(Click cover to be directed to Amazon)
Listen to me reading Chapter One without any rehearsal, I just picked it up and read it (sorry if I sound shite! you can read along below):
I worked as a cataloguist of special documents at Leeds University’s Brotherton Library, which had some seriously interesting old scrolls and manuscripts among its collections. I landed the job because I had tenacity. I wanted the job because it meant not dealing with the public. I was waiting until my son Billy was a little older so that I could give more time to my studies and finally do my accounting degree.
Occasionally I left my office but only to make the dis-tance from my workspace to the café nearby. While Billy spent time at the crèche every afternoon, I worked. I didn’t need the money, just some sort of sanity.
One day I was leaving my office to pick Billy up on my way home when I spotted a man stood nearby at the self-service units, looking perplexed.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” he called in a panicked voice. He held one foot on the floor while reaching high in the air to signal me over the tops of the high booths. Looking around, I saw no other members of staff available to help him. It was getting toward the end of the day for most people and also, it was nearly the Easter holidays and the past few weeks had been the busiest of the year. Most of my colleagues were surviving on cigarettes and bitching sessions to keep them going.
Walking toward him, I asked, “What’s the problem?”
It wasn’t my job to help him, but I was familiar with the self-service machines.
“It won’t let me take out this book.”
Part of me had already clocked the fact he was beautiful but I tried to ignore that.
Attempting to take his book out for him, I muttered under my breath, “Where is everyone?”
“I’ve been stuck standing here for god knows how long waiting for help.”
I nodded along, hearing angry beeps from the machine, which refused to let him take out this book. Looking closer at the screen, I realised the computer bore a message:
This title is reserved.
Pointing at the screen, I drew his attention to the message and he answered, “Yeah, I reserved it. About four months ago. So did everyone else. Some shit keeps hiding this and none of us can ever get hold of the bloody thing.”
I picked up the book under scrutiny and held it in my hands. It was an old book on medieval chivalry with a brown, warped cover and thin pages nearly falling apart. The book had illustrations in colour but it was at least a hundred years old and should have been a reference title – if that.
“This shouldn’t even be on a shelf,” I mumbled, “it should be under my care. Look at it.”
I felt him staring at me for a while as I examined his long-overdue/reserved book. “A soft spot for battered old books, eh?”
“I’m actually in charge of battered old books,” I told him. “Just wait here a second.”
“Okay. I’ll wait,” he said.
I caught a softness to his voice, perhaps affection, and the tone caught me off guard. Looking directly up into his eyes for the first time, I was throttled by what was staring back.
Our eyes locked. I think I burned from every pore. My belly filled with heat and my heart rinsed off its icy cage in an instant. Staring at him, my feet rooted, I realised he wasn’t affected at all, not whatsoever. Cool as ice. I hated him a little for it.
“In… a… wait,” I mumbled, not making sense.
I rushed off back to my office and sank against the door, panting, trying to slow my heart. Never had I been so affected. Light-headed, I tried to catch my breath.
Clutching the book in my hand, I remembered I had a job to do. My PC on standby, I started it up again and searched the catalogue number.
It was a borrow, he wasn’t lying. Not a reference title. Flicking through it again, I realised it was one of the core subjects our medieval scholars studied – on chivalric court-ship. So I knew he was either an MA student or higher. Going by his eyes, he was a few years older than me.
Anyway, I needed to get rid of him.
I overrode the system and did something naughty, cancelling all the reserve statuses so the book could start a new cycle of temporary ownership. No doubt some div hated his fellow classmates and wanted nobody else to have access to the book, a rare title which could make or break a dissertation.
Gathering myself, I took some deep breaths, my bag clutched under my arm and the book clutched at my chest.
Leaving the office again, I walked fast because I really needed to pick up Billy.
“Hi,” he said as I rejoined him.
Stepping in front of the self-serve machine with authority, I asked, “Library card, please.”
He handed me it and I took the book out for him, avoiding eye contact altogether.
“There you go.”
