In which Nate is the victim of relentless teasing by Jake and meets the power of Adelie’s noble glare.
The library was the oldest building on campus. It sat in the middle of everything, surrounded by old oak trees and lush lawns scattered with rose bushes. Stone steps led up to a pillar-framed entrance, which gave the whole building the touch of a Greek temple. Nate couldn’t stop thinking about Adelie, and he needed to see her again.
“Are you sure you’ve got the right place?” Jake asked, sitting on the steps and squinting because of the sun. Nate leant against the low wall that framed the raised beds of roses around the entrance. Their rich fragrance scented the warm summer air.
“Yes. Rojas told me she’s always in the library here on Thursdays, right after Foreign Cultures 101.”
“I sure hope he was honest with you.”
“Stop worrying, there she is!” He could see her tall figure weaving through the other students, swiftly coming up towards the building. She was even prettier than he remembered, wearing slim black cigarette pants and a cream coloured blouse, a satchel with books over her shoulder.
“Hey, Adelie! How’s your knee?”
“Hi, Nate! It’s doing fine. Sorry, I’m in a hurry – See ya!”
And with that, she vanished into the library with graceful, springy steps, leaving him standing there like an idiot. Jake snorted.
“I never thought I’d live long enough to see this.”
He huffed. “See what?”
Jake had a grin plastered on his face. “A woman who doesn’t stop, spin and fling herself into your arms. You’re not used to the cold shoulder treatment, are you?”
Nate gave him the stink eye, causing only more laughter on his friend’s side. But Jake was right. The tall, attractive Baroness, with her brown hair and superior smile, wasn’t answering to his advances like women usually did.
“Forget it, she’s only interested in books and jets.” Jake consoled him with a pat on the shoulder. “There’s Patricia.”
He didn’t even check, he was already halfway in the library. “I just remembered, I should really brush up my knowledge of the Warburton drive.”
Jake’s laughter followed him through the door. “Yeah man, sure! Good luck!”
“Hi again.” Nate placed his books on the table and took the seat across from her. Instead of the anticipated smile, Adelie looked up with an impassive expression and nodded briefly, then continued reading and scribbling notes. He tried once more. “What are you reading?”
“A book.” She didn’t even look up.
“I can see that. But which one?”
This time, she made eye contact, but her glare nearly made his balls shrivel up. “Nate – I came here to study. This is a tricky topic, and I have to concentrate. I’d love to chat, but can we postpone that until I’m done? Thank you.”
He sat down and grabbed one of his books to hide his burning cheeks. The room was secluded and empty, and only the tall cherry wood bookshelves had been witnesses to this encounter, but he was embarrassed nevertheless. Peeking over the rim of the book he saw her diligently copying parts of the text into her notepad. Her hair was in a neat braid, falling over her shoulder. Concentration furrowed her brows.
“You’re not going to get anything done if you keep staring at me,” she suddenly said.
He cleared his throat. “True. I’m sorry.”
The usual tactics were not working. Maybe he would win her attention if he studied too and didn’t try to keep her from it. An hour passed with neither of them saying a word. The long shadows of oak trees painted black fingers on the lawns around the library when she finally pushed her pen aside and stretched her back. Heat crept up his neck as he forced his glance down. He was not sure what would happen if she’d caught him staring at her chest, but he wasn’t keen on finding out.
“Gee, is it that late already?” She exclaimed as she looked out the window.
“Time flies, eh?” He said. She had a beautiful profile. He was staring again.
“Absolutely. I’m hungry — want to grab a bite at Todd’s?”
Hell, did she just ask him to go out with her? He blinked confused at her unreadable face. “Sounds like a brilliant idea, unless you’re going to bite off my head…”
She laughed, her frown dissolving like melting ice cream. “I promise I’ll behave.”
The expression on his face was priceless. Adelie bit her bottom lip to keep herself from smiling. “I’m sorry. I’m sometimes too focused on my work. I hope I haven’t been too harsh?”
He rubbed his neck, his glorious blue eyes sparkling with mischief. “I’m not made of sugar. I assume you have a license for those eyes of yours?”
License? She blinked at him, and he grinned. Standing up and putting the books away, he explained: “They’re dangerous weapons. I nearly got hurt, you know?”
“Do you need a band-aid?” She raised him a defiant eyebrow, and he stepped towards her, close enough for her to smell his aftershave. It was a warm, subtle scent. His voice was a deep rumble, his eyes intense. Talk about having a license, Mister.
“A bag of ice might be more helpful to ease the burn.”
She tilted her head, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Are you sure you can risk going to Todd’s with me, English? I can’t vouch for your male pride surviving this without more burns…”
He chuckled. “I’m willing to take a gamble, Princess. It’s nothing compared to what you risked jumping in front of that stupid truck.”
Jumping in front of the speeding truck to push him out of harm’s way had been no conscious decision, she had acted purely on instinct. The same instinct told her now to be careful — he displayed all the traits of a confident man knowing how to charm a woman. Traits that brought up painful memories.
“What’s wrong?” His voice plucked her out of her thoughts.
“Uh, nothing.” She pushed the pain and the memories away. They belonged to another time, another planet. She picked up her bag.
He studied her with a questioning gaze but didn’t say anything. Instead, he followed her out of the library.
Picture by blue me away on flickr
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