excerpt ::

Shadows Steal the Light
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The lid on the jar seemed as though it had been welded shut, but her tenacity and hunger endowed
her with what felt like superhuman strength. As she hurried along, wrenching at the lid, head buried in her task, she tripped in a crosscut of uneven pavement and bounced off the chest of a man’s raincoat. Trying to maintain her balance, she lost hold of the jar, sending it spinning into the street.

“Bloody hell! You should be watchin’ where yer goin’! I’ve not hurt you have I?” The tall, well built blonde Englishman said. He took hold of her shoulders to steady her. As his eyes met hers, he drew in an audible breath of surprise. “Lord, you’ve the eyes of a goddess, my dear!”

“I’m sorry, you’re right. I wasn’t looking where I was–” Jenna paused as she looked up at him. The handsome face of the man wearing the lightweight coat, likewise, took her aback. “I’m afraid I’ve lost my jar, too.” What a stupid thing to say, she thought, as she continued to stare into his amazing sky blue eyes.

“Let me collect your container for you”, he said as he let go of her and headed into the street. The
jar was still gyrating against the curb as he picked it up. He looked at the label. “Peanut butter…you’re an American, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she answered. “Why does everyone think peanut butter is from another planet?”

“Guess it’s just something not many English have grown to fancy, at least not yet.” He raised
a quizzical brow. “Is this all you’re havin’ for breakfast, my dear? I could use a spot of tea. Would you care to join me? There’s a newsagent ’round the corner who has a hot cuppa and a place to sit,” he said, handing her the jar. He put his arm around her shoulder and began to guide her.

Shrugging his arm from her shoulder she charged, “Excuse me…uhh, sir, but I’m not accustomed to
heading off with any random man that I’ve run into on the street.” Backing away from him, she stood her ground, a determined look on her face.

“Sorry, luv. I’m attemptin’ to be a gentleman and offer you my apologies for impedin’ your peanut
butter mission. Am I bein’ too presumptuous?” Stepping back, he extending his hand toward hers. “My name’s Colin”. He shook her hand. “Now that we’ve officially met, can I ask you to tea again?”

“You can ask, but I’m heading back to my hotel for breakfast. I’m meeting someone at nine thirty.”

“Half nine. That will give me plenty of time to make amends. It’s only a cup of tea. Please, miss,
uuh, misses…”

“Jenna. Jenna Lindstrom,” she said, putting the jar of peanut butter into the oversized pocket
of her windbreaker.

“You’ve more than an hour until your date. Please allow me the opportunity to buy you some tea,
Jenna.” His eyes glimmered in pleading invitation. She looked at him, evaluating the ardent expression on his face.

“Maybe just for a few minutes,” she answered with a hesitant edge.

“Lovely. May I offer you my arm?” He extended his elbow towards her. She tentatively laced her
arm through his and they walked down the small tributary road running at a 90-degree angle to the high street. The cool of the morning was giving way to the warmth of July sunshine. Shop owners were opening their doors, sweeping the pavement in front of their establishments, washing front windows, and setting out their wares. Colin and Jenna wove around the bustle of activity for another two hundred yards.

“I’m afraid this is it,” Colin said apologetically, looking towards the pencil thin shop, newsstands
nearly blocking its entrance. “They’ve a counter just inside,” he said, motioning for her to enter first. Jenna walked into the slim passageway of a shop and approached the long, narrow counter. A glass enclosure
ran half its length, with baked goods lining the shiny metal racks inside. She lifted herself up onto a round green barstool. Colin did likewise on the stool next to her. The counter was smooth marble. Brass framing ran around the rectangular beveled mirror mounted on the dark mahogany of the wall behind. Cut crystal bud vases decorated with single blooms dotted the counter at regular intervals. It’s charming, she thought.

“Is this where you take all the women you accost on the street?”

He frowned. “I really must protest, Miss Lindstrom. I believe it was you doin’ the accostin’ this mornin’.” Colin peeled off his overcoat and draped it on the stool next to his. “The day is warmin’.”

“That’s an interesting t-shirt you’ve got there. “Stage crew”? Are you a roadie?”

“Some days I’d like to be, but no.”

“Good, because it’s no existence. Those rockers have a seriously diminished life expectancy.”

“And what makes you say that?”

“All the drugs, late hours, booze, women. You name it. There’s every vice offered and undertaken, I’m sure. Best case scenario, you’d be deaf by the time you’re fifty with all those loud amps blaring in your ears.”

“Come on, Jenna. Don’t sugar coat it. How do you really feel about rockers?”, Colin mouth hiked up at the corner in a display of wry amusement.

“Seriously, what’s with the shirt?”

“I’ve a mate workin’ for a band. Think we must ‘uv switched shirts in the laundry.”

She gave him an incredulous look. “Okay. Don’t tell me. What do you do, then?”

“As little as possible, most days of the week.” He cleared his throat. “Enough wonderings about me. Tell me what a beautiful American girl is doin’ out strolling down Kensington High Street before eight in the mornin’.”

“I’ve a concert to attend this evening. The benefit.”

“Ahh. I’d planned on goin’, as well.”

The short swarthy waiter behind the counter interrupted. “Whata can I get for you, bella lady?”

“Would you fancy a teacake or perhaps a scone with your mash, my dear?” Colin queried.

“Anything you suggest”, Jenna answered, trying to sound capable.

Colin looked at the quizzical expression on her face.“You really are new at this, aren’t you? Why don’t you have a look and point at what you’d fancy.” He stood, so she could see the contents of the glass enclosure.

Jenna rose from her stool and bent over the glass. “Hhmm. They all look wonderful. Which is the teacake?”

“The one just there.” He pointed toward the row of round currant-filled muffins.

“Oh. It looks like a biscuit with raisins,” she commented in relieved familiarity. “Yes. That would be great.”

The waiter lifted the teacake with metal tongs and placed it on a small white plate. “And you, sir?” he asked Colin.

“Nothin’ for me. I never eat this early on a set day.” A strange twinge of a wince crossed his face. “Only weekends,” he added quickly.. “I think you’ll enjoy the teacake.”

The waiter placed the plate in front of Jenna at the counter. “Anything else for you?”

“P G Tips or Typhoo, either you’ve got.”, Colin ordered.

Jenna looked at him in mild annoyance. “I’m sorry, Colin, but I’m afraid you’ll have to start speaking English or translate for me.”

He raised one brow. “I’ve been speaking English all along. It’s you who have only an American
frame of reference, my dear. I’m not playing James Bond on you, just ordering tea, by brand name.”

“Okay.” She shrugged, feeling like a complete idiot and returned to her stool.

Colin added, “If I was with you in an American coffee shop, I’m certain you could play the same game with me.” He gave her a wink. “Now where were we? Yes, you were about to tell me what you’re doing here in London, other than attending the AID’s benefit tonight.”

“I’m actually going through a little career change, looking into the possibilities on this side of the Atlantic.”

“So you’re from the east coast of the States?”

“No, west coast.”

“California, then?”

“Yes. Los Angeles. Santa Monica, actually.”

“Really? I’ve a friend that was just there. In fact he’s flyin’ in for the concert, as well. Perhaps I can ring
him. I’m sure he’d love to meet you. Maybe show you the hall, say during the loud bits when those rockers are performin’?”

“And why might you not be wanting to show me the hall?” she teased.

“Well, I’ve not got the backstage pass that he does. He’s in the business and can give you a proper tour.”

“We’ll see,” Jenna said tentatively.

~~~

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