A satisfied man, he thought with grim humor.

At least until morning when he had to face her, and himself, and the business they had to complete.


Perhaps it was more difficult to take the high road. Perhaps he would suffer, as he was damn well certain she expected him to. But when the time came for him to take her to bed, he would have the upper hand.

That, most certainly, was worth something.

Even, he thought as he shoved papers aside, a miserably sleepless night.

Maggie slept like a baby. Despite the images evoked by the novel Rogan had given her, she’d dropped off to sleep just after midnight and had slept dreamlessly until nearly seven.

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Flushed with energy and anticipation, she searched out the dining room and was pleased to see a full Irish breakfast warming on the sideboard.

“Good morning, miss.” The same maid who had served her the night before scurried in from the kitchen. “Is there anything I can get for you?”

“Thank you, no. I can serve myself.” Maggie picked up a plate from the table and moved toward the tempting scents on the sideboard.

“Shall I pour you coffee or tea, miss?”

“Tea would be lovely.” Maggie took the lid off a silver warmer and sniffed appreciately at the thick rashers of bacon. “Nancy, is it?”

“No, miss, it’s Noreen.”

Failed that test, Squire Sweeney, Maggie mused. “Would you tell the cook, Noreen, that I’ve never had a better meal than my dinner last night.”

“I’d be happy to, miss.”

Maggie moved from server to server, heaping her plate. She often skipped meals altogether, so indifferent was her own cooking. But when food was available in such quantity, and food of such quality, she made up for it.

“Will Mr. Sweeney be joining me for breakfast?” she asked as she carried her plate back to the table.

“He’s already eaten, miss. Mr. Sweeney breakfasts every day at half-six, precisely.”

“A creature of habit, is he?” Maggie winked at the maid and slathered fresh jam on her warmed toast.

“He is, yes,” Noreen answered, flushing a bit. “I’m to remind you, miss, he’ll be ready to leave at eight.”

“Thank you, Noreen, I’ll keep it in mind.”

“You’ve only to ring if you need anything.”

Quiet as a mouse, Noreen faded back into the kitchen. Maggie applied herself to a breakfast she felt was fit for a queen and perused the copy of the Irish Times that had been neatly folded beside her plate.

A cozy way to live, she supposed, with servants only the snap of a finger away. But didn’t it drive Rogan mad to know they were always about the house? That he was never alone?

The very idea made her wince. She’d go mad for sure, Maggie decided, without solitude. She looked over the room with its dark and glossy wainscoting, the glitter from the twin crystal chandeliers, the gleam from the silver on the antique sideboard, the sparkle of china and Waterford glass.

Yes, even in this lush setting, she’d go stark, raving mad.

She lingered over a second cup of tea, read the paper from back to front and cleaned every crumb from her plate. From somewhere in the house a clock chimed the hour. She debated having just one more serving of bacon, called herself a glutton and resisted.

She took a few moments to study the art on the walls. There was a watercolor she found particularly exquisite. Taking a last, leisurely turn around the room, she started out, down the hall.

Rogan stood in the foyer, immaculate in a gray suit and navy tie. He studied her, studied his watch. “You’re late.”

“Am I?”

“It’s eight past the hour.”

She lifted her brows, saw he was serious and dutifully muffled a chuckle. “I should be flogged.”

He skimmed a gaze up her, from the half boots and dark leggings to the mannish white shirt that reached to midthigh and was cinched with two leather belts. Glittering translucent stones swung at her ears, and she had, for once, added a touch of makeup. She hadn’t, however, bothered with a watch.

“If you don’t wear a timepiece, how can you be on time?”

“You’ve a point there. Perhaps that’s why I don’t.”

Still watching her, he took out a pad and his pen.

“What are you doing?”

“Noting down that we have to supply you with a watch, as well as a phone-answering machine and a calendar.”

“That’s very generous of you, Rogan.” She waited until he opened the door and gestured her out. “Why?”

“The watch so you’ll be prompt. The answering machine so I’ll at least be able to leave a damn message when you ignore the phone, and the calendar so you’ll know what the bloody day is when I request a shipment.”

He’d bitten off the last word as if it were stringy meat, Maggie thought. “Since you’re in such a bright and cheerful mood this morning, I’ll risk telling you that none of those things will change me a whit. I’m irresponsible, Rogan. You’ve only to ask what’s left of my family.” She turned around, ignoring his hiss of impatience, and studied his house.

It overlooked a lovely, shady green—St. Stephen’s, she was to learn later—and stood proudly, a trifle haughtily, against a dreamy blue sky.

Though the stone was aged, the lines were as graceful as a young woman’s body. It was a combination of dignity and elegance Maggie knew only the rich could afford. Every window, of which there were many, glistened like diamonds in the sun. The lawn, smooth and green, gave way to a lovely front garden, tidy as a church and twice as formal.

“A pretty spot you have here. I missed it, you know, on my way in.”

“I’m aware of that. You’ll have to wait for the tour, Margaret Mary. I don’t like to be late.” He took her arm and all but dragged her to the waiting car.

“Do you get docked for tardiness, then?” She laughed when he said nothing, and settled back to enjoy the ride. “Are you by nature surly of a morning, Rogan?”

“I’m not surly,” he snapped at her. Or he wouldn’t be, he thought, if he’d gotten above two hours’ sleep. And the responsibility for that, damn all women, fell solidly on her head. “I have a lot to accomplish today.”

“Oh, to be sure. Empires to build, fortunes to win.”

That did it. He didn’t know why, but the light undertone of disdain broke the last link on control. He swerved to the side of the road, causing the driver who had been cruising behind him to blast rudely on his horn. Grabbing Maggie by the collar, he hauled her half out of her seat and crushed his mouth to hers.

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