Nora Roberts --2 Irish Rose (1988) Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
--2 Irish Rose (1988)--
Her name was Erin, like her country. And like her country, she was a maze ofcontradictions—rebellion and poetry, passion and moodiness. She was strong enough to fight forher beliefs, stubborn enough to fight on after a cause was lost, and generous enough to givewhatever she had. She was a woman with soft skin and a tough mind. She had sweet dreams andtowering ambitions.
Her name was Erin, Erin McKinnon, and she was nervous as a cat.
It was true that this was only the third time in her life she'd been in the airport at Cork. Orany airport, for that matter. Still, it wasn't the crowds or the noise that made her jumpy. Thefact was, she liked hearing the announcements of planes coming and going. She liked thinkingabout all the people going places.
London, New York, Paris. Through the thick glass she could watch the big sleek planes rise up,nose first, and imagine their destinations. Perhaps one day she'd board one herself andexperience that stomach-fluttering anticipation as the plane climbed up and up.
She shook her head. It wasn't a plane going up that had her nervous now, but one coming in. Andit was due any minute. Erin caught herself before she dragged a hand through her hair. Itwouldn't do a bit of good to be poking and pulling at herself. After thirty seconds more, sheshifted her bag from hand to hand, then tugged at her jacket. She didn't want to lookdisheveled or tense… or poor, she added as she ran a hand down her skirt to smooth it.
Thank God her mother was so clever with a needle. The deep blue of the skirt and matchingjacket was flattering to her pale complexion. The cut and style were perhaps a bit conservativefor Erin's taste, but the color did match her eyes. She wanted to look competent, capable, andhad even managed to tame her unruly hair into a tidy coil of dark red. The style made her lookolder, she thought. She hoped it made her look sophisticated, too.
She'd toned down the dusting of freckles and had deepened the color of her lips. Eye makeup hadbeen applied with a careful hand, and she wore Nanny's old and lovely gold crescents at herears.
The last thing she wanted was to look plain and dowdy. The poor relation. Even the echo of thephrase in her head caused her teeth to clench. Pity, even sympathy, were emotions she wantednone of. She was a McKinnon, and perhaps fortune hadn't smiled on her as it had her cousin, butshe was determined to make her own way.
Here they were, she thought, and had to swallow a ball of nerves in her throat. Erin watchedthe plane that had brought them from Curragh taxi toward the gate—the small, sleek planepeople of wealth and power could afford to charter. She could imagine what it would be like tosit inside, to drink champagne or nibble on something exotic. Imagination had always been hersin quantity. All she'd lacked was the means to make what she could imagine come true.
An elderly woman stepped off the plane first, leading a small girl by the hand. The woman hadcloud-white hair and a solid, sturdy build. Beside her, the little girl looked like a pixie,carrot-topped and compact. The moment they'd stepped to the ground, a boy of five or six leapedoff after them.
Even through the thick glass, Erin could all but hear the woman's scolding. She snatched hishand with her free one, and he flashed her a wicked grin. Erin felt immediate kinship. If she'dgauged the age right, that would be Brendon, Adelia's oldest. The girl who held the woman'shand and clutched a battered doll in the other would be Keeley, younger by a year or so.
The man came next, the man Erin recognized as Travis Grant. Her cousin's husband of sevenyears, owner of Thoroughbreds and master of Royal Meadows. He was tall and broad-shouldered and
was laughing down at his son, who waited impatiently on the tarmac. The smile was nice, shethought, the kind that made a woman look twice without being sure whether to relax or braceherself. Erin had met him once, briefly, when he'd brought his wife back to Ireland four yearsbefore. Quietly domineering, she'd thought then. The kind of man a woman could depend on, aslong as she could stand toe-to-toe with him.
On his hip he carried another child, a boy with hair as dark and thick as his father's. He wasgrinning, too, but not down at his brother and sister. His face was tilted up toward the skyfrom which he'd just come. Travis handed him down, then turned and held out a hand.
As Adelia stepped through the opening, the sun struck her hair with arrows of light. The richchestnut shone around her face and shoulders. She, too, was laughing. Even with the distance,Erin could see the glow. She was a small woman. When Travis caught her by the waist and liftedher to the ground, she didn't reach his shoulder. He kept his arm around her, Erin noticed, notso much possessive as protective of her and perhaps of the child that was growing inside her.
While Erin watched, Adelia tilted her face, touched a hand to her husband's cheek and kissedhim. Not like a long-time wife, Erin thought, but like a lover.
A little ripple of envy moved through her. Erin didn't try to avoid it. She never attempted toavoid any of her feelings, but let them come, let them race to the limit, whatever theconsequences.
And why shouldn't she envy Dee? Erin asked herself. Adelia Cunnane, the little orphan fromSkibbereen, had not only pulled herself up by the bootstraps but had tugged hard enough to landon top of the pile. More power to her, Erin thought. She intended to do the same herself.
Erin squared her shoulders and started to step forward as another figure emerged from theplane. Another servant, she thought, then took a long, thorough look. No, this man would serveno one.
He leaped lightly to the ground with a slim, unlit cigar clamped between his teeth. Slowly,even warily, he looked around. As a cat might, she thought, a cat that had just leaped fromcliff to cliff. She couldn't see his eyes, for he wore tinted glasses, but she had the quickimpression that they would be sharp, intense and not entirely comfortable to look into.
