Born in Fire Page 52

What words were there, after a man had tossed a woman down and plundered like an animal? Oh, he’d no doubt she’d enjoyed it, but that hardly changed the fact that he’d completely lost control, of his mind, of his body, of whatever it was that separated the civilized from the wild.

For the first time in his life, he’d taken a woman without finesse, without care and, he thought with a sudden start, without a thought about the consequences.

He started to shift, but she murmured in protest and tightened her already fierce grip.

“Don’t go away.”

“I’m not.” He realized her head was unsupported and, cupping a hand beneath it, rolled to reverse their positions. And nearly sent them over the other edge. “How do you sleep on a bed this size? Hardly big enough for a cat.”

“Oh, it’s done well enough for me. But I’m thinking of buying another now that I’ve money to spare. A fine big one, like the one in your house.”

He thought of a Chippendale four-poster in the tiny loft and smiled. Then his thoughts veered back and wiped the smile away. “Maggie.” Her face was glowing, her eyes half-shut. There was a smug little smile on her face.

“Rogan,” she said in the same serious tone, then laughed. “Oh, you’re not going to start telling me you’re sorry to have trampled my honor or some such thing? If anyone’s honor was trampled, after all, it was yours. And I’m not a bit sorry for it.”

“Maggie,” he said again, and brushed the tousled hair from her cheek. “What a woman you are. It’s hard to be sorry for trampling, or for being trampled when I—” He broke off. He’d lifted her hand as he spoke, started to kiss her fingers, when his gaze landed on the dark smudges on her arm. Appalled, he started. “I’ve hurt you.”

“Mmm. Now that you mention it, I’m beginning to feel it.” She rolled her shoulder. “I must have hit the doorway pretty hard. Now, you were about to say?”

He shifted off of her. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said in an odd voice. “It’s inexcusable. An apology’s hardly adequate for my behavior.”

Her head tilted, and she took a good long look at him. Breeding, she thought again. How else could a buck-naked man sitting on a rumpled bed appear so dignified. “Your behavior?” she repeated. “I’d say it was more our behavior, Rogan, and that it was well done on both parts.” Laughing at him, she pushed herself up and locked her arms around his neck. “Do you think a few bruises will wilt me like a rose, Rogan? They won’t, I promise you, especially when I earned them.”

“The point is—”

“The point is we tumbled each other. Now stop acting as though I’m a fragile blossom that can’t admit to having enjoyed a good, hot bout of sex. Because I enjoyed it very much, and so, my fine fellow, did you.”

He trailed a fingertip over the faint bruise above her wrist. “I’d rather I hadn’t marked you.”

“Well, it’s not a brand that’s permanent.”

No, it wasn’t. But there was something else, in his carelessness, that could be. “Maggie, I wasn’t thinking before, and I certainly didn’t leave Dublin today planning on ending up like this. It’s a little late to be thinking of being responsible now.” In frustration he dragged a hand through his hair. “Could I have gotten you pregnant?”

She blinked, sat back on her haunches. Let out a long breath. Born in fire. She remembered her father had told her she’d been born in fire. And this was what he’d meant. “No.” She said it flatly, her emotions too mixed and unsteady for her to explore. “The timing’s wrong. And I’m responsible for myself, Rogan.”

“I should have seen to it.” He reached over to rub his knuckles down her cheek. “You dazzled me, Maggie, sitting on my lap with your wildflowers. You dazzle me now.”

Her smile came back, lighting her eyes first, then curving her lips. “I was coming across the fields away from my sister’s and toward home. The sun was bright, Murphy was haying in his field, and there were flowers at my feet. I haven’t felt so happy since my father died five years ago. Then I saw you in the kitchen, working. And it may be I was dazzled as well.”

She knelt again, rested her head on his shoulder. “Must you go back to Dublin tonight, Rogan?”

All the minute and tedious details of his schedule ran like a river through his brain. Her scent, mixed with his own, settled over them like a mist. “I can rearrange some things, leave in the morning.”

She leaned back, smiled. “And I’d rather not go out to dinner.”

“I’ll cancel the reservations.” He glanced around the room. “Don’t you have a phone up here?”

“For what? So it can ring in my ear and wake me up?”

“I can’t think why I asked.” He eased away to tug on the wrinkled slacks of his suit. “I’ll go down, make some calls.” He looked back to where she knelt in the center of the narrow, rumpled bed. “Very quick calls.”

“They could wait,” she shouted after him.

“I don’t intend to be interrupted by anything until morning.” He hurried down, sentimentally scooping up a tattered meadowsweet as he went.

Upstairs, Maggie waited five minutes, then six before climbing out of bed. She stretched, wincing a bit at the aches. She considered the robe that was tossed carelessly over a chair, then humming to herself, strolled downstairs without it.

He was still on the phone, the receiver cocked on his shoulder as he made notes in his book. The light, softer now, pooled at his feet. “Reschedule that for eleven. No, eleven,” he repeated. “I’ll be back in the office by ten. Yes, and contact Joseph, will you, Eileen? Tell him I’ve having another shipment sent from Clare. Concannon’s work, yes. I…”

He heard the sound behind him, glanced back. Maggie stood like some flame-crowned goddess, all alabaster skin, sleek curves and knowing eyes. His secretary’s voice buzzed in his ear like an annoying fly.

“What? The what?” His eyes, their expression dazed at first, then heated, skimmed up, then down, then up again to lock on Maggie’s face. “I’ll deal with it when I get back.” His stomach muscles quivered when Maggie stepped forward and jerked down the zipper of his slacks. “No,” he said in a strangled voice. “You can’t reach me anymore today. I’m…” The breath hissed between his teeth when Maggie took him in her long, artist’s fingers. “Sweet Jesus. Tomorrow,” he said with the last of his control. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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