Prologue

Sometimes I wonder if I’d have known ahead of time what was going to happen, would I have set off for the metro station? If instead of that final shot of vodka and long goodbyes, I would have just put on my coat and rushed home? Or would I have raised my glass just the same, and when the entirely unnecessary alcohol burned my throat on its way down, would I have hugged my friends for minutes yet before leaving the party?
I don’t know.
And I will never know…


Brightmore donned a soft, white cloak in honor of the subzero temperatures. Fat snowflakes danced blithely down from the flesh-colored clouds to cover the city. The tall, uniform glass buildings watched my steps darkly as I made my way along the slushy sidewalk. There were no people around this time of night, the only living soul I encountered was a stray dog digging through a pile of garbage next to a trash can. Teeth chattering, I hastily descended the stairs to the metro headed in the direction of the suburbs. It was somewhat warmer downstairs. I produced my MetroCard from my pocket, pushed past the gate, jogged down the escalator, but by the time I made it to the platform, the train I’d had my eye on was pulling out of the stop.
Dammit!
I glanced at my watch, it was past midnight. I stood beside the tracks, almost entirely alone. The platform was populated only by a couple, ostentatiously displaying affection, and three young people, drunk and loud, all the way at the other end. I could hardly keep my eyes open. I sank deep into my below-the-waist, maroon pea coat against the chill and rocked back and forth on the soles of my feet to get my circulation going. Suddenly, I heard the dull thuds of shoes behind my back. The person’s steps were dynamic and determined.
The shoes’ owner arrived at my side. I looked up, curious: it was a young man, a good head and a half taller than me with broad shoulders and straight posture. He was wearing a long black coat fitted at the waist. His raven-black, wavy hair, cut at an angle, framed a pale white face. His bloodless lips curled into a smile when he saw me eying him. He wasn’t what you’d immediately call handsome, but there was something… something attractive and sexy about him. Our eyes met his bright green gaze penetrating my own blue eyes. It was as if he’d put a spell on me, I felt like I was falling into the deep… I could hardly force myself to turn my head.
What’s wrong with me?
I stared at the muddy ground stubbornly, willing myself not to look at him again.
Finally, the metro rolled in.
He politely let me go ahead. I sat down at the end of the car, he took a seat near the door, took out a book from the inside pocket of his coat, and began to read. He never looked at me again, yet I felt he was watching my every move.
Or I wished he was anyway.
I caught sight of my faint reflection in the window across from me. My pale skin glowed white in the yellow light. Purplish bags under my eyes signaled sleep deprivation. My blonde, straightened hair had grown mussed throughout the night and no longer looked very straight at all. So much for expensive hair straighteners. Not worth shit. If you have curly hair, you may as well die with curly hair.
We finally exited the tunnel and left the city behind us, but I could still see the colorful neon lights and skyscrapers.
I glanced furtively at my fellow passenger. He looked at ease, even manspreading a little, lost in his book. I thought I should come up with an excuse to go over and talk to him. I felt that I must get to know him. I had another feeling in the back of my mind that typical: I know him from somewhere. I don’t believe in reincarnation, and I was sure we had never met before, but still… I sighed as my eyes wandered over to the snowy landscape. I have to get off soon. I’m going to get off, and I will never see him again.
I got up and stood in front of the door.
I looked at the familiar stranger once again. He looked to be about twenty-eight, successful at his job, and of course, successful with women.
The train stopped, and I got off with a heavy heart. The man didn’t bid me a farewell look as I stepped out into the night.
I could not figure out why, but I felt a sense of disappointment like I had lost something.


Chapter I


The metro clackety-clacked its way monotonously through the night. Yellow lights flickered dimly in the car. I tried to move, but an unseen force had me pinned to the seat. The man standing before me looked down at me bewitchingly, touching my hair with his long, white fingers, playfully smoothing out a lock. He was smiling. His smile was sweet, comforting, his green eyes radiating strength. He touched my face, to which I closed my eyes, sighed, and let my head roll back. His hot breath gave me goosebumps along my neck…


I don’t know how the dream ended, as my phone ringing awakened me. I fumbled to answer it.

“What?” I grumbled, irate after I had managed to find my phone on the far end of the nightstand next to a half-eaten package of cheese. I had not remembered raiding the refrigerator upon arriving home, but it was not surprising either.

“Oh, did I wake you, Phaedra?” my friend’s voice apologetically.

“Yeah, (and from a pretty awesome dream),” I didn’t say that out loud, though. I fell back onto the pillow and pulled the covers up to the top of my head. I could hardly breathe, but it didn’t matter, the warm dark was the perfect environment for going back to sleep.

“But it’s already noon,” she sang out. “When did you get home last night?”

“I dunno, around one,” I grumbled like a bear but was curled up like a cat.

“And you’re still sleepy?” she asked, acting surprised as if she didn’t know that I like to sleep in, and it seemed like she was not about to let me do so.

“Beauty needs sleep,” I answered, surrendering. I sat and pushed the covers down to my knees. I could finally breathe.

“I kno-ow, and chocolate and sex,” I could hear her grinning on the other end of the line, or more likely, I bet she was.

“Yep,” I yawned indolently and scratched my neck.

“Tonight?” her voice rang out again cheerily. She was well-rested that much was sure.
I snorted.

“The hell do you want again tonight, Barbie? I just got back from your place. Why don’t you study a little? Exam period is just around the corner, after all,” I scoffed a little but only to myself.

“I’ve got plenty of time until the first exam,” she replied flippantly. That’s just like her, and then she’s surprised her average is so low.

“Suit yourself. I am supposed to be meeting Eric at three afterward… Basement Club?” I asked completely.

“Perfect!” she agreed brightly, confirming that she had indeed convinced me.

“Just like me,” I said, grinning widely.

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