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TEASER #4

The stone spheres on the railing are covered in cone-shaped piles of snow. I brush the snow off the sphere nearest me and attempt to balance my beer on top.

“My granddad used to say that he never left New England because magical things happen in the snow.”

My fingers are really starting to ache, so I guzzle down the rest of my beer and toss the empty bottle onto the snow-covered table behind us. I turn back to the railing and Crush is gazing up at the sky with a wistful look on his face as the snowflakes fall on his cheeks.

“This is the same granddad that gave you the book?”

He looks down at me and my stomach flips. “This was the last thing he gave me before he died.” For a moment, I assume he’s talking about the book, until he reaches into his coat pocket and comes up with a crushed penny. “It’s my lucky penny. I use it every time I have an important performance.”

“You have a lucky penny?”

He gazes into my eyes and nods. “Do you believe in fate?”

“No.”

“Neither do I. Do you believe in luck?”

“Yes.”

“What’s the difference?” His gaze is intense as he awaits my answer.

“I don’t know. You’re the one with the lucky penny. You tell me. What’s the difference between fate and luck?”

He smiles and turns his attention back to the view of the city. “Fate is for fairy tales. It’s a romantic notion. Luck is what happens when you’re in the right place at the right time … with the right person.”

A shiver travels through me and I tuck my hands inside my coat pockets. I lean over the railing to get a view of the street below and Crush grabs my arm.

“Please don’t do that.”

“Do what? I was just looking at the street.”

Not that it didn’t cross my mind to leap, but we’re only four stories up. Not high enough.

His eyes are fixed on my arm where his immense hand is clasped around my bicep. It takes a moment for me to realize that this is the first time he’s touched me and I didn’t flinch.

He gently releases his hold on me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to grab you. Just instinct, I guess.”

“That’s okay.” I pull my lighter and pack of Lucky Strikes out of my pocket.

He glances at my cigarettes and smiles. “You smoke Luckies?”

“My best friend Rina smokes a Blackjack, but I can’t do that. I don’t smoke just because I’m addicted to the nicotine. I like the flavor.”

“Where’s your best friend now?”

I pop the cigarette in my mouth, but the snow and the slight breeze keep stamping out the lighter’s flame. Crush cups his hands around my hands and the flame holds as I draw a long pull on the cigarette. His face is less than a foot away from mine as he slowly lowers his hands. I don’t notice I’m holding my breath until I begin to choke on the smoke. I turn my head away so I don’t cough in his face, but when I turn back he’s still there.

“Are you all right?”

“I’ll live.”

“Not if you keep smoking those.”

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