He was as tall as Travis but leaner, sparer. Tough. The adjective came to her as she pursed herlips and continued to stare. He bent down to speak to one of the children, and the move waslazy but not careless. His dark hair was straight and long enough to hang over the collar ofhis denim shirt. He wore boots and faded jeans, but she rejected the idea that he was a farmer.He didn't look like a man who tilled the soil but like one who owned it.
What was a man like this doing traveling with her cousin's family? Another relative? shewondered, and shifted uncomfortably. It didn't matter who he was. Erin checked the pins in herhair, found two loose, and shoved them into place. If he was some relation of Travis Grant's,then that was fine.
But he didn't look like kin of her cousin's husband. The coloring might be similar, but anyresemblance ended there. The stranger had a raw-boned, sharp-edged look to him. She rememberedthe picture books in catechism class, and the drawings of Satan.
"Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven."
Yes… For the first time, a smile moved on her lips. He looked like a man who'd have similarsentiments. Taking a deep breath, Erin moved forward to greet her family.
The boy Brendon came first, barreling through the doorway with one shoe untied and eyes alightwith curiosity. The white-haired women came in behind him, moving with surprising speed.
"Stand still, you scamp. I'm not going to lose track of you again."
"I just want to see, Hannah." There was a laugh in his voice and no contrition at all when shecaught his hand in hers.
"You'll see soon enough. No need to worry your mother to death. Keeley, you stay close now."
"I will." The little girl looked around as avidly as her brother, but seemed more content tostay in the same place. Then she spotted Erin. "There she is. That's our cousin Erin. Just likethe picture." Without a hint of reserve, the girl crossed over and smiled.
"You're our cousin Erin, aren't you? I'm Keeley. Momma said you'd be wailing for us."
"Aye, I'm Erin." Charmed, Erin bent down to catch the little girl's chin in her hand. Nervesvanished into genuine pleasure. "And the last time I saw you, you were just a wee thing, allbundled in a blanket against the rain and bawling fit to wake the dead."
Keeley's eyes widened. "She talks just like Momma," she announced. "Hannah, come see. She talksjust like Momma."
"Miss McKinnon." Hannah kept one hand firmly on Brendon's shoulder and offered the other. "It'snice to meet you. I'm Hannah Blakely, your cousin's housekeeper."
Housekeeper, Erin thought as she put her hand in Hannah's weathered one. The Cunnanes she'dknown might have been housekeepers, but they'd never had one. "Welcome to Ireland. And you'd beBrendon."
"I've been to Ireland before," he said importantly. "But this time I flew the plane."
"Did you now?" She saw her cousin in him, the pixielike features and deep green eyes. He'd be ahandful, she thought, as her mother claimed Adelia had always been. "Well, you're all grown upsince I saw you last."
"I'm the oldest. Brady's the baby now."
"Erin?" She glanced over in time to see Adelia rush forward. Even heavy with child she movedlightly. And when she wound her arms around Erin, there was strength in them. The recognitioncame strongly—family to family, roots to roots. "Oh, Erin, it's so good to be back, so good tosee you. Let me look at you."
She hadn't changed a bit, Erin thought. Adelia would be nearly thirty now, but she looked yearsyounger. Her complexion was smooth and flawless, glowing against the glossy mane of hair shestill wore long and loose. The pleasure in her face was so real, so vital, that Erin felt itseeping through her own reserve.
"You look wonderful, Dee. America's been good for you."
"And the prettiest girl in Skibbereen's become a beautiful woman. Oh, Erin." She kissed bothher cousin's cheeks, laughed and kissed them again. "You look like home." With Erin's handstill held tightly in hers, she turned. "You remember Travis."
"Of course. It's good to see you again."
"You've grown up in four years." He kissed her cheek in turn. "You didn't meet Brady the lasttime."
"No, I didn't." The child kept an arm around his father's neck and eyed Erin owlishly. "Faith,he's the image of you. It's a handsome boy you are, Cousin Brady."
Brady smiled, then turned to bury his face in his father's neck.
"And shy," Adelia commented, stroking a hand down his hair. "Unlike his da. Erin, it's so kindof you to offer to meet us and take us to the inn."
"We don't often get visitors. I've got the minibus.
You know from the last time you came that renting a car is tricky, so I'll be leaving it withyou while you're here." While she spoke, Erin felt an itch at the base of her neck, a tingle,or a warning. Deliberately she turned and stared back at the lean-faced man she'd seen step offthe plane.
"Erin, this is Burke." Adelia placed a hand on her skirt at the stirrings within her womb."Burke Logan, my cousin, Erin McKinnon."
"Mr. Logan," Erin said with a slight nod, determined not to flinch at her own reflection in hismirrored glasses.
"Miss McKinnon." He smiled slowly, then clamped his cigar between his teeth again.
She still couldn't see his eyes but had the uneasy feeling that the glasses were no barrier towhat he saw. "I'm sure you're tired," she said to Adelia, but kept her gaze stubbornly onBurke's. "The bus is right out front. I'll take you out, then we'll deal with the luggage."
Burke kept himself just a little apart as they walked through the small terminal. He preferredit that way, the better to observe and figure angles. Just now, he was figuring Erin McKinnon.