Born in Fire Page 63

“Consider me your confessor, darling.” He looked over her shoulder, and Maggie saw joy leap into his eyes.

Patricia came in, hesitated, then crossed the glossy tiles. “Hello, Maggie. I didn’t know you were coming to Dublin.”

“Neither did I.” What change was this? Maggie wondered. Gone was the shadowed sadness, the fragile reserve. It only took a moment, seeing the way Patricia’s eyes lighted on Joseph’s, to give her the answer. Aha, she thought. So there’s where the wind blows.

“I’m sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to tell Joseph…” Patricia sputtered to a halt. “Ah, that is, I was passing by and remembered the business we’d discussed. The seven o’clock appointment?”

“Yes.” Joseph dipped his hands into his pockets to keep them from reaching for her. “Seven o’clock.”

“I’m afraid I have to make it seven-thirty. I’ve a bit of a conflict. I wanted to be sure that wouldn’t upset the schedule.”

“I’ll adjust it.”

“Good. That’s good.” She stood for a moment, staring foolishly at him before she remembered Maggie and her manners. “Will you be in town long?”

“No, actually, I’m leaving tomorrow.” The way the air was sizzling, Maggie thought, it was a wonder the sculptures didn’t melt. “In fact, I’m leaving now.”

“Oh, no, please, don’t run off on my account. I’ve got to go.” Patricia sent one more longing look in Joseph’s direction. “I’ve people waiting for me. I just wanted to—well, goodbye.”

Maggie waited one beat. “Are you just going to stand here?” she hissed at Joseph as Patricia headed for the door.

“Hmm? What? Excuse me.” He made the dash to the door in two seconds flat. She watched Patricia turn, blush, smile. Then they were in each other’s arms.

The romantic heart Maggie refused to believe she had, swelled. She waited until Patricia hurried out and Joseph stood staring after her like a man recently struck by lighting.

“So your heart belongs to me, does it?”

The dazed look cleared from his eyes. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”

“There’s no denying it.”

“I’ve been in love with her so long, even before she married Robbie. I never thought, never believed…” He laughed a little, still dazzled by love. “I thought it was Rogan.”

“So did I. It’s plain to see you make her happy.” She kissed his cheek. “I’m glad for you.”

“It’s—we’re trying to keep it between us. At least until…for a while. Her family…I can guarantee her mother won’t approve of me.”

“The hell with her mother.”

“Patricia said nearly the same thing.” It brought a smile to his lips to remember it. “But I’ll not be the cause of any trouble there. So I’d appreciate it if you’d say nothing.”

“Not to Rogan either?”

“I work for him, Maggie. He’s a friend, yes, but I work for him. Patricia’s the widow of one of his oldest friends, a woman he’s escorted himself. A great many people thought she’d become his wife.”

“I don’t believe Rogan was among them.”

“Be that as it may, I’d rather tell him myself when the time’s right.”

“It’s your business, Joseph. Yours and Patricia’s. So we’ll trade confession for confession.”

“I’m grateful to you.”

“No need. If Rogan’s stiff-necked enough to disapprove, he deserves to be fooled.”

Chapter Fifteen

PARIS was hot, muggy and crowded. The traffic was abominable. Cars, buses, motorbikes screeched and swerved and sped, their drivers seemingly bent on challenging each other to endless roadway duels. Along the sidewalks, people strolled and swaggered in a colorful pedestrian parade. Women in those short skirts Joseph seemed so fond of looked lean and bored and impossibly chic. Men, equally fashionable, watched them from little café tables where they sipped red wine or strong black coffee.

Flowers bloomed everywhere—roses, gladiolus, marigolds, snapdragons, begonias tumbling out of vendors’ stalls, sunning on banks, spilling out of the arms of young girls whose legs flashed bright as blades in the sunshine.

Boys skated by with yards of golden bread spearing up out of bags. Packs of tourists aimed cameras like so many shotguns to blast away at their shutter view of Paris life.

And there were dogs. The city seemed a veritable den of them, prancing on leashes, skulking in alleyways, darting by shops. Even the lowliest cur appeared exotic, wonderfully foreign and arrogantly French.

Maggie took it all in from her window overlooking the Place de la Concorde.

She was in Paris. The air was full of sound and scent and gaudy light. And her lover was sleeping like a stone in the bed behind her.

Or so she thought.

He’d been watching her watch Paris for some time. She leaned out of the grand window, heedless of the cotton nightshirt falling off her left shoulder. She’d acted wholly indifferent to the city when they’d arrived the evening before. Her eyes had widened at the lush lobby of the Hôtel de Crillon, but she’d made no comment when they’d checked in.

She’d said little more when they entered the plush and lofty suite, and wandered away when Rogan tipped the bellman.

When he asked her if the room suited her, she’d simply shrugged and said it would do well enough.

It made him laugh and drag her off to bed.

But she wasn’t quite so blasé now, he noted. He could all but see the excitement shimmering around her as she stared out at the street and absorbed the bustling life of the city. Nothing could have pleased him more than to give her Paris.

“If you lean out much farther, you’ll stop traffic.”

She jolted and, dragging her hair from her eyes, looked around to where he lay among rumpled sheets and a mountain of pillows.

“A bomb couldn’t stop that traffic. Why do they want to kill each other?”

“It’s a matter of honor. What do you think of the city in daylight?”

“It’s crowded. Worse than Dublin.” Then she relented and grinned at him. “It’s lovely, Rogan. Like an old, bad-tempered woman holding court. There’s a vendor down there with an ocean of flowers. And every time someone stops to look or buy, he ignores them, like it’s beneath his dignity to notice them. But he takes their money, and counts every coin.”

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