The Book Addict(9)

By: Annette Mori

There was nothing sexier than badass intellect, and Tanya had that in spades. Elle had a feeling she might have to shower Tanya with many books before the magic would truly take hold. Book addicts were always the ones who had a hard time separating reality from fiction. The magic might feel like a normal journey into the pages of a good book.

Elle plucked a book from the shelf and brought it to her chest, stroking the cover tenderly as she would a lover. Her joyful feeling from the book in her hands was disturbed when the bell rang. She cringed as she thought about how she’d uttered the border protection chant to keep her mother and everyone else from simply popping inside the store without her permission. Elle knew that suddenly appearing on the sidewalk outside of her store was risky in broad daylight. She’d ruffled her mother’s sensitive feathers with this chant. Elle had insisted her privacy and independence were not negotiable. After all, she was a grown woman and a competent book magician.

“Go, find this new chosen one, and take care of it,” her mother ordered.

Elle waved at her mother and breezed past her. “You worry too much. It’ll be fine. I have a good feeling about this one.”

Already the temperature was climbing, but Tanya had decided a walk on the path by the lake would clear her mind. The bookstore owner’s face kept popping into her head. She was lovely, no doubt about that, but why was her face taking front and center? If anything, Tanya should have been trying to figure out that weird experience she’d had when she started reading the new book. Certainly, heat stroke could cause that kind of reaction, but it hadn’t been that hot earlier.

Tolstoy was walking with her. She’d let him, because he would be pissed and likely pee in her shoe if she didn’t capitulate. They had an agreement. She would let him out to walk with her, but he was never allowed to roam around outside by himself. Tanya was afraid the coyotes would make an appetizer of Tolstoy, no matter how big he made himself with his puffed out fur.

“I tried to warn you how hot it was out here, but you insisted on coming,” Tanya said to the gray cat walking beside her. “And don’t chase the birds, or I won’t let you come with me again,” she added as an afterthought.

Tolstoy tilted his head and meowed.

Tanya saw a tall woman in the distance, coming from the opposite direction. Her pace was brisk, and Tanya assumed the woman was a speed walker or something—probably trying to get in her daily exercise. Why was the woman exercising this late in the day? It was getting close to the noon hour. Tanya would have recommended a little earlier to avoid the heat. Of course, the irony of her walking at this time was lost on her.

As the woman came closer, Tanya recognized the bookstore owner. She had a determined expression on her face.

Tanya didn’t want to seem impolite, so she managed to lift her hand in a semi wave. Elle slowed her pace and smiled.

“You bring your cat out for a walk?” Elle asked.

Tanya chuckled. “He insists, and if I don’t, bad things happen. He’s a spiteful little bugger.”

“May I join you?”

“Um, sure. We aren’t quite walking at the same pace, so if you, uh, were needing to, you know, walk faster for exercise or something.”

“Oh no, this is a good pace. You’ve started the book already,” Elle stated.

Tanya was confused. How would this woman know she’d already started to read the book? Did her whole presence scream bookworm with no life?

“I did. I suppose I look the part, huh?”

Elle’s nose crinkled in an adorable expression of confusion, much like the bewilderment Tanya was currently experiencing. “Look what part?”

“Oh, you know, someone who has no life except within the pages of a book.”

Elle’s face transformed, as if all the secrets of the universe were now clear to her. “Ah, that is why it happened. Do you always become completely immersed in a book from the very first page?”

“Stories have always been prominent in my life. I suppose I do become invested in the characters and the tale very early on. Why?"

“The book I gave you is very special. I’m going to have to ask you to reserve your participation in the story until you meet Maya.”