The Fire's Center

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Authors: Shannon Farrell
he could teach her a great deal, and give her the chance to learn the skills she would need if she were to act upon the hopes and dreams which she had begun formulating that day to help relieve suffering in Ireland. She was not about to allow ridiculous proprieties invented by the idle rich get in her way.
    In addition, Riona did have to admit it secretly to herself that she had rather enjoyed being kissed. She grinned to herself as she blew out the candle, pulled the covers up over herself, and drifted off to sleep dreaming of the remarkable man that fate had set in her path.

Chapter Seven
    The following morning was again something of a rush, for once more Riona found that she had overslept. This time Lucien merely turned his back as she shrugged into her robe and scurried to the table to pour the coffee.
    "I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m so tired all the time," she apologized, stifling a huge yawn.
    "Obviously making up for all the lost sleep you’ve had recently, watching, worrying, and no doubt working too hard," Lucien commented, taking her hand to squeeze it gently for a brief moment as it hovered over the table, while she served him bacon, eggs, and mushrooms.
    Once again she had porridge, and scrambled eggs with toast, and this time he allowed her a small piece of bacon.
    She pushed her unruly locks away from her face, and Lucien could swear that she was the loveliest woman he had ever set eyes on. No Dublin society beauty could even compare, he thought with a smile as he stared at her.
    "What’s the matter? Have I got food on my face or something?" Riona asked, rubbing her cheeks with her napkin.
    "No, my dear, you're perfect in every way. I was just thinking of that awful lotion all over you hair. Doesn’t it smell dreadful," Lucien improvised quickly, looking away.
    "The odour dissipates quickly enough, and besides, I would rather have slightly oily smelling hair than lice," Riona laughed as she poured more coffee.
    "No worries on that score now. But listen, the weather looks like snow again, so please dispense with the fancy clothes and corsets, and get dressed quickly, won’t you. I think we should get on the road as quickly as possible, and we won’t be stopping after all."
    "I don’t wear fancy corsets, as you put it," Riona said with a playful scowl. "Can’t you tell?"
    Riona rose from the table then, and Lucien saw her slender form as she hugged the voluminous robe around herself tightly.
    Lucien’s mouth went dry both from desire, and slight horror at how thin she had become.
    "You must have been starving for a long time," was his only comment as he went over and spanned his hands around her tiny waist.
    "Not really, we still ate, though I will admit I have been plumper. Now, run along and pay the bill and get your things. I promise I’ll be down in two shakes of a lamb’s tail."
    Riona grinned up at him. Once again, Lucien stooped to kiss her, and did as she had instructed.
    Alone again, Riona tugged her hair into a long plait which she left hanging down her back, and with her grey dress donned once more, she closed her valise, checked the room carefully to make sure she hadn’t left anything behind, and whisked down the stairs. Lucien handed the porter her bag, and then wrapped her cloak around her.
    She observed as they were about to get into the coach that the sky was again iron grey, and though the inn had made every effort to warm the coach with foot warmers and hot bricks, it was still bitterly cold.
    "There must be some travelling rugs around here somewhere." Lucien scowled as he opened up the seat and began to tug out two red and green tartan throws. "But that dress isn’t nearly warm enough for you," he observed as the wind whipped around Riona’s skirts unmercifully.
    "Really, I’ll be fine once we get into the coach," she said with an uncontrollable shiver.
    Lucien helped

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