Jean stepped out into the field, a crust of thin snow crunching beneath her feet. When Lucien had asked her to drive into town she had assumed he meant to the shops, not a cold pasture on the edge of town.
"Why are we here, Lucien?"
"It's this case I'm working on. It's quite the thing, like something out of an old school boy riddle. A perfect circle stabbed through his heart. We can't match it to any weapon, but a pool of water was found next to the body."
Jean looked at him expectantly, but Lucien appeared satisfied with the explanation. She could feel the cold seeping in through her thin pumps. She had not come dressed for this. Leave it to Lucien to choose the coldest day in July for an outing.
"Isn't it obvious? He was killed with an icicle! Matthew thinks I'm mad. The body wasn't found far from here. I think if we can find an icicle big enough on one of those outbuildings we can prove it was his plan all along. I need you to help me search."
"Lucien it's freezing out here."
"Please Jean, just help me look around the sheds for a few minutes and we can head home."
Jean let out a huff and stalked out into the snow. A cursory search showed no icicles or any other clue.
"I'm not surprised," Jean said as she examined the eaves of one of the buildings, "for large icicles to form you'd need a thaw and another freeze over several days. It just hasn't been that cold. It would almost be easier to make one in a freezer, like an ice block. You could file it down."
Lucien rolled his eyes.
"Bloody hell. The freezer! That's it! Jean, you are brilliant."
Lucien stalked off in the direction of the car with Jean trailing after him. She was already focused on home and a cup of hot tea. Jean hopped into the old Standard, the snow now leaking through to her stockings. The ride home would not be pleasant but it would not be long. Lucien gave Jean a triumphant look and turned the key in the ignition. The sound of the starter turning ineffectively made Jean's heart sink. When, after a half of dozen tries the starter fell silent, Jean felt all hope leave her. Lucien got out of the car and stared under the hood for several minutes. Jean suspected his mind was on the case and this was just for show. Finally she got back out.
"It's the carburetor. I could hear it cutting out."
Lucien looked at her with surprise.
"That's just what I thought. I'll just fix it, shall I?"
Lucien bent over the engine with feigned purpose. Jean felt the last shreds of her patience wear out.
"You can't, not here. The car will need to be towed. Town is that way."
Jean turned her back and got back into the car. Lucien followed.
"It's a long way back to town. I'm sure someone will be along eventually."
"Lucien I am not sitting out here all night freezing to death. You dragged me out here, you can get us home."
"Right. Well let's just give it a few minutes and see if we get lucky, eh? If not, I'll hit the road."
Jean looked away and stared out the window, discomfort and gloom making it hard to concentrate on anything else. Lucien rubbed his hands together against the chill.
"Well this really isn't all so bad. Look at all this snow. Just in time for Christmas in July."
"I suppose so."
"You don't like Yuletide?"
"Well in December, yes. I feels a little sacrilegious now. All of the show, none of the meaning."
"I like it. It reminds me of my days in Scotland. Christmas there was always quite romantic."
"I have trouble seeing anything romantic about this sort of weather. A few days is quite enough. Months of it sounds awful."
Jean shivered. The cold air was seeping in through her shoes and clothes and she could feel it in her bones. Her legs were ice cold.
"Jean, you're freezing!"
Lucien shimmied out of his long overcoat.
"No Lucien you can't. You'll freeze to death!"
"I'll be fine."
Jean shook her head in alarm.
"I'll tell you what. Scoot closer and I'll drape my coat over both of us. If help doesn't come in a few minutes I will leave my coat with you and head into town."
Jean started to object but Lucien cut her off.
"No I insist. Like you said, I got us into this mess, I'll get us out."
For a brief moment she was horrified. She did not want to be in a compromising position with her employer. But the dead car did little to keep out the weather and the cold was nearly unbearable. Reluctantly she slid over to his side of the car and Lucien pulled the coat over her, carefully making sure she was covered.
Jean could not deny that it was. Even in this weather Lucien seemed to radiate heat, and the extra layer of wool helped. If she wasn't comfortable at least it was tolerable. Jean nodded slightly but kept her eyes straight ahead.
An uncomfortable silence settled between them. Lucien offered up a cheerful comment about parking as a teenager which Jean cut off with a disapproving glare. She thought it was high time one of them started walking but she was loathe to be without him.
"So. Edinburgh has a lot of snow in the winter?"
Lucien seemed happy for the lifeline.
"Yes! It's summer there now of course. Much more pleasant. But it's a whole other world in winter."
Lucien went on at length about blustery days and snow, ancient stone alleys, the cathedral, a Christmas that wasn't really celebrated and the exotic Hogmanay, which sounded like something out of a historic romance novel. Jean was entranced.
