Authors: Pati Nagle
Tags: #magic, #aelven, #vampire, #fantasy, #New Mexico, #elves, #southwest
Cedar Crest, New Mexico
Copyright Â© 2011 by Pati Nagle.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form.
Published by Evennight Books, Cedar Crest, New Mexico.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names,characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Many thanks to my helpmate, Chris Krohn. Thanks as well to Plotbusters and the good folks of the Oregon Writers Network, especially Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. You know why.
He came up to my station at the university library desk, eyes green and earnest, and a bolt of lightning shot through me and settled in my abdomen. He was absolutely freaking gorgeous.
Understand, I am not the starry-eyed type. More the shy, geeky, can't-get-a-date type. In fact, my parents are already despairing (loudly) that they will never have grandchildren.
It's not that I don't like guys, it's just that I'm pickyâmaybe unrealistically so. But this guy was so exactly my type, it was scary.
High cheekbones, skin fair and smooth with the slightest golden tinge. His eyes, as they held my gaze, seemed to shimmer from deep green to gold-green. His voice was soft and had a slight lilt to it, as if he might be foreign, though he spoke perfectly.
“Can you help me find this book?”
I didn't want to look away from his face, but he was holding the note out to me. I took it and glanced down.
The handwriting was graceful, not your usual undergraduate's scrawl. The book was one I'd never heard of, but the call number told the tale. I offered the note back.
“It's in the Kathryn Wesley Collection, in the west hall. They'll need your student I.D. and one other form of identification, and you'll have to use it in the library, you can't check it out.”
Listening to myself, I sounded like a some awful character in a TV dramaâthe hide-bound librarian. What I was really thinking was if I offered to buy him a drink, would he laugh? A soda, of course. I wasn't twenty-one yet. Counting the 116 days left.
He was frowning again, staring at the note in his long fingers. Pale pink paper with the words of some forgotten flyer on the back.
“I don't have a student I.D.”
Irrational disappointment went through me. Not a student, harder to connect with. He didn't look any older than me, but I wasn't a good judge of age. I saw my fantasy receding. No surprise.
I put on my cheery librarian smile. “Do you have a Community Borrower's card?”
He shook his head, looking troubled. My chance to be a hero, a little bit. I pulled an application form from one of the slots under the counter and laid it down facing him.
“It's twenty dollars a semester. Fill this out and turn it in with your payment and you should get the card within a week.”
His frown deepened as he scanned the form. He looked up at me, and again I felt like I'd been sucker-punched.
“I cannot wait a week. May I not see the book today?”
“I'm sorry, you need either an I.D. or a Borrower's card to use a rare book.”
He stood still, frozen in disappointment. I wanted to run get the book and hand it to him, he looked so heartbroken. I watched him breathe three times before he met my gaze again.
“Please, it is important. Can you not help me?”
He had spoken in a whisper, but the intensity of it almost turned my legs to jelly. I gulped a breath as a tingling washed slowly through my body from head to foot.
All attraction aside, this was not a normal reaction. I leaned the heels of my hands on the counter, wondering if he had pulled some kind of hypnotic trick on me, but if so he didn't press the advantage. He simply waited, watching me with those amazing eyes.
I swallowed and answered quietly. “Well, I could request the book. You could come with me and look at it, but it would have to be after I get off work.”
“When is that?”
“Then I will return at four o'clock. I should come here?”
“I'll meet you over by the history display.”
I nodded toward the alcove a few yards along the building from the main desk. He followed my gaze to the glass-encased artifacts and images, currently depicting the history of the Rio Grande, then looked back at me and smiled like the sun rising. I swear I could almost hear birds singing.
“Thank you.” He gave an odd little nod, almost a bow, and headed for the front doors.
“Hey, what's your â¦ name.”
I hadn't been fast enough, and I couldn't raise my voice in the library. His long, graceful strides took him through the metal detectors and the glass doors and out into the autumn sunshine. I just had time to register that his backpack was unusualâsoft leather with fringe on the flap and a leather string lashed around a large blue bead instead of a buckleâand that the sun lit his long, russet ponytail almost to red, before he was out of sight.
