Born in Ice Page 2

“Grayson Thane,” Brianna supplied, more than grateful the topic had turned away from their mother. “A respected American author who has designs on a quiet room in a well-run establishment in the west of Ireland. He doesn’t have designs on his landlady.” She picked up her tea, sipped. “And he’s going to pay for my greenhouse.”


It wasn’t unusual for Brianna to have a guest or two at Blackthorn Cottage during the worst of winter’s storms. But January was slow, and more often than not her home was empty. She didn’t mind the solitude, or the hell-hound howl of the wind, or even the leaden sky that spewed rain and ice day after bitter day. It gave her time to plan. She enjoyed travelers, expected or not. From a business standpoint the pounds and pence counted. But beyond that, Brianna liked company, and the opportunity to serve and make a temporary home for those who passed her way.

She had, in the years since her father died and her mother moved out, turned the house into the home she had longed for as a child, with turf fires and lace curtains and the scents of baking coming from the kitchen. Still, it had been Maggie, and Maggie’s art, that had made it possible for Brianna to expand, bit by bit. It wasn’t something Brianna forgot.

But the house was hers. Their father had understood her love and her need for it. She tended her legacy as she would a child.

Perhaps it was the weather that made her think of her father. He had died on a day very much like this. Now and again, at odd moments when she found herself alone, she discovered she still carried little pockets of grief, with memories, good and bad, tucked into them.

Work was what she needed, she told herself, turning away from the window before she could brood for long.

With the rain pelting down, she decided to postpone a trip into the village and instead tackle a task she had put off for too long. No one was expected that day, and her single reservation wasn’t due until the end of the week. With her dog trooping behind her, Brianna carted broom, bucket, rags, and an empty carton up to the attic.

She cleaned up here with regularity. No dust was allowed in Brianna’s house for long. But there were boxes and trunks she had ignored in her day-to-day routine. No more, she told herself and propped open the attic door. This time she would make a clean sweep. And she would not allow sentiment to prevent her from dealing with leftover memories.

If the room was cleaned out properly once and for all, she thought, she might be able to afford the materials and labor necessary to remodel it. A cozy loft room it could be, she mused, leaning on her broom. With one of those ceiling windows, and perhaps a dormer. Soft yellow paint to bring the sun inside. Polish and one of her hooked rugs on the floor.

She could already see it, the pretty bed covered by a colorful quilt, a sugan chair, a little writing table. And if she had . . .

Brianna shook her head and laughed at herself. She was getting ahead of herself.

“Always dreaming, Con,” she murmured, rubbing the dog’s head. “And what’s needed here is elbow grease and ruthlessness.”

Boxes first, she decided. It was time to clean out old papers, old clothes.

Thirty minutes later she had neat piles. One she would take to the church for the poor; another would be rags. The last she would keep.

“Ah, look at this, Con.” Reverently she took out a small white christening gown, gently shaking out the folds. Faint wisps of lavender haunted the air. Tiny buttons and narrow edges of lace decorated the linen. Her grandmother’s handiwork, Brianna knew, and smiled. “He saved it,” she murmured. Her mother would never had given such sentimental thought to future generations. “Maggie and I would have worn this, you see. And Da packed it away for our children.”

There was a pang, so familiar she barely felt it. There was no babe sleeping in a cradle for her, no soft bundle waiting to be held and nursed and loved. But Maggie, she thought, would want this. Taking care, she folded the gown again.

The next box was filled with papers that made her sigh. She would have to read them, scan them at least. Her father had saved every scrap of correspondence. There would be newspaper clippings as well. His ideas, he would have said, for new ventures.

Always a new venture. She set aside various articles he’d clipped out, on inventions, forestry, carpentry, shopping. None on farming, she noticed with a smile. A farmer he’d never been. She found letters from relatives, from companies he’d written to in America, in Australia, in Canada. And here the proof of purchase for the old truck they’d had when she’d been a child. One document stopped her, made her frown in puzzlement. It looked like some sort of stock certificate. Triquarter Mining, in Wales. From the date it seemed he’d purchased it only a few weeks before he died.

Triquarter Mining? Another venture, Da, she mused, spending money we barely had. Well, she would have to write to this Triquarter company and see what was to be done. It was unlikely the stock was worth more than the paper it was printed on. Such had always been Tom Concannon’s luck with business deals.

That bright brass ring he’d forever reached for had never fit the palm of his hand.

She dug further into the box, amused herself with letters from cousins and uncles and aunts. They had loved him. Everyone had loved him. Almost, she corrected, thinking of her mother.

Pushing that thought aside, she took out a trio of letters tied with a faded red ribbon. The return address was New York, but that was no surprise. The Concannons had a number of friends and relations in the States. The name, however, was a mystery to her. Amanda Dougherty.

Brianna unfolded the letter, scanned the neat, convent-school writing. As her breath caught in her throat, she read again, carefully, word for word.

My darling Tommy,

I told you I wouldn’t write. Perhaps I won’t send this letter, but I need to pretend, at least, that I can talk to you. I’ve been back in New York for only a day. Already you seem so far away, and the time we had together all the more precious. I have been to confession and received my penance. Yet in my heart, nothing that passed between us is a sin. Love cannot be a sin. And I will always love you. One day, if God is kind, we will find a way to be together. But if that never happens, I want you to know that I’ll treasure every moment we were given. I know it’s my duty to tell you to honor the sacrament of your marriage, to devote yourself to the two babies you love so much. And I do. But, however selfish it is, I also ask that sometime, when spring comes to Clare, and the Shannon is bright with sunlight, you think of me. And how for those few short weeks, you loved me. And I love you . . .

Prev page Next page