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“I don’t know,” I say to Cooper. I am slightly distracted by the size of the hand around my wrist. Cooper’s a big guy. Bigger than Tad. His fingers are warm against my skin. “My job, I guess? Payroll’s due soon. I gotta send a reminder to the kids to fill out their time sheets.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Cooper says. “And you know it.”

I sort of do know it. But I’m having trouble meeting his gaze—which is very blue, and very intent—with my own. My mouth has suddenly gone very dry, and my heart appears to be having some sort of attack—palpitations or simply a stoppage, it’s hard to say. My chest feels tight. I’m glad I showed my student workers Punky Brewster CPR training videos for fun during my annual Final Exam Holiday Cookie Decorating Study Break. I’m the one who’s probably going to end up needing it, when I go staggering inside in a few minutes.

“Don’t worry,” I say, keeping my gaze on his fingernails. They are not exactly manicured, unlike his brother’s. “I’m not going to start investigating Dr. Veatch’s murder on my own. I totally got the message yesterday, with the whole Mafioso thing.”

“That’s not what I mean, either.”

“Well, if you mean am I going to go over to the college chapel and pretend I have a soul that needs unburdening, and request Reverend Mark as the only guy to whom I can unburden it, in the hopes that he’ll try to feel me up so I can report him to the board of trustees myself,” I say, “I’m not going to do that, either, because I have to have at least a little face time in my office today, or risk losing my job.”

“I’m not talking about that, either,” Cooper says, in an uncharacteristically frustrated voice.

I take a chance on glancing up then, and am surprised to see that he isn’t even looking at me, but at some distant point somewhere over my left shoulder. But when I turn my head to see what’s so fascinating over there, the only thing I see is a Ryder rental truck parked in front of the building Owen lived in, right down the street from Fischer Hall. Which is weird, because it isn’t even the end or middle of the month. So who would be moving in or out? A couple must be divorcing, or something.

When I look back at Cooper again, he’s let go of my wrist, and turned to face the steering wheel once more.

“You better go,” he says, in his normal, slightly sardonic tone. “Payroll’s waiting.”

“Um.” Wait. What had he been going to say? Stupid Ryder truck! Stupid people, splitting up! “Yeah. I guess I better. Thanks for driving me up to Rock Ridge and for all your help with Gavin and Jamie and everything… ”

Cooper does something that astonishes me then. He actually smiles at the mention of Gavin’s name.

Now I’m definitely going to need CPR. Because that smile causes a blockage in all of my major arteries.

“I guess you were right all along,” he says. “He’s not such a bad kid, after all.”

Okay.What is going on with him?

But before I have time to figure it out, someone calls my name, and I look up and see Sarah standing on the sidewalk, staring at me, a nervous expression on her face.

At least I think it’s Sarah.

“Uh… see you at home, Heather,” Cooper says, taking in Sarah’s outfit with a raised eyebrow. It doesn’t take a trained detective to see that Sarah has undergone a radical makeover—she’s in lipstick and high heels, contact lenses instead of glasses, her hair blown and smooth, her legs bare and actually shaved. What’s more, she’s wearing a skirt — her skirt from her interview suit, maybe, with a white blouse that appears to have an actual Peter Pan collar (I didn’t know they even make those anymore).

But it’s a skirt, just the same.

She looks good. More than good. She looks hot. In a naughty librarian kind of way.

“Um… bye,” I say to Cooper, as I get slowly out of the car, and shut the door behind me.

Cooper shakes his head and drives away, leaving me alone with Sarah on the sidewalk. I realize I’ll just have to deal with him—and that heart-attack-inducing smile of his—later.

Although to be truthful, the fact that tonight will be the first night that my dad will be fully moved out—the first night in months that Cooper and I will actually be alone together in the brownstone—does cause my heart actually to skip a beat.

Stop it, Heather. You are engaged—well, practically—to another man. A man with whom you should be spending the night tonight.

Funny how the thought of spending the night with Tad does nothing whatsoever to my heartstrings.

Even though they’re a quarter of a mile away, I can hear the protesting GSCers chanting in front of the library.What they’re chanting, exactly, I can’t tell. But I can hear their strident voices, off in the distance, as clearly as I can hear the traffic on Sixth Avenue a block away.

“Hi, Heather,” Sarah says, fidgeting with her skirt. “I… I wanted to talk to you, but you… you were gone.”

“I had to run an errand,” I say, lamely. “Why aren’t you over there protesting? Why are you so dressed up?”

Sarah’s pretty face—yes! She actually looks pretty, for once—twists.

“Do I look too dressed up?” she asks anxiously. “I do, don’t I? I should go back upstairs and change? I was just—I was looking for you, to see what I should wear, but you weren’t around, so I asked Magda instead, and Magda—Magda did it.”

I look Sarah up and down. She looks, to be honest, fantastic. “Magda did this?”

“Yes. It’s too much, isn’t it? I knew it. I told her it was too much. I’m going back inside to change.”

I grab her wrist before she can do so.

“Hold on,” I say. “You look great. Honest. It’s not too much. At least, I don’t think so. Where are you going?”

A pink blush that has nothing to do with powder suffuses Sarah’s cheeks.

“Sebastian’s parents are in town,” she says. “He was arraigned this morning. They’ve posted his bail. I’m… I’m meeting them in Chinatown. We’re going to get something to eat.”

“So!” I can’t help laughing. “This is your meeting-his-parents look.”

“I look stupid,” Sarah says, tugging on the wrist I still hold. “I’ll go change.”