Amanda, working the next station over, said softly, “Wow, Len.”
“Yeah,” I answered shakily.
“Who was he? I had a customer so I couldn't listen in.”
“I don't know. Not a student.”
She pushed up her glasses, gazing out the front doors. “Maybe he's an actor. There are lots of movie crews in town.”
Someone came up to my station with a stack of renewals, ending the conversation. Amanda might well be right, I thought as I processed the books. Our current governor liked Hollywood people and had arranged for lots of incentives for movie companies who shot on location in the state, so it was hard to get around Albuquerque without tripping over a film crew these days.
And an actor might have the kind of charisma that had just bowled me over. My pulse sped up again as I recalled the few moments he'd been in front of me. I closed my eyes, remembering his face, his voice. My heart did a slow flip as I realized I was going to see him again in just a few hours.
“Everything all right, Miss Lenore?”
I flinched back, opening my eyes. Dave Wharton, my supervisor, had come up beside me and I had been so damn preoccupied I hadn't heard him. The antithesis of my ideal, Dave was stocky, hairy just about everywhere I could see and I'm sure in places I didn't want to imagine, and full of himself.
“Everything's fine.” I grabbed the unused application and put it back in the slot, though for an insane moment I wanted to keep it.
“What did Pretty Boy want?”
“Looking for a book, but it's in special collections.”
Stupid! Too much information. I was giving things away and I shouldn't. If Dave got too nosy and felt like interfering, he could prevent me from keeping my promise to the gorgeous guy.
Technically I shouldn't have offered to give that guy access to the book, though it wasn't
against the rules to do what I'd suggested. Stretching them, yes.
I ran through the renewal records I'd just updated on my screen, for the sake of looking busy. Dave watched for a minute, then went away. I breathed a sigh of relief.
For the next three hours I tried unsuccessfully to keep from checking the time. I knew it was hopeless to try not to think about the gorgeous stranger with whom I had made a date, albeit a really tame one. I replayed my few minutes with him over and over in my mind, savoring every impression.
Yes, I am obsessive, and probably too romantically inclined, especially for a wallflower. Guys who fit my taste for pretty men (clean-shaven, thank you, and more sleek than muscle-bound) aren't all that common, and are usually taken by the time I notice them, if they're not gay. They don't often notice me back, either. I'm nothing extraordinary, and I'm shy with strangers, so that's two strikes in the attract-your-dream game.
I wished I'd written down the title of the book he wanted. It was in Spanish, and I thought it had something to do with colonists in northern New Mexico, but beyond that I couldn't remember. We had
of books that fit that description.
To pass the slow times during the afternoon, I surfed the catalog trying to spot the entry. No luck, though I compiled a list of titles that I thought might interest my glorious researcher. Maybe if I was helpful he'd be grateful, inclined to take pity on a poor geek and spend a little time with her.
By three-thirty I was quietly going nuts with anticipation. Amanda had left at two, and the only other person who had seen my researcher was Dave, so I had no one to talk to about him. That was probably for the best, because I was getting too worked up.
The last five minutes of the hour I was useless. Kept staring at the doors, watching for him, terrified he might come and go before I could clock out and go to meet him.
I should have told him five after four. I should have explained that it might take me a few minutes to get to the history display. Iâyi yi
At 3:59 there was no one in line. I logged out, grabbed my pack from under the counter and dashed back to the staff room to punch my time card. Dave was pouring end-of-the-day coffee into his mug, and glanced up at me.
“See you tomorrow, Miss Lenore.”
He drawled the words, lingering on my name, trying to piss me off. No way was I going to get into it with him today.
I shouldered my pack and stepped out, forcing myself to walk and not run to the history display. My heart sank when I saw there was no one there.
Swallowing, I stood in front of a case showing photos of the Rio Grande over time, staring at the pictures without registering them. I should have known better than to get my hopes up. Probably the guy had decided it was too much trouble, or maybe he'd found his book at the city library's special collections branch. I hadn't even thought to suggest that. Some help I was.