Born in Fire Page 46

“Do it now.” She took the pipe from him and continued to work it. “I can shear it off if you gather too much.”

The heat from the furnace stole his breath. He dipped the pipe in, following her terse directions, rolled it under the melt. He watched the glass gather and cling, like hot tears.

“You’ll bring it to me from the back of the bench and to the right.” Anticipating him, she snatched up a pair of tongs and took control of the pontil even as he angled it toward her.

She repeated the process, sending off sparks from the wax, merging glass into glass, color into color. When she was satisfied with the interior design, she reblew the vessel, urging it into a sphere again, shaping it with air.

What Rogan saw was a perfect circle, the size perhaps of a soccer ball. The interior of the clear glass orb exploded with colors and shapes, bled and throbbed with them. If he had been a fanciful man, he would have said the glass lived and breathed just as he did. The colors swirled, impossibly vivid, at the center, then flowed to the most delicate hues as they trailed to the wall.

Dreams, he thought. It’s a circle of dreams.

“Bring me that file,” she snapped out.

“The what?”

“The file, blast it.” She was already moving to a bench covered with fireproof pads. As she braced the pontil on a wooded vise, she held out her hand, like a surgeon demanding a scalpel. Rogan slapped a file into it.

He heard her slow steady breathing pause, hold, just as she struck the glass bond with the file. She struck the pontil. The ball rolled comfortably onto the pad. “Gloves,” she ordered. “The heavy ones by my chair. Hurry up.”

With her eyes still on the ball, she jerked the gloves on. Oh, she wanted to hold it. To cup it in her naked palms as she had in her dream. Instead, she chose a metal fork, covered with asbestos, and carried the sphere to the annealing oven.

She set the timer, then stood for a minute, staring blankly into space.

“It’s the moon, you see,” she said softly. “It pulls the tides, in the sea, in us. We hunt by it and harvest by it and sleep by it. And if we’re lucky enough, we can hold it in our hands and dream by it.”

“What will you call it?”

“It won’t have a name. Everyone should see what they want most in it.” As if coming out of a dream herself, she lifted a hand to her head. “I’m tired.” She trudged wearily back to her chair, sat and let her head fall back.

She was milk pale, Rogan noticed, drained of the energized glow that had covered her while she’d worked. “Have you worked through the night again?”

“No, I slept last night.” She smiled to herself. “In Murphy’s field, under the bright, full moon.”

“You slept in a field?”

“I was drunk.” She yawned, then laughed and opened her eyes. “A little. And it was such a grand night.”

“And who,” Rogan asked as he crossed to her, “is Murphy?”

“A man I know. Who would have been a bit surprised to find me sleeping in his pasture. Would you get me a drink?” At his lifted brow, she laughed. “A soft one, if you will. From the refrigerator there. And help yourself,” she added when he obliged her. “You make a passable pontil boy, Sweeney.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, taking that for a thanks. As she tipped the can he gave her back, he scanned the room. She hadn’t been idle, he noted. There were several new pieces tucked away, her interpretations of the Native American display. He studied a shallow wide-lipped dish, decorated with deep, dull colors.

“Lovely work.”

“Mmm. An experiment that turned out well. I combined opaque and transparent glass.” She yawned again, broadly. “Then tin-fumed it.”

“Tin-fumed? Never mind,” he said when he saw that she was about to launch into a complicated explanation. “I wouldn’t understand what you were talking about, anyway. Chemistry was never my forte. I’ll just be pleased with the finished product.”

“You’re supposed to say it’s fascinating, just as I am.”

He glanced back at her and his lips twitched. “Been reading your reviews, have you? God help us now. Why don’t you go get some rest? We’ll talk later. I’ll take you to dinner.”

“You didn’t come all this way to take me to dinner.”

“I’d enjoy it just the same.”

There was something different about him, she decided. Some subtle change somewhere deep in those gorgeous eyes of his. Whatever it was, he had it under control. A couple of hours with her ought to fix that, Maggie concluded, and smiled at him.

“We’ll go in the house, have some tea and a bite to eat. You can tell me why you’ve come.”

“To see you, for one thing.”

Something in his tone told her to sharpen her work-dulled wits. “Well, you’ve seen me.”

“So I have.” He picked up his briefcase and opened the door. “I could use that tea.”

“Good, you can brew it.” She shot a look over her shoulder as she stepped outside. “If you know how.”

“I believe I do. Your garden looks lovely.”

“Brie’s tended it while I was gone. What’s this?” She tapped a foot against a cardboard box at her back door.

“A few things I brought with me. Your shoes for one. You left them in the parlor.”

He handed her the briefcase and hauled the box into the kitchen. After dumping it on the table, he looked around the kitchen.

“Where’s the tea?”

“In the cupboard above the stove.”

While he went to work she slit the box open. Moments later she was sitting down, holding her belly as she laughed.

“Trust you never to forget a thing. Rogan, if I won’t answer the phone, why should I listen to a silly answering machine?”

“Because I’ll murder you if you don’t.”

“There’s that.” She rose again and pulled out a wall calendar. “French Impressionists,” she murmured, studying the pictures above each month. “Well, at least it’s pretty.”

“Use it,” he said simply, and set the kettle to boil. “And the machine, and this.” He reached into the box himself and pulled out a long velvet case. Without ceremony he flipped it open and took out a slim gold watch, its amber face circled by diamonds.

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