The One That Got Away

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I sigh deeply, my forehead creasing as I round the corner into the history section of the town library. Reaching up, I smooth out the skin with the tips of my fingers.

Bending down, I gather the stack of carelessly discarded books that have been left in a messy pile on the rough carpet. How some people treat books hurts my soul. As if books are nothing more than paper for burning, and not intricate worlds filled with brilliance and knowledge of things long forgotten.

A book at the bottom of the pile is laid open, the spine broken from years of use. It amazes me, the array of different people that have traveled through these pages. University scholars to school kids, grandparents trying to teach the younger generation something about the world, and people like me who just thirst for knowledge.

My eyes stray to the pages, instantly transporting me to another world. I’m on the battlefield with the Lancasters and Yorks fighting the War of the Roses. I wince as a remembered horse gets sliced with a sword. I can hear the screeching and screaming. I can smell the putrid stench of blood and fear in the air.

A soft tap on my shoulder brings me hurtling back into the room. I jump, startled, and drop the book. It hits the floor with a dull thud, falling back open to the same page. Glancing up, my breath catches, and once again I am lost, but this time not in the pages. I’m lost in the magnificent bright blue of his eyes.

Time stands still. It’s as if I’m free-falling, as if someone just yanked the floor from beneath my feet. The library vanishes. The world ceases to exist. There is only me and him, locked in this perfect moment.

His smooth voice shatters my romantic daydream.

“Hi.” His beautiful eyes break my stare, shifting to the book lying open at my feet. He drops into a crouch as the dulcet tone of his voice sends butterflies hammering through my chest. “Here, let me.”

He retrieves the book and stands. He is taller than me, but not by much. At 5 feet 8 inches, I’m considered tall for a woman. On my very long least-favorite feature list it’s right at the top.

My eyes widen as his full lips pull up into a heart-stopping smile. He blinks, looking down through long dark lashes. He doesn’t speak, but holds out the book in the small space between us. We lean toward each other like a gravitational pull is urging us closer.

His delicious lips push out into a slight pout. Lust rips through my body like fire, filling my veins with insatiable need. A need I haven’t felt in a long time. I have to curl my hands into fists and grip the pockets of my cardigan to stop myself from jumping this delicious stranger right here, right now.

In a desperate bid to control myself, I take a step back. Not realizing how close I am to the bookshelf behind me, I stumble. A strong tattooed arm reaches out, catching my elbow. Electricity jolts through me from his touch. He jumps, dropping my arm, and stepping back. Our eyes lock. Like mine, his are wide. The lust I’m feeling is mirrored undeniably in his expression.

He recovers first. His gaze shifting to the book still in his hands. Turning it over, he runs a thumb down the cracked spine.

“Some people have no respect for books.”

His voice is like honey caressing my ears and other more intimate parts of my body, causing my cheeks to burn. 

My heart is pounding so hard, I glance down, expecting to see it. All I see are my nipples straining uncomfortably against the thin fabric of my blouse. I grab the edges of my cardigan and pull it tight around my slim frame. It is feeble protection against his invisible charms.

I jerk my head in awkward agreement. I am suddenly so freaking grateful that people can’t read minds. He cocks his head, his eyes intrusively boring deeply into mine. It’s as if he can see every single thought and fantasy I’ve ever had, and for a moment…I wonder.

He laughs, a cute dimple appearing on the left side of his face. “I’m the kinda guy that freaks out over a turned corner.”

I nod heavily in agreement. I am exactly the same. I want to say this to him, but I’m afraid to attempt speech. I’ve read so many stories about two people meeting at random and it’s love at first sight. That they just know instantly they are meant to be. My heart thuds unevenly. Could he be….

A woman’s shrill voice cuts through the columns.

“Dean?”

The dark-haired stranger takes a step back and hands me the book. The light from the skylight reflects off his gold wedding band and I sigh softly.

He smiles, glancing at my chest, causing my cheeks to heat further.

“It was nice to meet you, Martha.”

For a moment I’m confused, then I realize he is looking at my name badge. My cheeks burn even hotter.

A tall redhead appears at the end of the aisle. Her eyes rake over me but dismiss me quickly as no real threat.

“There you are. I’m done. Shall we get lunch?”

He smiles at me once more before turning and walking away without a backward glance.

All the breath leaves my body in a whoosh. What the hell just happened? The entire exchange took less than five minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. I lean back against the wooden rack, clutching the books to my chest.

Maybe he was the one…just the one that got away.

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