Whizzing along the freeways heading north and then east from the airport, four unseen passengers in tow, Emily actually appreciates Los Angeles for the first time in her life. A strong wind has cleared the sky, revealing the Hollywood sign and even the Angeles Crest off in the distance. She’d been to the city half a dozen times before, but it was always a rushed, harried trip. And she’d always been, well, Emily—the earlier Emily. The rushed, harried Emily.
And what is this strange feeling that’s come over her? Could it be peace? Joy? What in the world is that unusual, foreign sensation?
While Emily decides to give up on trying to figure it out and just enjoy the new...strange...whatever-it-is, David and Angela just enjoy the joyride. Stephanie consults her computer while Jasper whispers. A large, blue pickup truck tailgates Emily’s compact rental, which is right behind a large, green van.
“Uh-oh!” Stephanie shouts, instantly bursting the bliss bubble. The other three angels nearly fly out the window in surprise. “Get her out of here—now!”
“Emily, get out of here!” Angela entreats. Jasper adjusts his whispering as well as his volume to the new directive. David attempts, although in vain, to see what has shown up on Stephanie’s laptop.
“The karma and intent of the driver behind her has changed,” Stephanie explains. “His love meter is so low it’s barely registering on the chart at all.”
“What the Heaven—?”
“And that really big accident that was supposed to happen?” Stephanie continues. “Not going to. Elements from most of the people have completely changed. Looks like a much smaller one will happen overall, but a really, really bad one is going to happen right ahead here. But it’s not meant for her.”
“Emily, change lanes,” David instructs.
That tailgater has started to annoy her, really messing with her mellow. Emily looks in the left-hand rear-view mirror and spots a car barreling down the lane that she would be moving into. She decides to wait for it to pass.
“Emily,” David speaks very slowly, very clearly, “this is not the time to be polite. Change lanes right now.”
Emily changes lanes, causing the barreling car to swerve into the far left lane. This is Jack! His angels wave wildly to Emily’s angels as his car zooms past. Jack glances over, too, but is wearing a far less amicable expression.
Shaking, Jack looks in amazement in his rearview mirror at the crazy, terrible driver who not only cut him off but also almost smashed into him.
At the same time that Stephanie’s computer revealed the news, Christopher’s computer charts and graphs revealed the change in the whole program around the major accident, too. Rapid-fire, the team bats ideas around Jack’s car under Blake’s coaching.
“Okay team, think fast!”
“Great idea. How’s that play going to happen?”
Christopher stares at his computer screen and then looks up at the road. “A pothole’s coming up, straight ahead! Make sure he hits it.”
“Distract him,” Blake bellows. “Or else he’ll swerve to avoid it!”
“Jack,” Brooke orders, “look in your mirror and scowl at that crazy, terrible driver again. Now!” Pause. No movement. “I said NOW!”
Jack complies. KERCHUNK! His front left tire hits the enormous pothole. With tremendous care, he steers over to the upcoming exit, miraculously not crashing into any other cars.
Still recovering from her quick lane change and nearly causing an accident, Emily notices a large crate in the middle of the lane she’d just been in. She looks in her rearview mirror just in time to see a very bizarre scenario unfold: The van stops short because of the crate, and the pickup slams into the van at top speed. The car right behind the truck has no chance to stop either, but the cars right behind that one have time to swerve into the other lanes while the cars behind those are able to come to a screeching stop.
Shaking, Emily takes the next exit and pulls over to the side of the road. Jack’s rump just happens to be staring her square—or, well, kind of round, really, as the case may be—in the face as he rummages around in his trunk for the jack and spare.
Jack closes the trunk and heads to the front of his car. As he turns to the tire, he notices a very beautiful woman sitting in a car just behind his. Not only is it a little odd to be just sitting in a car on an exit ramp, she’s also staring straight ahead, hands locked in a death grip on her steering wheel, and she appears to be hyperventilating. Bewildered, he walks over to her.
“You okay?” he calls through her window.
Emily nods, still trying to catch her breath.
Jack starts to return to his flat tire but turns around to look at her. He walks back to her car. “You sure you’re okay?”
Emily nods and, without any consideration of the fact that there’s an unknown man standing by her car, she lowers her window. “I’m fine.” And then—she wails. Jack’s angels put their hands over their ears. Emily’s angels put their hands over their faces.
David grimaces. “Way to make a great first impression. Way to go, Emily.”
“Maybe it’s for the best,” Angela sighs. “This way he knows what he’s in for, right up front.”
“Everything’s always for the best,” David grouses. “It could just be a little more graceful is all.”
“That’s our Emily,” Stephanie says, “the strong-winded one.”
“You never told us about this!” Sapphire grumbles.
“And for very good reason,” laughs Brooke. “Can you blame them?”
“Thanks for sharing the wealth!” Christopher groans. “You shouldn’t have. No, really—you shouldn’t have!”
Once he recovers from his momentary shock over the howling emanating from this woman, Jack leans over and pokes his head in her window. “Can I help you out of your car?”
Emily nods. Jack opens her door. She takes his hand and starts to lift herself out of the car, but then collapses back into her seat. She points to the freeway; Jack follows the direction her finger is pointing and sees the three-car pileup.
“Oh, wow,” Jack exclaims. “I didn’t even notice that—all I noticed was my flat tire. I was just there, right there, a minute ago. You, too?”
Emily points out the van and pickup. “I was right between those two!” She wails again. And again.
Jack suppresses the urge to cover his ears. He notices her suitcase in the backseat and figures that her car can be this overly immaculate for only two reasons, and the suitcase doesn’t announce that she just left a car detailing service. “A rental car? Are you a long way from home? Tell you what—let me finish changing my tire, then I’ll take you for a cold drink. How does that sound?”
“It’s probably not too safe for you to just keep sitting in your car, this close to the freeway exit.”
Jack watches her emerge—unfold, really, since the car is a compact is Emily is not, height-wise anyway—from her car. He says a long, “Wow!” (silently, to himself, and his angels were very thankful for that small favor) as she slowly straightens up, clutching her car to maintain her balance. “How tall are you?”
Dumbfounded that he would ask such a question at such a time, Emily finishes drawing up to her full height and commences drawing up the wherewithal to answer. “Six feet. Why?”
“Oh, just wondering.”
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