My latest novel, LOVE IN THE STACKS, is available now on Amazon.
Mira Lockhart is married to her work. One of the youngest library directors in the state, she has been climbing ladders for so long she’s forgotten what life is like outside the library. Not that she has time for love and all that mushy stuff – Westbrook Public Library is the most challenging place she’s ever worked, and every day there’s a new crisis to avert. Her new library page, for one.
Read the first chapter below.
Chelle Tate sat in one of the worn-down chairs that lined the lobby of the Westbrook Public Library, clutching her resume and waiting for a job interview. It was mid-morning on a weekday, so there were not many people in the library – just her, the slightly mean-looking man at the reference desk, and a couple of patrons who looked like they might be homeless and just looking for an air-conditioned place to cool off for a few hours.
It certainly would not be the most glamorous job in the world if she got it, nor the most suited to the degree she’d just earned in exercise science. It was only a page position – a part time job putting books back on the shelves – and it really didn’t require anything more than a basic competency with the Dewey Decimal System. A high school kid could do it.
But here she was, dressed in a black blazer while the August sun beat down through the skylights, waiting for the library director and trying not to look too desperate whenever the reference librarian glanced over at her. Chelle needed this job – the only one in Westbrook that she was even remotely qualified for – because her parents had been threatening to cut her off ever since she declared her “useless major” (their words, not hers). Now that she’d graduated, the job search was getting dire and she had to cede the point that there weren’t a lot of places clamoring for exercise scientists.
“I don’t know why you couldn’t have gone into accounting like me. I make good money and work decent hours, and there will always be a need for accountants.”
Chelle could hear her mother’s objections running through the back of her mind like a nagging playlist.
And of course, there was her father’s more blunt criticisms.
Why do you need a degree to be a personal trainer? Michelle, I never did understand where your head was.”
The general consensus around the Tate household had always been that Chelle was a bit of a screw-up, a fact that was amplified the closer she stood to the golden child, her older brother Daniel. So while being a library page wasn’t exactly Chelle’s dream job, she hoped that it was enough of a step in the right (responsible, adult, bill-paying) direction that her parents would acknowledge the effort and back off a little while so she could figure out her next move.
Perhaps it would be a literal one, to a place where people really did want to hire exercise science majors. That, of course, would take a bit of capital, and Chelle was hoping that this library job could help with that goal, too.
The reference librarian looked over at her again and narrowed his eyes – sizing her up, Chelle thought – so she straightened her blazer and ran a hand over her long red hair to tame any fly-aways that the summer heat might have caused on the drive over here. She was determined not to mess this up.
A door opened just behind the reference desk and Chelle straightened up.
The girl who called her name was petite, dressed in a very conservative black pant suit and pointed heels with her chestnut hair done up in the stereotypical librarian bun, and the wispy strands of her bangs were the only thing about her appearance that didn’t scream ‘formal’. These were the first things Chelle noticed about her, but as soon as she stood up to greet her, she noticed what was actually the girl’s most prominent feature.
Her large eyes were a stunning, icy blue that drew Chelle into them and awoke something wanton in her core. She had to make a conscious effort not to bite her lip or turn on the charm like she most definitely would have done if she’d been doing almost anything except waiting on her job interview. The girl was gorgeous, and all the stuffy business-woman suits in the world couldn’t conceal the curve of her hips.
A bit of a rake at heart, Chelle tucked the thought into the back of her mind that perhaps this girl would still be around after her interview was over as she said, “I’m Michelle.”
She went across the small lobby, past the reference desk where the librarian still hadn’t found anything better to do than openly watch the exchange between them. Then the girl held out her hand and said,
“I’m Mira Lockhart. I’m the director.”
Chelle slid her hand into Mira’s waiting palm, trying to disguise her surprise at this announcement. Mira was so young, she’d been expecting her to be the director’s assistant. The handshake lasted only a couple of seconds – Mira’s palm was warm and soft and she gave Chelle’s hand a firm, almost aggressive shake – but it made Chelle’s heart rate jump a little.
She had a long history of reading into handshakes, smiles, and the language of the eyes, and however brief it had been, there was something flirtatious about the way Mira’s hand lingered in Chelle’s just an instant too long.
“We’ll go to my office for the interview,” Mira said, then turned to the reference librarian and asked,
“Holding down the fort okay, Jack?”
“Have been long before you got here, my dear,” he replied with a somewhat tense smile that did a
pretty half-hearted job of making his comment into a joke.
“And we’ve only had one trash can fire this week,” Mira shot back, completely unfazed by this apparent effort at insubordination. “Keep up the good work.”
Then she opened the door and gestured for Chelle to follow.
Once she was at Mira’s back, trailing her down a narrow hallway with office doors lining one side and a large, window-lined conference room on the other, Chelle felt free to smirk. She was liking Mira more and more with every passing minute, a woman who didn’t take shit and managed to look damn fine even in a shapeless pant suit.
