An Unexpected Valentine

~ This is a work in progress, something that may be a short story, may be a novella, or may be a novel; I’ve no idea yet. Just having fun with it and seeing where it leads.

Annie Billow sat at her desk, surrounded by the new acquisitions she was cataloguing for the library. The task was taking longer than it normally would, not that she either noticed or minded, because she couldn’t refrain from reading the back cover blurbs and skimming through the first few pages of each book she picked up. She was about three-quarters of the way through the stack when she picked up a copy of the latest shape-shifter novel by one of the more popular Young Adult authors. She eagerly read the synopsis and then turned the book over to gaze dreamily at the artwork on the front cover. Her lips curved into a smile as she ran her fingers over the velvety matte cover and envisioned herself as the tall, beautiful heroine who would have some epic romantic adventure with the handsome, morose were-man whose brooding emerald eyes stared out from the cover. She let out a sigh and was just about to open to the first chapter when a deep male voice interrupted her reverie. “Hi, Annie.”

          She gasped and fumbled the book, at first thinking the man on the cover had spoken; then her head snapped up and she blinked rapidly a few times. A flush crept up her neck and into her cheeks at being caught with a Young Adult book in her hands, even if Brock Cavanaugh was the one who had caught her. She didn’t know why she was embarrassed; she and Brock had grown up together, and he knew she could no more resist opening a book—any book—than a cat could resist an open can of tuna. [Even if he wasn’t a tall Alpha-wolf with bulging muscles, he was still achingly handsome with his short blond hair and gray-blue eyes. Not that that mattered to her anymore. She had long since given up her high school crush on Brock, completely satisfied—at least she told herself—with being his closest friend.] Suddenly realizing she hadn’t responded, and worse yet, that she was staring at him, she blurted out, “Brock, hi. Why aren’t you at work?”

Brock feigned offense before giving in to the easy laugh that was always on his lips. “What, can’t a guy take a lunch break?” He knew Annie well enough to know she hadn’t meant to be abrasive, just that she had gotten caught up in her work.

“Lunch?” Annie craned her neck to see the clock on the back wall. She was surprised to see that it was already past noon. “I must have lost track of time.” She turned back to him, a sheepish look on her face. “Was there something you needed?”

He gave her a cocky grin and leaned on the desk. “No, not since I was in this morning before work. I don’t devour books the way you do, Miss Bookworm.” She wrinkled her nose at him, trying not to giggle at his expression; no use encouraging him. “I just wondered if you’d like to grab some lunch with me.”

“Oh.” Annie thought about the banana and the cup of strawberry yogurt stashed in the break room refrigerator.

Reading her thoughts, Brock urged, “Oh, come on, Annie. You can have your yogurt during your afternoon break. Lunch is on me; come on.”

As much as she enjoyed hanging out with Brock, she really wanted to finish her task. She was about to make an excuse when Margie, the head librarian, who had overheard the whole conversation, chimed in. “For heaven’s sake, Annie, the books will still be here when you get back. Don’t turn down a free lunch, especially from a handsome young gentleman like Brock.”

Annie finally relented, and after grabbing her coat and purse from the back room, the two friends headed out the door. Outside in the frosty February sunshine, Annie wrapped her scarf more snugly around her neck, cursing her impulsive decision to cut her hair short last month.

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