Edie Higgins black-polished nails drummed happily as she
sat behind the wheel of Barnaby’s cab. The midnight
rain flowed down the windshield in rivers, her Mickey Mouse
watch said one-seven-am, but at JFK airport, the night was
still bustling with life. The May air was warm, but not
too warm, which was a good thing, because Edie had quickly
discovered that the AC in Barnaby’s cab had gone out
since the last time she’d driven it. Not that the
brakes were in great condition either, but it so happened
that Edie had a lead-foot -- which worked just as well for
stopping as speeding up.
Curious, she scanned the soggy travelers that were waiting
in the long, taxi line. Since she had been a kid, she had
always adored the drama of airports. The heart-squeezing
hugs of families coming home, the long, wet kisses of reunited
lovers, and the misty-eyed wave from a forlorn six-year-old
who didn’t understand why Mom was going away. That
was life, that was the connections people craved. That was
what made Edie sigh.
So far, she had yet to sigh. The thunderstorm put a huge
damper on almost everything but her mood. However, just
like relationships, springs storms were fleeting -- never
wearing out their welcome before they disappeared into the
By her own rudimentary calculations, late Thursday nights
should be the piece d’resistance: tourist night. A
boredom-breaking extravaganza in which she could drive dewy-eyed
couples to the getaway destinations. Or whisk away families
that were intentionally headed for the over-priced tourist
trap that was the Great White Way.
Hey, whatever made them happy. And that was the part she
liked most. Watching people as they bubbled with anticipation,
their faces glowing from that champagne-like awareness.
The knowledge that good things were about to pop.
Now that made her sigh.
She looked down at her phone and checked her voice mail,
just in case he had called.
"You have no messages," the voice answered, and
Edie stuffed her phone in her bag. No reason to think about
missing phone calls, about people who didn't need her, when
there were thousand of people who were desperate to get
out of the rain, which was exactly the reason she was here.
Slowly she inched the cab forward, the water-soaked attendant
shoving passengers into yellow cabs like Thursday night’s
garbage. Beneath the flickering security lights, Edie perused
the cab-line, counting heads to discover her prize. The
gnarly attendant, not onboard with the whole ‘customer
service’ concept, ripped open the back door. Edie
shot a look over her shoulder, anticipating what exciting
adventure the passenger-lottery had shelled out tonight.
And was it canoodling lovers, or shrieking families? No,
instead, it was Mr. Overly-Practical, Non-Champagne-Popper
Trenchcoat who wouldn’t know adventure unless he looked
it up in the dictionary. He wore a dark suit, striped tie
secured in a perfect Windsor knot -- which she knew only
because her dad -- the esteemed Dr. Jordan Higgins -- loved
the Windsor knot. It was crisp, professional, and reeked
Just. Like. Dr. Jordan Higgins
As with so many things that the “esteemed Dr. Jordan
Higgins” (trademarked 1971, Cornell Medical School)
loved, Edie despised the Windsor knot.
Not to be overly-critical, but okay, she hated the striped
ties, too. An oxygen-stifling invention, similar to women’s
hose, meant to entrap humanity in a constricting uniform
of sameness. Taking a sneak peak in the rear-view mirror,
she noted the man’s impeccable reflection that defied
rain-muss or travel-wrinkles… or any semblance of
Great. She’d given up free drinks with Anita to drive
the cab, and yes, Barnaby could always twist her arm (not
hard because of the must-be-recessive sucker-gene), but
At least his hair was mussed, she thought as he
settled his briefcase neatly in the seat. The rain had darkened
it to nearly black with one woebegone strand hanging damply
into his eyes. Impatiently he pushed at it, restoring it
back to its well-groomed position.
It was a pity because he was so much more appealing when
he was mussed. But hey, not everyone could identify and
exploit their intrinsic advantages like Edie could. Not
that she would say a word. Trenchcoats never took criticism
well, so she pulled onto the Belt Parkway, aka Pothole Crater
of America, and eased into the slow-moving traffic. “Where
“The Belvedere Hotel,” he answered, which startled
her only because the Belevedere was more than a little naughty,
completely not a ties-place -- unless they were the kinky
silk and satin kind. Edie looked at her passenger with new,
more appreciative eyes. Kink?
“Just drive,” he instructed, his voice crisply
impersonal, accustomed to being obeyed. Edie, never a lapdog,
tapped her fingers on the wheel.
“Meeting somebody at the hotel?” she tried
Cooly he met her eyes in the mirror, then glanced at the
ID tag on the visor. “You don’t look like Barnaby.”
“The magic of medical science. Two years of hormones,
a few surgeries, and voila, Barbara.”
“Not likely,” he muttered, choosing to spoil
her fun with his nay-saying logic and truth. When she looked
back in the mirror, the stubborn lock of hair had fallen
back in his eyes. Edie smiled, broad and perhaps slightly
superior. Sometimes there was a God, and sometimes She had
a sense of humor.
“Barnaby’s my ex,” she admitted.
“Your ex lets you drive his cab? That has to be illegal.”
Edie shrugged, because to her, the law was another constricting
set of mandates, much like the Windsor knot. “His
Uncle Marty is some hoo-haw at the Taxi & Limousine
Commission. I don’t think they’re actually related;
it’s an implied relationship, informal and forged
through extensive bribes. Barnaby gets away with more than
“What’s your real job?”
“Real job?” Edie scoffed. “What is that,
really? Some greed-inspired drudgery that people consider
socially acceptable. Eight-hours of vomitous detail, mind-eroding
minutia, and arguments over possibly purloined office supplies.
