Blood and Bone

By: Tara Brown

(Blood and Bone Series Book 1)




1. MISTAKEN IDENTITY

Samantha! Sam! Hey, wait up! Samantha Barnes! Wait!”

My footsteps quicken as I sigh, annoyed at the guy who is shouting behind me. It’s amazing his voice has carried through the crowd on the street for as long as it has. It’s also amazing he hasn’t caught Samantha Barnes yet, whoever she is.

I have to assume it’s one of two scenarios—either he’s slow as molasses on a cold day or she’s a gazelle and is way ahead of him.

“SAM!

“SAM!

“SAM, WAIT!”

Finally, I turn back to tell him he needs to run a lot faster or give up the chase, but the guy shouting is looking at me. “Sam, seriously, how fast do you walk?” He huffs and puffs like he might blow down the store next to me. He’s slight, sort of a teaspoon of a man. He looks like he’s going to take a knee or maybe just pass out altogether. His slim face is red and flushed.

I glance behind me, noticing no one else is stopped.

“I was running—for three blocks!” he gasps. He points and wheezes, “I knew—it was—you—whew! You walk—fast!” He has a slight overbite and spit on his bottom lip from the huffing and puffing. My nose wrinkles involuntarily at the heinous sight of the spit bubble.

I’m lost on whether or not he’ll wipe it away or if I’ll have to stare at it whilst he gets me mixed up with whomever he is looking for.

“You—walk so—fast.” His breathing is still labored, and his face seems to be getting redder. For a small guy, he’s awfully out of shape. After a moment, he runs his hands over his face, wiping away the sweat from his brow, and yet leaving behind the spit.

Lovely.

He does a huge sigh before speaking with the labored gasps. “I knew it was you when I saw you at Menchie’s. How are you? It’s been so long. Since what—second year, right?”

I shake my head, still mesmerized by the spit. Surely he feels it. Should I pull out a tissue and wipe it for him? How is it so bubbled and frothy?

He sighs. “It’s me, Ronald Armstrong. We were at Berkeley together a few years ago.” I cock an eyebrow, about to tell him he is mistaken, but he assumes it is an answer to his remark. “I suppose you’re right, it wasn’t a few years ago. Jesus, it was twelve years ago. That’s right, you missed the reunion    . I didn’t go either. I saw your name on the list of people not attending.”

I am drawing a huge blank. I never attended Berkeley, and I have never met him.

He smiles wide, flashing that overbite. “The year you left in the middle of the second semester, I heard you went FBI. You still with them?”

I nearly laugh, right in his frothy spit bubbler. “No.” Whoever Sam is, she is clearly smarter than I ever was. I offer him a weak smile. “I’m really sorry, but I never went to Berkeley. I never went to college. You must have the wrong person.”

His eyes narrow, and I can see the wheels turning, but he doesn’t believe me. He relives every moment that in his mind we have spent together and then shakes his head. “No, I remember you. You sat in front of me. We weren’t exactly friends, but I remember you. Is this an FBI thing?”

“Sorry. No.”

“We always called you Sam, and you were really smart, sort of an activist, if I recall.”

I shake my head again. “Jane. My name is Jane.” My yogurt is melting, but I can’t eat it while I stare at the white frothy spit bubble on his thin lower lip. I ponder the possibility that he will run after me if I just bolt and eat my yogurt in an alley.

He pauses a second as if processing the statement before he chuckles, rolling his eyes. “Oh shit. You’re messing with me. Jesus, you almost had me too. You look so serious. Man, I forgot what a joker you were. That’s crazy. Jane! Good one.” He uses his hands to make movements like his head has exploded. He has thin fingers. They bother me.

He laughs, and something about him does seem familiar. But I think it’s more that he has one of those faces—those rat faces that seem very similar. He points. “So how have you been?”

I give up and play along. “Good, and you?” I hope it will go faster and I can just get this over with.

“Good.” He nods, finally wiping his lips on his sleeve and saving me from the horror of the white spit. “Great, really good. I got a resident position in France, actually. I’m heading there in a few weeks. It’s just outside of Paris. They even have a residence for me so I can live for free while I finish my PhD. I’m so glad I switched my major. It means longer in school, but this opportunity is just such an affirmation that I made the right choice. Such a score.”

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