He rose at that. “You want me to fire the help?”
“No, for pity sakes, I’m not a monster, tossing innocent people out on the street. I want you to send them off, that’s all. On a holiday, or whatever you’d call it.”
“I can certainly give the staff a day off, if you’d like.”
“Not a day, the week.” She blew out a breath, seeing his puzzlement. “It doesn’t make any sense to you, and why should it? You’re so used to them, you don’t even see them.”
“His name was Henri, the cook is Jacques, the maid who so cheekily offered to wash your lingerie is Marie.” Or possibly, he thought, Monique.
“I wasn’t after starting a quarrel.” She came forward, her hands reaching for his. “I can’t relax as you do with all these people hovering about. I’m just not used to it—I don’t think I want to be. Do this for me, please, Rogan. Give them a few days off.”
“Wait here a moment.”
When he left, she stood on the terrace, feeling foolish. Here she was, she mused, lounging in a Mediterranean villa with anything she could ask for within her reach. And she still wasn’t satisfied.
She’d changed, she realized. In the few short months since she met Rogan, she had changed. She not only wished for more now, she coveted more of what she didn’t have. She wanted the ease and the pleasure money could bring, and not just for her family. She wanted it for herself.
She’d worn diamonds and had danced in Paris.
And she wanted to do so again.
Yet, deep within her, there remained that small, hot need to be only herself, to need nothing and no one. If she lost that, Maggie thought with a whip of panic, she would have lost everything.
She snatched up her sketch pad, flipped pages. But for a moment, a terrifying moment, her mind was as blank as the sheet in front of her. Then she began to draw frantically, with a violent intensity that burst from her like a gale.
It was herself she drew. The two parts, twisted together, pulled apart and so desperately trying to meet again. But how could they, when one was so completely opposed to the other?
Art for art’s sake, solitude for sanity, independence for pride. And on the other side—ambition, hungers and needs.
She stared at the completed sketch, dumbfounded that it had poured out of her so swiftly. And now that it had, she was oddly calm. Perhaps it was those two opposing forces that made her what she was. And perhaps if she were ever really at peace, she’d be less than she could be.
Her mind still drifting, she looked blankly up at Rogan. “What? Who’s gone?”
On a half laugh, he shook his head. “The staff. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“The staff? Oh.” Her mind cleared, settled. “You’ve sent them off? All of them?”
“I did, though God alone knows how we’ll eat over the next few days. Still—” He broke off when she leaped into his arms. As she’d shot at him like a bullet from a gun, he staggered back, overbalancing to keep them from crashing through the beveled-glass door behind him and nearly tumbling them over the railing.
“You’re a wonderful man, Rogan. A prince of a man.”
He shifted her in his arms and looked wearily at the drop over the rail. “I was nearly a dead man.”
“We’re alone? Completely?”
“We are, and I’ve earned the undying gratitude of everyone from the butler down. The parlor maid wept with joy.” As he supposed she should, with the holiday bonus he’d given her and the rest of the servants. “So now they’re off to the beach or to the country or to wherever their hearts lead them. And we’ve the house to ourselves.”
She kissed him, hard. “And we’re about to use every inch of it. We’ll start with that sofa in the room just through there.”
“Will we?” Amused, he made no protest as she began unbuttoning his shirt. “You’re full of demands today, Margaret Mary.”
“The business with the servants was a request. The sofa’s a demand.”
He cocked a brow. “The chaise is closer.”
“So it is.” She laughed as he lowered her to it. “So it is.”
Over the next few days they sunned on the terrace, walked on the beach or swam lazy laps in the lagoonlike pool to the music of the fountains. There were ill-prepared meals to be eaten in the kitchen and afternoon drives through the countryside.
There were also, to Maggie’s mind, entirely too many telephones.
It might have been a holiday, but Rogan was never farther than a phone or a fax away from business. There was something about a factory in Limerick, something else about an auction in New York, and unintelligible mutters about property he was looking for in order to add another branch to Worldwide Galleries.
It might have annoyed her if she hadn’t begun to see that his work was as much a part of his identity as her work was to hers. All differences aside, she could hardly complain about him spending an hour or two closeted in his office when he took her absorption in her sketches in stride.
If she had believed in a man and woman finding the kind of harmony that was needed to last a lifetime, she might have believed she’d found it with Rogan.
“Let me see what you’ve done.”
With a contented yawn, Maggie offered him her sketchbook. The sun was setting, drowning colors sweeping the western sky. Between them the bottle of wine he’d chosen from his cellar nestled in a silver bucket frosty with ice. Maggie lifted her glass, sipped and settled back to enjoy her last evening in France.
“You’ll be busy when you get home,” Rogan commented as he studied each sketch. “How will you choose which one to work on first?”
“It will choose me. And as much as I’ve enjoyed being lazy, I’m itching to get back and fire up my furnace.”
“I can have the ones you’ve drawn up for Brianna matted and framed. For simple pencil sketches they’re quite good. I particularly like…” He trailed off when he turned a page and came across something entirely different from a sketch of the sea or a landscape. “And what have we here?”
Almost too lazy to move, she glanced over. “Oh, yes, that. I don’t do portraits often, but that one was irresistible.”
It was himself, stretched over the bed, his arm flung out as if he’d been reaching for something. For her.