skin, over it. Her legs seemed to melt away so that she had no choice but to lean back against him. As if in a dream she saw him tug the gown from her shoulder, press his lips to the bared skin.

  A jolt of pleasure, a flash of heat.

  Her breath came out on a little purr of agreement as the tip of his tongue teased the curve of her neck.

  It was so stunning to see as well as to feel. Though her eyes went wide when he slipped the gown up, over her head and away, she didn't protest. Couldn't.

  She stared in amazement at the woman in the glass. At herself, she thought hazily. It was herself she watched, for she could feel that light, devastating touch as his hands curved up to take her breasts.

  "So pale," he said in a voice that had roughened. "Like ivory, tipped with rose petals." Eyes dark and intense, he rubbed his thumbs over her nipples, felt her tremble, heard her moan.

  It was beautifully erotic to watch her body curve back, to feel the soft, yielding weight of her sag against him as she went pliant with pleasure. Almost experimentally he took his hand down her torso, feeling each muscle quiver under his palm. The scent of her hair streamed through his senses, the silk of those long white limbs, and the sight of them trembling in the glass.

  He wanted to give, to give to her as he'd never wanted to give to anyone before. To soothe and excite, to protect and inflame. And she, he thought, pressing his lips to her throat again, was so perfect, so outrageously generous.

  A touch, he thought, at his touch all that cool dignity and calm manner melted away.

  "Brianna." His breath was backing up in his lungs, but he held on until her clouded eyes lifted once more to the reflection of his. "Watch what happens to you when I take you up."

  She started to speak, but his hand glided smoothly down, cupping her, finding her already hot and wet. Even as she choked out his name, half in protest, half in disbelief, he stroked her, gently at first, persuasively. But his eyes were fierce with concentration.

  It was staggering, shocking to see his hand possess her there, and to feel those long slow strokes that evoked an I answering pull and tug in her center. Her own eyes showed her that she was moving against him now, willingly, eagerly, almost pleadingly. Any thought of modesty was forgotten, abandoned as she lifted her arms, hooking them back around his neck, her hips responding to his increasing rhythm.

  And she was like a moth pinned by a sharp sweet spear of pleasure. Her body was still shuddering when he lifted her, carrying her to the bed to show her more.

  Chapter Fourteen

  "The opening's tomorrow, and he's barred me from the place." With her chin on her fist, Maggie glared at Brianna's back. "And he's plopped me down in your kitchen so you can be my keeper."

  Patiently Brianna finished icing the petit fours she'd baked for tea. She had eight guests, counting Gray, including three active children. "Margaret Mary, didn't the doctor tell you to stay off your feet, and that since the baby's dropped, you could deliver earlier than you'd thought?"

  "What does he know?" Cranky as a child herself, Maggie scowled. "I'm going to be pregnant for the rest of my life. And if Sweeney thinks he's keeping me from the opening tomorrow, he'd best think again."

  "Rogan never said he intended to do that. He didn't want you..." She'd nearly said underfoot and took more care with her words. "Overdoing today."

  "It's my gallery, too," she muttered. Her back was paining her like a toothache, and she was having twinges. Just twinges, she assured herself. Probably the mutton she'd eaten that afternoon.

  "Of course it is," Brianna soothed. "And we'll all be there tomorrow for the opening. The advertisements in the papers were lovely. It'll be a great success, I know."

  Maggie only grunted. "Where's the Yank?"

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