Sneak Peek!

(Excerpt from Intaglio, Chapter 3)


“You ever meet someone you were sure you’d known before?”


He frowned as he talked, staring down at the frosty ground. Ava smirked, glancing at him for a moment before digging her fingers deeper into her pockets.


“You sound like my father,” she said with a laugh, turning her face up to the sky; the leaden clouds were just starting to let go of the first large white flakes of snow. They looked like daubs of gesso on a dark canvas.


Cole stepped closer, his arm brushing hers. She peaked back over at him. He wasn’t laughing; there was a line of worry between his eyebrows. It was that intensity she’d noticed before. She swallowed hard, wondering what it would be like to have the entire focus of that attention on her alone. She had a feeling that she was going to find out.


“No, I’m serious,” he insisted, matching her pace perfectly. “Someone you’ve never met before… but it seems like you have.”


Ava slowed slightly and he followed without dropping her eyes.


“Like you...” Ava answered.


She intended for it to be a question, but it came out as a statement instead, because this was part of what unsettled her about Cole Thomas. The feeling that she knew him somehow, or had known him at some point… and that there was something more to it.


Something deeper.


“Yeah,” he said, “exactly,” not bothering to hedge his answer in vagaries. “I felt that the first time I talked to you. It hasn’t happened since...” He turned, letting his voice disappear, and his face clouded over like the dark sky. She wasn’t sure why, but it was like a blind had dropped down in front of him, and that bothered her.


“Since...?”


“Nothing,” he said quietly, eyes scuttling along the ground. Somewhere or sometime else. After a second, he looked back over, smiling gently at her. Hesitant now. “But I feel like that with you,” Cole admitted. “Like I can talk about anything… and it would be all right.”

“Maybe you’re an old soul,” Ava said, expecting the wisecracks that that sort of thing always elicited. She’d heard it enough times in her life, but Cole just watched her, the groove between his brows growing deeper.


“What d’you mean?”


Ava laughed lightly and shrugged.


“My dad is a bit of a hippie. Let’s just say that reincarnation was a supper table conversation growing up.” She turned toward him, grinning. She was wondering how far she could push before he decided to run. Some part of her liked the idea. Another part was terrified. “You know,” Ava said, tipping her head, “the whole karma – what goes around comes around – thing. Past lives and all that.” She laughed again, turning away and walking a little faster. Nervous now. “You probably think that sounds ape-shit crazy, huh?”


Cole shook his head, reaching out and pulling her gently to a stop.


“No, actually, I don’t.” His voice was quiet in the empty street. Awed. Ava fought the urge to step away from him again. He was looking at her like a man who had been denied water for days and had only just discovered a well.


“You don’t...?” she whispered.


He smiled, the worry softening.


“I just don’t go around telling everyone about it because they’d think—”


“You’re crazy too!” she answered, her face giddy, and she began to laugh. Cole joined her, and Ava linked her arm through his, the space between them disappearing with the easy gesture.


“C’mon,” she said, pulling him forward. “I’m cold and I want to get home.”


And then they half-ran, half-skipped the last eight blocks to her apartment, their bodies connected by their crossed arms. Half a block away, their combined shadow looked like the wings of a single sea bird, wheeling in a bright sky. Two blocks further, and they looked like two boats, alone on an endless ocean. One block from that, and their joined bodies merged into a symbol of infinity.

 

Image of snow and berries by permission, photograph by D. Loeffler.  Other image courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.