“I’m happy with the way things are. Why do you have to change them?”

“Because I want more than a few days a month with you. I want a life with you, children with you.” He skimmed a hand over her hair to cup the back of her neck. “Because you’re the first and only woman I’ve ever loved. I won’t lose you, Maggie. And I won’t let you lose me.”

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“I’ve given you all I can give, Rogan.” Her voice was shaky, but she held her ground. “It’s more than I’ve given anyone else. Be content with what I’m able to give, for if you can’t, I’ll have to end it.”

“Can you?”

“I’ll have to.”

His hand squeezed once at the base of her neck, then released and fell away. “Stubborn,” he said with a trace of amusement to hide the ache. “Well, so am I. I can wait for you to come to me. No, don’t tell me you won’t,” he went on as she opened her mouth to protest. “It will only make it more difficult on you when you do. We’ll leave things as they are, Maggie. With one alteration.”

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The relief she’d felt shifted into wariness. “Which is?”

“I love you.” He pulled her into his arms, covered her mouth with his. “You’ll have to get used to hearing it.”

She was glad to be home. At home she could savor the solitude, enjoy her own company and the long, long days where the light clung to the sky until ten. At home, she didn’t have to think of anything but work. To prove it, she gave herself three days in her glass house, three days without interruption.

She was productive, pleased with the results she saw cooling in the annealing oven. And she was, for the first time in her memory, lonely.

That was on his head, she thought as she watched the twilight grow and deepen and slip beautifully toward night. He’d tricked her into enjoying his company, into enjoying the whirl of cities and people. He’d made her want too much.

She wanted him too much.

Marriage. The thought made her shudder as she gathered what she wanted from the kitchen table. That, at least, he could never make her want. She was certain, given a little time, he would see it her way. If not…

She stepped outside, shut the door. It was best not to think about any if-nots. Rogan was, above all, a sensible man.

She took the walk to Brianna’s slowly as night settled around her. A slow mist gathered at her feet, and a breeze holding a warning chill whispered through the trees.

Like a welcoming beacon, the light in Brianna’s kitchen glowed against the night. Maggie shifted the sketches she’d framed and quickened her steps.

As she approached, a low growl sounded out of the shadows of the sycamore. Maggie called out softly and was answered by a happy bark. Con leaped out of the shadows, through the mist, and would have jumped on her to show his love and devotion had she not held out a hand to stop him.

“I’d rather not be knocked over, thank you.” She rubbed his head, his neck, while his swinging tail tore the thin fog like rags. “Guarding your princess tonight, are you? Well, let’s go in and find her.”

The moment Maggie opened the kitchen door, Con shot through in a blur of fur and muscle. He paused across the room at the door that led into the hallway, tail thumping.

“Out there, is she?” Maggie set the sketches aside and walked to the door. She heard voices through it, a soft laugh, a British accent. “She has guests,” she said to Con, and disappointed the dog thoroughly when she backed away from the door. “We won’t disturb her, so you’re stuck with me.” To make the prospect a bit more hopeful, she went to the cupboard where Brianna kept Con’s biscuits. “Well, what trick will you do for me, boy-o?”

Con eyed the biscuit she was holding, smacked his lip. With restrained dignity he padded to Maggie, sat and lifted a paw.

“Well done, lad.”

Once he had the treat between his teeth, Con pranced to the rug in front of the kitchen hearth, circled three times, then settled down with a sigh to enjoy himself.

“I could do with something myself.”

A quick snoop around the kitchen revealed a treasure. A square of gingerbread, half-gone, rested under a protecting cloth. Maggie ate one slice while the kettle was heating, and sat down to another with a homey pot of tea.

When Brianna came in, Maggie was scraping crumbs from the plate.

“I wondered when you’d come by.” Brianna reached down to pet the dog, who’d risen to press himself against her legs.

“It would have been sooner, if I’d known this was waiting. You’ve guests, I see.”

“Yes, a couple from London, a student from Derry and two sweet ladies down from Edinburgh. How did you enjoy your holiday?”

“It was a beautiful place, hot, sunny days, warm nights. I drew you some pictures so you’d see for yourself.” She gestured to them.

Brie lifted the pictures and her face lit up with joy. “Oh, they’re wonderful.”

“I thought you’d like them more than a postcard.”

“I do. Thank you, Maggie. I’ve some clippings about your show in Paris.”

Maggie was surprised. “Oh, how did you get them?”

“I asked Rogan to send them to me. Would you like to see?”

“Not now, no. They’ll just give me a nervous stomach, and my work’s going too well.”

“Will you be going to Rome when the show moves on?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. All that part of it seems a long way from here.”

“Like a dream.” Brianna sighed as she sat down. “I can hardly believe I was in Paris.”

“You could travel more now, if you’d like.”

“Mmm.” Perhaps there were places she’d like to see, but home held her. “Alice Quinn had a boy. David they’re calling him. He was christened just yesterday. He wailed all through the service.”

“And Alice probably fluttered around like a bird.”

“No, she held little David and soothed him, then took him off to nurse. Marriage and motherhood have changed her. You wouldn’t think it was the same Alice.”

“Marriage always changes people.”

“Often for the better.” But Brianna knew what Maggie was thinking. “Mother’s getting along well.”

“I didn’t ask.”

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