The Fire's Center

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Authors: Shannon Farrell
her up inside, and then offered her one of his spare jackets, which she put on under her cloak.
     
    "We’ll buy you some warmer clothes in Monaghan if we get there before the shops close," he said.
     
    "In the meantime, we’ll just have to shut the windows and shades, and keep warm the best we can," he remarked, smiling as he observed it was so cold inside that he could see his own breath.
     
    He made Riona comfortable in one of the corners of the carriage facing forwards, and placed a small circle of foot warmers around her, and then gave her a hand warmer.
     
    "You need a muff as well," he noted, and then offered her his gloves.
     
    "No, really, I can’t, you need them." She shook her head.
     
    "I insist."
     
    Riona glanced at the firm set of his mouth, and then proposed, "How about we each wear one, and we share the hand warmer?"
     
    She took the left glove, and held the hand warmer in her right hand, while Lucien tugged on the right one, and grasped her tiny hand and the hand warmer in his left. With his gloved right hand he tucked them in under the blankets, and slid over on the seat to be as close to Riona as possible.
     
    They passed the long arduous journey chatting amiably. They tried to read the papers by the dim light coming through the shades, but even when they did dare open them, it was so dark outside, it was almost as though it were night.
     
    So they resumed their conversation from the previous evening, and Lucien subtly began instructing her in medical studies. He saw she was quick to pick up details, and asked many intelligent questions. He was so impressed that he jokingly suggested they pass the time with him having her memorise all the bones in the body, starting from the head down.
     
    "Coronal Suture, frontal bone, temporal bone, nasal bone, maxilla bone, zygomatic bone, the maxilla, mandible..." he began to recite, pointing at each on his own head.
     
    Thus they spent a pleasant if arctic four hours until they stopped at Clones for their meal, which they ate hurriedly for fear of the weather worsening.
     
    But Lucien did manage to spot a clothes shop in the swirling snow, and purchased Riona the heaviest woollen dress in the shop, in a rich deep sable, as well as a woollen shawl, some flannel underthings, and a thick, heavy pair of boots, since he had noticed the soles of the ones Riona was wearing were nearly worn through.
     
    Riona, still waiting for him back at the inn, smiled gratefully, and went into the small washroom to change. She tugged on the flannel petticoats, then the dress, and wrapped the shawl around her shoulders before tying the ends around her waist and fastening them in a knot at the front.
     
    She tugged on another pair of woollen stockings Lucien had bought her, and then the boots, and finally Riona put her cloak back on and pulled the hood up over her head.
     
      It was only as they had got into the coach that Lucien muttered, "Oh dear, I forgot the one thing you really needed, gloves."
     
      Riona shrugged. "We got along well enough this morning, so here, take this glove, and grab the hand warmer."
     
    In truth, Riona was not entirely unhappy to have to spend hours huddled under a blanket with Lucien holding his hand, and at least his thoughtful purchases meant she was a great deal warmer than she had been that morning.
     
    "Thank you for being so kind, about the boots and underthings." She smiled, and gave him a shy peck on the cheek.
     
    "Think nothing of it, my dear."
     
    Lucien beamed down at her fondly, his golden eyes lighting up his whole face. But lest they grew too serious, he said, "Now, we’re onto the hands, metacarpals and so on, but first we need to test you on what you learnt this morning."
     
    "Yes, Dr. Woulfe," Riona replied meekly. "If I pass, do I get to put together my own skeleton?"
     
    Lucien grinned. "We’ll think of some other prize for you, I’m sure, Riona."
     
    The warmth of the clothes, the fine dinner she had had, and

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