Chapter One: Beware of Immortal Toasts

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Lori's life sucked. As her first law professor so gleefully liked to expound: her life was officially in the crapper. Unfortunately, the smug bastard was right even now, years later.

She had to be the oldest law student in her class. This was mainly due to the fact that she'd managed to fail the New York State bar twice – once when she was young and gone straight into law school after finishing up her undergraduate degree early, and the second time years later when she'd decided to finish what she started.

Now she was officially on her last strike with both the university and the state bar. With only one shot left and forced to work as a part time nanny, part time zookeeper to a pair of six year old hell spawn, she didn't think she'd make it.

And that was the least depressing aspect of her life.

Everything else about her existence was really depressing; poor and newly single, her ex-boyfriend Jerry had just run off with her best study partner. She was really going to miss Karl. He took exceptionally good study notes.

Waking up this morning had been painful. She'd spent last night going ten rounds of turbo speed dating and now felt like something she'd find under her shoe. How had she let herself get talked into such insanity? But she knew the answer to that question; after life with Jerry the Jerk, she had to know there was at least one decent guy out there in this city of over eight million people. She wasn't looking for perfection, just someone with nice manners, good hygiene, and hopefully a job – just one soul in a sea of millions. How hard could that be, right?

After the deadbeats she'd met last night, Lori realized she'd have better luck unearthing the Holy Grail. Her version of perfection had most definitely not been at the Old Carriage House Bar on the Upper West Side last night. By the end of the night, she'd knocked her list down to just good hygiene and a job; even then most of the men she'd met couldn't make the final cut. Just remembering all the men she'd run through the night before made her shudder.

Hoping coffee would at least make her feel human again Lori padded her way through the small three-room apartment. Her little slice of heaven did well to remind her that she was probably going to die alone with only her thirteen cats to mourn her. Good thing her apartment building didn't allow pets she thought grumpily. There was barely enough room for her to take a deep breath much less house another living creature. Her current digs were cramped, cluttered, and crappy – the three C's every woman craved. But the old tenement style apartment was hers and the price wasn't outlandishly ridiculous, only somewhat ridiculous. It didn't really matter – any address within a Manhattan zip code made even the crummiest apartment worth its weight in gold.

As Lori entered her small kitchenette, making her way over to the cupboard above the sink, she reached for her favorite mug. Still in her semi-sleep coma, Lori watched as her hand knocked her mug off the shelf and shattered in slow motion inside her porcelain sink.

"Damn it!" she cursed, snapping out of her daze.

Lori fought the urge to turn around and head back to bed. She knew it would just be safer for her if she didn't leave the apartment today, but she didn't really have a choice. Given her current financial standing she couldn't afford to hide out at home watching the Maury show one more day this month. She was already treading thin ice with her landlord, plus a girl had to eat.

And she really liked eating.

Sighing, Lori gathered the broken pieces of her ceramic mug and tossed them into the trash bin. Grabbing another coffee cup and coffee filters she turned to the fridge and peered inside the barren wasteland. No milk or creamer. She turned and checked the red canister she kept by the coffee maker and found it too was empty - all of her freshly ground coffee was gone.

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