2: In Which She Visits a Paradise
“Have you ever wanted to experience a fantasy so wild, so crazy that your vagina burst at the seams?” Erin asked, casually channel-surfing and sipping a glass of lemonade.
I looked up from my Heat. All I’d manage to catch was the v-word. “Excuse me?”
“I’m just thinking out loud here,” Erin said innocently.
I shook my head ruefully. If someone met Erin Thomas for the first time, they’d think she was exactly as she looked – her big, wide blue eyes made her seem childlike; her small, sixteen-year-old frame added to her childlike appearance, plus she was a jeans-and-T-shirt girl. She seemed like the typical girl-next-door stereotype, with her Canon slung around her neck and those big bug eyes.
But that was all just a cover for the freak inside her.
Erin and I had met in college – she was studying photography and I was majoring in media. We were thrown together as roommates. There I was, foolishly thinking that I had been paired up with an intellectual such as myself – until one Saturday night when she’d picked up two guys from the college rec room and proceeded to have a wild threesome in the bed beside me while I tried to sleep, plugging Eminem into my ears. From then on, Erin had steady boyfriends that were just as wild as she, but still adored her for who she was. She was fickle and free-spirited and was probably the happiest person I knew.
“Do you know where I met Harry?” Erin asked suddenly, sitting up a little straighter in the couch.
“No, but I bet you’re gonna tell me,” I mumbled, thinking of one of her boyfriends from the year before, a sexy paramedic that bore a strong resemblance to Adam Levine.
“The library, Janelle. The library.”
“How romantic,” I said sarcastically.
“Hey, you should go!” Erin was suddenly excited, bouncing up and down on my sofa, threatening to break it.
“I’m reading right now.” I held up my magazine.
“There’s a reading club that meets every Friday evening. You should go. It could be good for you.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s a great way to meet new people.”
I closed the magazine, looking at her. “I have enough friends, thank you very much. I don’t need to go to the library to meet people like some sad, lonely person, Erin. Besides, Friday is club night.”
“You don’t go to the club anymore. You either stay home with Prince exploring each other’s bodies, or you bring a colleague home to screw.”
“How…how’d you know?” I asked, referring to David Fuentes.
“David’s been blabbing to everyone at the paper. He says you just lay there like a log.”
Erin shook her head. “Bad idea fúcking him. Yes, the guy’s sexy – but he’s a prick. You should’ve run this by me.”
I groaned loudly. “I’m going to cut his nut sack off and mail it to his grandmother.”
“Whose nut sack?” Prince’s voice sang from the hallway.
“Stop eavesdropping, Sherlock!” I called back over my shoulder.
“Does he know what he likes yet?” Erin asked curiously, nodding in the direction of Prince’s voice.
“That’s his business. Or do you fancy the guy?”
“Oh please, Jan. I like my men very heterosexual, thank you very much.” She paused. “So will you go? To the library?”
“If it’s so awesome, why don’t you go?” I grumbled, annoyed.
“Because I went last year,” she said cryptically.
I shook my head. “So the public library has become a place to pick up guys? Do all the eligible bachelors converge there with their library cards in hand?”
“You’re so stubborn.” Erin punched my shoulder lightly, laughing. “Look, reading is relaxing. You need to relax. After the Baxter incident…”
I reddened, instantly going back to that fateful day. I had to admit, watching Erin and that weirdo getting it on was a turn-on. I was never one for kinky porn – the kinkiest I got was sex in the bathtub after all – but observing an actual twosome getting it on in front of me was…well, it was hot.
“Reading as a group can be fun, especially if the book is…interesting,” Erin pointed out. “I don’t know why I’ve never referred you to the library,” she said to herself, smacking her forehead.
“Do they have snacks?”
“Oh yes, plenty.”
“Fine then. I’m in. Just find out what they’re reading for me?”
“Of course, honey. I promise you won’t regret it.”
The last time I’d stepped into the Bradley Kingston Public Library, I was a fifteen-year-old teen who’d just discovered Mills & Boon books. I remember the face on the librarian when I’d pushed across her desk what I’d neatly written on a scrap of paper: Where are the sexy books?
She’d been fifty-something, with the face of a thoroughbred, and had promptly squashed up my note and told me to go read Revelations.
Now, as Erin had told me, my library card was in dire need of a renewal.
