Heading for the stairs, I met Trissa coming down. “You’ll never believe it!” she
“I think Lenny Kravitz is here.”
Having Annabelle on my mind, I had braced myself for news of mischief directed
at customers. Relieved, and feeling a little mischievous myself, I raised my eyebrows and
She groaned and rolled her eyes. “God! Do you do anything but read?”
As the grin I’d suppressed broke free, she frowned in annoyance. “B! You have to
go talk to him.”
“It’s not Lenny Kravitz.”
She grabbed my arm and dragged me upstairs to the fantasy section, where she
gave me a shove toward a man in distressed denim and black leather. He stood eyeing a
shelf on the L-through-P aisle.
To be fair, he could’ve been Lenny Kravitz — like twenty years ago. This guy’s
denim was truly distressed, not distressed by machines for that perfect, overpriced lived-
in look. And the cracks in his leather jacket traced a map of a rugged landscape in some
unknown, dark country. The heel and sole of one of his motorcycle boots were held
together by duct tape. He was as poor as I used to be. Maybe poorer.
But his sculpted features were framed by a glorious but compact starburst of
spiky dark hair bleached burnt-orange at the ends. And I’d stake my store on him being a
As I stood there studying him, he looked up, and I took a few steps forward. “Can
I help you find something?”
His eyes moved over me, but not in a way that felt creepy. He was studying me
back. And what he was probably seeing was that the money I’d spent on my outfit would
have bought him groceries for a month. It wasn’t the way I usually dressed. Well, it was
now. But a year ago my clothes were all the same vintage as his.
“You work here?” he asked.
“I … ” I couldn’t bring myself to say I was the owner. “Yes. Can I help you?”
“Do you have sci-fi? This is all fantasy.”
I nodded. “We’ve got them in two sections. If you’ll follow me … ”
Chill bumps washed over my back as I listened to the thud of his boots against
the hardwood floor behind me. I was suddenly self-conscious about the length (or lack
thereof) of my skirt. No way of knowing whether I was imagining his eyes on my ass, but
I was glad he couldn’t see my face, because the heat there confirmed my belief that they
“Here we are,” I said, waving at the first of the sci-fi shelves. Alpha by author. Is
there something specific you’re looking for?”
He considered me a moment, delicious chocolate eyes fixed on my face. He was
intense about eye contact. Finally he gave a slight nod. “Solaris.”
“Oh yes,” I said too eagerly, “that’s one of my favorites.” I walked to L through
P and sank down to study the bottom shelf. “Looks like we have both a used and new
copy.” Solaris was on the obscure side for sci-fi, and now my curiosity was piqued. Or
rather more piqued.
“I’ll take the used,” he said quietly.
“Of course,” I said, again in a quick, nervous voice, as I slid the book off the shelf.
I held it out to him, and he said, “What do you mean?” Something dark flashed in
I felt my smile slipping. “I’m sorry … ?”
Clearing his throat, he shook his head. “Nothing. I’ll take it.”
I handed it to him, annoyed that my heart felt like a box of wrestling kittens. The
guy had spoken a handful of words, and he had me completely unsettled.
“What interested you in the book?” I asked, trying to sound casual and friendly
rather than neurotic or stalker-like.
He hesitated, studying the cover. “My girlfriend recommended it.”
“Ah.” I swallowed hard to prevent any more words from coming out.
“Ex-girlfriend, I mean.” He glanced up, and a slow smile swung one corner of his
lips up. “She left me for a guy with a PhD. I decided it was time to educate myself.”
“Ah.” I didn’t have to swallow this time. There was no way to reply to that
without ending up a mess of blushing awkward.
“You’re Bronte, aren’t you?” he said, tucking the book under his arm. “The
I cleared my throat. No avoiding it now. “Yeah, that’s me. But it’s just ‘B.’”
“Nice to meet you, Just B.”
I tried and failed to stop the eye roll. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard
He grinned. “Sorry. But I can’t call you that.”
Encore of the intense chocolate stare. “It’s a less than perfect grade, and that’s not
I was so startled by this I forgot to notice that it sounded an awful lot like a cheesy
pickup line. “That’s exactly what my moms say.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Your moms?”
Now the pickup line thing sunk in. “Yeah. You got a problem with that?”
“No,” he laughed.
No one here was ruffled but me, and I felt like a jerk. I couldn’t think of a single
word to say to him now, except “if you’ll excuse me,” which at this point would only
emphasize my discomfort. Luckily he took pity on me.
“I’m Brody, Bronte. Thanks for helping me with the book. Good luck with the
Grateful to him for coming to my rescue, I smiled. Genuinely. “Thank you. I hope
to see you here again.”
He gave another shake of his head, and his gaze slid around the second floor.
“I don’t read much. But I had to see if it was worth it, me getting kicked out of my
apartment because some rich kid wanted to open a bookstore.”
# # #