No thank you. However, in the interest of full disclosure
and because I don’t want to get Uncle Marty in trouble,
I don’t drive the cab very often. Mainly when Barnaby
sets up a date with Sasha, which sometimes falls on Thursdays
when he’s supposed to have class --- not that he'll
be at school, because he dropped out last semester.”
“Why all the secrecy?” he asked, and immediately
Edie knew that he had never had an overbearing, interfering
family. Not that she had one either. But she’d always
longed for one -- something big with lots of loud brothers
and sisters, like the ones on reality shows.
As she cruised through the toll booths, she decided to
let him in on the ins and outs of the American Family Dynamic.
“They keep the relationship in the closet because
Barnaby’s family doesn’t approve. She’s
from Oklahoma, and his parents are really tight-assed about
the whole situation, because they really have this weird
Oklahoma thing, so sometimes he calls me up, and I drive
the cab. Usually on Thursday, which I like because it’s
a good night for a people person like myself.”
With a sharp veer to the left, she shot in front of a cabbie
who hadn’t learned the ropes, and then swore as the
traffic ground to a full-stop. Tonight the Belt was packed
with cars, red brake lights glowing eerily through the rain.
Somewhere up ahead, there was the unfulfilled promise of
It followed -- like potholes after snow -- that when there
was rain, there would be no crews to work the job. Which
left only the Department of Transportation-mandated lane
closures. There was a screwy logic to New York, you just
had to embrace it. Mr. Trenchcoat wasn’t the embraceable
Seeing an opening two lanes over, she sped up before slamming
on the brakes, and then tried not to smile when Mr. Trenchcoat
hit his head. At least the almost-redeeming hair was back
in his eyes.
Edie believed there was a certain responsibility in playing
the part of a New York cabbie. There were expected rude
behaviors and bad-driving norms. Frankly, it was all fiction
(well, not all), but Edie chose to give people their money’s
“You don’t care that your ex is seeing someone
new?” he asked, completely calm.
“We didn’t click,” she explained as she
creatively maneuvered the traffic, but not once did he blink,
swear, or wipe sweat from his brow. Damnit.
After jamming down on the horn at one excruciatingly slow
Jersey driver, she grinned and then cursed the entire Garden
state to various transportation woes including rate hikes,
speeding ticket quotas, and exploding water mains (possibly
A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that her passenger
was ignoring her driving, which disappointed her and made
her wonder if she was losing her touch. Nothing that
couldn’t be fixed.
“I tried to make it work,” Edie continued,
dodging to hit every road-crater that she could. “The
sex was pretty good, but Barnaby never knew what to talk
about, no imagination, not a romantic bone in his --frankly,
a little on the skinny-side -- bod. I gotta tell you, it
got boring fast. Never a good sign in a relationship. Besides,
a woman can tell. Within five minutes I know if a guy is
“Five minutes? That long?” she heard the disbelief
in his voice, but she had been confronted by doubters before,
and Edie loved to argue. There were universal truths in
the world, especially when it came to romance, and the more
men that were educated in said-truths, the better for women-kind
“Oh, sure, pretend you don’t do the same thing.
Science has proven that people know pretty much instantly.
I prefer not to waste my time. Life’s too short to
ignore what’s in front of your nose. Or what’s
not.” Much of what she said was complete bullshit,
but the last part was truth.
“And what are these signs that a person is supposed
to be looking for?”
He was mocking her, making fun of what he thought was foolish,
silly, and possibly naive. She hated that her shoulders
immediately tensed, but she had been branded the fool before
– by people whose opinion mattered -- and it didn’t
bother her. Much.
“You can think whatever you want, but as for me,
I’m looking for lightning. Thunder. AC/DC playing
in my head. The world has to tilt and shift -- and I have
to forget how to breathe.”
“That’s not love, that’s stress cardiomyopathy.”
She knew that man-tone, that Sahara-dry voice, dismissing
anything that couldn’t be proven through the scientific
method. As if love could be proven or disproven. It simply
was. “Wiseass, aren’t you?”
Obviously accustomed to the insult, he chose to ignore
it. “How often have you experienced these symptoms?”
“You’re setting yourself up for failure,”
he pronounced, a blow to Hallmark, romance, and the entire
“Life is full of failures. If you don’t fail,
you’ve failed to truly live. I’ll take my chances.”
It should have made her happy that he didn’t argue
back, but it didn’t. Dr. Jordan Higgins never argued,
either. No matter how outrageous, no matter how controversial.
Only the idiotic cranks seemed to rate with her father.
And all that usually rated was a supercilious eyebrow-raise.
Edie cranked up the radio, but the volume wasn’t working,
and it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the silence,
so Edie flipped it off.
Eventually she broke down and turned to classic dinner-party
conversation. “You’re Cancer, aren’t you?”
“Not the last time I checked.”
“Your sign. Cancer. Reticent, inflexible, deep-thinker.”
Dazzling wit? Impulsive? “No way.”
“Yes, way,” he insisted.
Unable to reconcile this astrological anomaly, she abandoned
personal conversation until they hit the BQE. As they zoomed
along, she pointed out the various tourist sites flying
by, but her 'Welcome to New York' spiel was interrupted
by a beep.
Mr. Trenchcoat had a text message.
Politely she stopped talking, easily imagining the words
on his phone. For his sake, she hoped it was something sexy,
possibly visual, suggestive, earthy, but not tacky. Subtle
went a long way in seduction. Edie considered herself something
of an expert at the art of love.
After a second he swore, euphemistically alluding to the
carnal arts, but not in the sexy way. He sounded pissed.
When she glanced up in the mirror, she noticed the way
the brows furrowed into the broad forehead. The hair was
back in his eyes, refusing to cooperate as well.