Chelle let her eyes fall down from the tight bun of Mira’s, over her small frame, to her cinched little waist, and finally down her slender legs swimming in formless black fabric. She was just trying to keep herself from imagining Mira in a stereotypical librarian’s outfit – skin-tight pencil skirt that hugged every curve, blouse billowing open just beyond decency, horn-rimmed glasses, and a pair of sheer stockings with a seam running up the back of her legs and disappearing under her skirt – when Mira opened a door at the end of the hall.
“Home sweet home,” she said, stepping aside to let Chelle enter.
The office was on the smaller side, not cramped exactly but not what one would expect for the director of an organization – then again, Westbrook was not the most metropolitan of towns. The room was cozily decorated and it was obvious that Mira spent a lot of time here – from the extra blazer hanging on the back of her door, to the mini fridge along one wall, to the small pile of well-worn books on the arm of a comfy-looking plush chair by the window.
Chelle went to one of the less inviting straight-backed chairs in front of a large oak desk while Mira closed the door and walked behind the desk.
“So,” Mira said, settling into her chair. “Tell me about yourself, Michelle.”
“Chelle,” she corrected automatically, having adamantly resisted her full name for her entire life. Then she bit her lip, wondering if it was appropriate to ask this steely-eyed goddess to call her by her nickname. “Sorry. I just always thought Michelle sounded… uptight.”
The space between her words and Mira’s response seemed to stretch out for a beat too long, during which Chelle wondered how bad a breach of interview etiquette she’d just made, but then Mira smiled. It lit her whole face up, erasing any lingering formality she’d worn in the lobby. Chelle hadn’t thought it was possible for her to be any more breathtaking, but clearly she’d been wrong.
“My name is Miranda, so trust me, Chelle, I understand,” she said with a slightly self-conscious laugh, and the craving stirring in Chelle’s core made itself known again as her name passed over Mira’s delicate lips.
“Oof,” Chelle answered with a playful wince. Even as the logical part of her mind was screaming at her to take this interview seriously, the more primal parts of her couldn’t help turning on the charm. “You’re right. Mira suits you much better – it’s soft and beautiful, like you.”
“Umm,” Mira paused, looking away as a faint blush formed on her porcelain cheeks.
Chelle was thoroughly enjoying her front row seat to watch Mira’s reactions. It was pretty obvious that she wore her heart on her sleeve and by the flush of her cheeks she probably wasn’t much good at poker. Chelle could see the effect she was having from halfway across the room, and she wondered how much closer Mira would allow her to get.
But Mira cleared her throat and composed herself, sitting a little straighter in her chair and looking Chelle sternly in the eyes as she said, “You never answered my question.”
“You’re right,” Chelle said, smiling back at her. “I’m a new graduate. I majored in exercise science, which my parents thought was a dumb idea and which I’m starting to agree with them on since no one in Westbrook except my exercise science professors has ever heard of that term. I spent the last four years in the circulation department of the university library as a work study student. I’m a runner, I like long walks on the beach, and I forgot to give you my resume when we sat down.”
As a job interview, this was one of the worst ones Chelle had ever been on. There was something about Mira that just made her want to sweep everything off the desk between them and lay her down on it, regardless of what it meant for her bank account, her parents’ support, or even her reputation in their small community as an unprofessional person who doesn’t know how to act in an interview.
As a study in flirtation, though, it was a master class.
She’d only been in Mira’s presence for around ten minutes, but she couldn’t imagine making it through the rest of the hour giving straight answers and ignoring the heat building between them. Chelle looked down at the neatly printed resume that she’d all but forgotten was in her hands, and she decided to go for broke.
Mira Lockhart reached across her desk to take the resume that Chelle had offered. It would be a welcome distraction from her plump, cherry-stained lips to look down at a piece of paper while they talked, but Chelle didn’t actually give her the resume that she held in her hand.
Instead, she fixed Mira with the same sultry stare that she’d been wearing since they sat down, a somewhat cocky expression that seemed to say I know exactly what you’re thinking. It was more than a little unsettling to be so emotionally undressed in the middle of a job interview that Mira was, quite frankly, failing to conduct in a professional manner.
Chelle was at least ten years younger than her, and filled with the youthful abandon to prove it. Her fiery red hair fell to her shoulders in a way that was just this side of messy thanks to the August heat, and her cheeks were rosy and slightly dewy. All of it together gave her the look of a woman who’s just been fucked, and it woke something in Mira that she had spent years ignoring.
Maybe that’s why it was so hard to stop playing into Chelle’s seductive looks. Or maybe it was how confident and brazen she was, two words that had never defined Mira’s personal style of flirtation. Her comments were patently inappropriate for a job interview, but every time Chelle smiled at her, Mira forgot she was even conducting one.
Rather than reaching across the desk to place her resume in Mira’s outstretched hand, Chelle stood up and walked slowly around it. Mira opened her mouth to object, to take control of the situation and tell her to sit down and tell her why she wanted to work at Westbrook Public Library. But the words caught in her throat as her eyes locked on Chelle’s, and she watched her sway her hips seductively back and forth with every step. She had a slightly plump figure and Mira could see the curve of her breasts and the dip of her waist through the tight blazer she wore.
