Born in Fire Page 10

He thought of fairies and magic spells.

“Close the door, damn you, there’s a draft.”

He obeyed automatically, bristling under the sharp fury of the order. “Your windows are open.”

“Ventilation. Draft. Idiot.” She said nothing more, nor did she spare him so much as a glance. She set her mouth to the pipe and blew.

He watched the bubble form, fascinated despite himself. Such a simple procedure, he thought, only breath and molten glass. Her fingers worked on the pipe, turning it and turning it, fighting gravity, using it, until she was satisfied with the shape.

She thought nothing of him at all as she went about her work. She necked the bubble, using jacks to indent a shallow grove just beyond the head of the pipe. There were steps, dozens of them yet to take, but she could already see the finished work as clearly as if she held it cool and solid in her hand.

At the furnace, she pushed the bubble under the surface of the molten glass heated there to make the second gather. Back at the bench she rolled the gather in a wooden block to chill the glass and form the “skin.” All the while the pipe was moving, moving, steady and controlled by her hands, just as the initial stages of the work had been controlled by her breath.

She repeated the same procedure over and over again, endlessly patient, completely focused while Rogan stood by the door and watched. She used larger blocks for forming as the shape grew. And as time passed and she spoke not a word, he took off his wet coat and waited.

The room was filled with heat from the furnace. It felt as though his clothes were steaming on his body. She seemed sublimely unaffected, centered on her work, reaching for a new tool now and then while one hand constantly revolved the pipe.

The chair on which she sat was obviously homemade, with a deep seat and long arms, hooks set here and there where tools hung. There were buckets nearby filled with water or sand or hot wax.

She took a tool, one that looked to Rogan to be a pair of sharp-pointed tongs, and placed them at the edge of the vessel she was creating. It seemed they would flow straight through, the glass so resembled water, but she drew the shape of it out, lengthening it, slimming it.

When she rose again, he started to speak, but a sound from her, something like a snarl, had him lifting a brow and keeping his silence.

Fine then, he thought. He could be patient. An hour, two hours, as long as it took. If she could stand this vicious heat, so, by Christ, could he.

She didn’t even feel it, so intent was she. She dipped a punt, another gather of molten glass, onto the side of the vessel she was creating. When the hot glass had softened the wall, she pushed a pointed file, coated with wax, into the glass.

Gently, gently.

Flames sparked under her hand as the wax burned. She had to work quickly now to keep the tool from sticking to the glass. The pressure had to be exactly right for the effect she wanted. The inner wall made contact with the outer wall, merging, creating the inner form, the angel swing.

Glass within glass, transparent and fluid.

She nearly smiled.

Carefully, she reblew the form before flattening the bottom with a paddle. She attached the vessel to a hot pontil. She plunged a file into a bucket of water, dripping it onto the neck groove of her vessel. Then, with a stroke that made Rogan jolt, she struck the file against the blowpipe. With the vessel now attached to the pontil, she thrust it into the furnace to heat the lip. Taking the vessel to the annealing oven, she rapped the pontil sharply with a file to break the seal.

She set the time and the temperature, then walked directly to a small refrigerator.

It was low to the floor, so she was forced to bend down. Rogan tilted his head at the view. The baggy jeans were beginning to wear quite thin in several interesting places. She straightened, turned and tossed one of the two soft-drink cans she taken out in his direction.

Rogan caught the missile by blind instinct before it connected with his nose.

“Still here?” She popped the top on her can and drank deeply. “You must be roasting in that suit.” Now that her work was out of her mind and her eyes clear of the visions of it, she studied him.

Tall, lean, dark. She drank again. Well styled hair as black as a raven’s wing and eyes as blue as a Kerry lake. Not hard to look at, she mused, tapping a finger against the can as they stared at each other. He had a good mouth, nicely sculpted and generous. But she didn’t think he used it often for smiling. Not with those eyes. As blue as they were, and as appealing, they were cool, calculating and confident.

A sharply featured face with good bones. Good bones, good breeding, her granny used to say. And this one, unless she was very mistaken, had blue blood beneath the bone.

The suit was tailored, probably English. The tie discreet. There was a wink of gold at his cuffs. And he stood like a soldier—the sort that had earned plenty of brass and braid.

She smiled at him, content to be friendly now that her work had gone well. “Are you lost then?”

“No.” The smile made her look like a pixie, one capable of all sorts of magic and mischief. He preferred the scowl she’d worn while she’d worked. “I’ve come a long way to speak with you, Miss Concannon. I’m Rogan Sweeney.”

Her smile tilted a few degrees into something closer to a sneer. Sweeney, she thought. The man who wanted to take over her work. “The jackeen.” She used the term, not terribly flattering, for a Dubliner. “Well, you’re a stubborn one, Mr. Sweeney, that’s the truth. I hope you had a pleasant drive so your trip won’t be wasted.”

“It was a miserable drive.”


“But I don’t consider the trip wasted.” Though he would have preferred a strong cup of tea, he opened the soft-drink can. “You have an interesting setup here.”

He scanned the room with its roaring furnace, its ovens and benches, the jumble of metal and wooden tools, the rods, the pipes and the shelves and cupboards he imagined held her chemicals.

“I do well enough, as I believe I told you over the phone.”

“That piece you were working on when I came in. It was lovely.” He stepped over to a table cluttered with sketch pads, pencils, charcoal and chalk. He picked up a sketch of the glass sculpture now annealing. It was delicate, fluid.

“Do you sell your sketches?”

“I’m a glass artist, Mr. Sweeney, not a painter.”

He shot her a look, set the sketch down again. “If you were to sign that, I could get a hundred pounds for it.”

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