The dude was screwed.
“Something wrong?” she asked, trying to sound
innocent rather than nosy.
Ha. If that was nothing, then she was a rocket
scientist. Not that she couldn’t be if she wanted.
Edie had aced two courses in astrophysics at NYU, but had
changed majors after a heated discussion with the prof on
the viability of red giant stars, white dwarf stars, and
the anti-feminist fairy-tale ideology that perpetuates the
idea that one woman should be subjected to the sexual demands
of seven, professionally-challenged dwarfs with a severe
Napoleon complex. There were some, with more pedantic thought
patterns, who thought it was a giant leap in logic to go
from stars to anti-feminist literary tropes, including her
professor, whom she affectionately called Professor Moriarity.
He was not amused, much like her well-knotted passenger
who was currently staring blindly out the window. She felt
a quiver of sympathy which caused her to frown, because
Windsor knots and trenchcoats did not deserve sympathy.
Of course, they usually didn’t swear, either.
“Something interrupted your plans?” she tried
“The only plans I have are sleep.”
Edie laughed, and then exited toward the Whitestone Bridge.
“At the Belvedere? Not that your accommodations are
any of my business, but I’m dying to know, so if you
want to volunteer the details, I’m a very captive
He looked away from the window, and met her eyes in the
mirror. Perfectly arched brows furrowed with momentary alarm.
About time. “What’s with the Belvedere? Is there
“You’ve never stayed there?”
“No. My brother is going to stay there next month,
so I thought I would try it.”
Edie snickered under her breath.
Poor guy, losing it left and right. Edie didn’t want
to be nice. First of all, because it would ruin the whole
snarling cabbie mystique, but also because trenchcoats and
suits and Windsor-knot arrogance were not what she considered
positive traits. And so, yes, for the second time that night,
the sucker-gene kicked in. Carefully she picked her words,
doing her best not to scare him. “It’s not too
bad. More adventurous than your typical accommodations.
Kind of a couples thing. I knew you didn’t look the
type, but you know, still waters run deep. And I’ve
been wrong before. Once.”
He snickered back. She heard it, which made her feel better
because laughter, even scoffing laughter, counted for something.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m sacked. Give
me a shot of scotch, clean sheets, a decent surface and
I’m out anyway.” He ended up with a careless
shrug, this from a man who didn’t do careless at all.
Edie squinted through the windshield, the rain pelting
down on the roof, the wipers squeaking up-tempo. “What
are you here for? Business? Pleasure?” she asked,
merging to the right to escape the upcoming traffic.
“I was meeting someone.” When he answered,
his voice was flat, missing both thunder and lightning.
In fact, Edie would bet copious amounts of cash that he
didn’t even know who AC/DC was.
“And thus the Belvedere,” she surmised. A romantic
getaway for the romantically-challenged. Apparently his
brother had gotten the brains in the family. “You
should thank your brother when you get back home.”
“Not a chance in hell.”
This time, she heard the glossed-over dip in his voice,
the Southern drawl so disdained by every self-respecting
New Yawker. “Where’s home?”
“Don’t be. It’s a good city.”
“It’s not New York,” she corrected.
“Have you ever been to Houston?”
“Once. I had an ex who was a bull-rider. Leon ‘The
BallBreaker’ Braker. I completely bought into the
image until I went to the Houston Livestock show. The bull
threw him off in two-point-seven seconds, and that was it.
I broke up with him the next week. Faker.”
“That’s very cold of you.”
“Nah. I fixed him up with this chick I met in the
hotel bar. She was a chiropractor. They’re married
He resumed the blind stare out the window, which she knew
was blind, because they were currently easing up on Brooklyn
instead of Manhattan, and he hadn’t said a word. He
was either directionally-challenged or emotionally numb.
She was betting on the later, which made her try even harder
to cheer him up.
“This weather's hell. Where’s the girlfriend?
Instead of cooperating, he stayed silent, choosing not
to spill his most private thoughts to a complete stranger.
Since he left her mind to its own creative devices Edie
assessed his situation. Girlfriend wasn’t showing
and he was crushed. Windsor knots never took rejection well,
although he didn’t seem as heartbroken as she thought
he should be. She wondered if he liked quiet redheads, because
Patience needed to meet a guy who didn’t yell. Somebody
who knew how to keep his emotions in check, and Mr. Trenchcoat
was nothing if not repressed.
“She’s not showing, is she? Tough beans, but
hey, the Belvedere’s great for getting to know people.
I’ll bet you’ll meet someone new tonight, a
leggy blond, or maybe twins.”
He chose to ignore her attempts to perk him up, which annoyed
her, because she was going out of her way to be nice, and
why didn’t he appreciate it? Most of all, Edie didn’t
do silence well. Never had.
Furiously she changed lanes into on-coming traffic, just
to make sure he was still alive. Mr. End-Of-The-World-As-We-Know-It
didn’t say a word. Ignoring the cards behind her,
Edie slammed on the brakes and finally erupted.
“Oh, come on. We’ve got another thirty-fifty-ninety
minutes. People bond in long car rides, and I don’t
like talking to myself. Let’s try something easy.
Like… how long you two been together?”
“Do we have to talk?” he asked, as the cars
behind them started to honk.
“Yes. I’m trying to give you the full New York
cabbie experience, so couldn’t you be a little cooperative?
It’s an easy question, a few words at most. Just something
to keep me going here.”
She heard the deep indrawn breath, a slow glacial defrosting
sound. “Three years. Or maybe five?”
“You don’t know?” she blurted out, not
bothering to hide the horror.
