To Whatever End - Lindsey Frydman

To Andrew – I wouldn’t have survived without you.

Chapter One

I didn’t come to the museum to admire some guy; I came to admire the artwork. Honest.

But he’s got his attention fixed on a small pad of paper, his pen furiously scribbling away at it, and I can’t tear my eyes from him. A mess of unruly brownish-gold hair falls across his forehead as he taps his foot against the tile. His forearms flex, displaying impressive muscles, as long fingers bend and shift. I’m captivated by the movement. Maybe his face is something worth noticing, too—I’d know if he’d lift his head. He moves the pen side to side. Again and again. He never looks up.

Get a grip, Quinn.

Pulling my purse strap higher on my shoulder, I return my attention to the rosy, gold-colored painting in front of me. I’m here for inspiration. The same as always.

But even the beautiful display doesn’t keep my gaze from swiveling left, toward the stranger sitting on a bench in the corner of the room. He’s maybe a few years older than me. Probably a college student, likely here on some assignment for an art history class.

Another few minutes pass, and wow, has he really found that much to say about a painting of the Virgin Mary?

His broad shoulders shift every few seconds. The pen doesn’t leave the paper, and I observe him from across the room for a ridiculously looong flipping time. When he pulls out his phone, I notice a dangling black earbud cord. He’s listening to music? Huh. I wonder what his preference is.

My hands tingle at the thought of moving closer, as if I had my camera with me. My feet tingle, too, and soon enough, I’m walking casually along the wall, splitting my attention between the stranger and the artwork. But then he levels his gaze at me, both dark eyebrows climbing his forehead, and I smile—too widely—then quickly look away.

Flipping crap.

My cheeks blaze. His face is totally something worth noticing. Did he smile back at me before returning to his fervent notes? Geez, it doesn’t matter if he smiled or not. I, Quinn Easterly, am not available or interested. Not in guys. Or new friends. Or most people in general. My curse makes new encounters…complicated. One touch and I see the end to my relationships. And I’m not talking about instincts and gut feelings. I mean, quite literally, see the end. The visions are vivid, lasting only seconds—which is long enough to make anyone avoid crowds.

Thanks to my curse, guys with muscular arms, dark, touchable hair, and smoldering amber eyes are definitely a no-no for me.

Walk away, Quinn. Walk away.

Dating’s not any fun when you know from the start that it won’t last. It’s a curse I’ve had as long as I can remember, for any relationship, romantic or not. But when it comes to love, it’s like I was hit with a cruel and poison-tipped version of Cupid’s arrow.

And there’s nothing romantic about that.

Why couldn’t I have the ability to predict the future winning lotto numbers instead, or anticipate a crash in the stock market? I don’t even get to know how I die or anything morbidly useful. So my curse is freaking pointless. I just know how everyone one day leaves me. Death. Relocation. Fight. Whatever way, the result is the same. They’re gone, out of my life.

I glance back to catch him looking up at me again, tapping his pen against the pad. I blink, look away, fuss with my hair, try to not look like I’ve just been caught stealing a car—which is how this feels.

Olivia would say I’m being dramatic. As if she’s one to talk.

After clearing my throat, I take a deep breath then tilt my head at the painting in front of me, not truly seeing it. Colors on canvas. Figures of some kind I don’t bother making out. Angels probably. Old painters loved to paint angels. And that damn Virgin Mary.

Licking my lips, I wrap my hands across my chest, attempting to sneak another glimpse of the mystery guy. In my peripheral, I note the empty stone bench, and my heart plummets.

Really, heart? There ought to be an off button for emotions. That way I could live the rest of my life in peace. Not that I’m anti-romance, but when you’re a seventeen-year-old who has psychic visions of the future, dating takes a back seat.

“You don’t strike me as the kind of person who comes to a museum on a Tuesday afternoon.”