Born in ice, p.7
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       Born in Ice, p.7
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         Part #2 of Born In series by Nora Roberts

  She began to add his laundry to her own, and had to admit it was pleasant to hang his shirts on the line when the day was sunny.

  He kept no mementos of friends or family, made no attempt to personalize the room he now lived in. There were books, boxes of them-mysteries, horror novels, spy thrillers, romances, classics, nonfiction books on police procedures, weapons and murder, psychology, mythology, witchcraft, auto mechanics-that made her smile-and subjects as varied as architecture and zoology.

  There seemed to be nothing that didn't interest him.

  She knew he preferred coffee but would drink tea in a pinch if it was strong enough. He had the sweet tooth of a ten-year-old boy-and the energy of one.

  He was nosy-there was to be no question he wouldn't ask. But there was an innate kindness in him that made him hard to rebuff. He never failed to offer to do some chore or errand for her-and she'd seen him sneaking tidbits of food to Con when he thought she wasn't looking.

  All in all, it was an excellent arrangement-he provided her company, income, and the work she loved. She gave him a smoothly running base. Yet she could never quite relax around him. He had never referred to that one moment of mind-numbing attraction between them. But it was there-in the way her pulse jumped if she walked into a room and found him there unexpectedly. In the way her body heated when he turned those gilded eyes in her direction and simply looked at her.

  Brianna blamed herself for it. It had been a long, long time since she had been deeply attracted to a man. Not since Rory McAvery had left her with a scar on her heart and a hole in her life had she felt such a wicked stirring for any man.

  Since she was feeling it for a guest, Brianna had decided it was her responsibility to still it.

  But as she smoothed the quilt on his bed, fluffed his pillows, she wondered where his ramblings were taking him today.

  He hadn't gone far. Gray had decided to travel on foot that morning and wandered down the narrow road under gloomy, threatening skies. He passed a couple of outbuildings, saw a tractor shelter, hay bales stacked out of the weather. Murphy's, he imagined and began to wonder what it would be like to be a farmer.

  Owning land, he mused, being responsible for it. Plowing, planting, tending, watching things grow. Keeping an eye on the sky, sniffing the air for a turn in the weather.

  Not a life for Grayson Thane, he thought, but imagined some would find it rewarding. There'd been that simple pride of ownership in Murphy Muldoon's walk-a man who knew his feet were planted on his own.

  But owning land-or anything-meant being tied to it. He'd have to ask Murphy how he felt about that.

  Gray could see the valley from this spot, and the rise of hills. From the distance came the quick, happy bark of a dog. Con, perhaps, out looking for adventure before heading home to lay his head in Brianna's lap.

  Gray had to envy the dog the privilege.

  Grimacing, Gray tucked his hands in his pockets. He'd been working hard to keep those hands off his subtly sexy landlady.

  He told himself she didn't wear those prim aprons or pin her hair up in those fall-away knots to charm him. But it worked. It was unlikely she fussed around the house smelling of wildflowers and cloves to drive him crazy. But he was suffering.

  Beyond the physical-which was difficult enough-there was that air of secrets and sadness. He'd yet to slip through that thin wall of reserve and discover what was troubling her. Whatever it was haunted her eyes.

  Not that he intended to get involved, Gray assured himself. He was just curious. Making friends was something he did easily by way of sincere interest and a sympathetic nature. But close friends, the kind a man kept in touch with through the years, worried over, missed when he was away, weren't in the master plan.

  Grayson Thane traveled light, and he traveled frequently.

  The little cottage with the boldly painted front door had Gray pausing. An addition had been framed in on the south side that was as big as the original house. The earth that had been displaced was now a hill of mud that would have delighted any five-year-old.

  The little place down the road? he wondered. Where Brianna's sister and brother-in-law lived from time to time? He decided the magenta door was Maggie's doing and went through the gate for a closer look.

  For the next few minutes he pleased himself poking through the new construction. Someone knew what they were doing here, he thought. The frame was sturdy, the materials top of the line. Adding on for the baby, he assumed, working his way to the rear. It was then he spotted the building out in the back.

  Her glass shop. Pleased with his new discovery, he stepped off the planking and crossed the dew-dampened lawn. Once he reached it, Gray cupped his hands against the window and peered in. He could see furnaces, benches, tools that whetted his curiosity and imagination. Shelves were loaded with works in progress. Without a qualm he stepped back and reached for the door.

  "Are you wanting your fingers broken?"

  He turned. Maggie stood in the rear doorway of the cottage, a steaming cup in one hand. She wore a bagging sweater, worn cords, and a scowl. Gray grinned at her.

  "Not especially. Is this where you work?"

  "It is. How do you treat people who pop uninvited into your studio?"

  "I haven't got a studio. How about a tour?"

  She didn't bother to muffle the oath, or the sigh. "You're a bold one, aren't you? All right, then, since I don't seem to be doing anything else. The man goes off," she complained as she crossed the grass. "Doesn't even wake me. Leaves me a note is all he does, telling me to eat a decent breakfast and keep my feet up."

  "And did you?"

  "I might have if I hadn't heard somebody tramping around my property."

  "Sorry." But still he grinned at her. "When's the baby due?"

  "In the spring." Despite herself she softened. It took only the mention of the baby. "I've weeks yet, and if the man keeps trying to pamper me, I'll have to murder him. Well, come in, then, since you're here."

  "I see that gracious hospitality runs in the family."

  "It doesn't." Now a smile tugged at her lips. "Brianna got all the niceness. Look," she said as she opened the door. "Don't touch, or I will break those fingers."