“Not exactly. Can we drive now?”
Whoa, boy. No wonder he was getting the cold shoulder.
Forget fixing him up with Patience. She deserved better.
Gingerly, Edie got the cab moving again. “I can
see the problem.”
“And I’m sure you have advice.”
“No way, buddy. You dug that hole all by yourself.
A grave is a dark, damp place late at night.”
“If you sleep well, you never know. I always sleep
She glanced in the mirror, noted the cock-sure confidence
in his eyes, his face, even the rigid posture – all
while enduring what should be a death-defying motor vehicle
experience. A humiliating moment in Edie’s bright
cab-driving career, which was getting dimmer by the minute.
“I bet you used meds for sleep,” she muttered,
because she didn’t like being a failure at anything.
It was a trait inherited from her father -- one of the very
few that she admitted.
“No meds. You have to be smart about your life. Control
stress, eat healthy, exercise.”
“It’s your funeral,” he answered in that
supremely unsettled voice.
“Yeah, but I’m not sleeping alone tonight,”
she shot back, perhaps a petty taunt, but it wasn’t
like his ego couldn’t take it.
“Barnaby?” He sounded disturbed. Disapproving.
“Nah,” she answered smoothly. “I’ll
go out trolling after I drop you off. Premeditation takes
all the spontaneity out of it. It’s like walking around
with a lightning rod over your head and pretending to be
shocked when the storm hits. What fun is that?
And he completely bought it. “You’re going
to go hook up with some stranger?”
“Oh, sure,” she gushed, finally discovering
which buttons to push. “It’s a lot more exciting
“Not if you’re smart.”
“What if he’s a criminal?”
He sounded genuinely concerned, which was sweet, but unnecessary
since Edie didn’t believe in one-night stands. Sex
was part of the biological symbiosis that wove through the
earth. You had to follow the strands of karmic DNA that
were laid out in front of you, and picking up strange men
in clubs was forging a connection that didn’t exist.
When she glanced in the mirror, she noticed the worried
frown, and she probably should have eased up on the man.
But not yet. He wasn’t staring out the window anymore,
which was definite progress. “You can tell a killer
by the eyes. They’re cold and flat, missing the soul.”
“By that definition, I’m a serial killer.”
She looked again, saw the impassive stare, and smiled.
“No you’re not. I can read your eyes.”
“Right,” he shot back, his quiet voice dripping
with blaring sarcasm. Cocky, but clueless. Typical. “What
do my eyes say?” he asked, possibly because of her
“You really want to know?”
“No,” he answered, not responding well to teasing.
“Oh, come on. You know you want it.”
And once again, he sighed. Life was getting better and
better. “Go ahead.”
She considered fibbing, but Mr. Trenchcoat needed something
to perk him up. “You’re cold and flat, but you
still possess the soul. However, you belong in the Hilton,
not the Belvedere.”
“Yet true,” she shot back, daring him to deny
“Are we there yet?” he asked, apparently not
fond of the whole self-analysis thing. Not like she’d
ever met a man who was.
Her watch said it was nearly three in the morning. The
downpours had eased to a hair-frizzing drizzle, the traffic
had eased to a tolerable crawl, and the lights of East Flatbush
were beautiful under the full moon. “A few more miles.”
“Why is Manhattan that way?” he finally asked,
his hand pointing to the west. “Shouldn’t we
be headed in that direction?”
“I thought you’d like to see more of the outer
boroughs. Most people don’t appreciate the architectural
diversity of the city. It’s very picturesque.”
“I’m not going to pay extra because you got
Lost? Edie? Ha. “Flat rate from the airport
to the city. It’s the rules.”
“And now you turn law-abiding?”
“You’re just fun to joke with, and you look
like you needed cheering up.”
“It’s late. I’m tired. I want to get
to the hotel.”
“Are you always this crabby when you’re tired?”
“Don’t you want to see Underground New York,
the part that tourists always overlook?”
“At some point, you’ll have to get out and
see the sights. You can’t let rejection get you down.
She’s not worth it.”
“She’s not getting me down.”
“Oh, yeah, sure, believe what you want. Tonight,
when you’re alone in that mirrored ceiling bed, you’ll
be staring at yourself with those empty eyes. And before
I know it, you’ll be the front page on the Times,
having jumped naked from the Brooklyn Bridge.”
“A mirrored-ceiling bed?” he repeated, picking
out the least inflammatory bit of her sentence. It said
so much about his sexual psyche.
“Of course. You should check out the theater.”
“At the hotel. It’s live. The guests can reserve
a time-slot, and uh-hem -- perform for whoever wants to
watch. You have to make reservations in advance, though.
I heard the seats fill up fast.”
Edie grinned at him in the mirror. “I’m kidding.”
“I thought so,” he told her, so obviously a
“I’m kidding about the reservations. It’s
“I don’t believe you,” he answered stiffly,
but she noticed him pulling at the knot at his throat.
Certainly, some of the Belvedere tales were urban legend,
and then some were nothing but Page Six gossip, but Edie
firmly believed that where there was smoke, there was usually
an arsonist with a can of kerosene and a match that didn’t
want to light. Frankly, a viewing room sounded fun -- as
long as the man was sexy, and the woman didn’t have
leg hair. Edie would never be caught in hose, but she always
shaved. A woman needed some standards.
“Can you just take me to the hotel?” he asked,
impatience finally starting to show. Sadly Edie realized
that her joy-ride, such as it was, was over. She’d
have to go back to the apartment. Have to listen to her
upstairs neighbor and his girlfriend getting hot and sweaty
between the sheets. She’d have to stare at bad TV,
and listen to the clock-ticking dark. All of which she hated
with a passion.