"But yes, the cold does take some getting used to. I'm not sure I have it in me anymore. Between here and Hong Kong I've rather got used to the heat."
Jean pressed herself against his side.
"Actually it seems nice. Maybe the cold is worth it."
"It might be."
Jean felt Lucien's arm slide around her shoulders, pulling her in closer. Jean allowed him to, giving in to the warmth and security he offered in a desolate situation. She rested her head on his shoulder and could feel his head just barely pressing against hers. For a moment she closed her eyes and let him drown out everything, including her own concerns for how such behavior would affect their life at home. The sun was setting, casting a pale light on to the icy field. They should not stay out here in the dark if they could avoid it. She didn't care. Everything she wanted was right here. Jean let her hand rest lightly on Lucien's leg. She could swear he was trembling, just a bit.
Lucien pulled away from her. Jean tried to hide her disappointment and turned a little so she could face him. She felt his arm tense, trying to keep her close.
"Since we're here, I had been meaning to talk to you."
"Well, a few months ago, that night at the theatre. Your birthday."
"What a dreadful night!"
"Yes, I know. And you were so, well you handled everything so beautifully. But I'd meant to talk to you after the show, and then there was so much going on, and everyone was up all night so it didn't seem right. But I wanted to tell you that I..."
Lucien paused. Jean's heart caught in her throat. The cold was gone, replaced by a terrible anxiety.
"I wanted to tell you, honestly, that I care about you. I mean I care for you. And that you'll always have a job here if you want it."
Jean's body tensed. Lucien's hand tightened to keep her from backing away. Sometime in the last few minutes it has migrated comfortably to her waist and she hadn't noticed. She looked up and found his face inches from her own. She could tell he was nervous.
"Forgive me, that's not what I meant. I just would like you to know that I...that I think we could...if you'd let me."
"Let you what?"
Lucien did not respond and Jean did not try to make him. His words didn't make any sense and Jean was not sure she could process what he was saying anyhow. Blood was rushing to her head and she could hardly breathe. Lucien reached over with his other hand and placed it against her cheek. Lucien slowly leaned in closer until his lips lightly brushed against hers. The sensation along with the blinding white light behind her eyes made her heart race. He kissed her again. Unable to move much under his coat, she let him draw her close. The sound of footsteps on the frozen ground made them fly apart. Lucien leaped out of the car, leaving Jean missing his warm presence but grateful for a chance to collect herself. A man dressed for farm work with an old black ute approached Lucien.
"Everything alright? You and the missus look stuck."
Jean tried not to giggle as Lucien explained the situation, getting every possible detail wrong. The man offered to drive them back to the house so Lucien could call for a tow truck. They both squeezed in to the front seat of the cab and headed for home. As they got out, Jean turned to thank him.
"No problem Mrs. Blake, you go on inside and get warm."
Before she could correct him Lucien grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the house, shouting a final thank you over his shoulder. When they were finally inside, Lucien went straight for the phone to call a garage but Jean hesitated in the hallway. She was unsure how to act. Should she just pretend that nothing happened? Did he expect something of her? A few minutes later Lucien crossed the hallway from his office and nearly crashed into her.
"Jean! What are you still doing there?"
He reached out and took her hand in both of his.
"Jean you are freezing!"
"My shoes are wet."
Jean felt pathetic standing there and pointing this out but it was all she could think of to say.
"You need to go upstairs and get into some dry clothes right away. I'll tell you what, I'll pop the kettle on and start a fire in studio. We'll get you warmed up in no time."
Lucien squeezed her hand before letting it go. Jean silently turned towards the stairs, trying to calm her mind. When she returned Lucien had been true to her word. There was a fire building up strength and a tray of tea waiting for her. Lucien was sitting on the small leather sofa with a glass of whiskey in hand. A record of Christmas carols was playing in the other room. Jean couldn't help but laugh.
"Carols? Really, Lucien?"
"Well, it is Christmas in July."
Jean sat down next to him and gratefully picked up the cup of tea. She did not ask him why he was not sitting on his usual chair on the other side of the room.
"You know Lucien, I think you may be right."
"Oh? In what way?"
"The snow, a cold Christmas, all of that. I can see where some would consider it romantic."
"Is that right?"
Lucien looked so hopeful Jean could barely suppress a smile.
"Yes well, it is rather nice. Now that we aren't freezing to death in that car."
Lucien set his glass down on an end table and gently took her tea cup out of her hand. Before he could set it down he stopped.
"I'm so sorry Jean. I don't know what I was thinking. You need this. Have you warmed up a bit?"
Jean took the cup and saucer back from him, setting it down on the table. She took his hand and pressed a kiss into his knuckles.
"I'm getting there."
Jean's last thought as Lucien's arms closed around her was that she was warm. Very warm indeed.