Chapter 2: Chapter Two

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Worthy of Romance?

Reads: 73

Two Years Later

 

With a long list in her hands, Aurora limped to the elevator and mentally prepared herself for today’s shitty task; searching through dozens of sealed boxes for specific titles to go back on the library’s shelves. As the newest staff member, she’d been sent on the hunt, which unfortunately took her into the bowels of the basement. It didn’t help to see the other staff snickering, but at least she wasn’t out in the public eye.

The teen and middle grade novels had been boxed and moved as the teen area was under reconstruction, and only minimal titles were available. An expansion was well under way to make it bigger, cosier and more inviting for the teens. Adding a soundproof room with a big screen TV and the latest video game consoles would be a huge draw. The new area sounded awesome, and she hoped when it was finished, she’d hang out with the teenagers. She could take them all on, especially in any combat games. She rocked those.

Shuffling into the elevator, she thumbed the down button and waited as the age-old doors closed. She sighed and leaned against the back wall, waiting for her arrival into the dungeons.

The elevator chimed and she stumbled out into the noisy foyer, making a quick right turn. A peek to her left told her the construction crew was down here, strengthening the joists or whatever it was they needed to do before the expansion could begin. Plugging her earphones into her phone, she fired up the latest podcast on organic chemistry, putting the volume up to a level she wouldn’t ordinarily have it at. Some would find her choice in podcasts dry and boring, but to Aurora, chemistry was soothing and interesting. She spent as much time as she could learning, because she wanted to, not because she was forced to like her dorm-mate Kaitlyn would say.

Aurora made it to the stack of boxes and stared, wondering how long this search would truly take.

A couple of hours? Really? There’s like a hundred boxes here.

Spotting a cart, she pushed it over to the boxes and ripped open the first box.

Sometime later, she was head deep searching in one of the final boxes, when a finger tapped on her shoulder. Ripping her earbuds away and standing taller than the towers of boxes, she stared breathlessly at the man who backed away, his hands raised up. “What the hell?”

“Hey, it’s okay,” the construction worker said, inching away. He was younger than the old gruffs she’d seen earlier. This one appeared around twenty, closer to her age. If he didn’t seem so alarmed, she might have thought him cute. “See that door there?” She turned in the direction his stubby finger pointed. “Your boxes are blocking it. That’s the stairwell and our fire escape.”

“Is there a fire?” Sarcasm rolled off her tongue, and she folded her arms across her chest after taking a quick whiff of air.

He frowned and gave the air a sniff. “No.”

“What’s the problem then?”

“It’s a violation of fire code.” He stared at her as if daring her to challenge him. “So you should probably move them out of the way.”

“What are you? A fire marshal or something?” He’d have to have a badge or something, right?

“No. I’m just letting you know.”

Cute or not, she didn’t need his condensing tone from him. “Well, if it’s so important to do it right this minute, then move them. Otherwise I’ll do it when I’m done here. I’ll only be a couple more minutes. I think.” She sat on one of the boxes she’d been using as a makeshift chair and rifled through the box at her feet, trying to ignore the glare he fired in her direction. “There’s only two boxes left, and I promise I’ll move everything back.” An insincere smile crossed her face. Pulling out a title, she tossed it onto the cart, missing it completely. “Dammit.”

He bent down and picked it up, placing it on the trolley.

“You’re seriously going to stand there and make sure I keep my promise?” She studied him. He was tall. Mind you, everyone seemed tall. She was all of five-foot-four, so she supposed he could be average. No, he was taller than average. Maybe it was the boots he wore. Regardless, he was easy on the eyes for sure, with his light brown hair fanning the edges of his eyebrows, and deep brown eyes staring at her, with what? What was that look on his face? Disgust? Hostility? No. Amusement. Because a small smirk teased the edges of his lips.

He huffed and narrowed his eyes, giving them a thorough rub. “I can help you move the boxes back. I’m finished for the day, and since you only have two more to go through–”

“Thank you, but I don’t need your help.”

“I can see you’ve done a thorough job.” He leaned on a stack of boxes and crossed his arms. “However, the library closes in an hour, so I–”

Ignoring him, she glanced at her phone and checked the time. She flipped faster through the open box and finding nothing she needed, heaved it and added it to the pile.

“What are you looking for?”

“Books, obviously.” She rolled her eyes and smirked. The construction worker couldn’t be that obtuse, could he?

“Specifically?” He leaned over and peered into the box on the floor.

“Books by Matthew James. Yesterday he announced he’s coming here on Friday for a presentation, and they want all his titles prominently displayed. Friday! Can you believe it?” Who gives that little of notice? “It’s my job to retrieve these books.” She waved the crossed off list. “From the boxed ones so you and your crew can renovate the teen section.”

“And why’s it so important that all his books are back upstairs?”

She massaged her temples, not having time nor the desire to explain this. “Because Matthew James does a lot for libraries and he’s very encouraging at getting the kids in the door. You know for reading and such.” A loud, impatient sigh escaped her.

“Doesn’t answer why all his books need to be displayed. Go with what you have here.” He pointed to the full cart. There were dozens upon dozens of his titles piled up.

“As easy as that would be, it’s not how I roll. I was given a job to do, and I’m going to finish it.” She rooted through the box again, tossing out another title. “Because the branch manager wanted every single title up there. Then after the presentation, those who can’t afford to buy his brand-new books, can borrow them from us.”