As Chelle rounded the corner of Mira’s desk, stepping into the narrow space between the desk and the window behind it, Mira stood. They were nearly eye to eye, Chelle a few inches taller than Mira, and the space between them was rapidly closing. Mira felt her heart beginning to thump against her chest, and some small part of her brain that was still functioning in a work capacity was demanding that she take the resume and send Chelle back to her seat.
So she reached for the document again, but Chelle didn’t let it go. She was looking at Mira with stunning turquoise eyes that sparkled in the sunlight and invited her to get lost in them. Chelle tugged the resume, bringing Mira’s arm closer to her body, and the next thing she knew, Chelle’s arm was around her waist and she was pulling Mira into her.
She closed her eyes and felt Chelle’s body against hers, soft and supple, their hips connecting as Chelle held her close. Then Mira felt her lips, big and plump and tasting ever so faintly like cherries as they closed over hers. Mira gave in to the kiss, melting into Chelle as her tongue glided over Mira’s lips and her arms wrapped around her waist.
Everything about the moment felt right… until Mira’s brain caught up to her, screaming, What are you doing? You’re the library director for crying out loud!
“No,” she murmured, breaking away from Chelle. “I can’t.”
“I’m sorry,” Chelle said, taking a step back. By the way she was looking at Mira, though, with that same sultry stare, it didn’t seem like she was sorry about any of it.
“I think you should go,” Mira said, squeezing past Chelle and going to the door. She couldn’t be alone with her any longer or she might do something truly regrettable.
“Wait,” Chelle said, a hint of pleading coming into her voice. “Please don’t end the interview.”
“I don’t know if I would call it that,” Mira said, opening the door and turning on her professional demeanor once again as she stepped aside for Chelle to leave. Chelle opened her mouth to voice an objection, but Mira cut her off. “Thank you for coming in, Ms. Tate.”
This curt dismissal, delivered in the most managerial and disparaging tone she could muster, was enough to make Chelle realize that she would not budge and the interview was over. Chelle picked up her resume from where it had fallen to the floor when she grabbed Mira, then kept her eyes down as she walked through the door.
“Do you remember your way out?” Mira asked, pointing down the hall. Chelle nodded, and before she had the chance to offer any final words that might lure Mira back into a dangerous situation, Mira closed the door behind her.
Alone in her office, she sighed and leaned against the door. Never in her entire career had she conducted such an unprofessional interview, and she was just as shocked at her own complicity in that kiss as she had been at Chelle’s brazen behavior.
She found that she was a bit irritated by it, if she was being honest. What about her made Chelle think that she could interrupt a job interview to kiss her?
Mira straightened her jacket and brushed a few wrinkles out of her pants, then went back around her desk to sit down. There was a copy of Chelle’s job application sitting there, which she’d printed to refer to during the interview, and now she swept it into the trash.
With the taste of Chelle still on her lips, no closer to filling the library page position, Mira was feeling rather impotent as a library director. It was very close to the feeling she got every time something disastrous happened in the library and Jack was never far away, eager to point out how he would have handled the situation if he’d been chosen as the library director.
Mira had only been in the position for six months, and in that time it seemed like the library had more catastrophes than books – today’s adventure adding to her never-ending list of problems.
She grimaced at the mere thought of Jack getting wind of her unorthodox interview. He was always looking for ways to undermine her authority or bring evidence that she was unfit for her position to the library’s Board of Trustees. Kissing the candidate during a job interview – particularly when said candidate was a woman – would be a scandal big enough to rock the conservative old men of the Board to their core.
How could she let the interview stray so far off course?
She should have shut down Chelle’s flirtations the moment she called her beautiful. But the truth was, Mira was lonely. She enjoyed Chelle’s silver tongue and she allowed herself to get carried away with the feeling of being seduced.
It was something she hadn’t had time for in a long while. Even before she’d taken the job at Westbrook, Mira had been steadily and determinedly working her way up the ranks in the library world, and she allowed herself to become entirely immersed in her work. It was so hard to climb the management ladder, especially as a woman, that Mira decided she would do whatever it took to land her dream job as a director. When the Westbrook position opened up, she moved across the state to take it.
She hadn’t even noticed that she’d sacrificed her social life – and any romantic interests along with it – until one day she woke up to an empty bed in a nearly unfurnished apartment, living out of the boxes she hadn’t had the time or the energy to unpack. That’s when she realized how solitary her life had become. She started spending as little time as possible in the sad, sparsely furnished apartment, and because she was finally getting what she wanted professionally, she focused on pouring her heart and soul into the library and pushing away any errant desires for companionship.
Mira had come this far, and she couldn’t possibly jeopardize all of that progress by getting mixed up in Chelle’s whirlwind of smoldering looks and passionate kisses. Besides, Mira thought as she shoved her job application further into the trash and covered it with a few scraps of paper, the girl was overqualified for a page position anyway.