By Katherine McIntyre
An Adaptation of String of Pearls by Hans Christian Andersen
For Erik Anderson, the Copenhagen line is his curse. He takes the train every night en route to collect souls. Like any lovelorn fool, he bargained his own long ago, and now pays the price—a lifetime of loneliness as a grim reaper. Stay distant—that’s been his mantra and what keeps him sane.
Until Mina Castner drops into his life like a whirlwind, one spilled drink leading to staying up until dawn with the woman. He believed one night couldn’t hurt, but he sorely underestimated her determination. Every encounter between them is a reprieve from the guilt of reaping souls every night, but it can’t last. Even if she sparks long buried feelings, and even if her sheer presence intoxicates him, he can’t let this continue. For humans, his touch is poison, and if he slips up, it could cost her life.
The whole date thing had been a bad idea.
She rounded a corner, stepping onto the street where the club was located. The Hive stood out even from a couple of blocks away. Its glass-and-steel exterior was slick, and lights flashed on different floors, granting glimpses of the chaos inside. Like other top-notch places, this one didn’t advertise—no sign out front since the building was imposing enough. A strain of music filtered from it, but the noise was muted—she’d bet the inside was the opposite.
She wrinkled her nose as she got closer. Great. A line. My perfect Saturday night—waiting in a line to get into a loud room with blinding lights, blaring music, and sweaty guys. No thanks.
One glance at the people waiting to get inside and she wanted to turn around. Caked on makeup, glittery dresses, and overly gelled hair dominated the crowd, all part of a scene in which she didn’t fit. A slight breeze carried the cloud of perfume teeming around the line her way. She fought not to gag.
Strands of her auburn-dyed hair kept slipping from her bun and trailing along her shoulders. Why did I even bother doing my hair? Once I get inside, the sheer heat from the place will frizz it out. Mina sighed, trying to calm her frazzled nerves. This is why I don’t date.
Up ahead, the bouncers were either admitting people or turning them away at the door. She joined the end of the line, checking her phone while she waited. He was already inside. Joy. Too late to suggest a detour to a coffee shop instead.
A man tall enough to stand out approached the entrance. With hoops in his eyebrows, ears, and, chances were, elsewhere, too, he didn’t mesh with the rest of the crowd. Nor was he wearing a polo or suit, the type of club attire the rest of these guys wore. Instead, his sleeveless, fitted hoodie made an impression of its own as did his tailored black pants, which were accented by his leather stompers. Even in a sack, the man would’ve looked good. When the guy opened the club door, the bouncers didn’t even give him a second glance. Seems they know their regulars.
She hoped her date stacked up. The line moved forward a couple of paces, and she crossed her arms over her chest. This was going to be a long night.