He walks up to the circulation desk, my favorite book tucked under his arm, reading the next one by the same author. “I’ll take these please,” he said, setting my favorite down, continuing to read the first one.
“You’ll have to stop reading it for a moment if you want me to check it out,” I say with a smile, taking my favorite and pulling it closer, running my hand over the worn cover.
“Oh, sorry,” he says with a smile, closing the book and handing it over.
His eyes are bright, bright blue, almost icy, and I don’t realize I’m staring until my friend elbows me. “Do you want me to check him out?” she asks, her eyes sparkling, and I can swear there’s a double meaning in her voice.
“I’ve got it,” I say, holding my hand out. “I need your library card.”
“Oh, of course, sorry,” he says, fumbling in his pocket. There’s a moment before he pulls out a sparse keychain. Two keys, and a library card. That’s it. “Here you go.”
I scan his card and the system pulls him up. Hugh Ferrars. Male, age 21. Address, a few streets over from my own.
I’m being stalker-ish, but this is the first time I’ve ever gotten to check him out – well, check out his books. I’d been doing far too much checking him out over the past few weeks.
“This author is really good – have you read her?” Hugh asks, running his hand down my favorite.
“Yes, actually, this book is my favorite book,” I say as I take it and run it under the scanner.
“It’s mine too,” he admits, taking it back from me. “This is the fourth time I’ve borrowed it in a few months.”
“That’s impressive,” I say, handing him the other one. “That explains why it hasn’t been around as much.”
“Well, you have a good day,” he says, icy blue eyes twinkling at me.
“You too,” I say as he turns and walks away. “Enjoy the book.”
My friend comes over as soon as he’s out the door, nudging me. “Finally, the two of you interacted,” she said. “I’ve been wondering how long that would take.”
“Just because I think he’s cute doesn’t mean I should go out of my way to interact with him,” I remind her as I take a pile of books from a kid who can barely reach the top of the circulation desk. He runs over to the children’s section and I start checking them in.
“No, but he went out of his way,” Melanie says.
“No he didn’t,” I say, bringing the books over to the return cart.
“He sat at a table and read, occasionally glancing at you, and five minutes after you moved to the circulation desk, he decided it was time to leave.”
I glance at Mel, who grins.
“I’m telling you, he was waiting for you.”
“I don’t know why he’d do that,” I say.
“Girl, he thinks you’re hot and wanted to interact with you. And he doesn’t even know your name.”
“We wear name tags,” I say, gesturing to mine.
Mel frowns. “Fine, he knows your name. I bet he thinks it fits.”
“Right, because Felicity sounds exactly like an old lady librarian name.”
“Liss, you are not old. You are a sexy young librarian, and what’s-his-name would be blind to not see it.”
“Hugh,” I mutter.
“Oh, I see, checking out his account?” Mel asked with a smirk.
“Oh, you’re right, that wasn’t the only thing you were checking out. Tell me, were his eyes particularly mesmerizing today?”
“Okay, okay. I’m gonna go reshelve these books. You sit here and think about Dreamy McDreamyface and maybe think about asking him if he wants to grab some coffee next time he comes in. Which, by the way, should be soon. I think he’s figured out your schedule, because he only comes in when you’re here now.”
She pushes the cart out from behind the circulation desk and I take a deep breath. Maybe she’s right, and he was checking me out too.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I’m sitting in my usual spot at my favorite coffee shop the next morning when someone asks, “mind if I sit with you?”
I look up from my book to find Hugh looking down at me, his eyes looking impossibly blue in the morning light.
“Oh, no, not at all,” I say, and he slides in the booth across from me. He’s wearing a suit instead of the blue jeans and t-shirt he usually wears to the library, and it looks just as good on him. Without the baseball cap he usually wears, I can see that his hair is cropped close to his scalp, a military cut like my brother always wears.
“I have to ask you something,” he says as he sets his coffee down on the table and pulls a book out of his briefcase. “Why is Thief of Dreams your favorite book?”
I laugh. “Of course you would ask that. Everyone asks that, and I can never quite pinpoint it.” I took a sip of my iced coffee. “Maybe it’s the fact that Kahren never expected to find a dream of her own, especially after she’d stolen so many others. Maybe it’s the fact that Tertian wasn’t real, but she fell in love with him anyway. Maybe it’s just the story itself – how someone who never thought she could be happy found happiness.”
“I love it because of this line right here,” he said, opening it and pointing to the first line.
I don’t have to read it to know what it says. No one else loves their dreams the way I do, because to them, dreams aren’t real.
“It’s one of the best openings I’ve ever read,” he said. He takes a sip of his coffee – which looks like a chocolate chip frappe – and closes the book. He puts it back in his briefcase and closes it, leaning back against the booth. “So what are you reading?” he asks.
