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Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford

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He was correct.
But by the time she had pushed her way through the crowd to the entrance, it
was three fifty. The train left at four o’clock, and she feared Luke might have
gone ahead without her.

Then she
spotted him. There he was, holding a bag of donuts, looking impossibly handsome,
as he searched the crowd for a woman he had never met.

“I know what
you look like,” she had told him, but she had been wrong. He was better-looking
in person than he was on air, if that was possible. He wore jeans, a pale blue
cashmere sweater topped with a blazer and a vest. A long scarf of some exotic
weave was wrapped around his neck.

Layers, Fiona
thought. Like me. He looked more like a professor from the Ivy League college where
her father taught than one of the most respected television journalists on the
planet.

“Hi,” she
said, gasping for air like someone who had just completed the New York
Marathon. He turned around and smiled at her, which did nothing to slow her
breathing.

“Sorry,” was
all she could choke out. That giddy feeling she had been battling all day came
rushing back. This, coupled with shortness of breath from the run, and the
insane physical attraction she was feeling for this perfect stranger, was
making her feel faint.

“No worries,” Luke
said, taking her bag. “We’ll make it with time to spare.”

He grabbed her
hand and started running, pulling her along behind him. His hand was strong and
warm as he rushed her through the throng of commuters. They sprinted down the
stairs to the track.

“Board! All
aboard for Washington, D.C.”

The conductor
stepped onto the last car, swung his light to signal the engineer, and slowly the
train began to move down the tracks.

“Oh no!” Fiona
gasped. “I’ve made you miss it.”

Luke was
undaunted. Hanging onto Fiona’s hand, he raced down the last few steps toward the
train. He let go of her hand for a second, and leapt, still holding her luggage
and the donuts, and was on the moving train. He reached out his hand to her, as
the train began to speed up. He was pulling her, forcing to run alongside the
train.

“Jump!” he cried.
“I won’t let anything happen to you!”

And so she
jumped.

She didn’t
think about the consequences or the danger, she just jumped. He caught her, as he
had promised, and didn’t let go. They held onto each other, there in the vestibule
of the train, panting and wheezing and gasping for air.

Fiona started
to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, which made breathing all that
much harder. Then he began to laugh, too, and soon they were gone in paroxysms
of hysterical laughter mingled with dyspnea.

Fiona slid to
the floor, and Luke joined her. When, finally, she could breathe enough to
speak, she panted, “I’m Fiona,” and extended her hand.

“And I’m Luke.”
He grinned, taking her offered hand.

He did not let
go right away, and Fiona, the laugher gone now, made no move to pull away. They
just sat there, holding hands. And looking at one another with a kind of
wonder.

SIX

After
spending nearly eight hundred dollars, including the tip, for her new pixie cut,
Hayley decided to go all out. She left the salon and walked down Fifth Avenue
to Henri Bendel. In the past this store had intimidated her, but she was on a
roll today.

She pushed
open one of the heavy bronze doors, and stepped inside. The air was filled with
a mixture of exotic and expensive perfumes. The sales people all looked alike
in their stylish black ensembles and their flawless, heavily made-up faces.
Lash extensions were on every eye. Hayley’s face got very hot, and she headed back
toward the door.

“Very cool
haircut!” a voice called, but she kept on walking, never dreaming the voice was
speaking to her. No one had ever mentioned her hair in a favorable light.

“I’m thinking
of going pixie myself. Who cut it?” the voice asked.

Hayley turned
to find a young woman, who looked very much like the glamorous manikins in the
window, eying her hair appreciatively.

“Oh,” she said
casually as though it should be obvious. “Frederick.”

“I should have
known! A cut by him is on my bucket list. I hope I live that long. So, how may
I assist you today?”

Twenty-seven hundred
dollars later Hayley left the store dressed in a black-and-white dress by Jason
Wu, on sale, that Miss Jane Meeker, her new best friend, assured her was a mix
of innocence and aggression. On her feet was a pair of black Christian Louboutins,
not on sale. She thought the red soles were more attractive than the tops of most
of her other shoes.