So okay, perhaps when she took the u-turn in the middle
of Nostrand Avenue, it was a little reckless. The car rocked
over the curb and Edie jerked at the wheel, pulling tight
to the left. At last all four tires were firmly back on
the earth. Perhaps a little too firmly, because that was
when she heard the noise.
Ka-lunk. Ka-lunk. Ka-lunk.
For a split second, panic stuck in her throat, until she
met his eyes in the mirror. Unmoved, and completely in control.
Bastard. Quickly she cleared the anxiety away, and when
she spoke, it sounded almost calm. “What was that?”
His lips curled at the corners, and the cool, emotionless
eyes gleamed like the devil. “A flat.”
It was the night from hell. If it hadn’t been for
the raw nerves in the cabbie’s expression, he would
have been furious, but he’d seen that panic before.
In his line of work, he saw the fear of death everyday,
and the instinct to take control was second nature to Dr.
“Does Barnaby have a spare?” he asked patiently,
using his clinical voice.
At his question, she turned to face him, and he could see
the shakes receding. Her color was better and the quiver
in her eyes was gone. “I don’t know.”
His mind ran through the steps, making a mental checklist
of tools and procedure, and he was happy for the diversion.
Changing flats, performing a quadruple bypass -- these were
the things that he was prepared for. A kiss-off from Cynthia?
Not in this lifetime. And Tyler hated being unprepared.
“We’ll check the trunk.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, already falling into blind
obedience, which peopled tended to do at the sound of his
clinical voice. Was it uncertainty, or a sheep-like personality
that suddenly made her so agreeable? Considering the magenta
streaks in the short blond hair, he was betting on the uncertainty.
However, no time for uncertainty now. The rain pounded
on the roof, but regrettably his trenchcoat would have to
go. Tyler wasn't about to sacrifice his best coat to axle
grease and the New York grime, probably infected with toxins
and biological agents that the EPA had banned decades ago.
Tyler took a deep breath, rolled up his sleeves, and headed
for the great outdoors.
The great outdoors was no thrill ride. Water showered his
head, and he bit back a curse. Tyler didn’t believe
in using disrespectful words. It indicated a lack of control,
as well as a juvenile vocabulary. Neither of which were
necessary, because he thrived on bad circumstances. He had
pulled off aortal coarctations that were nothing short of
miraculous. In the big scheme of things, rain was nothing.
Except a damned inconvenience.
As he waded toward the trunk in his favorite pair of shark-skin
boots, a thousand swearwords floated in his brain, itching
to break free. They looked to be stuck in the hardest part
of Brooklyn, somewhere along Flatbush Avenue. Not the best
neighborhood in the world, and probably not the best place
to buy a tire. Hopefully, Barnaby believed in appropriate
preparations, he thought, reaching for the trunk lid, but
the cabbie was faster. Tyler smiled with relief when he
spotted the jack, the lug-wrench and the tread-less doughnut.
Not great, but it’d do.
“Thank God,” she whispered in an awed voice,
for the first time not quite so cavalier. About time, too.
(None too soon? Instead of none too late. I’ve never
heard ‘none too late’
It was no surprise when she started to unwedge the tire
from the trunk, in fact, he had expected it, but he stopped
her with a polite tap on the arm. “I can do this.”
“I should do it,” she insisted, tugging uselessly
on the tire. “I flew over that curb like a bat out
of a cannon. And it’s my personal dogma that when
you do bad, you need to immediately make right, or something
worse will come down the pipe.”
Something worse? What was she expecting? Famine, pestilence,
Patiently he met her eyes, watching the rain stream down
her face, waiting for wisdom to dawn. Tyler believed that
at some point, a person needed to abandon frou-frou principles
and do what had to be done. The stubborn line in her jaw
didn’t bode well for misplaced-principle-abandonment,
but her eyes were getting a little smarter. Eventually,
“At least let me help,” she suggested -- almost
sensibly. “If you’re going to get soaked and
be miserable, I should do it, too.”
His gaze raked over her, impersonal, clinical, having nothing
to do with her t-shirt that was transparently soaked. Yes,
Cynthia had blown off their relationship in a text message
– in a text message – a fact that really
grated, because it seemed rude. Not that he was hurt, or
disappointed, and he wasn’t sure why he wasn’t
hurt or disappointed, but a text message? Perhaps that was
why his macular muscles kept straying to her chest., because
Tyler wasn’t a big fan of carnal philandering. He
never had the time nor the inclination, however the sight
of jutting nipples was torpedoing his normally restrained
inclinations. “Not necessary. Wait in the cab,”
“Please,” she asked, and it was a testament
to the power of the sexual dynamic that he stood there,
foolishly dripping in the rain, his gaze locked to her face,
which was – unfortunately -- nearly as tasty as the
twin nipples that he didn't want to want.
Her blonde-hair was cut short, which he wasn’t normally
a big fan of, but it worked for her in that, ‘I’m
too sexy for a boy” look. His eyes tracked down her
chest, then tracked back to the trunk. Quickly he blinked
away the sticky cobwebs and concentrated on the task at
hand. The flat. “Do you have a flashlight?
Maybe Barnaby has one in the glove box?”
He didn’t need the light, but he didn’t want
her breasts hovering over him while he worked. The rain,
the text message, the punctured tire – everything
was starting to flat-line his brain.
“I don’t think Barnaby's that well stocked,”
she argued, shoving her hands in her jean pockets, which
only drew the shirt tighter.
Tyler heard a loud pop in his ears. Something had backfired.
Either a car or his normally restrained inclinations.