“Oh, it’s a book we just got in,” I say, holding it up.
“No way,” he exclaims. “You have the new Sarah J. Maas book?”
“Yeah,” I say with a grin. “I put a hold on it the moment I put it in the system, so I got it first.”
“That’s cheating,” he says, shaking his head.
“That’s the painful life of a librarian,” I said with a shrug. “We have to read the books first, so we know what to expect when other people read it.”
“That sounds like heaven,” he says, shoving his briefcase a little further away.
“What do you do?” I ask, nodding towards the briefcase.
“Oh, I work at a bank,” he says. “I mostly carry so I can carry a book around without getting in trouble, and to look important.”
“I see,” I say with a smile. “That doesn’t sound like a very exciting job.”
“Well, if being robbed at gunpoint is exciting, then it is,” he says. “That happened the other day.”
My eyes widen. “Someone held a gun to your head?”
“They didn’t hold it to anyone’s head in particular. And they were caught about three minutes after they left the bank. Still, it made for a good story to tell my Mom.”
“You told your Mom that you got robbed?” I ask. “You’re braver than me. My mother would insist I leave my job if I ever told her anything like that.”
“I’m sure that doesn’t happen very often at the library,” he says.
“No, I think the most exciting thing that’s ever happened was the homeless man who was living in the basement, or the man who grabbed my arm and told me to back off when I said he couldn’t have food and drinks in the library,” I say, glancing at my elbow, where the ghost of a bruise remains.
“I wish I’d been there and could have stood up for you,” Hugh says. “Did he hurt you?”
“There was a bruise, but it wasn’t that bad,” I say with a smile.
Actually, the bruise had been around for a while, and it had hurt like hell, but I felt strangely guilty telling him everything that was bad about working at the library.
“Well that sucks,” he said. “Hopefully getting to work with books makes up for it.”
“It definitely does,” I say.
“As much as I hate to say it, I have to run to work,” he says, glancing at his watch. “I’ll see you around, Felicity.”
“Enjoy Thief of Dreams,” I say as he slides out of the booth, taking his briefcase with him.
“I will,” he says with a smile, before walking away.
Mel was right. He does know my name.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next morning, when I arrive late to get my daily coffee, he’s already there, in my booth.
“I hope you don’t mind me sitting in your booth again,” he says. “I got here early this morning. I needed to get away from Mom, and I figured drinking coffee and reading was as good a way to spend a morning as any other way.”
“I don’t mind,” I say, pulling the new Maas book out of my bag. “I might do some reading of my own.”
“We could swap books for the morning,” he says with a suggestive grin, staring at the book in my hands.
“Uh uh,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m getting to the good part now! Going to bed last night was torture.”
“What, you don’t stay up way too late reading a book anymore?” he asks.
“I do it more often than I should, but we’re going to be busy at work today, so I knew I couldn’t be dragging,” I say. “It’s Tuesday – book release day.”
“Tuesdays are the best day of the week,” he says. “I’m running to the bookstore tonight to get the newest Bardugo book.”
“Oh, it’s a good one,” I say.
“What?? You’ve read it already?”
“It’s a new Bardugo series! Of course I have. They sent out ARCs of it months ago.”
“What’s an ARC?” he asks.
“Oh – it stands for Advanced Reader’s Copy. It’s not an official copy, but it’s something that bloggers and reviewers and librarians can read to learn more about upcoming books that they want to promote or purchase.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Oh, the struggle of being a librarian,” I say with a grin as I open the new Maas book and take a sip of my coffee.
We read in silence, occasionally taking sips of our coffee, occasionally glancing up to look at the other. I know this, because our eyes met once or twice.
He really is cute.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A week later, he’s become a part of my daily routine. We meet in what has become “our booth” in the morning to discuss books, or just read together as we drink our coffee. But today, he flags me down before I can get in line to get my coffee. “I got yours,” he says as I approach our booth. “The line is crazy long this morning.”
“Thank you,” I say, pulling out my wallet, and he waves at me.
“Don’t bother,” he says. “Just drink it.”
I slide into the booth across from him and his icy blue eyes meet mine. “I’ve got a question for you,” he says.
“Okay,” I say, taking a sip of my coffee. He got my order just right.
“Would you like to come to the Sarah J. Maas event with me tonight?” he asks. “I happen to have two wristbands.”
I think about the wristband that’s sitting in my bag and shrug. I’ll find someone to give it to. “Sure, why not?”
“Great,” he says, leaning back against the seat, acting all nonchalant now that I’ve agreed. “Let me give you my number so we can find each other after work.”
