chapter one

It was so not Jori's day. First her professor had the nerve to give her not even one whole week to write an "in-depth, perceptive and intelligent" paper on certain aspects of Catcher in the Rye, upon which she remembered that her copy had been left behind when she moved into the dorm; her laptop seized before she'd saved her first three pages, and before the day was even two-thirds over, she had been scalded and soiled through no fault of her own.

She'd driven out to Borders to pick up Catcher - putting herself in great danger, seeing as how she wasn't very good at going into bookstores and not buying things - and decided that while she was there, she might as well sit down and read her new Sandman (which, of course, she hadn't set out to buy) and have a mocha. Turns out, that wasn't as harmless a pastime as she'd imagined it to be.

She got up for a second mocha (and maybe just one peanut brittle) and, as she left her chair, there was suddenly hot coffee all over the table and the front of her body. Now, there's a reason for the lids stating 'Caution, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot'. Well, she didn't exactly enjoy it, but it was, indeed, very hot. And painful.

Some guy had, in the process of removing the lid in order to drink straight out of the cup, not been looking where he was going and spilled his entire - super-sized, no less - cappucino all over her white dress shirt, white wife beater and dark blue jeans. Her black Pumas were left unscathed, but that was a small comfort, considering that it was only because they were under the table where her purchases were resting.For a split-second, she almost apologized, and the next split-second she almost exploded.

The guy in question never knew how close he came to being royally yelled at. The look of complete and utter terror that crosses his face somehow erased the rage from her mind. (Granted, the terror might have come as much from the look on her face as from the fact that he'd ruined her clothes and probably done some damage to her skin.)

There was just no way she could be mad at him. He looked like a stricken puppy, and she had to smile.

"That's ok. I was getting sick of white anyway."

Her skin was stinging, but for some reason she didn't want to make him feel bad.

"I'm... I'm so sorry. It was all my fault."

Damn right, she thought, and almost said. She stopped herself at the last moment.

"Don't worry about it."

And she wouldn't have worried about it either - so she had to drive soaking wet, big deal; her clothes were all washable, and her butt was dry and wouldn't stain the seat - except that her newly purchased paperback copy of Catcher was completely drenched in cappucino (the irony - she didn't feel it was environmentally sound to get thin plastic bags, so the book was unprotected), which only just then fully sank in.

"Oh, f- I mean, bugger!"

Her annoyance returned, though not at him, but at the world which was treating her, at that moment, to crap. And not even any interesting kind of crap.

"I just bought this book! And I need it for this buggering paper, and..." She recognized the beginning of a whine in her voice, and made herself stop. "Oh, well, at least my Sandman is dry." She'd put it, face-down, on her chair when she got up, so her body had blocked the splash.

"I really am sorry. I'll pay for a new book," he said, offering her the napkins in his right hand, his left putting down the now-empty cup.

"That sounds fair." She smiled, and then laughed. At his startled expression, she explained, "When you apologized the first time, I almost offered to buy you a new drink. I am way too polite for my own good."

He smiled back.

"I will buy you a new book. I wasn't just being polite."

"Oh, that's not what I meant... But I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you up on that offer. No offense, but it really was your fault, and I am pretty much on a budget. I don't really calculate in it for having to buy books twice."

He grinned uncertainly.

She grinned back, adding, "It's always been my policy that if it's someone else's fault, it's not your unforeseen expense."

He laughed, and almost looked guilty.

"I don't know what to do. I don't have any spare clothes on me, and I'm not going to strip to get you clean. Sorry."

"I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing." She was ashamed to admit it, even to herself, but she was flirting. Not heavily, no innuendo or batting lashes or anything, but it was certainly more than she'd ever bestowed upon any spilling strangers in the past. What was even more startling was the fact that he seemed to be responding.

Weird. Very weird.

"So, what book were you going to read before I utterly destructioned it?" He grinned again, seemingly more at ease.

"Catcher in the Rye. Paperback, as you can see, so you shouldn't be too impoverished." By now she was almost beginning to enjoy herself (if she overlooked her soaked clothes and burned skin).

"Good book. Read it before?"

"Oh, yeah. I just need it for this paper I have to write, and I don't like making notes in library books."

"Let's go find another copy. Do you remember where it was?" She nodded and stepped out from behind the table, picking up her Sandman. "Wow, you're wet."

She pretended to glower at him. "Aren't we blessed with astute perception. Anything else you want to point out in case I missed it?"

"Yeah, your skin looks like it's burning." He looked down at her, ruefully. "I can't believe I did that."

"Well, you didn't mean to." She grabbed the sleeve of his shirt and tugged him toward the shelf where she'd picked up the paperback. "But it was your fault, so you owe me a book."


"I'm Jori, by the way. Not short for anything, so don't ask."

"I'm Isaac."

"Pleased to meet you. Less pleased to meet your coffee. Now buy me a book, sugar daddy."

He laughed.