chapter two

Isaac had handed her a paperback much nicer than the one he'd "utterly destructioned", and wandered off to the new releases. Jori was looking at the locked glass cabinet filled with decks of tarot cards. She was startled out of her pondering by Isaac's voice behind her.

"What'cha looking at?"

She turned around and smiled. For some reason, she was very secretive about her fascination for the occult and supernatural. Admitting it made her feel trendy somehow.

"Oh, nothing. Just browsing around." She sauntered off to the music and movie section, faintly aware of Isaac trailing behind.

As Isaac flipped through the Hs in the blues shelves, Jori wandered between the cd displays, and stopped in surprise. The short end of one of the displays was entirely dedicated to promoting a new release by Hanson. Smiling crookedly in the right-hand corner of five posters and twenty cds was Isaac.

No wonder he'd looked familiar! The short hair had confused her, as had the fact that she hadn't seen or heard anything about him in the past year or so. A huge grin spread across her face.

Weird. Definitely weird.

She shot a glance at Isaac, who at that the same time happened to glance at her. His eyes darted from her, to the display, and back to her. He smiled sheepishly and walked over to her.

"I guess there's no point in claiming innocence," he said.

"Not really. I'll claim ignorance, though, if you want me to..." She winked at him. "And then later I'll call National Enquirer and tell them you scalded me in a perverted ritual and now I'm pregnant."

He laughed and led her away from the display by the sleeve of her shirt.

"Let's never speak of this again."

She pretended to consider it.

"Bribes over ten dollars are tax deductible."

He took the Catcher she was holding and checked the back. "Darn. This is only 8.99." He scratched his head, looking almost sly. "How 'bout I take you out for pizza?"

I was just waiting for the conversation to come around to that, Jori thought. Out loud she said, "Okay, on one condition. That I get to go home and change first."

"Oh, of course."

"And," she looked at him pointedly, "rub on some ointment." She started moving toward the cash register.

"Is that a come-on?"

She laughed and put the book on the counter. "Only if you're into kinky stuff."

He wiggled his eyebrows. "Well allrighty then."

The cashier, giving off very clear 'I-don't-want-to-be-here' vibes, gave Jori a funny look as he scanned the book. "Weren't you here like twenty minutes ago?"

She smiled. "No, that was my decaffeinated twin." Isaac snorted, and the cashier looked at her blankly.

"No, it was you, and you bought this exact same book, only in a different edition. Was there something wrong with your selection?"

Isaac pulled out his wallet. "Well, I'm buying it, actually." The cashier nodded a noncommittal aha. "For her." He smiled innocently at the befuddled cashier and tilted his head toward the exit.

Jori managed to suppress a wicked giggle until she'd passed through the doors. She stopped by the zebra stripes to the parking lot, and rocked back on her heels.


"My sentiments exactly."

"How 'bout a high-speed car chase to my dorm so I can change, and then we go out for pizza?"

"Sounds like a plan." He broke the awkward silence that ensued by tilting his invisible cap at her and jaunting off to his car.

She opened the door to her beloved little scrap heap and gingerly folded herself into the driver's seat. Her wet jeans rubbed stiffly into her burned waist, and she yelped, letting out a soft string of mild curses.

The Iron Stallion started on the first turn of her key, and, spotting Isaac in a navy Chevy one car behind her, she pulled out of the parking lot.


Jori's dorm was, as an undisguised blessing, set up in suites. Three single bedrooms to a living area, plus a small kitchenette. She planted Isaac on the black couch in front of the TV, told him to rummage through the books on the coffee table for the remote, and shut the door to her room behind her.

She sent, once again, a small prayer of thanks to the architect who'd decided to hook the bedrooms of each suite up to a walk-in bathroom, and peeled off her coffee-drenched clothes and jumped into the shower, squealing as her irritated skin stung with the water. Five minutes later she was, towel-clad and turban-wrapped, searching through her drawers for some drawers.

She slipped quickly into an outfit almost identical to the one she'd been wearing before, swapping the wife-beater for a deep blue tank top. Clothes arbitrarily rinsed and hung to dry, black hair in a ponytail, eyes quickly accented with deep plum, and she was ready.

She stepped out of her room, expecting Isaac to be watching TV, and was surprised to find him leafing through one of the Terry Pratchett paperbacks she'd left face-down on the arm of the couch. Her roommates, Sadie and Jon, had long ago given up on trying to get her to drop this habit, and had actually adopted it themselves without noticing. In fact, there had several times been occurrences of someone picking up a book, reading from the place to which it was open, and being a chapter or two in before realizing that it wasn't their book.

"Have you heard of him?"

He looked up. "Yeah. He's really good. Actually, I think I've read this one."

"Yeah, he is. Good, I mean. I have most of his books. Did you know he wrote a book with Neil Gaiman? The guy who does Sandman? If you know what that is."

He seemed amused. "Yeah, I know who he is, but I didn't know that. You bought a Sandman earlier, didn't you?"

"Yeah... I have very few dirty addictions, and almost all of them are literary."

"Ah. Old-lady porn and the like?"

"I prefer to think of it as erotica for the lascivious and mature. And no, that's not what I meant."