Hayley took
the subway to the office. Old habits die hard, and she knew she would have to
raid the emergency fund she kept for Mikey to pay for this total extravagance.
But it would be worth it, if Luke Thompson looked at her like a woman. And not like
the little girl he taught how to slide into second base, as well as how to kiss
when they were kids.

Hayley knew
Fiona planned to meet with Luke at the office at about four. Her plan was to drop
by casually, just to say a quick hello. Then she would let nature take its
course. She tottered up the subway stairs in her new shoes, and checked her
herself out in the window of a shop. Jane Meeker was right. Innocence and
aggression personified. She was excited. She knew she looked good. No,
wonderful.

Hayley wanted the
meeting to be underway before she made her entrance. If they were nearly
finished with the details, she could suggest they grab a drink and catch up. Hashing
over old times would be boring for Fiona so it would be just the two of them.

She looked at her
phone, to check the time. It was only then she realized she had turned it off
earlier. When she powered up, she saw that Fiona had called her four times. She
dialed voicemail as she continued to admire herself in the window pane.

“Hayley, where
are you? I’ve been calling and calling. Change of plans. Something came up for
Luke. He has to go to D.C. I’m going with him on the train. I cleared my
calendar. I’ll stay over. Be back by tomorrow night.”

Hayley stood
frozen, gaping mindlessly at the girl reflected in the window. How ridiculous
she looked, like a child playing dressing-up in someone else’s expensive finery.

SEVEN

“You’ll
have to move inside the carriage.”

The voice of
the conductor startled both Fiona and Luke. They were sitting where they had landed,
on the floor of the vestibule of the Acela fast train, munching on the Krispy
Kremes which Luke had miraculously saved.

“It’s very pleasant
right here,” Fiona murmured, finishing off a powdered-sugar-dusted espresso donut.

“As a matter
of fact,” Luke said, offering the conductor the bag, “I believe I booked these seats.”

“Must have
been a glitch in your reservation, Mr. Thompson.” The conductor grinned,
helping himself to one of the donuts. “My records show you’ve got your usual
seat in the first-class car. I thought you’d missed the train.”

“It was close,
Charlie. But the lady here is an Olympic sprinter, and she got me here in time.”
Luke scrambled to his feet and offered Fiona his hand.

She laughed. “I
believe for my next race I’ll choose a different kind of track shoes.” She
flashed her four-inch platform heels.

“I couldn’t
walk two steps in those,” Charlie said. “Women are amazing.”

“Some more
than others,” Luke replied, carefully removing a speck of powdered sugar from
her cheek.

The gesture
felt strangely intimate to Fiona, and the butterflies circled back. She smiled
up at Luke, and the electricity between the two of them was so potent, Charlie felt
the need to turn away and open the heavy door. He cleared his throat.

“Not far to go,”
the conductor said, breaking the mood. “I’ve got you in the middle of this car,
where there's less rocking and rolling.” He led them to an empty four-seater.

“And your
usual is all ready to pour, Mr. Thompson. Vodka martini, extra dry with a twist.
And what can I get the lady?”

Fiona grinned.
“What goes well with a donut?”

“Champagne, of
course,” Luke responded.

Charlie nodded
and lurched away down the aisle of the speeding train. Luke helped Fiona to sit
down in a cushy leather chair by the window.

“Apparently
you take this train a lot,” Fiona said.

“Too often,” Luke
answered, stashing her bag overhead. “If I’m not on location, I usually broadcast
from D.C.”

“But you live
in New York City?”

“Technically,”
Luke said, slipping out of his sports coat, and hanging it on the hook by his
seat. “I keep a small apartment in Chelsea. But I really live wherever the news
is breaking.”

“Do you ever
miss having a home?”

“To me,” Luke
said, “home is a place you share with someone you love. I haven’t found that
person. Yet.”

He sat down opposite
her. “I like to ride backwards.” He grinned. “Then I never forget where I came
from.”

Fiona studied
him thoughtfully. “Hayley told me a little bit about how you two grew up
together.”

“Living in a
shelter was no party, I’ll say that. But we both survived.”

