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The Harper Effect

We’re waiting in what’s become a thoroughfare and when Aria tickles me back I jerk away from her. The last of my green smoothie escapes out of the flask and onto a man’s black T-shirt as he picks his way through the crowd. My eyes saucer. He’s tall – given my own height I reckon he’s well over six foot. He also has a solid, athletic build and a chin shadowed with stubble – you wouldn’t want to bump into him in a dark alley. But when he swings around it’s clear from the deep-set eyes to the arch of his cheekbones that he is someone you’d want to bump into on your first day of university. And he can’t be much older than me, even if he is man-sized.

I throw on my biggest smile. “I’m really sorry – bit crowded here.” My smile gulps when he stares back at me, actually into me. His espresso-coloured hair is short and spiked at the front, revealing a small widow’s peak, and his skin is a deep brown, similar to mine. He must spend a lot of time outdoors.

I try another smile, stashing the flask behind my back.

“Sorry. We were goofing around.”

“Harper Hunter,’”he says, low and smooth – a man’s voice. I’m not sure if he’s asking or telling. I nod. “Another one,” he snaps. “I’ll be sure to avoid you in future.”

My mouth pops open, but the words, Another what? remain hooked in my throat.

He pivots and strips off the smoothie-gunked T-shirt as he walks away, revealing muscles that didn’t just grow there on their own. And judging by the fact that his right bicep is slightly bigger than the left, he’s a tennis player.

“I’m not sure if he’s amazingly rude or amazingly sexy.” I half laugh. “Who broke his tennis racquet?”

“Is he famous?” asks Aria.

“Obviously he thinks so.” From his accent he’s American – how does he know my name?

The Harper Effect
by by Taryn Bashford