I grin to myself as I pull out my phone and open up a new contact. “Hugh Ferrars,” I mumble under my breath as I write his name. “Okay, let me have it.”
He rattles off his number and I plug it in. “Can you text me so I have you?” he asks.
“Sounds good,” I say, sending off a quick smiley face text.
“Now smile,” he says, holding up his phone to take a picture of me.
That smile is still on my face when he picks me up at work at the end of the day. Since I walk, and he has a car, we decided that would be the best way to get across town to the Barnes and Nobles.
I’m not gonna lie, texting him today was fun.
But tonight promises to be even more fun.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I get to work the next morning, Mel pounces on me. “Well?” she demands.
“It was good,” I say with a smile, hiding my face from her.
“I need detailssss,” she demands.
“Well, he picked me up, we went, we saw Sarah J. Maas, and we went home,” I say.
“Fine, fine, fine. He picked me up, let me change the radio station – and seemed to like the station – and we got there early. While we were waiting, I got cold, and he noticed me shivering and gave me the sweatshirt he was wearing. It smelled like him, and I didn’t give it back at the end of the night, and he didn’t mention it this morning when we met for coffee–”
“You met for coffee??” she screeches, drawing the eyes of every patron in the library.
“We’re librarians. Hush,” I command.
There’s a reason I hadn’t told her about our coffee dates. I knew this would happen.
“You met for coffee??” she says again, more quietly this time.
“He started showing up at Flora’s every morning and sitting with me,” I say with a shrug.
“When did this start?” she demands.
“The day after I checked him out,” I say with a grin.
“Felicity, how dare you not tell me these things?” she says.
“What are you getting in trouble for now?” Hugh’s voice asks, and my head snaps up. He’s there in his suit, just like I saw him ten minutes ago, when I left Flora’s to walk to the library.
“Not telling her that I went to a Sarah J. Maas event last night,” I say, grinning at him.
He laughs. “Sorry, Melanie. Can I talk to Felicity for a sec, though?”
Mel glances at me, then nods her head and walks away.
“I know you’re at work and I shouldn’t be bothering you, but do you want to go to dinner tonight?” Hugh asks.
“I would love that,” I say, smiling up at him.
“Sounds good, then,” he says. “Do you want to go home and change, first, or should I pick you up from work again?”
“Do you want to pick me up?” I ask.
“Works for me,” he says. “You get off at six, right?” I nod, and he grins. “See you at six, then.”
He walks away and Melanie pounces again.
“You’re going out to dinner??”
“You don’t have to blatantly eavesdrop like that, you know,” I say. “I could’ve told you.”
“Like you told me that you’ve been meeting for coffee,” she says, glaring at me.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I say.
“What was the event like last night?” she asks.
“It was great,” I say with a grin, pulling up my camera app. “We got super close to Sarah, and got copies of the new book signed, and–” I try to skip over the selfie we took, but Melanie grabs my phone with a squeal.
“You guys are so cute!”
I can’t hide the grin. We really are cute together, if I do say so myself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When he picks me up from work, the temperature’s dropped, and I’m wishing I’d gone home to change first. He’s obviously been home, unless he keeps his jeans in his truck – or in his briefcase, which usually has nothing in it but whatever book he’s reading. “You cold?” he asks, grabbing a sweatshirt out of the backseat and handing it to me.
“I am, actually,” I say, pulling it on and snuggling into it. It also smells like him.
He smells really good.
We pull up to a small Italian restaurant – he remembered I like Italian – and he hops out of the truck and hurries around to open my door for me and help me out.
He doesn’t let go of my hand as we walk into the restaurant.
When the waiter leads us over to the booth, he slides in across from me and reaches for my hand across the table. “Felicity, I’ve got a question to ask you,” he says.
Since he starts off half of our coffee dates like this, I don’t think anything of it.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say without hesitation.
He grins. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He turns the truck off in front of my apartment and walks me up to the third floor. “I had fun tonight,” he says, his thumbs in his belt loops.
“I did too,” I say, smiling up at him.
“Is it creepy if I say that I’ve wanted to be your boyfriend since the first time I saw you at the library?” He asks.
“I thought you were hot the first time you walked in, so probably not,” I say with a grin.
“I mean, your favorite book is one of my favorite books, so it’s like we were meant to be.”
I fish Thief of Dreams out of my bag and hold it between us. “Maybe we’ll get a happy ending too.”
“You’re the person who got it from the library?” He asks with a laugh. “I had to give it back instead of renewing it.”
“I know,” I say with a smile. I had to reread Kahren and Tertian’s happy ending again. Because for the first time in my life, I was feeling like maybe I’d found my own dream. And like Kahren’s, it was becoming real.