book signings here in Magic Valley. I’ve been trying to get those publishers to send me an author for over a year, since I opened. And you’re the first one I’ve gotten.”

Lucky me, Ben thought. “It’s been the same story every place I’ve gone. This is my eighth signing in six days. And every one of them has been dismal.”

“Hey, at least your publisher is touring you. Most first-time authors don’t get that.” He stroked his cat, who responded by curling up against Fred’s neck and pressing her wet nose against his cheek. “You should consider yourself lucky.”

“If you say so.”

“And it’s gotta be better than practicing law, right? Every lawyer I know wishes he was doing something else.”

Ben decided not to comment. “Nice cat you’ve got there. Think he’d like an autographed book?”

Fred laughed. “Margery isn’t really the literary type. She’s more the feed-me-stroke-me-get-out-of-my-way type.”

“Sounds like my cat, Giselle.”

“You an animal lover?”

“Well, the cat was a present from a friend. But yeah, actually, I am.”

Fred looked up abruptly. “Oh, look, someone’s coming in. Let me get out of the way.” Fred skittered toward the back of the bookstore, cat in tow.

The woman who approached Ben’s table was, in a word, bizarre. She was dressed in a helter-skelter, crazy- quilt fashion-wild bright colors, mismatched layers of clothing. Her steel-blond hair was just as wild; it jabbed out in straight lines like she’d just been electrocuted. She was inhumanly thin, almost skeletal-like something out of a grim Grimm fairy tale.

“Are you the author?” she asked.

“I am,” Ben said, holding out his hand.

“Are you sure? You seem so young.”

“Everyone says that.”

“Except for the bald spot on the back of your head, of course.”

“Of course.” He picked up one of the books on the table. “Can I interest you in my new book?”

“Oh, I’ve already read it.”

Ben did a double take. “You have?”

She grinned. “Don’t act so surprised.”

“Well, it’s just-I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who’s actually read my book before. Other than a close personal friend.”

“Oh, I did. I read every word of it.” She gazed deeply into his eyes. “And the whole time I read it, I couldn’t help but think about you.”

Ben coughed. “About-about me?”

She reached out and brushed his shoulder. “You were so brave. Chasing after the maniac the way you did.”

“Well, I had to do something after that corpse turned up in my car. If I hadn’t, they probably would’ve sent me up the river.”

“And that horrible chase sixty feet up in the air-you must have nerves of steel.”

“Actually, I was scared to death.”

“It wasn’t just the story you told. It was the way you told it. It was-inspirational.” She took his hand and clasped it in both of hers. “I just wanted to hold the hand that penned all those magnificent words.”

Ben cleared his throat. “Well … that’s very kind.”

She did not release his hand. She inched closer to the table. “I felt such a magnetism when I read your book. I kept thinking, ‘This man must be someone very special.’ ”

“Oh, not really.”

“I kept thinking, ‘This is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. This is the man I want to father my children.’ ”

Ben’s lips parted. “This is-you want-”

She sidled next to him at the table, her steel bristle hair tickling his cheek. “So, tell me, Ben. I can call you Ben, can’t I?”

“I suppose.”

“Is there someone special in your life?”

“Uh … yes. Yes, there is. Most definitely.”

Her face fell. “There is?”

“Yes. Several people, actually.”


“Well … yes. There’s my mother. And my sister.”

“Silly. I mean like a girlfriend.”

“I have some friends who are girls.”

“You know what I mean.”

“You want to know if I’m in a relationship?”

“I want to know if you’re having sex. Because if you’re not, have I got something special for you.”

Ben’s throat went dry. “I think perhaps you’ve made a mistake.”

She wrapped her arms around him. “Don’t fight it, Ben. This was meant to be.”

Ben’s face turned a bright crimson. “This was not-this is moving a bit too fast for me.”

“Life is short. Why wait?”

“I really couldn’t possibly-”

“When I read your book, I realized we had a connection, a bond that transcended the boundaries of time and space.”

Ben scooted out of his chair. “I’m not prepared …” He tried again. “I’m just here to sign books, you know?”

The woman appeared crestfallen. “Just to sign books?”

“I’m sorry, but-yeah.”

She pulled her copy out of her purse and dropped it on the table. “I guess some bonds are stronger than others.” She sighed. “Perhaps in our next lifetimes.”

Ben opened the front of her book, relieved. “Who should I make this out to?”


He began to write. “ ‘To Marjorie-’ ”

“ ‘To Marjorie, whom I have always loved-’ ”

Ben paused. “ ‘To Marjorie, whom I have always loved’?”

“ ‘… in memory of that special night we shared, flesh to flesh, huddled close beneath the moonlight. I shall never forget you.’ ”

Ben applied his fountain pen to the title page. Why fight it? “… I shall never forget you.” He signed the book and passed it back to its owner, then redirected his attention to a burly, bearded man making his way through the front door. He was carrying a jumbo-size banker’s box, which, judging from the difficulty he was having carrying it, must be filled to the brim.

“Are you the author?”

Ben extended his hand, but the man still held the immense box. “I’m the one.”

“Are you sure? You seem so young.”

Ben sighed. “I have a very old portrait in my attic. Can I autograph a book for you?”

“Nah. I don’t have time to read. I’m a writer.”

“Ah. What have you written?”

“I’m glad you asked.” The man dropped the weighty box on the end of Ben’s table with a thundering thud. “I know you’re probably very busy, but would you mind looking at my manuscript?”

“Your …”

“It’s twenty-four hundred pages of rough first draft, but I know a competent editor could turn it into a

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