Desperately he scanned the street, wiping the rain from
There were no cars. He was damned.
“Can you look? Please?” he pleaded, needing
to have her and her tightly packed body out of his sights.
Happily she disappeared, but then returned in a too-short-two
seconds – with a flashlight. Of course. Trying
to help, she directed the light beam in the direction of
the rear wheel. “I found one in my bag. It was a giveaway
at this Hudson River Wildlife and Fisheries Symposium. It
was a few months back so I’d forgotten.”
“Lucky me,” he murmured, setting the jack under
the axle, and starting to twist off the lug nuts. Twisting
tight. Painfully hard. Until he felt something give. Principles.
Dogma. Iron-like restraint.
“I’m Edie,” she told him, because apparently
now was the perfect time for introductions.
Edie. A cute, perky name. With cute perky breasts. And
gamin brown eyes that sparkled in the rain. Sparkled.
Tyler gave the nut another vicious twist, waiting for it
to set him free.
“What’s your name?” she asked. Her conversation
wasn’t what he was used to. Tyler liked clinical,
coldly impersonal, eight-syllable words that didn’t
involve sex, emotion, or god-forbid, rejection.
Instead of replying, he pulled even tighter.
“Don’t be mad. You know rain is very good for
the planet. It’s cleansing and nourishing, feeding
the parched earth.”
“Not in New York,” he said, wiping at his face,
feeling the grime cling to his skin. Dirt was unsanitary,
a breeding ground for flesh-eating bacteria and flesh-licking
sex. Quietly he groaned.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, finally
feeling the guilt that he believed she should have felt
several thousand hours ago.
Fully intending to give her a well-deserved lecture, Tyler
glanced up, but she looked so… needy. God, he hated
needy. “I’m Tyler.”
“Tyler. Pleased to meet you. You got that?”
she asked, just after he finished with the nuts, and was
prying off the hubcap.
“Yeah. Doing great,” he answered, flinching
when a city bus cruised by, splashing him in the face.
Carefully he wiped the mud away, not happy when he saw
her expression. If she were a nice person, she wouldn’t
be laughing at him, she would be grateful. Deeply grateful.
“Is there a problem?” he asked, polite, thoughtful,
trying to set an example and hopefully wipe the smirk from
her face. Although on the plus side, it did keep him from
staring at her nipples.
“Nope. No problem,” she answered. Her arms
crossed over chest, and her breasts stared him down with
“Good," Tyler agreed. "No problems here.
None.” But there was a painful problem growing in
his pants, and he wondered if this two-month interventional
cardiology fellowship in New York was really a great idea.
Of course it was a great idea. Working with Dr. Abe Keating,
competing for the ACT/Keating Endowment Award. The cardiology
fellowship was a chance to showcase his talents, and most
of all, give him a shot at Keating’s endowment, a
chance to work side by side with the surgeon for another
three years, doing the research that would change the way
cardio-vascular surgery was done forever.
Spurred on by the drenching rain, the occasional honking
car which didn't want to stop, and his barely restrained
sexual frustration, Tyler changed the tire in record time.
He twisted hard on the wrench, tightening the nuts on the
doughnut, feeling his nuts tighten with
Each. Miserable. Twist.
Just as he was putting the flat in the trunk, a cop car
slid to a halt beside them. The officer rolled down the
window, not bothering to get out, because apparently New
York cops were too smart to change tires in soaking rain.
“Need any help?” asked the officer, his eyes
straying to Edie’s chest.
“All done, officer,” Edie answered agreeably,
possibly with a new-found respect for the law. Probably
because she was driving without a hack license.
“You need any help, miss?” the cop asked the
criminal cabbie, because apparently the dripping, greasy-handed
cardio-thoracic surgeon now looked the part of the perp.
Tyler scowled and then stepped in front of her chest. “She
doesn’t need anything,” he told the officer,
because the last thing he needed was for her to get thrown
in jail. If that happened, then he'd never get to the hotel.
He'd never get sex… Sleep. Sleep was what
he desperately needed.
The cop, sensing there was no criminal activity afoot,
drove away, and Tyler and Edie climbed back in the cab.
This time when she drove, Edie took the corners as slow
as a grandmother, humming happily.
Tyler examined his mud-splattered shirt, pulling it free
from his pants, ready to burn the damn thing. He looked
up into the rear-view mirror and met her eyes. “Why
are you smiling?”
“You look good in dirt," she told him, and he
noticed the dimple on the right cheek, which was completely
free of both dirt or guilt.
“You’re not helping.”
“I’m trying to cheer you up." She sounded
sincere and completely comfortable. Not painfully aroused.
Not wondering what he looked liked naked.
“Get me to my hotel," he growled, too tired
for his clinical voice. "That'll cheer me up.”
“Why don’t you like me?”
“Because you feed on people’s pain.”
“I do not," she insisted.
“Then why are you so intrigued by the fact that I
got dumped?” It stung. Yes. Stung. Tyler
wasn't used to pain. He cured pain. He prescribed meds for
pain. He analyzed pain, and monitored pain, but goddamnit,
he did not feel it. It wasn’t even Cynthia so much
as the idea that he wasn’t good enough. It was a pain
he’d stopped felling a long time ago. Or so he thought.
“Aha, I knew I was right," Edie chirped, pouring
salt into the wound. "Not that I'm happy you got dumped.
Satisfied, yes? I mean, I do like to be right. Especially
on matters of reading people. Don’t you like adventures?”
Adventures were the nation’s number one cause
He blamed Cynthia for his foul mood. She had dragged him
into this gutter of embarrassing juvenile behavior. Edie
had merely pummeled him until he had no choice but to regress.
