Born in ice, p.47
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       Born in Ice, p.47
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         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts

  "You can have something for that now," she said, reading the chart.

  "I don't want a shot."

  "Oral." She smiled. "And your breakfast is coming. Oh, Nurse Mannion said you'd need two trays. One for Mr. Thane?" Obviously enjoying the joke, she glanced toward the bathroom. "I'll be leaving in just a moment, Mr. Thane, and you can come out. She says he's a most handsome man," the nurse murmured to Brianna. "With the devil's own smile."

  "He is."

  "Lucky you. I'll get you something for the pain."

  When the door closed again, Gray stepped out of the bathroom, scowled. "What, does that woman have radar?"

  "Were you really in there? Oh, Gray, I thought you'd found a place to sleep. Have you been up all night?"

  "I'm used to being up all night. Hey, you look better." He came closer, his scowl fading into a look of sheer relief. "You really look better."

  "I don't want to think of how I look. And you look tired."

  "I don't feel tired now. Starving," he said, pressing a hand to his stomach. "But not tired. What do you think they'll feed us?"

  "You are not going to carry me into the house."

  "Yes, I am." Gray skirted the hood of his car and opened the passenger door. "The doctor said you could come home, if you took it easy, rested every afternoon, and avoided any heavy lifting."

  "Well, I'm not lifting anything, am I?"

  "Nope. I am." Careful of her shoulder, he slipped an arm behind her back, another behind her knees. "Women are supposed to think this kind of stuffs romantic."

  "Under different circumstances. I can walk, Grayson. There's nothing wrong with my legs."

  "Not a thing. They're great." He kissed her nose. "Haven't I mentioned that before?"

  "I don't believe you have." She smiled, despite the fact that he'd bumped her shoulder and the bruises on her chest were aching. It was the thought, after all, that counted. "Well, since you're playing at being Dark Lord, sweep me inside, then. And I expect to be kissed. Well kissed."

  "You've gotten awfully demanding since you got hit on the head." He carried her up the walk. "But I guess I have to indulge you."

  Before he could reach for the door, it swung open and

  Maggie rushed out. "There you are. It seems we've been waiting forever. How are you?"

  "I'm being pampered. And if all of you don't watch out, I'll get used to it."

  "Bring her inside, Gray. Is there anything in the car she needs?"

  "About an acre of flowers."

  "I'll fetch them." She dashed off as the Carstairs hurried into the hall from the parlor.

  "Oh, Brianna, you poor, dear thing. We've been so worried. Johnny and I barely slept a wink thinking of you lying in the hospital that way. Such depressing places, hospitals. I can't think why anyone would choose to work in one, can you? Do you want some tea, a nice cool cloth? Anything at all?"

  "No, thank you, Iris," Brianna managed when she could get a word in. "I'm sorry you were worried. It was only a little thing, really."

  "Nonsense. A car accident, a night in the hospital. A concussion. Oh, does your poor head ache?"

  It was beginning to.

  "We're glad you're home again," Carstairs put in, and patted his wife's hand to calm her.

  "I hope Mrs. O'Malley made you comfortable."

  "She's a treasure, I assure you."

  "Where do you want these flowers, Brie?" Maggie asked from behind a forest of posies.

  "Oh, well-"

  "I'll put them in your room," she decided for herself. "Rogan'll be up to see you as soon as Liam wakes from his nap. Oh, and you've had calls from the whole village, and enough baked goods sent over to feed an army for a week."

  "There's our girl." Drying her hands on a towel, Lottie bustled out from the kitchen.

  "Lottie. I didn't realize you were here."

  "Of course I am. I'm going to see you settled and cared for. Grayson, take her right on into her room. She needs rest."

  "Oh, but no. Grayson, put me down."

  Gray only shifted his grip. "You're outnumbered. And if you don't behave, I won't read you the rest of the book."

  "This is nonsense." Over her protests Brianna found herself in her room being laid on the bed. "I might as well be back in the hospital."

  "Now, don't make a fuss. I'm going to make you a nice cup of tea." Lottie began arranging pillows, smoothing sheets. "Then you'll nap. You're going to be flooded with visitors before long and you need your rest."

  "At least let me have my knitting."

  "We'll see about that later. Gray, you can keep her company. See that she stays put."

  Brianna poked out a lip, folded her arms. "Go away," she told him. "I don't need you about if you won't stand up for me."

  "Well, well, the truth comes out." Eyeing her, he leaned comfortably on the doorjamb. "You're quite a shrew, aren't you?"

  "A shrew, is it? I complain at being bullied and ordered about and that makes me a shrew?"

  "You're pouting and complaining about being cared for and looked after. That makes you a shrew."

  She opened her mouth, closed it again. "Well, then, I am."

  "You need your pills." He took the prescription bottle out of his pocket, then walked into the bathroom to fill a glass with water.

  "They make me groggy," she muttered when he came back, holding out the capsule.

  "Do you want me to have to pinch your nose to get you to open up and swallow."

  The notion of that humiliation had her snatching the pill, then the glass. "There. Happy?"

