“Nothing much. One question, though. What’s your name?”
She frowned. “Same as it was before. I’m MG Carmody.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Only cars are named MG. What’s your real name?”
For a moment, she looked like a sulky seven-year-old, her face scrunched into a scowl. “You can’t laugh.”
“I’ll do my best. What are you—Mariah Grimsby or something?”
“Mary Grace,” she said flatly. “Mary Grace Carmody.”
He blinked. “And you’re upset about that?”
“Well, to begin with it sounds like the name of a sixty-year-old nun.” She sighed. “Probably from County Clare.”
“Trust me, honey, nobody’s going to mistake you for a sixty-year-old nun. Although the County Clare part could fit.” He ran his fingers along her cheek, tracing the high bone. “What else you got?”
She blew out a breath. “The problem is the Grace part. My mom’s the most practical person I know, and a harder worker you’ll never find. Why the hell she saw fit to stick me with Grace, I’ll never understand.”
He let his finger tips trail down the side of her throat. “What’s wrong with Grace? I like it.”
“It’s everything I’m not. Calm. Steadfast. Slow to anger. You name a virtue I lack and it’ll be one Grace should have. Including being able to move around without tripping over my own feet. It’s like naming your kid Chastity or Excellence or something.” She turned her head slightly, brushing her lips against his palm. “And no, I’m not fishing for compliments and I don’t need to be reassured about my general wonderfulness. It’s just that the good things about me aren’t things a Grace would have.”
“Don’t tell me I can’t reassure you about your wonderfulness if I want to,” he murmured, sliding his lips along the line his fingers had followed. “Besides there’s all kinds of grace in this world, darlin’.”
“Such as?” She sounded a little breathless. A very good sign.
“Well, I figure you’re thinking about something like a ballet dancer—you know, professional grace. Or some model, assuming she doesn’t fall ass over teakettle with those skyscraper heels they wear.” He nuzzled the soft spot beneath her ear.
“Something like that.” Definitely breathless now.
“Well, that’s one kind of grace, but when I watch you dodge around the kitchen with a hotel pan full of chopped onions, making sure you don’t run into Leo’s ass, that’s grace too.”
She gave him a slightly sour look. “It’s more self-preservation. Running into Leo’s ass involves the possibility of hot grease.”
“Granted. But there’s nothing wrong with self-preservation, far as I can see. Hell, darlin’, there are times when just looking at you in that kitchen can make a difference in my day. Like sanity in the midst of kitchen chaos. That’s grace. Believe me, that’s real grace.”
She lay very still beneath his fingers. “Gosh,” she whispered.
He turned to look down at her, meeting that dark green gaze. “And what I saw on stage at Oltdorf tonight, that’s another kind of grace. Grace in abundance that was.”
For a moment, she stared up at him. And then she cupped his face in her hands, pulling his mouth down to hers almost urgently. Her tongue danced along his quickly, and he plunged deeper, grasping her shoulders to hold her still.