That stopped her, had her closing her eyes a moment before she turned back. “I believe you might, Rogan, and though something in me warms to it, it changes nothing.” She hurried out.

He hadn’t come to beg, he reminded himself. He’d come to ask her to help him with a problem. Though from her reaction, he believed things were changing more than she was ready to admit.

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He paced to the window, to the sagging sofa, back again.

“Will you sit?” she demanded when she came back with her arms piled with turf blocks. “You’ll wear out the floor. What’s this business in Limerick?”

“A few complications, that’s all.” He watched as she knelt at the hearth and expertly stacked fuel. It occurred to him that he’d never seen anyone build a turf fire before. A restful sight, he mused, that drew a man close to seek that warm red heart. “We’re expanding the factory.”

“Oh, and what do you make at your factory?”

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“China. For the most part the inexpensive sort that’s fashioned into mementos.”

“Mementos?” She paused at her work, leaned back on her haunches. “Souvenirs, you mean? Not those little bells and teacups and such in the tourist shops?”

“They’re very well done.”

She tossed back her head and laughed. “Oh, it’s rich. I’ve hired myself a man who makes little plates with shamrocks all over them.”

“Have you any idea what percent of our economy depends on tourism, on the sale of little plates with shamrocks on them, or hand-knit sweaters, linen, lace, bloody postcards?”

“No.” She snorted behind her hand. “But I’m sure you can tell me, down to the pence. Tell me, Rogan, do you do much business in plaster leprechauns, or plastic shillelaghs?”

“I didn’t come here to justify my business to you, or to discuss the fact that this expansion—which will allow us to manufacture some of the finest china produced in Ireland—will create more than a hundred new jobs in a part of the country that desperately needs them.”

She waved a hand to stop him. “I’m sorry, I’ve insulted you. I’m sure there’s a rising need for thimbles and ashtrays and cups that say ‘Erin Go Bragh.’ It’s just hard for me, you see, to picture a man who wears such wonderful suits owning a place that makes them.”

“The fact that I do makes it possible for Worldwide to subsidize and offer grants to a number of artists each year. Even if they are snobs.”

She rubbed the back of her hand over her nose. “That puts me in my place. And since I don’t want to waste what time we have arguing, we’ll say no more about it. Are you going to sit, or just stand there and glower at me? Not that you don’t look fine, even with a scowl on your face.”

He surrendered on a long breath. “Your work’s going well?”

“Very well.” She shifted, crossing her legs on the rug. “I’ll show you what’s new before you go, if there’s time.”

“We’re a little behind at the gallery. I suppose I should tell you that Joseph and Patricia have eloped.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve had a card from them.”

He tilted his head. “You don’t seem at all surprised.”

“I’m not. They were crazy in love with each other.”

“I seem to recall you claiming Patricia was crazy in love with me.”

“Not at all. I said she was half in love with you, and I’ll stand by that. I imagine she wanted to be in love with you—it would have been so convenient after all. But it was Joseph all along. That’s not what’s troubling you, is it?”

“No. I admit it took me by surprise, but it doesn’t trouble me. I’ve come to realize I took Joseph’s skills for granted. He’ll be back tomorrow, and I’m grateful for it.”

“Then what is it?”

“Have you had a letter from your uncle Niall?”

“Brianna has. She’s the one who gets them, as she’s the one who’ll remember to answer back. He wrote to tell her he’d be visiting Dublin and might pass through on his way back home. Have you seen him?”

“Seen him?” On a sound of disgust, Rogan pushed out of the chair again. “I can’t get near my grandmother without stepping all over him. He’s settled himself in her house for two weeks past. We’ve got to decide what to do about it.”

“Why should we do anything?”

“Are you listening to me, Maggie? They’ve been living together. My grandmother and your uncle—”

“Great-uncle, actually.”

“Whatever the devil he is to you, they’ve been having a flaming affair.”

“Have they?” Maggie let out a roar of approving laughter. “Well, that’s wonderful.”

“Wonderful? It’s insane. She’s been acting like some giddy girl, going dancing, staying out half the night, sharing her bed with a man whose suits are the color of fried eggs.”

“So you object to his taste in clothes?”

“I object to him. I’ll not have him waltzing into my grandmother’s house and planting himself in the parlor as if he belongs there. I don’t know what his game is, but I won’t have him exploiting her generous heart, her vulnerability. If he thinks he’ll get his hands on one penny of her money—”

“Hold that.” She sprang up like a tiger. “’Tis my blood you’re speaking of, Sweeney.”

“This is no time to be overly sensitive.”

“Overly sensitive.” She jabbed him in the chest. “Look who’s talking. You’re jealous because your granny’s got someone besides you in her life.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“It’s true as the day. Do you think a man couldn’t be interested in her, but for her money?”

Familial pride stiffened his spine. “My grandmother is a beautiful, intelligent woman.”

“I’ll not disagree with that. And my Uncle Niall is no fortune hunter. He retired from his business most comfortably set. He may not have a villa in France or wear suits tailored by the bloody British, but he’s done well enough and has no need to play gigolo. And I won’t have you speak of me kin in such a way in me own house.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you. I’ve come to you because, as their family, it’s up to us to do something about the situation. Since they’re planning a trip to Galway within the next few days, and passing by here on the way, I’d hoped you might speak with him.”

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