She would not refuse him. She’d made the decision sometime during the long and restless night to allow Rogan Sweeney to make her rich.

It wasn’t as though she couldn’t support herself, and well, too. She’d been doing just that for more than five years. Brianna’s bed and breakfast was successful enough that keeping two homes was no heavy burden. But they could not between them afford a third.

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Maggie’s goal, indeed her Holy Grail, was to establish their mother in a separate residence. If Rogan could help clear the path to her quest, she’d deal with him. She’d deal with the very devil.

But the devil might come to regret the bargain.

In her kitchen with the rain falling soft and steady outside, Maggie brewed tea. And plotted.

Rogan Sweeney had to be cleverly handled, she mused. With just the right amount of artistic disdain and feminine flattery. The disdain would be no problem at all, but the other ingredient would be hard coming.

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She let herself picture Brianna baking, gardening, curled up with a book by the fire—without the whining, demanding voice of their mother to spoil the peace. Brianna would marry, have children. Which Maggie knew was a dream her sister kept locked in her heart. And locked it would stay as long as Brianna had the responsibility of a chronic hypochondriac.

While Maggie couldn’t understand her sister’s need to strap herself down with a man and a half a dozen children, she would do whatever it took to help Brianna realize the dream.

It was possible, just possible, that Rogan Sweeney could play fairy godfather.

The knock on the front door of the cottage was brisk and impatient. This fairy godfather, Maggie thought as she went to answer, wouldn’t make his entrance with angel dust and colored lights.

After opening the door, she smiled a little. He was wet, as he’d been the day before, and just as elegantly dressed. She wondered if he slept in a suit and tie.

“Good morning to you, Mr. Sweeney.”

“And to you, Miss Concannon.” He stepped inside, out of the rain and the swirl of mist.

“Shall I take your coat? It’ll dry out some by the fire.”

“Thank you.” He slipped out of his overcoat, watched her spread it over a chair by the fire. She was different today, he thought. Pleasant. The change put him on guard. “Tell me, does it do anything but rain in Clare?”

“We enjoy good soft weather in the spring. Don’t worry, Mr. Sweeney. Even a Dubliner shouldn’t melt in a west-county rain.” She sent him a quick, charming smile, but her eyes were wickedly amused. “I’m brewing tea, if you’d like some.”

“I would.” Before she could turn to the kitchen, he stopped her—a hand on her arm. His attention wasn’t on her, but on the sculpture on the table beside them. It was a long, sinuous curve in a deep icy blue. The color of an arctic lake. Glass clung to glass in waves at the tip then flowed down, liquid ice.

“An interesting piece,” he commented.

“Do you think so?” Maggie blocked the urge to shake off his hand. It held her lightly, with an understated possession that made her ridiculously uncomfortable. She could smell him, the subtle woodsy cologne he’d probably dashed on after shaving, with undertones of soap from his shower. When he ran a fingertip along the length of the curved glass, she suppressed a shudder. For a moment, a foolish one, it had felt as though he’d trailed a touch from her throat to her center.

“Obviously feminine,” he murmured. Though his eyes stayed on the glass, he was very aware of her. The coiled tension in her arm, the quick tremble she’d tried to mask, the dark, wild scent of her hair. “Powerful. A woman about to surrender sexually to a man.”

It flustered her because he was exactly right. “How do you find power in surrender?”

He looked at her then, those depthless blue eyes locked on her face. His hand remained light on her arm. “Nothing’s more powerful than a woman at that instant before she gives herself.” He stroked the glass again. “Obviously you’re aware of that.”

“And the man?”

He smiled then, just the faintest curve of lips. His grip on her arm seemed more of a caress now. A request. And his eyes, amused, interested, skimmed over her face. “That, Margaret Mary, would depend on the woman.”

She didn’t move, absorbed the sexual punch, acknowledged it with a slight nod. “Well, we agree on something. Sex and power generally depend on the woman.”

“That’s not at all what I said, or meant. What draws you to create something like this?”

“It’s difficult to explain art to a man of business.”

When she would have stepped back, he curled his fingers around her arm, tightened his grip. “Try.”

Annoyance pricked through her. “What comes to me comes. There’s no plot, no plan. It has to do with emotions, with passions and not with practicality or profit. Otherwise I’d be making little glass swans for gift shops. Jesus, what a thought.”

His smile widened. “Horrifying. Fortunately I’m not interested in little glass swans. But I would like that tea.”

“We’ll have it in the kitchen.” She started to step away again, and again his grip stopped her. Temper flashed into her eyes like lightning. “You’re blocking my way, Sweeney.”

“I don’t think so. I’m about to clear it for you.” He released her and followed her silently into the kitchen.

Her cottage was a far cry from the country comfort of Blackthorn. There were no rich smells of baking wafting in the air, no plumped pillows or gleaming woodwork. It was spartan, utilitarian and untidy. Which was why, he supposed, the art carelessly set here and there was that much more effective and striking.

He wondered where she slept, and if her bed was as soft and inviting as the one he’d spent the night in. And he wondered if he would share it with her. No, not if, he corrected himself. When.

Maggie set the teapot on the table along with two thick pottery mugs. “Did you enjoy your stay at Blackthorn Cottage?” she asked as she poured.

“I did. Your sister’s charming. And her cooking memorable.”

Maggie softened, added three generous spoons of sugar to her tea. “Brie’s a homemaker in the best sense of the word. Did she make her currant buns this morning?”

“I had two of them.”

Relaxed again, Maggie laughed and propped one booted foot on her knee. “Our father used to say Brie got all the gold and I the brass. I’m afraid you won’t get any home-baked buns here, Sweeney, but I could probably dig out a tin of biscuits.”

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