Such asinine justifications cheered him up.
Almost as much as the cheery idea of dirty, bacteria-infected,
saliva-swapping sex. Tyler smiled to himself. "Sorry,"
he apologized politely.
“Why don’t you let me buy you a drink?”
she asked, apparently not sensing the darker trend to his
“Why?” he asked, stalling for time, because
his first answer that leaped to his brain was 'yes.'
“I owe you. You’re doing a nice thing, and
you didn’t say a word when I tooled all over the tri-state
region. Tonight you've changed a flat, your girlfriend of
some indeterminate amount of time dumped you, all of which
happened when you should be getting well laid at the hotel.
If there’s anybody in the world that needs a drink,
it’s you. Maybe a shot of tequila, or ouzo. I know
this Greek bar...”
“I don’t want to go to a Greek bar,”
he told her, shifting uncomfortably, finding an exposed
spring in the seat, feeling it cut into his thigh. Probably
severing the femoral artery, thereby letting him bleed out
a quick and painless death. Then Cynthia would feel bad.
Because she had dumped him in a text message.
“How about an American bar?” Edie suggested,
as if all his immediate pains could be solved with alcohol.
A bar was a recipe for disaster, but since Tyler had apparently
not severed his femoral artery and was going to live, alcohol
now seemed almost plausible.
“If I let you buy me a drink, one drink -- will you
drive me back to the hotel?” There was a roughness
in his voice that worried him. And now he was creating justifications
of extraordinary mental dexterity designed solely to further
his own penile agenda. Although to be fair, he didn’t
want to have a penile agenda. He wanted to get to the hotel,
take a shower, climb into bed. He could visualize it all.
Unfortunately, his visuals also included Edie. And she was
naked. And limber.
“I’ll drive you straight back to the hotel.
I swear,” she promised, but Tyler knew when disaster
lurked around the corner, when a surgery was doomed before
it started. He didn’t like to think these were premonitions,
because that implied his subconscious was guiding his decision
-- or worse, his penis.
Tonight Cynthia had dumped him. Texas’ #4 cardio-thoracic
surgeon with a net worth of over four million, who had saved
her father’s life, not once, but three times, not
that anyone was counting. If there was a woman in the world
who owed him her undying gratitude, it was Cynthia.
So what if he wanted to be a jackass? If he wanted to have
a drink? If he wanted to have limber sex with a woman who
felt some deep-seated desire to make him feel better? By
God, he should. If he wanted to do something wild, spontaneous,
and hair-raising, then by God, he had a premeditated right
to go for it.
It was because of such elaborate rationalizations that
his father had called him Shit-For-Brains Sophocles, but
Tyler always shrugged it off. Although now he did wonder
if Sophocles ever created meaningless justifications in
pursuit of limber sex. Probably not. Probably Sophocles
never had shit for brains. Only Tyler.
“One drink. An American bar,” he agreed, resigned
to his decision.
“A friend of mine works in a strip club.”
He smiled at her, mud-splattered and grimy with an agenda
that was just as black.
The club was like an underground cavern with rotating lights,
an abundance of surgically enhanced body parts, and a low
heavy rhythm that could have aroused a dead eunuch. Identifying
all the cheap marketing tactics designed to titillate him
did not erase the fact that the place was getting to him.
Or maybe it was her.
A woman with a four-hour repertoire of dirty jokes, and
a body that had never been under a scalpel. The body in
question had sultry curves and a rosebud tattoo that rode
high on her left breast -- regrettably a little too high.
Yes, his conscience was feeling shallow and debauched, but
in his own defense, beneath all that non-packaged packaging
was a curiously appealing joie de vivre.
The club's whiskey was watered-down and overpriced, but
it didn’t matter. He didn't touch his glass, but he
could feel himself getting loose. Her smile was infectious
-- in the manner of avian flu or staphylococcus, he added
as an afterthought. Dr. Tyler Hart was flying wild and free,
coming down with a bad case of dick-brain.
Edie slipped an orange slice into her mouth, the juice
dribbling down one side of her lip. She had a luscious mouth.
Not collagen-full, not schoolmarm thin. Juicy, he thought
with a stupid grin, his mind wondering what her mouth tasted
like. He was allergic to citrus, but was anaphylactic shock
so bad? He hadn’t been tested in years, and people
outgrew allergies, so theoretically, he had probably outgrown
his citrus allergy. Tyler leaned closer, taking a deep whiff
of orange and Edie, which promptly sent him into the first
throes of sexual dysphoria.
“What was her name?” she asked, and he had
to blink twice in order to focus on the words. Words.
Slowly his mind formed a suitable answer. “Cynthia.”
At the name, some of the sexual dysphoria evaporated.
“Cynthia,” she repeated in a snotty voice and
then giggled. She had an annoying giggle that made him want
to smile, or maybe it was the way her eyes watched his face,
as if he were the most fascinating man on his planet. His
med school roommate, Ryan, had called him an alcoholic lightweight.
Because of that, Tyler usually was careful about over-drinking.
Tyler lifted his full glass and then took a careful sip.
“Was Cynthia blonde?”
“You’re blonde,” he pointed out, but
then worried that he had a type. What if he was fatally
attracted to toxic blondes? Quickly he slammed the last
of his whiskey. When confronted with the possibility of
his own human foibles, honestly, he’d rather be drunk.
“I’m not a natural blonde.”
“Neither was Cynthia,” he volunteered in an
unceasingly unchilvarious fashion.
Edie giggled again. This time, Tyler smiled back.
“I could buy you a lapdance,” she offered,
so guilelessly sympathetic it should have touched his heart.
