Pru Harris’s mom had taught her to make wishes on pink cars, falling leaves, and brass lamps, because wishing on something as ordinary as stars or wishing wells was a sign of no imagination.
Clearly the woman standing not three feet away in the light mist, searching her purse for change to toss into the courtyard fountain hadn’t been raised by a hippie mom as Pru had been.
Not that it mattered, since her mom had been wrong. Wishes, along with things like winning the lotto or finding a unicorn, never happened in real life.
The woman, shielding her eyes from the light rain with one hand, holding a coin in her other, sent Pru a wry grimace. “I know it’s silly, but it’s a hit-rock-bottom thing.”
Something Pru understood all too well. She set a wriggly Thor down and shook her arms to try and bring back some circulation. Twenty-five pounds of wet, tubby, afraid-of-his-own-shadow mutt had felt like seventy-five by the end of their thirty-minute walk home from work.
Thor objected to being on the wet ground with a sharp bark. Thor didn’t like rain.
But he loved Pru more than life itself so he stuck close, his tail wagging slowly as he watched her face to determine what mood they were in.
The woman blinked and stared down at Thor. “Oh,” she said, surprised. “I thought it was a really fat cat.”
Thor’s tail stopped wagging and he barked again, as if to prove that not only was he all dog, he was big, badass dog.
Because Thor—a rescue of undetermined breed—also believed he was a bullmastiff.
When the woman took a step back, Pru sighed and picked him back up again. His old man face was creased into a protective frown, his front paws dangling, his tail back to wagging now that he was suddenly tall. “Sorry,” Pru said. “He can’t see well and it makes him grumpy, but he’s not a cat.” She gave Thor a behave squeeze. “He only acts like one.”
Thor volleyed back a look that said Pru might want to not leave her favorite shoes unattended tonight.
The woman’s focus turned back to the fountain and she eyed the quarter in her hand. “They say it’s never too late to wish on love, right?”
“Right,” Pru said. Because they did say that. And just because in her own personal experience love had proven even rarer than unicorns didn’t mean she’d step on someone else’s hopes and dreams.
A sudden bolt of lightning lit up the San Francisco skyline like the Fourth of July. Except it was June, and cold as the Arctic. Thor squeaked and shoved his face into Pru’s neck. Pru started to count but didn’t even get to One-Mississippi before the thunder boomed loud enough to make them all jump.
“Yikes.” The woman dropped the quarter back into her purse. “Not even love’s worth getting electrocuted.” And she ran off.
Pru and Thor did the same, heading across the cobblestone courtyard. Normally she took her time here, enjoying the glorious old architecture of the building, the corbeled brick and exposed iron trusses, the big windows, but the rain had begun to fall in earnest now, hitting so hard that the drops bounced back up to her knees. In less than ten seconds, she was drenched through, her clothes clinging to her skin, filling her ankle boots so that they squished with each step.
“Slow down, sweetness!” someone called out. It was the old homeless guy who was usually in the alley. With his skin tanned to the consistency of leather and his long, wispy white cotton-ball hair down to the collar of his loud pineapples-and-parrots Hawaiian shirt, he looked like Doc from Back to the Future, plus a few decades. A century tops. “You can’t get much wetter,” he said.
But Pru wasn’t actually trying to dodge the weather, she loved the rain. She was trying to dodge her demons, something she was beginning to suspect couldn’t be done.
“Gotta get to my apartment,” she said, breathless from her mad dash. When she’d hit twenty-six, her spin class instructor had teasingly told her that it was all downhill from here on out, she hadn’t believed him. Joke was on her.
“What’s the big rush?”
Resigned to a chat, Pru stopped. Old Guy was sweet and kind, even if he had refused to tell her his name, claiming to have forgotten it way back in the seventies. True or not, she’d been feeding him since she’d moved into this building three weeks ago. “The cable company’s finally coming today,” she said. “They said five o’clock.”
“That’s what they told you yesterday. And last week,” he said, trying to pet Thor, who wasn’t having any of it.
Another thing on Thor’s hate list—men.
“But this time they mean it,” Pru said and set Thor down. At least that’s what the cable company supervisor had promised Pru on the phone, and she needed cable TV. Bad. The finals of So You Think You Can Dance were on tomorrow night.
“’Scuse me,” someone said as he came from the elevator well and started to brush past her. He wore a hat low over his eyes to keep the rain out of his face and the cable company’s logo on his pec. He was carrying a toolbox and looking peeved by life in general.
Thor began a low growl deep in his throat while hiding behind Pru’s legs. He sounded fierce, but he looked ridiculous, especially wet. He had the fur of a Yorkshire terrier—if that Yorkshire terrier was fat—even though he was really a complete Heinz 57. And hell, maybe he was part cat. Except that only one of his ears folded over. The other stood straight up, giving him a perpetually confused look.
No self-respecting cat would have allowed such a thing. In fact, the cable guy took one look at him and snorted, and then kept moving.
“Wait!” Pru yelled after him. “Are you looking for 3C?”
He stopped, his gaze running over her, slowing at her torso. “Actually,” he said. “I’m more a double D man myself.”
Pru looked down at herself. Her shirt had suctioned itself to her breasts. Narrowing her eyes, she crossed her arms over her decidedly not DDs. “Let me be more clear,” she said, tightening her grip on Thor’s leash because he was still growling, although he was doing it very quietly because he only wanted to pretend to be a tough guy. “Are you looking for the person who lives in apartment 3C?”
“I was but no one’s home.” He eyed Thor. “Is that a dog?”
“Yes! And I’m 3C,” Pru said. “I’m home!”