Born in Fire Page 48

“A virtual United Nations.” She sniffed elaborately. “You’ve pies baking.”

“They’re baked and cooling on the windowsill.” Because she hated confrontations of any kind, Brianna kept her eyes on her work as she spoke. “I thought about what you said, Maggie, and I want to say I’m sorry. I should have been there for you. I should have found a way.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Brianna let out a quick breath, her only sign of agitation. “You never make it easy, do you?”


“I have obligations—not only to her,” she said before Maggie could speak. “But to this place. You’re not the only one with ambitions, or with dreams.”

The heated words that burned on Maggie’s tongue cooled, then slid away. She turned to study the back of the house. The paint was fresh and white; the windows, open to the summer afternoon, were glistening. Lace curtains billowed, romantic as a bridal veil. Flowers crowded the ground and poured out of pots and tin buckets.

“You’ve done fine work here, Brianna. Gran would have approved.”

“But you don’t.”

“You’re wrong.” In an apology of her own, she laid a hand on her sister’s arm. “I don’t claim I understand how you do it, or why you want to, but that’s not for me to say. If this place is your dream, Brie, you’ve made it shine. I’m sorry I shouted at you.”

“Oh, I’m used to that.” Despite her resigned tone, it was clear that she had thawed. “If you’ll wait till I’ve finished here, I’ll put on some tea. I’ve a bit of trifle to go with it.”

Maggie’s empty stomach responded eagerly, but she shook her head. “I haven’t time for it. I left Rogan back at the cottage.”

“Left him? You should have brought him along with you. You can’t leave a guest kicking his heels that way.”

“He’s not a guest, he’s…well, I don’t know what we’d call him, but that doesn’t matter. I want to show you something.”

Though her sense of propriety was offended, Brianna took out the last pillowslip. “All right, show me. Then get back to Rogan. If you’ve no food in the house, bring him here. The man’s come all the way from Dublin after all, and—”

“Will you stop worrying about Sweeney?” Maggie cut in impatiently, and pulled the check out of her pocket. “And look at this?”

One hand on the line, Brianna glanced at the paper. Her mouth dropped open and the clothespin fell out to plop on the ground. The pillowslip floated after it.

“What is it?”

“It’s a check, are you blind? A big, fat, beautiful check. He sold all of it, Brie. All he’d set out to sell.”

“For so much?” Brianna could only gape at all the zeros. “For so much? How can that be?”

“I’m a genius.” Maggie grabbed Brianna’s shoulders and whirled her around. “Don’t you read my reviews? I have untapped depths of creativity.” Laughing, she dragged Brianna into a lively hornpipe. “Oh, and there’s something more about my soul and my sexuality. I haven’t memorized it all yet.”

“Maggie, wait. My head’s spinning.”

“Let it spin. We’re rich, don’t you see?” They tumbled to the ground together, Maggie shrieking with laughter and Con jumping in frantic circles around them. “I can buy that glass lathe I’ve been wanting, and you can have that new stove you’ve been pretending you don’t need. And we’ll have a holiday. Anywhere in the world, anywhere a’tall. I’ll have a new bed.” She plopped back on the grass to wrestle with Con. “And you can add a whole wing onto Blackthorn if you’ve a mind to.”

“I can’t take it in. I just can’t take it in.”

“We’ll find a house.” Pushing herself up again, Maggie hooked an arm around Con’s neck. “Whatever kind she wants. And hire someone to fetch and carry for her.”

Brianna shut her eyes and fought back the first guilty flare of elation. “She might not want—”

“It will be what she wants. Listen to me.” Maggie grabbed Brianna’s hands and squeezed. “She’ll go, Brie. And she’ll be well taken care of. She’ll have whatever pleases her. Tomorrow we’ll go into Ennis and talk to Pat O’Shea. He sells houses. We’ll set her up as grandly as we can, and as quickly. I promised Da I’d do my best by both of you, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Have you no consideration?” Maeve stood on the garden path, a shawl around her shoulders despite the warmth of the sun. The dress beneath it was starched and pressed—by Brianna’s hand, Maggie had no doubt. “Out here shouting and shrieking while a body’s trying to rest.” She pulled the shawl closer and jabbed a finger at her younger daughter. “Get up off the ground. What’s wrong with you? Behaving like a hoyden, and you with guests in the house.”

Brianna rose stiffly, brushed at her slacks. “It’s a fine day. Perhaps you’d like to sit in the sun.”

“I might as well. Call off that vicious dog.”

“Sit, Con.” Protectively, Brianna laid a hand on the dog’s head. “Can I bring you some tea?”

“Yes, and brew it properly this time.” Maeve shuffled to the chair and table Brianna had set up beside the garden. “That boy, that Belgian, he’s clattered up the stairs twice today. You’ll have to tell him to mind the racket. It’s what comes when parents let their children traipse all over the country.”

“I’ll have the tea in a moment. Maggie, will you stay?”

“Not for tea. But I’ll have a word with Mother.” She sent her sister a steely look to prevent any argument. “Can you be ready to drive into Ennis by ten tomorrow, Brie?”

“I—yes, I’ll be ready.”

“What’s this?” Maeve demanded as Brie walked toward the kitchen door. “What are the two of you planning?”

“Your future.” Maggie took the chair beside her mother’s, kicked out her legs. She’d wanted to go about it differently. After what she’d begun to learn, she’d hoped she and her mother could find a meeting ground somewhere beyond the old hurts. But already the old angers and guilts were working in her. Remembering last night’s moon and her thoughts about lost dreams, she spoke quietly. “We’re after buying you a house.”

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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