Home > Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(7)

Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(7)
Kathryn Purdie

I sat down and scooted closer so my knees touched the man’s. My stomach rumbled in time with his, and I sighed in relief at his simplicity. We ate to the chorus of the rattling chandelier and the drip, drip, drip of the ice melting from my nightgown. I wriggled my toes as I tried to draw feeling back into them and wrapped my makeshift shawl—a kitchen towel—more snugly across my shoulders.

“Are you from Ormina?” I asked at length, uncomfortable with our silence. “Of course you’re from Ormina. You couldn’t have walked from anywhere else, not in this snow.”

The man’s eyes reflected the undulating flames. He didn’t bat his lashes to acknowledge I’d spoken. Instead, he tapped his spoon against his empty bowl.

“Would you like more?”

Tap, tap.


His hand snaked out to the pot.


A horrible sizzling hissed out as his fingertips met the hot iron. He wailed, his mouth falling open to reveal a row of chipped teeth. I leapt to my feet, rushed to the buckets of ice thawing into water, and yanked the kitchen towel from my shoulders, letting it sponge up the moisture.

“Here.” I knelt at his feet and wrapped the wet cloth around his hand. He rocked back and forth, biting his lip. “I made a mistake situating you so close to the fire,” I said. “Shall I scoot you back, or do you promise to be more careful?” I cringed at my tone. I sounded far too similar to Sestra Mirna. “Do you promise?”

He swallowed and gave a rough bob of his head. I couldn’t be sure if it was a nod of acquiescence or simply an incoherent movement.

“All right, then.” I settled myself at his feet with my shoulder pressed against his leg.

It was warmer here, nearer the white coals of the fire. I denied myself the urge to hold my hands to the flames. That would only encourage him to do something rash. I made do with basking in what little warmth penetrated the wet threads of my nightgown.

The log split in half, and the flames danced taller. Fire was a fascinating element. The way it teased you, swaying one moment, snapping at you the next. I could watch it for hours. I might do that tonight. Perhaps by morning my gown would be dry and the Auraseers wouldn’t be at my throat for a night locked in a wing they would have spent their sleep in, anyway.

A trembling hand reached past me and snatched at the flames. I grabbed the man’s arm. “Not that again. You mustn’t . . .”

Whatever I intended to say died on the tip of my tongue. The orange, pulsating light was so beautiful. It curled like fingers beckoning me. I would never be warm until I lived inside that light. Until it blossomed within me and took root in my veins. My blood could be fire. I could be made of light. I was meant to be light. I would be warm forever.

I let go of the man’s arm. Why had I been holding it? Heart pounding, I crept closer to the flames. The heat kissed my cheeks. I closed my eyes and let it burn my lids. It wasn’t enough. I had to touch that warmth.

My hand crawled into the outlying ashes, near the coals. A long shard of wood lay forgotten, away from the heart of the fire. Only its tip was charred. It must have splintered off from the log. Feeling sorry for it, I picked it up and set its end into the most inviting lick of flame. The wood popped as the flame spread. I pulled it toward me. Beautiful.

So beautiful I would share.

I twisted around to face the man and smiled. My eyes blurred with tears. He would be so happy when I—

He abruptly stood kicking the chair out from beneath him. He thrashed about the kitchen. I stared dumbly after him, unsure what was the matter. Had he burned himself again?

My gaze dropped to his smoking trouser leg, and fear spiked through my chest. I must have come too close with the flame. The flame still burning on the shard in my hand. The flame closing in on my fingers.

I gasped and hurtled the shard into the fireplace as sparks flew around me. The man screamed. I spun around, crying with his pain. His leg no longer smoked. It was on fire. It ate at the cloth like perfect kindling. I sprang to my feet, limping in agony as I advanced on the man and sidestepped him as I racked my brain for what to do. Terror—his and mine—froze my logic.

At last I remembered the buckets of ice water. Stupid girl. How could I have forgotten?

I raced to them and lifted the closest one, then whirled back to the man as water sloshed at my feet. I was too late. He fled the kitchen. The flames overtook him as they clawed up his tunic.

My heart seized. I chased after him, my movements clumsy as I lugged the heavy bucket. “Stop! Come back!” His panic had enough hold over me to amplify my own.

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