Born in Fire Page 47

“God, I can’t wear that. It’s a lady’s watch. I’ll forget I have it on and shower with it.”

“It’s waterproof.”

“I’ll break it.”

“Then I’ll get you another.” He took her arm, began to unbutton the cuff of her shirt. “What the hell is this?” he demanded when he hit the bandage. “What have you done?”

“It’s a burn.” She was still staring at the watch and didn’t see the fury light in his eyes. “I got a bit careless.”

“Damn it, Maggie. You’ve no right to be careless. None at all. Am I to be worried about you setting yourself afire now?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’d think I severed my hand.” She would have pulled her hand away, but his grip tightened. “Rogan, for pity sake, a glass artist gets a burn now and again. It’s not fatal.”

“Of course not,” he said stiffly. He forced back the anger he was feeling at her carelessness and clasped the watch on her wrist. “I don’t like to hear you’ve been careless.” He let her hand go, slipped his own in his pockets. “It’s not serious, then?”

“No.” She watched him warily when he went to answer the kettle’s shrill. “Shall I make us a sandwich?”

“As you like.”

“You didn’t say how long you’d be staying.”

“I’ll go back tonight. I wanted to speak with you in person rather than try to reach you by phone.” In control again, he finished making the tea and brought the pot to the table. “I’ve brought the clippings you asked my grandmother about.”

“Oh, the clippings.” Maggie stared at his briefcase. “Yes, that was good of her. I’ll read them later.” When she was alone.

“All right. And there was something else I wanted to give you. In person.”

“Something else.” She sliced through a loaf of Brianna’s bread. “It’s a day for presents.”

“This wouldn’t qualify as a present.” Rogan opened his briefcase and took out an envelope. “You may want to open this now.”

“All right, then.” She dusted off her hands, tore open the envelope. She had to grab the back of a chair to keep her balance as she read the amount on the check. “Mary, mother of God.”

“We sold every piece we’d priced.” More than satisfied by her reaction, he watched her sink into the chair. “I would say the showing was quite successful.”

“Every piece,” she echoed. “For so much.”

She thought of the moon, of dreams, of changes. Weak, she laid her head on the table.

“I can’t breathe. My lungs have collapsed.” Indeed, she could hardly talk. “I can’t get my breath.”

“Sure you can.” He went behind her, massaged her shoulders. “Just in and out. Give yourself a minute to let it take hold.”

“It’s almost two hundred thousand pounds.”

“Very nearly. With the interest we’ll generate from touring your work, and offering only a portion of it to the market, we’ll increase the price.” The strangled sound she made caused him to laugh. “In and out, Maggie love. Just push the air out and bring it in again. I’ll arrange for shipping for those pieces you’ve finished. We’ll set the tour for the fall, because you’ve so much completed already. You may want to take some time off to enjoy yourself. Have a holiday.”

“A holiday.” She sat up again. “I can’t think about that yet. I can’t think at all.”

“You’ve time.” He patted her head, then moved around her to pour the tea. “You’ll have dinner with me tonight, to celebrate?”

“Aye,” she murmured. “I don’t know what to say, Rogan. I never really believed it would…I just didn’t believe it.” She pressed her hands to her mouth. For a moment he was afraid she would begin to sob, but it was laughter, wild and jubilant, that burst out of her mouth. “I’m rich! I’m a rich woman, Rogan Sweeney.” She popped out of the chair to kiss him, then whirled away. “Oh, I know it’s a drop in the bucket to you, but to me—to me, it’s freedom. The chains are broken, whether she wants them to be or not.”

“What are you talking about?”

She shook her head, thinking of Brianna. “Dreams, Rogan, wonderful dreams. Oh, I have to tell her. Right away.” She snatched up the check and impulsively stuffed it in her back pocket. “You’ll stay, please. Have your tea, make some food. Make use of the phone you’re so fond of. Whatever you like.”

“Where are you going?”

“I won’t be long.” There were wings on her feet as she whirled back and kissed him again. Her lips missed his in her hurry and caught his chin. “Don’t go.” With that she was racing out of the door and across the fields.

She was puffing like a steam engine by the time she scrambled over the stone fence that bordered Brianna’s land. But then, she’d been out of breath before she’d begun the race. She barely missed trampling her sister’s pansies—a sin she would have paid for dearly—and skidded on the narrow stone path that wound through the velvety flowers.

She drew in air to shout, but didn’t waste it as she spotted Brianna in the little path of green beyond the garden, hanging linen on the line.

Clothespins in her mouth, wet sheets in her hands, Brianna stared across the nodding columbines and daisies while Maggie pressed her hands to her thudding heart. Saying nothing, Brianna snapped the sheet expertly and began to clip it to the line.

There was hurt in her sister’s face still, Maggie observed. And anger. All chilled lightly with Brianna’s special blend of pride and control. The wolfhound gave a happy bark and started forward, only to stop short at Brianna’s quiet order. He settled, with what could only be a look of regret at Maggie, back at his mistress’s feet. She took another sheet from the basket beside her, flicked it and clipped it neatly to dry.

“Hello, Maggie.”

So the wind blew cold from this quarter, Maggie mused, and tucked her hands into her back pockets. “Hello, Brianna. You’ve guests?”

“Aye. We’re full at the moment. An American couple, an English family and a young man from Belgium.”

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