Born in Ice Page 1

Author: Nora Roberts

Series: Bone Island Trilogy #2

Genres: Romance


The wild wind raced cursing across the Atlantic and pounded its fists over the fields of the west counties. Hard, needle-point bullets of rain beat on the ground and sliced through a man’s flesh to batter his bones. Flowers that had bloomed brilliantly from spring through autumn blackened under the killing frost.

In cottages and pubs, people gathered around fires and talked of their farms and their roofs, the loved ones who had emigrated to Germany or the States. It hardly mattered whether they had left the day before, or a generation. Ireland was losing its people, as it had all but lost its language.

There was occasional talk about The Troubles, that endless war in the north. But Belfast was far from the village of Kilmilhil, in miles, and in emotion. People worried more about their crops, their animals, and the weddings and wakes that would come with winter.

A few miles out of the village, in a kitchen warmed with the heat and scents of baking, Brianna Concannon looked out of the window as the ice-edged rain attacked her garden.

“I’ll lose the columbine, I’m thinking. And the foxglove.” It broke her heart to think of it, but she’d dug up what she could and stored the plants in the crowded little cabin out back. The gale had come so quickly.

“You’ll plant more in spring.” Maggie studied her sister’s profile. Brie worried about her flowers like a mother over her babes. With a sigh, Maggie rubbed her own bulging belly. It still astonished her that it was she who was married and carrying a child, and not her home-loving sister. “You’ll love every minute of it.”

“I suppose. What I need is a greenhouse. I’ve been looking at pictures. I think it could be done.” And she could probably afford it by spring, if she was careful. Daydreaming a little about the plants that would flourish in their new glass enclosure, she slipped a fresh batch of cranberry muffins from the oven. Maggie had brought her the berries all the way from a Dublin market. “You’ll take this home with you.”

“I will, yes.” Maggie grinned and snatched one from the basket, tossing it from hand to hand to cool it enough before she bit in. “After I’ve eaten my fill. I swear to you, Rogan all but weighs every morsel I put in my mouth.”

“He wants you and the baby healthy.”

“Oh, he does. And I think he’s worrying about how much of me is baby and how much is fat.”

Brianna eyed her sister. Maggie had grown round and soft, and there was a rosy contentment about her as she approached the last trimester of her pregnancy that was a sharp contrast to the bundle of energy and nerve Brianna was accustomed to.

She’s happy, Brianna thought, in love. And knows her love is well returned. “You have put on more than a few, Margaret Mary,” Brianna said and watched wicked humor rather than temper light Maggie’s eyes.

“I’m having a contest with one of Murphy’s cows, and I’m winning.” She finished off the muffin, reached shamelessly for another. “In a few weeks I’ll not be able to see past my belly to the end of my pipe to blow glass. I’ll have to switch to lamp work.”

“You could take a vacation from your glass,” Brianna pointed out. “I know Rogan’s told you you’ve enough done already for all of his galleries.”

“And what would I do, besides die of boredom? I’ve got an idea for a special piece for the new gallery here in Clare.”

“Which won’t open until spring.”

“By then Rogan will have made good on his threat to tie me to the bed if I make a move toward my shop.” She sighed, but Brie suspected Maggie didn’t mind the threat so much. Didn’t mind Rogan’s subtle domineering ways. She was afraid she was mellowing. “I want to work while I can,” Maggie added. “And it’s good to be home, even in such weather. I suppose you’ve got no guests coming.”

“As it happens, I do. A Yank, next week.” Brianna freshened Maggie’s cup of tea, then her own, before sitting down. The dog, who had been waiting patiently beside her chair, laid his big head in her lap.

“A Yank? Just one? A man?”

“Mmmm.” Brianna stroked Concobar’s head. “It’s a writer. He’s booked a room, wants board as well, for an indefinite period. He’s paid a month in advance.”

“A month! At this time of year?” Amused, Maggie looked out as the wind shook the kitchen windows. Welcoming weather it wasn’t. “And they say artists are eccentric. What sort of writer is he, then?”

“A mystery type. I’ve read a few, and he’s good. He’s won awards and had films made from them.”

“A successful writer, a Yank, spending the dead of winter at a B and B in Clare County. Well, they’ll have plenty to say about that at the pub.”

Maggie licked crumbs from her fingers and studied her sister with an artist’s eye. Brianna was a lovely woman, all rose and gold with creamy skin and a fine, trim figure. A classic oval face, a mouth that was soft, unpainted, and often too serious. Pale green eyes that tended to dream, long, fluid limbs, hair that held quiet fire—thick, slippery hair that often escaped its pins.

And she was soft-hearted, Maggie thought. Entirely too naive, despite her contact with strangers as the owner of a B and B, about what went on out in the world beyond her own garden gate.

“I don’t know as I like it, Brie, you alone in the house with a man for weeks at a time.”

“I’m often alone with guests, Maggie. That’s how I make my living.”

“You rarely have only one, and in the middle of winter. I don’t know when we might have to go back to Dublin, and—”

“Not be here to look after me?” Brianna smiled, more amused than offended. “Maggie, I’m a grown woman. A grown businesswoman who can look after herself.”

“You’re always too busy looking after everyone else.”

“Don’t start on about Mother.” Brianna’s lips tightened. “I do very little now that she’s settled with Lottie in the cottage.”

“I know exactly what you do,” Maggie tossed back. “Running every time she wags her finger, listening to her complaints, dragging her off to the doctor’s every time she imagines herself with a new fatal disease.” Maggie held up a hand, furious at herself for being sucked, yet again, into the anger and the guilt. “That’s not my concern just now. This man—”