Our story so far: NYPD Detective Jim Verplancken attends the christening of his friend's baby son. At the festivities, he renews acquaintance with Raquel Vilar, a young lady who has attracted his eyes before...

He knotted the tie more precisely, finally satisfied with the red chili peppers on dark blue that went so well with his best gray suit. No, he’d embrace the light of this glad day and try to forget the dark.
“What?” he snapped to Vinnie. The brown tabby cat gazed back, unimpressed as always. Because of his street-cool attitude, Jim had named him Vincenzo Rocco Gambini, but nobody knew that, and Vinnie couldn’t care. “You like the green tie better?”
The cat apparently had no opinion. “You have absolutely no sense of style.” Vinnie blinked and turned his attention to washing a paw.
Jim wet his thumb to rid his shoe of a smudge and left his apartment. The sun shone brightly on leaves that weren’t quite ready to turn from summer to autumn. Walking down Suffolk toward the Delancey Street subway station made him breathe deeply of the mild air. He’d have to change trains from the F line to the E, but today the inconvenience didn’t bother him. He’d have just enough time if everything ran on schedule, and most early Saturday mornings, it did.
Not even a half-hour in the bowels of the earth distracted him from his decision to embrace today’s joy. He emerged at the WTC Station, striking out north toward St. Peter’s. The classic style entry portico of the church glowed a mellow gray in the morning sunlight, welcoming him and the few stragglers who hurried into the christening ceremony.
As he’d expected, the sanctuary was full to bursting. The air smelled of candles, wood polish, and faintly of stale diaper. More than twenty kids and their proud parents stood ranged along the altar rail. Some babies squalled as if waiting was beneath their dignity, and how could Mom and Dad subject them to such an insult? Jim hastened up the aisle where he spotted a couple of uniforms; those would be his people who’d just gotten off a shift or were about to start one. He took a seat near the squad’s commander, Captain Hawkinson, who nodded a welcome.
“Captain. Nice morning, hey.”
“It surely is.”
He caught DJ’s eye, who managed a finger wave while holding his month-old son, who was trying to figure out how to jam his entire fist into his mouth. Spotting her husband’s motion, Daria beamed in his direction.
Man, what a beaut. Cantore got lucky.
The proud papa would be the first to agree.
Someday I’ll have to get someone to tell me the whole story of how they met. DJ mentioned it was kind of a random thing. How does a guy get a random thing to happen for him?
He shifted in his pew, unhappy with the track of his thoughts. Hawkinson budged over an inch to make more room, though he didn’t need it. A flurry of motion caught Jim’s attention to one side. Up the aisle hurried a slender woman of medium height who looked vaguely familiar. As he tried to place her, she boosted a shoulder bag from slipping down her arm. She scanned the full pews and her anxious expression brightened. The woman arrowed straight to Jim’s pew and slid in at his left.
“You don’t mind? You’re not saving this for someone?” she asked with a bright smile.
“You’re more than welcome.”
Which was true. He studied her without appearing to look, a trick all cops learned early. Five-four, maybe, a hundred-ten pounds if that. Dark red, curling hair worn just below shoulder-length, and a complexion like a mix of ivory and peaches. She smelled delicious, too, something light and non-flowery that reminded him of a summer breeze straight off the Atlantic.
Her scent covered that of diapers.
He stuck out his hand. “Jim.”
“Raquel.” Her grip was firm but not aggressive. “We met at their wedding.” She inclined her head toward the Cantores at the altar, and he nodded, relieved that the familiarity had a reason.
On the downlow, he inhaled deeply and silently to get the flavor of her deep into his lungs.





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