“Danger is playful, spontaneous and magnetic,” said Lizzie Armata, one of Ms. Howard’s many close friends. And Ms. Howard, now 32, doesn’t disagree, adding, “I’m not afraid to take risks.”
At the party where they met in 2005, the handsome, lanky Mr. Peralta, now 35, sported a blond pompadour and a battered leather jacket, because in addition to being a student, he was the lead singer and songwriter in a pop-punk band.
That night, each was drawn to the other, but nothing more than a handshake passed between them.
They fled Reno and fell off each other’s radar. Mr. Peralta, after graduating with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish, moved to San Francisco with his band, the Cobra Skulls. Ms. Howard left for San Diego to pursue a modeling career and work as a host in a nightclub.
Two years later, Ms. Howard was in Reno on vacation and saw a performance of the Cobra Skulls, who were touring. After the show, she joined the band for cocktails. It was nearly dawn when she and Mr. Peralta stole a kiss, affirming their mutually felt connection.
But post-smooch, Ms. Howard abruptly blurted a warning: “Don’t fall in love with me,” she said.
Don’t flatter yourself, Mr. Peralta remembers thinking. But also: I can fall in love with you if I want to. Ms. Howard’s willowy good looks were appealing, but it was her warm, infectious energy and quirky pinup style that snagged him. (Of her clumsy caveat, Ms. Howard said, “I had Alaska-girl…