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by IeuH

Chapter 1

I swear Nick Walker lives on the folded edge of two nearly identical universes. One contains the humdrum world I've lived in these last twenty-five years, while the other is more fantastic than anything I could imagine.

The first time I saw him grinning at me, I had no way of knowing he had already brought me across that edge. Frankly, I wasn't thinking of anything: I was screaming in terror.

Seconds earlier, the metal ribs of our roller coaster shredding the blue sky above us, our train shrieked on its tracks, shook violently, then slammed to a stop upside down.

Gravity yanked me out of my seat, my shoulders crushed painfully against my seat harness. As my heart pounded furiously in my chest, I watched keys and coins rain like glitter toward the toy-sized cars in the parking lot beneath us. When the passengers around me started screaming, I screamed louder and longer, flailing my arms helplessly over my head. Purses, smartphones and pocket-sized stuffed animals tumbled like synchronized skydivers toward the tiny faces now looking up at us in the parking lot.

I opened my mouth to scream: We're going to die!

"We're not going to die," someone hollered.

I let out a scream, then turned my head to see Nick seated calmly beside me, his muscular arms dangling over his head, his dark hair a halo around his head, and his tee shirt pulled down around his chest against his seat harness.

I took a deep breath to let out another scream, but was struck dumb by his dazzling grin.

He licked his lips.

"We're not going to die," he repeated over the screams of the passengers around us.

"How do you know that?" I shouted.

"There's no way for these harnesses to release, especially when we're upside down," he hollered, taking hold of his in both hands to shake it hard. "See? Locked, most likely by a computer."

"Don't do that!" I shouted, closing my eyes, so I wouldn't have to see him plunge to the parking lot below.

"Hold on!" he called, closing a hand over mine. "I bet the computer's going to rescue us any second!"

I popped open my eyes to gawk at his hand squeezing mine.

"Why are you so tan?" he shouted, grinning at me again.


"I can see your tan line," he shouted, pointing with his other hand at my waist.

I looked up at my hairy belly exposed by my tee shirt hanging down around my chest. I could see my pale hips peaking past the waistband of my shorts.

"I–I–" I stammered, suddenly wondering in disbelief if I was being hit on by this preternaturally calm, good-looking guy during the most terrifying moment of my life. "I was in Baha camping with my dad and his new wife."

"Nice. Did you surf?"

"No, too scary," I shouted, then grinned back at him. "I bet this is way scarier."

"We're going to be okay," he said, squeezing my hand again.

I nodded, though I was nearly as unsure as our fellow passengers still screaming and waving their arms around us.

He watched me look down and flinch at the parking lot beneath us.

"I surf," he shouted.


"I surf," he repeated, using his other hand to pull his shorts up one pale hip.

I reflexively squeezed his hand a little too hard, as my eyes locked onto the thick waistband and coarse pouch of his exposed jockstrap, his dark pubic hairs contrasting with the white fabric.

"You're tanner, though," he hollered, letting his shorts fall back into place.

I could only nod, amazed I was suddenly horny while on the brink of death.

"I have a confession to make," he yelled.

"Oh. What?"

"I–" he started, then lurched around to grab onto his harness with both hands, as the train shook and slowly moved forward.

I clamped my eyes shut and clutched my harness, holding my breath. The train rattled slowly along on its tracks. A million or so years later, it rocked to a stop. Passengers cheered.

I opened my eyes. Nick was grinning at everyone. We were at the end, where a swarm of park personnel and paramedics helped us onto terra firma.

I was surprised by how wobbly my legs were. With someone's help, I made it to a cement bench, where I rested my elbows on my knees to catch my breath.

Later, I discovered my smartphone was gone. I signed paperwork to get a new one and to receive several free passes to the park. I reassure a pretty paramedic I was shaken, but otherwise all right. I didn't see Nick anywhere.

In a daze, I left the park, crossed a busy street and returned to my hotel room.

It was barely midday. I changed into bathing trunks and wandered down to the mostly deserted pool.

I lay on a lounge chair in the shade of a massive palm tree. I couldn't keep my eyes open. I dreamt I was desperately trying to catch an endless stream of stuffed animals falling just out of my reach. Sunlight glinted between palm fronds to blind me. Out of a gauzy haze breezed my favorite movie star across the pool deck, her hair shimmering in the sunlight, her clothes billowing around her. She leaned over me.

"I'm glad you're okay."

"Hi," I managed.

"Hi," she said, fading back into the haze.

"Hey." That was too deep a voice to be hers. "Hey."

I opened my eyes.

It was late afternoon. No one sat in the chairs scattered across the pool deck.

"Over here," Nick said, standing up in the pool so I could see him grinning at me.

"Hi," I said, my heart pounding fast, as he heaved himself out of the water and walked over to me.

He was really good-looking right-side up. We were the same height, but his shoulders were much broader. He was buff like a bodybuilder. I could see the white waistband of his jockstrap poking past his baggy bathing trunks.

He plopped down on the pool deck next to my chair.

"This is not a coincidence," he said, grinning, as he rested his forearm on my chair very near my hip.




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