The time came when I realized that I had lived most of my short adult life in a stupor, my eyes blind to all the possibilities in front of me. I became a believer one fateful night in the rain, at the appointed hour, and all because of a vintage car, a loyal dog, and a cheating boyfriend.
Madeline Benités is a realist, unaffected by the power of destiny, a skeptic who firmly believes in free will. Fed up with the man in her life, Jake Keene, when he becomes engaged to marry another woman, Maddie feels a need for distance to salvage her sanity.
On a road trip, she meets Wyatt McLain, a glaringly honest man, whose compelling past is part of his charm. A true believer in fate, Wyatt is convinced he and Maddie have been put together for a preordained purpose. But the future is thrown into chaos when Maddie discovers she is pregnant, and doesn't know with certainty if the father is Jake or Wyatt. When her life seems headed toward disaster, Maddie must decide whether to allow fate or free will to determine the outcome.
I had been keeping my eye on the man who had helped me and Rat. Even after the cops arrested and removed the perp, the man sat quietly by himself at a table, his long legs stretched out before him, one foot hooked over the other, hands tucked into the pockets of a black wool pea coat. He never once looked at me, but his demeanor suggested the patience of a man who had spent a lifetime waiting, and so had perfected it. His dark hair, stringy from standing out in the rain, reached halfway down his back, and small gold hoops glittered in the lobes of his ears. I’m not at all attracted to long hair or pierced ears on men. My personal bias tells me that long hair is often an excuse for a lack of proper hygiene, and pierced ears occasionally flag excessive drug use and tattoos. But this man seemed meticulous about his hair, and radiated vitality unlike most potheads I’ve met.
I picked up Rat’s leash, and walked across the room, Rat following obediently. Standing beside the man, I wasn’t sure how to break into his silence, so I only said, “Sir?”
He immediately looked up at me with these incredible eyes. I could tell that he was sad though I didn’t understand why until later, but there was also a depth of kindness you don’t often see in strangers, that offset his melancholy. And once he smiled, I was encouraged to continue.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’m grateful for what you did for us.”
“I didn’t do anything, your dog did it all.” His voice was warm and deep. “And you seem to have no problem kicking a little ass, too.” He slowly got to his feet, as though he was concerned about frightening me away. He was very tall, and loomed over me, though there was nothing threatening in his demeanor, just an aura of caring and safety.
“Are you hungry?” he asked.
“Yeah, actually, I’m real hungry.”
Rat, who stood next to me at leash, decided to be forward, and nosed the man’s hand gently to gain his attention.
“Good boy, you’re a good dog.” He leaned over, and patted Rat’s head affectionately. “What’s your dog’s name?”
“Rat.” I didn’t bother clarifying the technicality of Jake Keene’s ownership.
“He sure looks like a wet rat from being out in the rain.”
“No, he always looks like that.”
“Hmm.” He considered Rat’s appearance carefully. “Well, you’re lucky he was with you, strange-looking or not. I think your dog saved you.”
“I know. I owe him big time.” I held out my hand. “I’m Madeline Benités.”
I don’t know why I didn’t tell him I was ‘Maddie’. At first I told myself that I wanted a formality to my name. When I thought about it later, I knew it was more of a need to frame my femininity, which is often concealed beneath blue jeans and pullovers.
“Hi, Madeline.” He shook my hand. “I’m Wyatt McLain.”
“Wyatt?” I was strangely elated at the mention of his name. “Are you the Wyatt who made the eagle?” I pointed to the sculpture floating effortlessly above the caffeine-junkies.
“Yeah, I’m that Wyatt. How did you know my name? I’ve never seen you around here before.” He regarded me with amusement. “You’re not one of these college kids, are you?”
“No, I’m not from around here, I’m a general contractor, I’ve got my own business in California. I was visiting a friend in Oregon, and then decided to drive up to Seattle today.” I explained my arrival at the café earlier, and how Cindy had given me Wyatt’s first name when I asked about the eagle. I held back Cindy’s description of Wyatt, but he only guffawed. It was startling, an outburst of uncontrolled laughter that trailed away as quickly as it surfaced.
“Yeah, here, let me?” and he briefly rested a hand on my shoulder, before moving it away. “She called me ‘kind of old, but kind of hot’, right?”
“That’s right,” I nodded, my cheeks red from embarrassment. Or maybe it was the passing touch of his hand that made my face burn.