You could give me a lapdance, he thought, and
decided he wouldn’t drink any more. Someone needed
to stay in charge. God forbid that it was her.
“Do you know why she dumped you?”
“She didn’t dump me,” he protested, although
why he was lying he didn’t know. Cynthia had dumped
him. Rejected him. Humiliated him. And if he were smarter,
he’d be milking this for all the sympathy points that
he could get. As a specialist in coronary bypass, Tyler
understood how easily the heart could be manipulated.
He lowered his head, the very picture of dejection. ”You’re
At his words, Edie put a comforting arm around his shoulders,
and Tyler shamelessly moved in closer, drawn to her warmth,
her generous nature, the feel of her warm and generous breasts
brushing against him. Unsurprisingly, some of the sting
of rejection disappeared. Unsurprisingly as well, the size
of his cock grew in inverse proportion to the regressing
“I’m sorry,” she said, and once again
he heard the tenderness in her voice. He was a virtual stranger,
and an unchivalarous stranger at that. Before meeting Edie,
he had thought that New Yorkers were hard-hearted and cynical,
unmoved by the pathos of human suffering --
-- except for this one.
He met her eyes. “Thank you,” he told her,
feeling sincere, grateful, and painfully aroused.
“Do you want to meet Paradise?”
“I’d love to,” he agreed, his mind already
transported to a lurid Paradise where there was no dirt,
no naked, gyrating dancers – unless it was Edie. He'd
let her dance. As long as she was naked. Paradise sounded
However, instead of taking his hand, and leading him away
from this hell, she stood, and waved her hand, gesturing
wildly to one of the dancers.
Enlightenment shouldn't hurt so much.
“Is that Paradise?” he guessed, as the buxom
redhead bounced and buoyed her way towards him. Painful
enlightenment rolling in his gut.
“What do you think?” asked Edie, looking extraordinarily
pleased with herself as she started on the introductions.
“Tyler, meet Paradise, aka Anita.”
Anita, held out her hand, and politely Tyler shook it,
not wanting to stare at what had to be 42 Double D, but
somehow he knew that laws of nature and gravity had both
been violated in the altering of her breasts.
“You have to be nice to Ty. I put him through holy-hell
tonight. Girlfriend dumped him, then I had a flat, which
he changed in the rain by the way, and didn’t even
complain. Not once. He let me drive into Brooklyn, and didn’t
bitch about it, even though I knew he knew we weren't in
Manhattan. And he’s a visiting Gemini from Houston.”
Her words were a heroic tribute to a man who was swimming
upstream in a tide of lascivious spawn, and whose very life
now depended on getting Edie Higgins out of her pants. Not
wanting to disappoint her, Tyler adopted the humble aspect
of a man who could do no wrong.
“You poor man,” Anita cooed, as Edie wandered
off to buy him another drink because by God, he had earned
The dancer moved in closer, eyelashes aflutter, and began
stroking his arm. Thank God it was only his arm.
Tyler tried to focus on her face, rather than her bare
breasts, and happily noted the absence of forehead wrinkles
that indicated either skin injections or a curious lack
of stress in her life. Quickly he scanned the room, noted
the glistening skin, the sultry dips and shakes, and knew
it had to be Botox. If he spent every night in this place,
he'd be ready for Botox, too.
“How do you know Edie?” he asked, finding a
square of ceiling tile to concentrate on.
“We met in at NYU.”
“You’re a student?” he asked, proudly
not jumping when a dancer gyrated dangerously close to his
“Of course,” he answered absently, searching
out Edie at the bar.
“She’s a peach."
“You like her?” she asked, looking at him with
Tyler protested quickly. Apparently too quickly, because
Anita smiled with naked sympathy. “It’s okay.
You don’t have to feel bad. All the guys love Edie.”
“Really?” he asked, watching across the room,
where Edie was leaning against the long, silver bar.
Loving Edie was bad. She was too chipper, too
needy, had a well-shaped nose for trouble… and
a great ass, he thought, leering at her skin-tight
jeans that showcased every line and every forbidden crevice.
Every. Single. One.
Hastily he swallowed air.
“See the bartender?” Anita pointed toward the
large, hulking creature with a chain tattooed on his neck,
and Tyler dragged his bleary eyes away from Edie.
“I see him.”
“They had a thing a few years ago, but she dumped
“Who’d she fix him up with?”
Anita laughed, chucking him on the arm. “You’re
brighter than most.”
“Of course. So, who was the next victim?” he
asked, even though he already knew. Anita was watching the
chain-painted bruiser with sappy eyes. After only a few
hours in the city, Tyler was now convinced that the stereotyped
condition of the New York heart was flat-out wrong.
“The next victim was me,” she sighed, confirming
Saps. All of them.
A happy patron walked past, curving a hand over Anita's
naked thigh and Anita only smiled. The bartender didn't
blink. Tyler shook his head, surprised “That’s
very uh, open of both of you that he doesn't get jealous.”
“I’m putting him through acting school. It
eases the pain.”
“Yes, I could see that,” he answered, but his
eyes went back to the bar, drawn to Edie once again. In
a naked sea of female perfection, the bartender was ogling
the one female who was completely clothed. And Dr. Tyler
Hart completely understood.
As if she sensed his momentary weakness, Edie turned, met
his eyes, and smiled from across the room.
“She’s not into relationships,” warned
“Me, neither,” answered Tyler, and Tyler watched
as Edie came toward him four shot glasses. Just then the
music increased, a gravel-throated singer moaning about
the Highway to Hell.
And tonight Dr. Tyler Hart was riding her for all he was
» available at Amazon