  "I'll be happy when you stop hurting."

  The fight went out of her. "I'm sorry, Gray. I'm behaving so badly."

  "You're in pain." He sat on the side of the bed, took her hand. "I've been battered a couple of times myself. The first day's a misery. The second's hell."

  She sighed. "I thought it would be better, and I'm angry it's not. I don't mean to snap at you."

  "Here's your tea now, lamb." Lottie came in and balanced the saucer in Brianna's hands. "And let's get these shoes off so you'll be comfortable."

  "Lottie. Thank you for being here."

  "Oh, you don't have to thank me for that. Mrs. O'Malley and I'll keep things running around here till you're feeling yourself again. Don't you fret over a thing." She spread a light blanket over Brianna's legs. "Grayson, you see that she rests now, won't you?"

  "You can count on it." On impulse he rose to kiss Lottie's cheek. "You're a sweetheart, Lottie Sullivan."

  "Oh, go on." Flushing with pleasure, she bustled back into the kitchen.

  "So are you, Grayson Thane," Brianna murmured. "A sweetheart."

  "Oh, go on," he said. He tilted his head. "Can she cook?"

  She laughed as he'd hoped she would. "A fine cook is our Lottie, and it wouldn't take much to charm a cobbler from her. If you've a taste for one."

  "I'll keep that in mind. Maggie brought in the book." He picked it up from where Maggie had set it on Brianna's night table. "Are you up for another chapter of blistering medieval romance?"

  "I am."

  "You fell asleep while I was reading last night," he said as he paged through the book. "What's the last thing you remember?"

  "When he told her he loved her."

  "Well, that certainly narrows it down."

  "The first time." She patted the bed, wanting him to sit beside her again. "No one forgets the first time they hear it." His fingers fumbled on the pages, stilled, and he said nothing. Understanding, Brianna touched his arm. "You mustn't let it worry you, Grayson. What I feel for you isn't meant to worry you."

  It did. Of course it did. But there was something else, and he thought he could give her that, at least. "It humbles

  me Brianna." He lifted his gaze, those golden-brown eyes uncertain. "And it staggers me."

  "One day, when you remember the first time you heard it, I hope it pleasures you." Content for now, she sipped her tea, smiled. "Tell me a story, Grayson "

  Chapter T
wenty-four

  He didn't leave on the first of June as he'd planned. He could have. Knew he should have. But it seemed wrong, certainly cowardly, to go before he was positive Brianna was well on the mend.

  The bandages came off. He'd seen for himself the bruises and had iced down the swelling of her shoulder. He'd suffered when she turned in her sleep and caused herself discomfort. He scolded when she overdid.

  He didn't make love with her.

  He wanted her, hourly. At first he'd been afraid even the most gentle of touches would hurt her. Then he decided it was best as it was. A kind of segue, he thought, from lover, to friend, to memory. Surely it would be easier for them both if his remaining days with her were spent in friendship and not in passion.

  His book was finished, but he didn't mail it. Gray convinced himself he should take a quick detour to New York before his tour and hand it over to Arlene personally. If he thought, from time to time, how he had asked Brianna to go off with him for a little while, he told himself it was best forgotten.

  For her sake, of course. He was only thinking of her.

  He saw, through the window, that she was taking down the wash. Her hair was loose, blowing back from her face in the stiff western breeze. Behind her, the finished greenhouse glistened in the sunlight. Beside her, flowers she'd planted swayed and danced. He watched as she unhooked a clothespin, popped it back on the line, moved onto the next, gathering billowing sheets as she went.

  She was, he thought, a postcard. Something that personified a place, a time, a way of life. Day after day, he thought, year after year, she would hang her clothes and linens to dry in the wind and the sun. And gather them up again. And with her, and those like her, the repetition wouldn't be monotony. It would be tradition-one that made her strong and self-reliant.

  Oddly disturbed, he walked outside. "You're using that arm too much."

  "The doctor said exercise was good for it." She glanced over her shoulder. The smile that curved her lips didn't reach her eyes, and hadn't for days. He was moving away from her so quickly, she couldn't keep up. "I barely have a twinge now. It's a glorious day, isn't it? The family staying with us drove to Ballybunion to the beach. Da used to take Maggie and me there sometimes, to swim and eat icecream cones."

  "If you'd wanted to go to the beach, you'd only had to ask. I'd have taken you."

  The tone of his voice had her spine stiffening. Her movements became more deliberate as she unpinned a pillowslip, "That's kind of you, I'm sure, Grayson. But I don't have time for a trip to the sea. I've work to do."

  "All you do is work," he exploded. "You break your back over this place. If you're not cooking, you're scrubbing, if you're not scrubbing, you're washing. For Christ's sake, Brianna, it's just a house."

  "No." She folded the pillowslip in half, then half again before laying it in her wicker basket. " 'Tis my home, and it pleases me to cook in it, and scrub in it, and wash in it."

  "And never look past it."

  "And where are you looking, Grayson Thane, that's so damned important?" She choked off the bubbling temper, reverted to ice. "And who are you to criticize me for making a home for myself."

 
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