The tip of the cigarette glowed red as March inhaled. Then he stepped back as he blew out a stream of smoke, the odor overpowering that last trace of the sandalwood Elliot loved.
He tipped the shrinking match into the bowl of his pipe, drawing the mellow, smoky flavors into the back of his throat. He raised his chin to squarely meet March’s intense gaze. The hazel color wasn’t discernible in this light, but in the sun his eyes sparkled with green, then softened with brown in the shade.
Sharp pain seared Elliot’s fingers. His arm jerked back, and he gave his hand a quick shake, extinguishing the tiny flame. He tossed down the match, and with the toe of his boot, twisted the lucifer deep into the ground.
“Was it the fire?” Though March spoke in little more than a whisper, the intensity of his words carried in the damp air. “That why you froze? Bloody hell, two Albatros dropped from the clouds right on your tail. If I hadn’t been there—”
Elliot focused on the scuffed toe of his boot as he continued to twist his foot back and forth against the match.
“I apologize.” He straightened, drew deep on his pipe, and slowly exhaled through his nose. “Rude of me not to say thank you.”
March brought his cigarette to his lips. A moment later he exhaled. “And are you?”
“Am I what?”
Elliot took a few steps forward, away from his machine. He turned.
March hadn’t moved. He flicked his cigarette. “Because I don’t think you are.”