Born in ice, p.41
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       Born in Ice, p.41

         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts

  He switched it off the moment he came inside, as if to prove to himself he didn't need or want the homey signal. He started to go upstairs, a deliberate move, he knew, to prove he was his own man.

  Con's soft woof stopped him. Turning on the stairs, Gray scowled at the dog. "What do you want?"

  Con merely sat, thumped his tail.

  "I don't have a curfew, and I don't need a stupid dog waiting up for me."

  Con merely watched him, then lifted a paw as if anticipating Gray's usual greeting.

  "Shit." Gray went back down the stairs, took the paw to shake, and gave the dog's head a good scratch. "There. Better now?"

  Con rose and padded toward the kitchen. He stopped, looked back, then sat again, obviously waiting.

  "I'm going to bed," Gray told him.

  As if in agreement, Con rose again as if waiting to lead the way to his mistress.

  "Fine. We'll do it your way." Gray stuffed his hands in his pockets and followed the dog down the hall, into the kitchen, and through to Brianna's room.

  He knew his mood was foul, and couldn't seem to alter it. It was the book, of course, but there was more. He could admit, at least to himself, that he'd been restless since Liam's christening.

  There'd been something about it, the ritual itself, that ancient, pompous, and oddly soothing rite full of words and color and movement. The costumes, the music, the lighting had all melded together, or so it had seemed to him, to tilt time.

  But it had been the community of it, the belonging he'd sensed from every neighbor and friend who'd come to witness the child's baptism, that had struck him most deeply.

  It had touched him, beyond the curiosity of it, the writer's interest in scene and event. It had moved him, the flow of words, the unshakable faith, and the river of continuity that ran from generation to generation in the small village church, accented by a baby's indignant wail, fractured light through stained glass, wood worn smooth by generations of bended knees.

  It was family as much as shared belief, and community as much as dogma.

  And his sudden, staggering wish to belong had left him restless and angry.

  Irritated with himself, and her, he stopped in the doorway of Brianna's sitting room, watching her with her knitting needles clicking rhythmically. The dark green wool spilled over the lap of her white nightgown. The light beside her slanted down so that she could check her work, but she never looked at her own hands.

  Across the room, the television murmured through an old black-and-white movie. Gary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in sleek evening dress embraced in a wine cellar. Notorious, Gray thought. A tale of love, mistrust, and redemption.

  For reasons he didn't choose to grasp, her choice of entertainment annoyed him all the more.

  "You shouldn't have waited up."

  She glanced over at him, her needles never faltering. "I didn't." He looked tired, she thought, and moody. Whatever he'd searched for in his long day alone, he didn't appear to have found it. "Have you eaten?"

  "Some pub grub this afternoon."

  "You'll be hungry, then." She started to set her knitting aside in its basket. "I'll fix you a plate."

  "I can fix my own if I want one," he snapped. "I don't need you to mother me."

  Her body stiffened, but she only sat again and picked up her wool. "As you please."

  He stepped into the room, challenging. "Well?"

  "Well what?"

  "Where's the interrogation? Aren't you going to ask me where I was, what I was doing? Why I didn't call?"

  "As you've just pointed out, I'm not your mother. Your business is your own."

  For a moment there was only the sound of her needles and the distressed commercial voice of a woman on television who'd discovered chip fat on her new blouse.

  "Oh, you're a cool one," Gray muttered and strode to the set to slam the picture off.

  "Are you trying to be rude?" Brianna asked him. "Or can't you help yourself?"

  "I'm trying to get your attention."

  "Well, you have it."

  "Do you have to do that when I'm talking to you?"

  Since there seemed no way to avoid the confrontation he so obviously wanted, Brianna let her knitting rest in her lap. "Is that better?"

  "I needed to be alone. I don't like being crowded."

  "I haven't asked for an explanation, Grayson."

  "Yes, you have. Just not out loud."

  Impatience began to simmer. "So, now you're reading my mind, are you?"

  "It's not that difficult. We're sleeping together, essentially living together, and you feel I'm obliged to let you know what I'm doing."

  "Is that what I feel?"

  He began to pace. No, she thought, it was more of a prowl-as a big cat might prowl behind cage bars.

  "Are you going to sit there and try to tell me you're not mad?"

  "It hardly matters what I tell you when you read my unspoken thoughts." She linked her hands together, rested them on the wool. She would not fight with him, she told herself. If their time together was nearing an end, she wouldn't let the last memories of it be of arguments and bad feelings. "Grayson, I might point out to you that I have a life of my own. A business to run, personal enjoyments. I filled my day well enough."

  "So you don't give a damn whether I'm here or not?" It was his out, wasn't it? Why did the idea infuriate him?

  She only sighed. "You know it pleases me to have you here. What do you want me to say? That I worried? Perhaps I did, for a time, but you're a man grown and able to take care of yourself. Did I think it was unkind of you not to let me know you'd be gone so long when it's your habit to be here most evenings? You know it was, so it's hardly worth me pointing it out to you. Now, if that satisfies you, I'm going to bed. You're welcome to join me or go upstairs and sulk."