  "Yes, ma'am. This is great." He started to explore the minute he stepped in, moving to the benches, bending down to check out the furnace. "You studied in Venice, didn't you?"

  "I did, yes."

  "What started you off? God, I hate when people ask me that. Never mind." He laughed at himself and strolled toward her pipes. His fingers itched to touch. Cautious, he looked back at her, measured. "I'm bigger than you."

  She nodded. "I'm meaner." But she relented enough to take up a pontil herself and hand it to him.

  He hefted it, twirled it. "Great murder weapon."

  "I'll keep that in mind the next time someone interrupts my work."

  "So what's the process?" He glanced toward drawings spread out on a bench. "You sketch out ideas?"

  "Often." She sipped at her tea, eyeing him. In truth, there was something about the way he moved, light and fluid without any fuss, that made her yearn for her sketchpad. "After a quick lesson?"

  "Always. It must get pretty hot in here when the furnaces are fired. You melt the stuff in there, and then what?"

  "I make a gather," she began. For the next thirty minutes she took him step by step through the process of hand-blowing a vessel.

  The man was full of questions, she thought. Intriguing questions, she admitted, the kind that made you go beyond the technical processes and into the creative purpose behind them. She might have been able to resist that, but his enthusiasm was more difficult. Instead of hurrying him along, she found herself answering those questions, demonstrating, and laughing with him.

  "Keep this up and I'll draft you as pontil boy." Amused, she rubbed a hand over her belly. "Well, come in and have some tea."

  "You wouldn't have any of Brianna's cookies-biscuits."

  Maggie's brow arched. "I do."

/>   A few moments later Gray was settled at Maggie's kitchen table with a plate of gingersnaps. "I swear she could market these," he said with his mouth full. "Make a fortune."

  "She'd rather give them to the village children."

  "I'm surprised she doesn't have a brood of her own." He waited a beat. "I haven't noticed any man coming around."

  "And you're the noticing sort, aren't you, Grayson Thane?"

  "Goes with the territory. She's a beautiful woman."

  "I won't disagree." Maggie poured boiling water into a warmed teapot.

  "You're going to make me yank it out," he muttered. "Is there someone or not?"

  "You could ask her yourself." Miffed, Maggie set the pot on the table, frowned at him. Oh, he had a talent, she thought, for making you want to tell him what he wanted to know. "No," she snapped out and slapped a mug on the table in front of him. "There's no one. She brushes them off, freezes them out. She'd rather spend all her time tending to her guests or running out to Ennis every time our mother sniffles. Self-sacrificing is what our Saint Brianna does best."

  "You're worried about her," Gray murmured. "What's troubling her, Maggie?"

  " 'Tis family business. Let it alone." Belatedly she poured his cup, then her own. She sighed then, and sat. "How do you know she's troubled?"

  "It shows. In her eyes. Just like it's showing in yours now."

  "It'll be settled soon enough." Maggie made a determined effort to push it aside. "Do you always dig into people?"

  "Sure." He tried the tea. It was strong enough to stand up and dance. Perfect. "Being a writer's a great cover for just being nosy." Then his eyes changed, sobered. "I like her. It's impossible not to. It bothers me to see her sad."

  "She can use a friend. You've a talent for getting people to talk. Use it on her. But mind," she added before Gray could speak, "she's soft feelings underneath. Bruise them, and I'll bruise you."

  "Point taken." And time, he thought, to change the subject. He kicked back, propping a booted foot on his knee. "So, what's the story with our pal Murphy? Did the guy from Dublin really steal you out from under his nose?"

  It was fortunate that she'd swallowed her tea or she might have choked. Her laugh started deep and grew into guffaws that had her eyes watering.

  "I missed a joke," Rogan said from the doorway. "Take a breath, Maggie, you're turning red."

  "Sweeney." She sucked in a giggling breath and reached for his hand. "This is Grayson Thane. He was wondering if you stepped over Murphy's back to woo me."

  "Not Murphy's," he said pleasantly, "but I had to step all over Maggie's-ending with her head, which needed some sense knocked into it. It's nice meeting you," he added, offering Gray his free hand. "I've spent many entertaining hours in your stories."

  "Thanks."

  "Gray's been keeping me company," Maggie told him. "And now I'm in too fine a mood to yell at you for not waking me this morning."

  "You needed sleep." He poured tea, winced after the first sip. "Christ, Maggie, must you always brew it to death?"

  "Yes." She leaned forward, propped her chin on her hand. "What part of America are you from, Gray?"

  "No part in particular. I move around."

  "But your home?"

  "I don't have one." He bit into another cookie. "I don't need one with the way I travel."

  The idea was fascinating. Maggie tilted her head and studied him. "You just go from place to place, with what- the clothes on your back?"

  "A little more than that, but basically. Sometimes I end up picking up something I can't resist-like that sculpture of yours in Dublin. I rent a place in New York, kind of a catchall for stuff. That's where my publisher and agent are based, so I go back about once, maybe twice a year. I can write anywhere," he said with a shrug. "So I do."

  "And your family?"

  "You're prying, Margaret Mary."

  "He did it first," she shot back to Rogan.

  "I don't have any family. Do you have names picked out for the baby?" Gray asked, neatly turning the subject.

  Recognizing the tactic, Maggie frowned at him. Rogan gave her knee a squeeze under the table before she could speak. "None that we can agree on. We hope to settle on one before the child's ready to go to university."

  Smoothly Rogan steered the conversation into polite, impersonal topics until Gray rose to leave. Once she was alone with her husband, Maggie drummed her fingers on the table.

  "I'd have found out more about him if you hadn't interfered."

 
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