The hurricane had finally passed. Kate stuck her head out the window and sniffed the air. It didn’t have that wonderful after the rain scent. She wrinkled her nose and looked over her shoulder at her cocker spaniel. “I bet you need to go out, don’t you, boy?”
Gus barked in response, and she gathered his leash, her legs still trembling a little. Okay, a lot. She’d just weathered her first hurricane since her move to the east coast, and she could guarantee it would be her last. Next time, she’d evacuate.
Tenants came streaming from their apartments, shouting questions to their neighbors. Kate had only moved in only two weeks ago and with her job and studying, she hadn’t had time to get to know anyone.
“Come on, buddy.” She guided Gus down the steps and into the grass. Thundering footsteps had her shrinking back against the brick wall. Three men ran past her, all muscled and tanned.
“Are you okay?” A deep voice pulled her head to the right. “You look a little shaky. First hurricane?”
Kate nodded. “And last.”
He smiled, his warm, brown eyes offering reassurance. “This one wasn’t too bad. Category two, but they can still do a lot of damage. Is your apartment okay?”
“Fortunately. The ones on the end didn’t fair so well.” She ran a hand through her hair, wincing at the tangles. She’d spent the last two hours buried in a bathtub with Gus in her lap. He was a wiggler when he was scared, and her hair had taken the brunt of his anxiety.
“Yeah, I know. I’m in an end unit.” He lifted a muscled shoulder in a half-hearted shrug before sticking out one hand. “I’m Matt.”
“Kate.” Her hand felt so small in his. Suddenly self-conscious, she tugged her hand free and clasped Gus’s leash close. “Any idea how long it will take the power to get restored?”
Matt rubbed the back of his neck. “A lot of that depends upon what caused the outage. If power lines are down, it could be a while. And if your guy is anything like mine, he probably doesn’t care for the dark.”
Kate’s gaze met his again. “What kind of dog do you have?”
“Golden Lab. He hates storms so much I took him to my grandparents when I knew this one was definitely going to hit. They have a generator.”
“You stayed on purpose?” She couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be insulting, but I stayed because I really didn’t know any better.” She clapped a hand over her mouth and winced. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”
He laughed, making her relax a little. “It’s okay. Yeah, I stayed. My sister’s a doctor, and she’s stuck at the hospital. And I wasn’t leaving town without her. Listen,” he thumbed over his shoulder, “a bunch of us are going to the pool to cook out if you’d like to join us.”
“No, I’d better not. I have to get back to study as long as I can while there’s still light.”
“Oh.” Matt took a step back. “You’re still in college.”
“Med school.” She corrected his assumption she was a co-ed.
He studied her for a second before realization dawned on his face. “Wait a second. Do you live in 301?”
How did he know where she lived? “Why?”
“Because a med student called the police on me last Saturday.”
“You were the one having the party? The noise level was through the roof.”
“Yeah, it was my grandmother’s 85th birthday party. She did get a little wild.”
Heat climbed up the back of her neck. “It was your grandmother’s party?”
He nodded, a big smile on his face.
She grimaced. “Okay, so maybe I’m a little sensitive to noise right now.”
“You don’t say?” He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I remember when my sister was still in school. We could drop a cotton ball on the floor, and she’d complain.”
“And I can really understand why. Just when I think I have things memorized, my mind goes blank.”
“I’d be happy to help you study…since I can’t have any loud parties now.”
The teasing in his voice erased her embarrassment. “Okay, you’ve made your point.” Gus whined and tugged on the leash. Reluctantly, Kate began walking. “I’d better take him.”
“Right. So how about that help?”
“You were serious?”
“How do you think my sister passed?”
“Got any extra candles?”
He fell into step beside her. “I think I can scare up one or two.”
“Hope you like anatomy.” The second the words left her mouth, she burst out laughing. “I mean…”
“I know what you mean, and I do. Very much.”
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