I took my shades off and pushed open the large glass door, breathing in the smell of old books and scented candles. The place was extremely stuffy and after five seconds, I couldn’t stand the smell of those idiotic candles. Wasn’t that a health hazard, candles and paper?
“Hi, how may I help you?” the librarian asked cheerfully. Her name tag told me that she was Cindy, and her hair told me that she was a forty-something trying to be a twenty-something blonde.
“Hi. I just need my card renewed,” I replied, digging into my tote bag and removing my purse. I took out the half-laminated, half-stained-with-god-knows-what scrap and handed it to Cindy.
She gingerly accepted it. “Um…when was the last time you used this?”
“Maybe a decade ago.” I shrugged. “I’m too busy for guilty pleasures.”
“The library is a paradise, darling,” Cindy said brightly, her eyes on her computer screen. “Every book is a rocket ship, ready to take you to another world.”
Oh, shut the fúck up, I thought irritably.
“I’m fine with this world, thanks.”
“I’ll just need six minutes to make your new card, hon,” Cindy told me. “Feel free to browse, though. By the time you find something to take out, I’ll be done.”
I stalked off, muttering to myself. Spending a Friday afternoon after work in a library wasn’t my idea of fun. Don’t get me wrong: I love reading as much as the next person but I had a life. Sometimes.
“Carrie is a classic – and they don’t have it,” someone muttered on the opposite side of the shelf I was casually scanning for god-knows-what.
“The shock,” I muttered, pulling out a Sophie Kinsella novel and thumbing through the first few pages.
“It’s an atrocity.”
“You’re being sarcastic.”
“How perceptive of you.”
“A romance novel. How did I guess?”
The man was suddenly standing at my right elbow, checking the back of my book. I took a step away from him.
“What are you doing?” I asked in a strangled voice.
He quirked an eyebrow, looking down at me. “Relax. I’m not attacking you or anything, am I?”
“Go back to finding that book.” I was strangely shaken by his blonde-hair-blue-eyed stereotypical boy-next-door look. Hell, he was even in a T-shirt and jeans. Who did I know besides Prince that still wore band Tees?
“I think I’ve found something better,” he said gently, bracing himself with one hand on the shelf. “Are you joining the book club?”
What is it with this book club? I thought in shock. You’d think they’re offering money to members!
“Not this Friday. Maybe the next one.” I shivered under his scrutiny. His stare was unblinking. “What are you reading?” I asked quickly.
“Why don’t you stay for tonight’s meeting?” he asked, ignoring my question. He reached out and brushed a strand of hair out of my face, his blue eyes sparkling.
“I…I don’t –”
“I’m Stephen. You are…?”
“Janelle. Beautiful,” he said softly. Without warning, he pushed me up against the book shelf. “What are you thinking right now?”
His sudden forwardness scared the living hell out of me. “That I’m going to scream,” I hissed, glancing wildly around me. “Leave me alone.”
“You wouldn’t,” Stephen said, his body still flush against mine. “Something tells me that for all your talk, you don’t like attracting attention to yourself. Am I right?”
I glared up at him. “Fúck you.”
We stared at each other for a long moment – and then Stephen boldly mashed his lips against mine. I twisted my neck, trying to resist him, but when it was obvious that he was an amazing kisser, my will crumbling and I responded in equal fervour.
As he pressed against me, I felt something digging into my gut. And that sent tremors through my body. His arms snaked around my waist and his hands cupped my arse. Completely forgotten, the Kinsella novel fell to the carpet with a light thud when I looped my arms around Stephen’s neck.
He groaned into my mouth, biting my bottom lip. “You should come tonight. In more ways than one.” He released me abruptly.
I fell back to earth and came back to my senses. Disentangling myself from him, I shot him a dark look. “Goodbye.”
“See you tonight?”
“Go to hell,” I fumed, turning on my heel and marching to the librarian’s desk.
“Here’s your card, Miss Jones,” Cindy drawled, handing it over. She looked me over. “Are you staying for the book club meeting? People are on their way and Fiona will be here in a little while.”
I shook my head. “I’m exhausted. Maybe next week.”
“Oh. All right. Well, we’ll see you next week, dear. Take care of yourself.”
I walked out of the BK Public Library without glancing back, confusion overwhelming me. My lips still tingled from Stephen’s kiss. Whatever freaky shít was going on in there, Erin was sure to know.
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