  Before she could rise, he slapped both hands on either arm of her chair, caging her in. Her eyes widened, but stayed level on his.

  "Why don't you shout at me?" he demanded. "Throw something? Boot me out on my ass?"

  "Those things might make you feel better," she said evenly. "But it isn't my job to make you feel better."

  "So that's it? Just shrug the whole thing off and come to bed? For all you know I could have been with another woman."

  For one trembling moment the heat flashed into her eyes, matching the fury in his. Then she composed herself, taking the knitting from her lap and setting it in the basket. "Are you trying to make me angry?"

  "Yes. Damn it, yes." He jerked back from her, spun away. "At least it would be a fair fight then. There's no way to beat that iced serenity of yours."

  "Then I'd be foolish to set aside such a formidable weapon, wouldn't I?" She rose. "Grayson, I'm in love with you, and when you think I'd use that love to trap you, to change you, then you insult me. It's for that you should apologize."

  Despising the creeping flow of guilt, he looked back at her. Never in the whole of his life had another woman made him feel guilt. He wondered if there was another person in existence who could, with such calm reason, cause him to feel so much the fool.

  "I figured you'd find a way to get an I'm sorry out of me before it was over."

  She stared at him a moment, then saying nothing, turned and walked into the adjoining bedroom.

  "Christ." Gray scrubbed his hands over his face, pressed his fingers against his closed eyes, then dropped his hands. You could only wallow in your own idiocy so long, he decided. "I'm crazy," he said, stepping into the bedroom.

  She said nothing, only adjusted one of her windows to let in more of the cool, fragrant night air.

  "I am sorry, Brie, for all of it. I was in a pisser of a mood this morning, and just wanted to be alone."

  She gave him no answer, no encouragement, only turned down the bedspread.

  "Don't freeze me out. That's the worst." He stepped behind her, laid a tentative hand on her hair. "I'm having trouble with the book. It was lousy of me to take it out on you."

  "I don't expect
you to adjust your moods to suit me."

  "You just don't expect," he murmured. "It's not good for you."

  "I know what's good for me." She started to move away, but he turned her around. Ignoring the rigid way she held herself, he wrapped his arms around her.

  "You should have booted me out," he murmured.

  "You're paid up through the month."

  He pressed his face into her hair, chuckled. "Now you're being mean."

  How was a woman supposed to keep up with his moods? When she tried to push away, he only cuddled her closer.

  "I had to get away from you," he told her, and his hand roamed up and down her back, urging her spine to relax. "I had to prove I could get away from you."

  "Don't you think I know that?" Drawing back as far as he would permit, she framed his face in her hands. "Gray-son, I know you'll be leaving soon, and I won't pretend that doesn't leave a crack in my heart. But it'll hurt so much more, for both of us, if we spend these last days fighting over it. Or around it."

  "I figured it would be easier if you were mad. If you tossed me out of your life."

  "Easier for whom?"

  "For me." He rested his brow on hers and said what he'd avoided saying for the last few days. "I'll be leaving at the end of the month."

  She said nothing, found she could say nothing over the sudden ache in her chest.

  "I want to take some time before the tour starts."

  She waited, but he didn’t ask, as he once had, for her to come with him to some tropical beach. She nodded. ”Then let's enjoy the time we have before you go " She turned her face so that her mouth met his Gray laid her slowly onto the bed. And when he loved her, loved her tenderly.

  Chapter Twenty-one

  For the first time since Brianna had opened her home to guests, she wished them all to the devil. She resented the intrusion on her privacy with Gray. Though it shamed her, she resented the time he spent closed in his room finishing the book that had brought him to her.

  She fought the emotions, did everything she could to keep them from showing. As the days passed, she assured herself that the sense of panic and unhappiness would fade. Her life was so very nearly what she wanted it to be. So very nearly.

  She might not have the husband and children she'd always longed for, but there was so much else to fullfill her. It helped, at least a little, to count those blessings as she went about her daily routine.

  She carried linens, fresh off the line, up the stairs. Since

  Gray's door was open, she went inside. Here, she set the linens aside. It was hardly necessary to change his sheets since he hadn't slept in any bed but hers for days. But the room needed a good dusting, she decided, since he was out of it. His desk was an appalling mess, to be sure.

  She started there, emptying his overflowing ashtray, tidying books and papers. Hoping, she knew, to find some little snatch of the story he was writing. What she found were torn envelopes, unanswered correspondence, and some scribbled notes on Irish superstitions. Amused, she read:

  Beware of speaking ill of fairies on Friday, because they are present and will work some evil if offended.

  For a magpie to come to the door and look at you is a sure death sign, and nothing can avert it.

  A person who passes under a hempen rope will die a violent death.

  "Well, you surprise me, Brianna. Snooping."

  Blushing red, she dropped the notepad, stuck her hands behind her back. Oh, wasn't it just like Grayson Thane, she thought, to come creeping up on a person.

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