Loose- limbed and slim, he slouched against the telephone pole, pushing away an
unruly slash of dark hair that fell over one eye. He was dressed from head to toe in black,
as if he’d landed a starring role in some Italian caper movie and was ready to break into a
bank: jeans, snug jacket, knit hat pulled low. Tight black gloves covered his hands, and a
scuffed backpack (probably filled with explosive devices for the bank safe) sat on the
sidewalk against his leg.
It wasn’t until the preacher started up again that I realized I’d been staring.
Together, along with the umbrella- wielding woman, we listened to the preacher’s mumbled
lines about salvation and light and something I couldn’t hear and WHORES AND BEASTS
AND FLAMES. Holy fire and brimstone, dude. My ear drums! I gripped my portfolio tighter,
but a second later his tirade died down and he leaned against the back of the bus stop as if
he might fall asleep.
“Doesn’t look like much of a runner,” the boy noted in a conspiratorial tone. Had he
moved closer? Because, wow, he was tall. Most people were, from my petite, low- slung
vantage point, but he must’ve had a good foot on me. “I think you can take him if he tries to
swipe your case. Artwork?”
I glanced down at my portfolio as if I’d never seen it before. “Artwork, yes.”
He didn’t ask me why I was carrying artwork around a medical campus. He just
squinted thoughtfully and said, “Hold on, let me guess. No still life or landscape. Your
skeptical eyes say postmodern, but your boots say”— his gaze swept down my black skirt
and the knee- high gray leather covering my calves— “savvy logo design.”
“My boots say ‘stood up for a meeting with the director of the anatomy lab.’ Dr.
Sheridan was supposed to meet me after her last lecture.” It ran from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., and
after it was over, I’d waited and waited, watching a dwindling number of grad students exit
the building. And even when she finally called to apologize at eleven and claimed she’d had
a family emergency, I got the distinct feeling she was too proud to admit she’d forgotten.
“And my artwork isn’t postmodern,” I added. “I draw bodies.”
That’s my thing. I’m not one of those cool, creative kids in my art class who make
skirts out of trash bags and paint in crazy colors.
Not anymore, at least. For the past couple of years, I’ve limited myself to pencil and black
ink, and I only draw bodies— old or young, male or female, it makes no difference to me. I
like the way bones and skin move, and I like seeing how all the chambers in a heart fit
And right now, my anatomy- obsessed mind was appreciating the way my new
acquaintance fi t together, too. He was a walking figure study in beautiful lines and lean
muscle, with miles of dark lashes, and cheekbones that looked strong enough to hold up his
“I’m the person who actually enjoyed dissecting the frog in ninth- grade biology,” I
clarified. Not to sound tragic, but that particular piece of trivia had never won me crowds of
friends, so I’m not sure why I was tossing it on the table. I think I was just juiced up on a
fizzy boy- candy rush.
He made a low whistling noise. “We had fetal pigs, but I got to opt out and do mine
on the computer. Philosophical reasons.”
He said this like he wanted me to ask what those reasons were, and I took the bait.
“Let’s see, squeamish about dead frogs—”
“Philosophically opposed,” he corrected.
“Vegetarian,” I guessed.
“A really bad one, but yes.” He pointed to his coat collar. Pinned there was a small
button that read BE HERE NOW.
I shook my head, confused.
“It’s my philosophical excuse. Zen.”
“You’re a Buddhist?”
“A really bad one,” he repeated. The corners of his mouth curled into an almost-
smile. “By the way, how long ago was it that you dissected this frog? Four years? Two
years. . . ?”
“Are you trying to guess my age?”
He smiled all the way this time, and one attractive dimple deepened in the hollow of
his left cheek. “Hey, if you’re in college, I’m totally fine with that. I dig older girls.”
Me? College? I let out a high- pitched, neurotic laugh. What the hell was the matter
with me? Thankfully, the bad muffler on a van turning the corner muted my hyena cackle.
After it passed, I gestured toward him with the pepper spray canister attached to my
keychain. “Why is a vegetarian Buddhist dressed like a jewel thief?”
“Jewel thief?” He peered down at himself. “Too much black?”
“Not if you’re planning a heist. Then it’s the perfect amount, especially
if you have a Hamburglar mask in your pocket.”
“Damn,” he said, patting his jacket. “Knew I forgot something.”
The sidewalk rumbled beneath my boot heels. I glanced up to see the digital N-
OWL sign on the windshield of the bus that was pulling over to our stop. Cool white light
glowed from the windows.
“Miracles of miracles,” the boy murmured. “The Owl actually arrived.”
I stood on tiptoes to see what I’d be dealing with. Looked like some seats were filled,
but it wasn’t sardine- packed. Yet.
A line was already forming at the curb, so I rushed to outpace the medical students
and the drunken preacher. Was the boy getting on, too? Not wanting to appear obvious, I
resisted the urge to turn around and, instead, dug out my monthly pass. One swipe over the
reader at the door and I was inside, hoping I wasn’t alone.
About the Author:
Jenn Bennett is the author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series with Pocket and the Roaring 20’s historical paranormal romance series with Berkley. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two pugs.