Everything I've Dreamed Of(2)

By: Norah Bennett

Feeling more centered and in control, Kate started the ignition, pulled out from the shoulder, and drove home. It was time to put the past where it belonged and load up on caffeine and sugar. Kate grabbed a Boston Cream from the soggy Dunkin Donuts bag in her lap and took a huge bite, washing it down with the remaining coffee. Although the bookstore was closed for inventory, it was going to be a busy day. If she was lucky, she’d exhaust herself and fall into a dreamless sleep tonight.

Seven hours later, Kate completed the arduous task of taking stock of everything in the place and stopped for lunch before tackling the storeroom. Boxes of books and other items she sold in the bookstore were stacked high in the storeroom, waiting for her attention. In between phone calls from vendors and a constant flow of interruptions from deliverymen, Kate unpacked the week’s deliveries and rearranged the display cases and bookshelves.

The day flew by, and by 6 PM, Kate was beyond wasted. She eyed the two remaining boxes, arched her back, rolled her shoulders, first one way and then the other, and sighed in utter exhaustion and pure bliss. Surveying her surroundings, she smiled. This—this was what she dreamed of since she could remember…Dreamscape! It was her baby now. Every table, chair, bookshelf, book, and bookmark was hers. Although it had cost her almost every penny to her name, Kate loved every square inch of it.

Kate ignored her body’s protestations and reached for the box-cutter. Two more boxes, and then she’d go home and treat herself to a nice, hot bath accompanied by lavender-scented candles, Josh Groban, the world’s largest glass of cheap Merlot, and perhaps one or two delectable pieces of dark chocolate. A deep, dreamless sleep would surely follow.

“Hell-low? Hell-low?” Shakespeare’s high-pitched, nasally voice echoed through the silent bookstore.

“Hello?” A deep male voice answered.

Kate nearly jumped out of her skin. The hand holding the box-cutter jerked and the blade sliced into her left index finger.

“Ow! Shit!” Kate said and dropped the box-cutter. She winced and examined her injured finger as blood oozed from the wound and dripped onto the wood floor.

“Ow! Damn it, bird. Why the hell did you do that?” The deep, masculine voice now laced with incredulity and irritation said.

“Ow, ow,” the cockatoo mimicked.

Kate grabbed a couple of napkins from a nearby table, wrapped her bleeding finger, and ran to the front of the bookstore. Had she forgotten to lock the front door after the last delivery? How could she be so stupid? She knew better. From the sound of it, Shakespeare lost control of his beak again and either nabbed himself a new customer or a new deliveryman. The seasoned ones knew better than to offer Shakes their finger as an afternoon snack.

“Sir, please don’t touch the bird. I’m sorry he bit you, but…” Kate started her well-rehearsed speech as she sprinted into the sunroom at the front of the bookstore, preparing to deal with Shakes’ newest victim and her man-eating bird. She stopped short, her mind blanking as she stared, open-mouthed, at the giant of a man towering in front of the bird’s cage, shaking his head as he examined his injured finger.

Where in the hell did this mammoth of a man come from? He was ridiculously tall and powerfully built. Where did he find clothes to fit those broad shoulders and long legs? He resembled one of the firemen featured in the FDNY Fireman of the Month Calendar Kate kept above her desk in her bedroom. June or July? No, he resembled this month’s delicious temptation minus the fireman gear. She’d been staring longingly at Mr. August for the last four weeks and tomorrow she would have to give him up for Mr. September, another piece of eye-candy.

Mr. August towered over Shakes’ cage in a beautifully tailored charcoal suit, most likely preparing to snap her bird’s neck with his big hands.

“Excuse me,” the man said, holding up his injured finger. “Do you think I could get a Band-Aid? Jaws here did a number on my finger.”

Hearing his amused, sexy baritone, Kate snapped out of her daydream, or at least she tried to. Her green eyes met his amused, warm brown ones as a lazy grin spread across his features.

Kate’s breath caught.