“So why isn’t he at a big chain bookstore selling his books and making oodles of money?”

“Do you even know who Matthew James is?” Disgusted she even had to ask. Everyone knew who Matthew James was. For crying out loud, he was a rock star in the literary world.

“No. But he’s already sounding somewhat pretentious.”

“Matthew James is single-handedly responsible for getting teenage boys to read.”

The man before her whistled. “Wow, single-handedly? Does he wear a cape when he arrives?”

She slumped over the box at her feet, hiding her oncoming smile. “Shut up. You’re so out of touch.” Finding another title, she waved it around. “Haven’t you ever read Mocking Me?”

Staring at her like she was some kind of psycho, he shook his head. “Umm, nope. Can’t say I have.”

“It’s fabulous, and should be required reading for pre-teen boys–”

“Well, I’m hardly a pre-teen boy.” He produced a close-lipped smile as he raised his eyebrows.

Her eyes roved up and down his body. “Obviously.” Displaying the book, she carried on. “It’s educational, full of fantasy and fun without being preachy. It rocks.” She added it to the growing mountain of books. “Plus, his organization–The MJ Association–donates thousands of books to the inner-city schools and the less fortunate.” Sighing at the unconcerned look on his face, she added, “He’s like Tony Hawk to skateboarders, or Jeff Gordon to NASCAR.”

With that his head snapped up, and he leaned on a box. “Really? So odd you would choose Jeff Gordon and NASCAR.” He laughed. A sweet laugh really, although she knew he was mocking her. Bastard. “Which two boxes are left? I can go through one.”

Pointing to the two nearest her, he reached over and effortlessly pulled the box onto the pile before him. “Matthew James, the Rock Star God of Teenage Boy Books.” He ripped open the box and rifled through, pulling out a couple books. “Any particular titles? Or everything and anything that bears his name?”

“Everything.” Her checklist had thirty titles on it, with at least ten copies of each, but she hadn’t crossed off how many of each she’d located.

He added his finds to the huge pile on the cart. “Who the hell packed this? A kindergartener? What a mess. No wonder it’s taking so long to find anything.”

In spite of herself, Aurora found herself smiling. “I know, right?” She turned her attention back to the box, searching and moving books around but came up empty.

After the last box, Aurora straightened herself up, and rubbed her back. The dull ache that had started a podcast ago grew in fury. She needed her pills, and fast, or she’d have some real explaining to do when she could no longer move because of the pain. The sweat beaded along her temples, and she wiped it quickly away.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, why?” She yanked down the sleeves of her shirt when she caught him staring at her arms. They were scarred with white lines from gashes and scratches, and when anyone took notice, an involuntary shiver rolled through her. If visible, it always led to prying questions, most of which were no one’s business.

He turned his reddened head. “No reason.” He moved a box against the back wall and added another on top of it. “Let’s start replacing these, and get you out of here before they lock us in.”

“Would they do that?” Panic took control of her voice, and with it, a small crack formed.  They’d check first to make sure everyone had clocked out, right?

“No.” He laughed, checking his watch. “But I wouldn’t want to find out I’m wrong.”

With that, Aurora moved the boxes as fast as she could. Pain crept into the depths of her bones, and her back ached more than she’d ever vocalise, especially to a stranger, no matter how cute he was. Without some medication, she’d seize up tight enough to require more help than her muscle relaxers could provide.

“Done,” he said, lifting the last box onto the top of the pile.

With the precious stairwell door he’d blasted her about once again visible, she sighed with relief. But she was only relieved that the boxes were moved. She still needed to get upstairs and grab a muscle relaxer, and likely a pain reliever too, as the pain stabbed her back like hot razors. “Thanks for your help.”

“My pleasure. I’m sure Mr. Rock Star God of Teenage Boy Books appreciates you digging through this disaster of a filing system.” His gaze travelled over her body and rested where her hands firmly massaged her back. “You sure you’re okay?”

Dropping her hands, she forced a smile through her grimace, hoping it appeared sincere. “Absolutely, why wouldn’t I be?” She stepped around him and squeezed the cart with enough force to turn her knuckles white. Deep seated pain threatened to scream out of her. She pushed it towards the elevator, biting the inside of her cheek until the metallic taste danced on her taste buds.

The doors opened to the elevator and limping as little as she could, she entered. The man who’d been helping her also stepped on.

“Thanks again for your help–” She trailed off, waving a hand around in hopes he’d fill in the gap.

“Nate.”

“Yes, Nate.”

“And you are?” He turned to her, his long lashes blinking up and down.

“Aurora.”

Something akin to a smirk settled over his face. “Like the northern lights?”

She groaned. “No, like the fairy tale.” She refused to make eye contact. After all, she had no choice in her name. It was decided before she had any input. Her mother had been a true believer in happy-ever-afters.

“Well, it’s very pretty, like you.”

The elevator doors slid open. “Oh, puh-leeze. Spare me the pickup line.” Grunting with the effort to push a full cart of books with a pained back and a bad limp, Aurora stumbled out.

“What? It wasn’t a line.” His heavy boots thumped behind her.

“Good night, Nate.” She rolled the cart away from him and into the back room. Sighing, she signed out and bid her co-worker adieu.



The remainder of the story is available FOR FREE on all retail sites. www.books2read.com/DulyNoted


Submitted: July 02, 2020

© Copyright 2021 HMShander. All rights reserved.

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