Avarice reached across the table for her hand and squeezed it gently. “I haven’t come here for several years to rent a room or any of the women. If you find me here now, then it will only be to collect money for my father.”
A small smile spread across Charity’s lips. “Yet you agreed to meet me here, and I assure you I don’t owe your father money. Nor did I have business on my mind when I made my invitation to you.”
Again silence fell between them, their hands still joined. Charity hadn’t lied. She hadn’t come there to meet Avarice for any form of business. She genuinely wanted to see him again. For a reason that was unclear to her, she found him intriguing, and she craved to know more about him.
“Where did you get your necklace?” he asked her, suddenly breaking their mutual silence.
Pulling her hand away from his, her fingers went to the metal pendant hanging from the chain around her neck.
“My father told me it once belonged to my mother. She died when I was still a young child. I’ve worn it ever since.”
Avarice sipped his brandy. “I feel your loss,” he commented quietly. “I was also a child when I lost my mother.”
Watching the pain filling his face, Charity wondered what could have taken his mother away that still caused him so much pain to this day.
“Did your father tell you anything about the meaning of the pendant?” he asked, changing the topic of conversation back away from their family members.
She shook her head. “I assumed it was Irish, but I know nothing else about it.”
His finger traced the rim of his cup momentarily before he lifted his gaze back up to her. “It was called a triskele by the ancient Celts. It was very important to them and seen in many of their carvings. Of the things it can represent, the most significant is that the three spirals joined symbolizes the joining of life, death, and rebirth.”
Sipping her sherry, she placed the glass back on the table. “How does the son of an Italian immigrant know so much about Irish legends?”
He smiled at her. “I guess it does seem a little bizarre.” Suddenly, the smile disappeared from his face. “My mother was Irish. My father never speaks about her, and I have few memories of her. All I really know is what the townspeople have told me. When I was still at school, I figured out that if I couldn’t know who my mother was, at least I could study her people.”
She reached across the table and laid her hand on top of his. She could relate to Avarice’s pain, for she too never learned much about her mother, nor would her father speak of her.
Catching sight of her driver trying to get her attention through the crowd, she quickly retracted her hand and pushed her chair out to stand. “I do apologize, but it appears I must return home now.”
Avarice stood too, reaching out and taking her hand in his. “Do you no longer want to be seen with me?” he asked, clearly confused by her actions. “Have you perhaps again caught sight of your intended?”
She giggled. “I’ve caught sight of my driver, and nothing more. He’s telling me it’s time I return home before my father notices I’m gone.”
Seeing his embarrassment, she laced her fingers with his.
“You’re the only man I’ve wanted to see,” she tried to reassure him. “And if I had a choice, I would much rather spend the rest of this night with you.”
He walked with her toward her waiting driver and carriage, no sign of wanting to break their joined hands.
“I’ve never spent an entire night with a woman,” he confessed as they walked. “Nor have I ached to as I do now.”
She squeezed his hand, not knowing what to say to his confession. Having heard the slight uncertainty in his voice, she doubted he gave this same admission to many others. That he’d given it to her, filled her with elation.
Stopping by the carriage, she turned to face him. He looked so handsome in the moonlight. She didn’t want to leave him, but she knew she had to. Pulling her hand away from his, she stepped back.
“Thank you for the drink, Avarice,” she said politely.
She lingered for a moment, her gaze joined to his, her emotions yearning for something more than a simple goodbye from him. Closing the distance between them again, her hands went to his shoulders as she leaned into him, her lips touching his. Feeling his hands on her back, pushing her against him, she knew she had to leave now before she accepted any advances he made.
Breaking their embrace, she stepped back and walked over to the open door of the carriage. “Goodnight,” she said softly as she stepped inside her transport.