“Thanks… how did you…? Thanks!” He stuffed the book into his rammed-full bag as I began walking away.
I chased down the stairs, not wanting to give him chance to follow me. I had two flights to get down, though. My exit was through the Parkinson building, and the stairs outside were steep and dangerous. I had to slow down to take them.
“Wait, wait!” He caught up with me, a hand on my forearm slowing me down as we got out into the open air. “I know you.”
“I have somewhere to be,” I huffed, impatient.
I dared look into those chocolate-brown eyes again and another electric current shot through me, even stronger though this time. In the light of day, I saw how deeply brown his eyes really were – and smouldering – with umber striations.
I folded my arms. “So what? I saw your library card, David.” I sounded pithy. “You saw my name tag. Big deal.”
“No,” he shook his head, “Adrienne Kyd. I know you. Well,” he chuckled, “I know of you.”
I examined him carefully and the familiarity became clear.
“You’re a Harrogate boy,” I said through gritted teeth.
So, my past was inescapable. A boy from my hometown had found me.
But just how much did he know?
“Everybody knows you… or knew you,” he said, but while his tone was affectionate, his eyes remained devoid of any feeling. He looked at me like he was looking right past me. It was something about his steady gaze. I couldn’t read him. He seemed, guarded.
Anyway, he wasn’t lying. Everyone knew me. I was Miss Harrogate 2000, the same year I got together with Marcus, my ex – the donator of sperm that created my child (he was never a father).
“I’m not trying to be rude… I really do have somewhere to be,” I insisted, avoiding his eyes at all costs. I couldn’t help notice he was mentally undressing me, sizing me up for the kill.
“Can I give you my number?” he asked.
I charged off. Petrified wasn’t a word I thought I understood, but right then, I did. I purposely wore dowdy clothes, no make-up – and worked in the backroom of a library. I hardly ever let my hair down (literally) and I didn’t try to make myself look attractive to the opposite sex whatsoever. In fact I was glad to be invisible but that day, my magic cloak seemed to have worn off.
I’d never been so scared before in my life: I’d fallen in love at first sight.
Even though I worked at the library, people may not have even known that. I passed through quickly on my way to and from places; always with my eyes focused on leaving, always with an air of inapproachability so that people never stopped me in my tracks. I lived in my office, end of. I wore a name badge I always tried to hide by folding over my cardigan. I wasn’t on the help desk. I didn’t deal with returns. I didn’t want to talk to people. I didn’t want people to ask me questions and know things about me. I was quiet. I talked to one girl I worked with, Bebe, and the rest of the staff thought I was some sort of mentally ill person with antisocial tendencies. It worked for me.
However. After that first encounter with David, I was no longer a ghost fluttering in and out of that place. I was a target. David hung around in the afternoons, waiting, watching. He asked if he could carry my bag on my way out. He tried to slip his number into the palm of my hand. He even stalked me at my favourite coffee shop in Parkinson, finding out from the owner what my usual tipple was. The coffee shop owner said David had paid for me to have free coffee for the rest of the academic year. I was molten with fury and longing – torn between giving into my urges and tearing strips off him for refusing to let it go.
Not many days later, I had to run an errand over to the geography department which was expecting a new delivery of old maps. Because of my infrequent escape from the office, I don’t think David expected me to catch him with another girl that day. I watched from a distance, hiding myself behind one of the many trees lining the pathways of our campus. I spotted him and a redhead on a bench having a heated discussion, and then a second girl walked up to them. A brunette. The two girls faced off, seemingly fighting for him. David was able to slope off because they were too busy arguing. He chased away once he’d put a safe distance between himself and the two ladies, heading off campus it seemed. Once I knew he was gone, I left my hiding place and walked along to my destination, passing the two girls as I did. All I heard from the redhead was, “He was mine first, keep your hands off.”
The brunette replied, “Don’t you see? He’s playing us both…”
I didn’t hear anything more, but I was sure as hell certain David wasn’t a man to be trusted. I certainly couldn’t afford another man like that in my life.