And finally, the third part of today’s countdown . . . An excerpt:<
See Anna through Joseph Bach’s eyes. . .
“The last person to see Nika,” Anna told him, “that I know of, so far, is her English Lit teacher, Erika Hodgeman. I spoke to her on the phone. Nika was in her final class of the day. Nothing seemed unusual, she wasn’t upset, she’d handed her homework assignment in, aced a pop quiz. I asked Ms. Hodgeman if she knew whether Nika had made any new friends recently, and . . .” Anna shook her head. “She said she didn’t really know, but that Nika came into class alone, and left alone. Same way she always did.”
“So she left school,” Bach said through Anna’s burst of sadness that her little sister was still struggling to fit in, “at what time?”
“At 2:27,” she told him, and then smiled wanly at his questioning glance. “She texted me then. See, I’m usually there to meet her-I make a point to walk her home after school — we meet at the corner. But I got a call that morning, for a job interview. So I texted Nika, telling her where I’d be. She texted me back after classes were over, at 2:27, with a good luck.”
“Where was the interview?” Bach asked.
“Downtown,” Anna said, frowning slightly. There was something bothering her about it-the interview.
So he pushed. “What was it for?”
“Does that matter?” she asked.
She sighed, then said, “It was for a secretarial position at Montgomery and Lowden, a law firm specializing in bankruptcies. It’s down near Government Center. I knew when I walked in that it was a waste of time. They were looking for someone older. There was confusion, too, about my appointment. I wasn’t on the list and they didn’t even have my résumé on file. So that was . . . awkward.”
“And yet someone called you to go in,” he pointed out.
She looked at him again, and he could both see and feel her realization. And as she suddenly turned and opened her daypack, he knew she was looking for her cell phone.
He watched her, one eye on the road, as she searched.
She was lovely, with a riot of dark curls cascading down her back, and dark brown eyes that would’ve revealed everything she was feeling, even if he hadn’t set up camp in her mind. Her face was pretty enough, with gorgeous mocha-colored skin and a smooth complexion, but it wouldn’t launch one ship, let alone a thousand — until she smiled.
When she’d smiled . . .
He tried to dissect what he’d seen, so that it would make sense, but it didn’t and he couldn’t. Her mouth was a mouth, perhaps slightly more generous than most, with lips that made him think a little too much about the simple pleasure of a kiss, so much so that he had to stop watching her and focus on the road.
It was strange, what he was feeling. Strange — and unwelcome.
Bach had always felt that he was lucky. He appreciated beautiful women. He enjoyed their company, their conversation, their companionship. But he’d never let himself get sidetracked or distracted by sexual attraction. He’d succeeded in shutting down that part of himself.
And if he ever did feel a glimmer of desire’s deep pull, it was never something that he couldn’t immediately control.
It made his life significantly less complicated.
Back in the monastery, there had been quite a few Greater-Thans who’d had trouble with the idea of celibacy. And, as Bach had found out tonight, Stephen Diaz apparently still struggled with their monk-like lifestyle.
But Bach never had.