“Thank you. You’re a collector, then?”
“It’s in the blood. Please sit. Rogan, get the child something to drink.”
Rogan moved to the glittering decanters. “What would you like, Maggie?”
“Whatever you’re having.” Resigned to being polite for an hour or two, Maggie set her sketchpad and purse aside.
“It must be thrilling to be having your first major show,” Christine began. Why, the girl was striking, she thought. All cream and fire, as eye-catching in a shirt and tights as dozens of women would attempt to be in diamonds and silks.
“To be honest, Mrs. Sweeney, it’s hard for me to imagine it.” She accepted the glass from Rogan and hoped its contents would be enough to brace her for an evening of making conversation.
“Tell me what you thought of the gallery.”
“It’s wonderful. A cathedral to art.”
“Oh.” Christine reached out again, squeezing Maggie’s hand. “How my Michael would have loved to hear you say that. It’s exactly what he wanted. He was a frustrated artist, you know.”
“No.” Maggie slanted Rogan a glance. “I didn’t.”
“He wanted to paint. He had the vision, but not the aptitude. So he created the atmosphere and the means to celebrate others who did.” Christine’s smoky silk suit rustled as she sat back. “He was a wonderful man. Rogan takes after him, in looks and temperament.”
“That must make you very proud.”
“It does. As I’m sure what you’ve done with your life has made your family proud of you.”
“I don’t know as pride’s quite the word.” Maggie sipped her drink, discovered Rogan had served her sherry and struggled not to grimace. Fortunately, the butler came to the doorway at that moment to announce dinner.
“Well, that’s handy.” Grateful, Maggie set her glass aside. “I’m starved.”
“Then we’ll go straight in.” Rogan offered his grandmother his arm. “Julien is delighted you’re enjoying his cuisine.”
“Oh, he’s a fine cook, that’s the truth. I wouldn’t have the heart to tell him I’m such a poor one myself I’ll eat anything I don’t have to prepare.”
“We won’t mention it.” Rogan drew out a chair for Christine, then for Maggie.
“We won’t,” Maggie agreed. “Since I’ve decided to try to barter some of Brie’s recipes for his.”
“Brie is Maggie’s sister,” Rogan explained as the soup course was served. “She runs a B-and-B in Clare, and from personal experience, I can attest that her cuisine is excellent.”
“So, your sister’s an artist in the kitchen rather than the studio.”
“She is,” Maggie agreed, finding herself much more comfortable in Christine Sweeney’s company than she’d expected to be. “It’s a magic touch Brianna has with hearth and home.”
“In Clare, you say.” Christine nodded as Rogan offered her wine. “I know the area well. I come from Galway myself.”
“You do?” Surprise and pleasure flitted across Maggie’s face. It was another reminder to her of how much she missed home. “What part?”
“Galway City. My father was in shipping. I met Michael through his business deals with my father.”
“My own grandmother—on my mother’s side—came from Galway.” Though under most circumstances, Maggie would rather eat than talk, she was enjoying the combination of excellent food and conversation. “She lived there until she married. That would be about sixty years ago. She was a merchant’s daughter.”
“Is that so. And her name?”
“She was Sharon Feeney before her marriage.”
“Sharon Feeney.” Christine’s eyes brightened, as deep now and as sparkling as her sapphires. “Daughter of Colin and Mary Feeney?”
“Aye. You knew her, then?”
“Oh, I did. We lived minutes from each other. I was a bit younger than she, but we spent time together.” Christine winked at Maggie, then looked at Rogan to draw him into the conversation. “I was madly in love with Maggie’s great-uncle Niall, and used Sharon shamelessly to be around him.”
“Surely you needed to use nothing and no one to get any man’s attention,” Rogan said.
“Oh, you’ve a sweet tongue.” Christine laughed and patted his hand. “Mind yourself around this one, Maggie.”
“He doesn’t waste much sugar on me.”
“It dissolves in vinegar,” Rogan retorted in the most pleasant of tones.
Deciding to ignore him, Maggie turned back to Christine. “I haven’t seen my uncle in years, but I’ve heard he was a fine, handsome man in his youth, and had a way with the ladies.”
“He was, and he did.” Christine laughed again, and the sound was young and g*y. “I spent many a night dreaming of Niall Feeney when I was a girl. The truth is”—she turned her brilliant eyes on Rogan, and there was a hint of mischief in them that Maggie admired—“if Michael hadn’t come along and swept me off my feet, I’d have fought to the death to marry Niall. Interesting, isn’t it? You two might have been cousins had things worked out differently.”
Rogan glanced at Maggie, lifted his wine. Horrifying was all he could think. Absolutely horrifying.
Maggie snickered and polished off her soup. “Niall Feeney never married, you know, and lives a bachelor’s life in Galway. Perhaps, Mrs. Sweeney, you broke his heart.”
“I’d like to think so.” The bone-deep beauty so evident in Christine Sweeney’s face was enhanced by a flattering blush. “But the sad truth is, Niall never noticed me.”
“Was he blind, then?” Rogan asked, and earned a beaming smile from his grandmother.
“Not blind.” Maggie sighed at the scents as the fish course was set before her. “But a man perhaps more foolish than most.”
“And never married, you say?” Christine’s inquiry, Rogan noted with a slight frown, was perhaps just a tad too casual.
“Never. My sister corresponds with him.” A wicked twinkle gleamed in Maggie’s eye. “I’ll have her mention you in her next letter. We’ll see if his memory’s better than his youthful judgment.”