“You did a lot
more than survive. You're at the top of your profession, and Hayley, well,
Hayley is one of the most amazing, resilient people I’ve ever known.”

“She wrote to me
about you,” he said, smiling at her. “About how you threw her a lifeline, when
she was drowning up there at Miss Porter’s. She said she would never have
survived without your help.”

“She gives me
too much credit,” Fiona answered.

“She’s a great
kid. Always was. Don’t ever cross her though.” He laughed. “She’s a take-no-prisoners
kind of girl.”

“I saw that at
school. Once, she found another pupil in her room, snooping through her desk. Hayley
didn’t say a word to her, just smiled pleasantly and asked if she’d found
everything she’d been looking for. But two days later, a term paper the girl
had been working on, and for most of the semester, was mysteriously erased from
her computer.”

“That's Hayley,”
Luke said. “But if you knew how she was raised, you would understand why she’s
a little hard about protecting what she believes is hers.”

“I get that.
Lucky for me. In all these years we’ve never even had an argument.”

Luke laughed. “We
used to fight all the time. Over important issues like which football team was
better…the Giants or the Jets. And, of course, about Mikey.”

Fiona had to
keep herself from flinching at the mention of his name. “Ah yes, Mikey.”

“Is he in
prison yet?” Luke shook his head. “That kid was a criminal-in-training back
then.”

“Jailed a few
times, maybe. In and out. Misdemeanors.” Fiona tried to keep her voice light
but her feelings about Mikey were hard to mask. “He’s a rascal, and he probably
has something bad to look forward to in the future.”

“Is Hayley
still oblivious?”

Fiona was
uncomfortable with this subject, and wanted to change it. “Pretty much. Mikey means
the world to her, so we don’t discuss him.”

“Good plan. I
guess we all have our blind spots.”

The conductor
returned with their drinks, and some snacks, and placed them on the tray tables.
“I’ll be back to take your dinner orders in a while.”

“Thanks,
Charlie.” When the conductor was gone, Luke looked into Fiona’s blue eyes and raised
his glass. “To new friends.”

Fiona smiled
softly. “To new friends.”

EIGHT

Hayley
let herself into her apartment and immediately kicked off the Louboutins. She
poured herself a glass of wine and headed for the bedroom. She wanted to take
off this ridiculous dress as quickly as possible. She had worn it out of the
store so now she couldn’t even return it.

She was unable
to open the hook at the back. Frustrated, she pulled and yanked furiously, until
she tore through the fragile material. Angrily, she threw the dress on the
floor of her closet, pulled out sweat pants and a big wool sweater. After
putting them on, she had a big gulp of wine, crawled into her bed, and pulled
up the covers.

She knew she
was being childish. She knew she would see Luke at the award party they were
planning for him. But the time had felt so right to her today. Time for him to
see her as a woman, and a successful woman, not that tough little kid he used
to know, when they both lived in a homeless shelter.

It was her own
fault. She should have taken the meeting with Luke herself. On the other hand, she
had known that if she had to talk about menus and decor she would have become
tongue-tied around him. That had happened the last few times they had seen each
other, and she had ended up acting like a fool.

Her plan had
been to let Fiona take care of that part of the meeting, and for her to pop in looking
stunning after the details were set. She longed for Luke to be blown away, which
he would be when he saw much she had learned, how much she had changed. She
wanted…the words came out in a whisper…”I want him to love me.”

Instead he was
on a train with her best friend, and she was sure that Luke, like everyone else,
would be mesmerized by her. It wasn’t anything Fiona
did
. It was who she
was. Funny and smart, gorgeous and sexy.

Why couldn’t
people fall in love with Hayley at first sight? Why was Fiona the star, while
Hayley was the sidekick? The drone? There was no getting around it. That’s the
way things were. Tears of frustration filled her eyes.

Her own
feelings shocked Hayley. She had never knowingly been jealous of Fiona, not in
all the years they’d been friends. She took a long swig of wine, and headed
into the kitchen for the bottle. She refilled her glass and went back to bed.

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