For Richard Grooms, who asked for Vulcans.

Richard was the winner of the HelpWriteNow auction to benefit southern storm relief in the United States of America in May 2011.

This scene takes place after the novel ends, but before Anna and Étienne graduate.


There's a worn-looking hardcover about the Crusades shoved underneath his door to keep it open, but Étienne doesn't greet me when I arrive. He's sitting at his desk, back to me. I tug out the book and close the door.

His eyes remain glued to a video on his laptop.

I set down my backpack in the tidy corner of his room that I've claimed as my own. "I thought we were studying for our physics final?"

"Star Trek is physics-y," he says.

I peer over his shoulder and discover a woman in a tight velveteen jumpsuit. She has pointy ears, and she appears to be startled to have found herself crying. No one looks that sexy when they cry.

I smirk. "Heh."


"I see you're busy." I prop myself on the edge of his bed, beside his chair.

Étienne spins around to face me. "What?" he asks again with mock innocence.

"She's a Vulcan."

He grins. "Aliens are allowed to be attractive."

"Tell that to Lieutenant Ripley." I mime a creature exploding out of my stomach, and he laughs and grabs for my hand. I move it behind my back, out of his reach, and nod at the screen. "So, which series is this?"


"Please." I snort. "Everyone knows The Next Generation is the best."

"Never seen it."

My jaw actually goes agape. "Patrick Stewart? Captain Picard? You know . . . Professor X?"

Étienne shrugs. "Enterprise is the one my mum likes. We watched the whole thing together a few summers ago." He tries to snatch my other hand, and I hide it behind my back, too. He pulls away with another grin. "You're just jealous of T'Pol's temporary hold on my boyish attention."


"T'Pol. That's her name."

I burst into laughter. "Yeaaaaah. Not so jealous anymore."

He laughs, too, and swivels back to his laptop.

But I'm not letting him off the hook that easily. "So," I say. "You haven't even SEEN The Next Generation? Or the original series?"


I pick up his unopened physics textbook from the bed and flip through it. He's doodled an elephant with a banana in its trunk in the margin of the last chapter. I touch it gently and smile. "What about the movie? Did you see that?"

"Which one?" He gives me a sly glance.

I should have seen that coming. There's nothing worse than someone besting me at my own game. I shut the textbook. "The new one, of course."

"I saw it," he says. "Of course."


"Eh." But it's a mischievous eh. I kick the back of his chair, and he laughs again. We both watch the screen for a while. "So," he asks, once I've been sucked into the show. His voice is overly nonchalant. "Do you find Patrick Stewart to be attractive?"

I blink at him. And then again. "Is that a real question?"

Étienne just stares back.

"He's bald. And old. Like, Granddad old," I say. "Don't get me wrong. He's cool. But there IS the baldness and the oldness." I pause, considering possible alternatives. "The new Spock is more my type."

"Ha!" Étienne pounces. He pins down my shoulders to the bed.

"What? What?"

"A Vulcan!" He keeps me restrained as I try to wriggle from his grasp. "I told you! Vulcans are hot."

I squirm out and manage to sit up on my elbows. "Okay, okay! For aliens."

"For aliens," he agrees.

Our eyes lock. My heart beats harder. His breath grows faster. Étienne presses his body back down against mine. And then, suddenly, his hand is at my left ear, and he's pulling up the top to make it pointy.

I raise an eyebrow.

"Nah," he says, after admiring it for a moment. "I prefer you as you are." His fingers let go, but he nips my earlobe with his teeth. I wrap my arms around his neck. He pushes the textbook off his bed and out of our way. "You are much, much hotter than a Vulcan," he says. "Of course."

I'm smiling as I pull him toward my lips. "Of course."

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