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Like Tears from a Star


Rain had been falling lightly throughout the long day. The early summer sun had kept the streets relatively dry during the heat of the afternoon, but with nightfall came a chill that left the byways of the city slick and wet. Rain had a subtle effect on the mood of all who stood, played, or drove beneath it. Rain subtly altered perspectives and perceptions. Yet new life blossomed and flourished under the ministrations of a gentle fall of rain.

Part One

An old vehicle, a classic Cadillac, sailed its stately way down the wide and busy Yonge Street. The driver was less than alert, his mind lost in a memory of a rainfall from far back in his distant past. The streets were just slippery enough to warrant some extra vigilance when coming to a stop at a busy intersection, or navigating the traffic-clogged streets of a road in the bustling shopping district.

The traffic light had dropped through yellow to red, but the driver of the Cadillac was still lost in thought, and oblivious to the color of the light, or to the presence of any other driver on the congested street. The driver coming up on the opposite side, seeing the green light and thinking she had the right of way and an intersection free of hazards, barely slowed. She caught sight of the long, green auto out of the corner of her eye, and practically stood on the brakes. That was all that saved her from a serious accident, to her way of thinking. Leaning on her horn harder than she had slammed on her brakes, she watched the Cadillac slow as its driver forcefully applied his own brakes and swerved to avoid a collision in a startling display of quick action. He narrowly avoided side-swiping the smaller and lighter automobile. The woman's car would have borne the brunt of the damage, being not much more than half the old Caddy's considerable length and bulk.

Both drivers pulled to the curb, out of the traffic pattern, and climbed from their respective vehicles. Several dark skid marks were evident, and when the young woman saw just how close they came to one another, she clenched her teeth to keep herself from screaming immediate imprecations at the offending driver.

The idiot, she thought unkindly. Doesn't anyone know how to drive in the rain anymore?

Ready to give the man a piece of her mind, and a driving lesson that he'd not soon forget, she stalked angrily around the front of her car to confront him. Her resolve weakened at the first sight of him - for he was startlingly handsome - but another glance at the skid marks burned into the asphalt rekindled her anger.

Nick Knight stepped from the Caddy and walked the few feet to meet the driver of the car he had almost totalled. He shook his head in chagrin; he really should pay more attention, but his lighning-fast reflexes always kept him - and others - safe during these lapses. He was certain the woman he approached didn't care a lick for his reflexes; by the look on her youthful face, she was about to give him a serious dressing down. He sighed. A collision would have been a damn shame. Her car, a fire-engine red Mustang convertible, was only a few years shy of his own '62 classic. Nick pulled his gaze away from the Mustang and turned to regard its driver.

She was a tiny slip of a woman, standing not much above five feet, yet in her righteous anger she projected at least another foot of height. She was slim and shapely, and stylishly attired in a short and filmy summer dress. Her features held fast to the first blush of youth and were cast as if by an artist's hand in beauty. Her brown eyes were capped by finely arched brows, and her lips were shaded a pale crimson. The feature he noticed more than any other though, was the shock of hair that floated around her face. The color was vibrant, like his memories of a field of wheat beneath a late afternoon autumn sun, and it came to her shoulders in a fall of soft waves.

Without preamble, she berated him. "What is wrong with you? You could have killed me!"

Nick had the good grace to look embarrassed and apologetic, yet he reserved his reply.

"Well?" she prompted vehemently, tapping her foot for emphasis.

"I'm sorry. It's completely my fault. I wasn't paying attention," he apologized.

"Damn straight it was your fault," she retorted, refusing to be mollified. "I guess you think you own the street with that huge old boat."

"I said I was sorry. No harm done, was there? You're not hurt, Miss...?"

"No thanks to you," she replied acidly, pointedly not offering her name.

"I'm glad you're all right. And I do apologize for giving you such a fright."

The small woman accepted his apology with a slight nod, but her eyes were still narrowed with pique. For some reason, her expression hurt him. He imagined her lips curved upward into a smile and her eyes sparkling with laughter, and in a moment of incomprehensible desire he wanted to see these things in truth and know that he was the cause.

"She's a beauty," he stated, gesturing to her Pony car.

For a bare instant her expression softened, but that softness was only for her cherished auto. The look she turned on Nick was decidedly chill.

"Thank you," she responded coolly.

Nick reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a card. He offered it to her between two long, well-manicured fingers. "My card," he explained, "just in case you want to give me more driving advice."

She glanced at him sharply, but she found that action a tactical error in judgment. The light of the overhead streetlamp put a sparkle in his blue eyes and cast a gleam on the white teeth revealed by his smile. And what a smile it was: open, disarming, almost boyish. It touched all parts of his face, from the tiny lines around his eyes to a dimple in each cheek. She found herself responding, until the memory of their near miss quashed the fleeting emotion.

Snatching the card from his hand, she read it with a snort of derision. "A cop? You must be kidding. I thought you guys went through a defensive driving course," she checked the card again, "Detective Knight."

Nick nodded, but tried changing the subject once more. "This is hardly fair," he began in his most charming manner. "You know my name, but I don't know yours."

"Since I hope to have the good fortune never to lay eyes on you again, I suppose I can afford to be magnanimous," she informed him crisply. "I'm Lori Gardiner."

"A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Gardiner."

"Well, the pleasure is all yours, I'm sure."

Yet as she looked at him, really studied him, with his blond hair nestling droplets of rain, and the brilliant blue of his eyes, that sentiment wasn't exactly the whole truth. Lori had an irrational urge to run her fingers through his soft curls and brush away the raindrops clinging there.

Nick felt the sudden change in her regard, and moved quickly to press his advantage. "Allow me to make amends. Will you have dinner with me this Saturday?"

For a split second Lori wanted to agree, but Nick looked just a little too sure of himself for her own tastes. Irritably she flipped the hair away from her face, gathering it briefly into a ponytail before letting the wild locks fall back into place. Besides, she chided herself, she was much too busy with the store and her acting classes for much of a social life, even if he was drop-dead-gorgeous and had a boyish grin just designed to disarm even the hardest heart.

"As my friends in California would say, Detective Knight: as if!" Lori gave him a haughty head-to-toe glance before turning on her heel. "Do everyone a favor: scrap that heap of dangerous metal and stay off the streets," she advised over her shoulder.

Her sweet fruit-flower scent lingered on the air, mingled with the fine misty rain, as she turned away. Nick watched as she swept her skirt beneath her and folded her shapely legs into the Mustang, slammed the door with the last vestiges of anger, and carefully pulled away from the curb. His vampire eyes focused on the retreating vehicle, the cop in him automatically noting and committing her license plate to memory. He managed to convince himself that it was only a precaution against an accident report, and not in any way related to the feelings she stirred in him. Remembering the ancient Chinese adage about the wisdom of standing out in the rain, he made for his own car and continued the drive to work.

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