Available at Silkwords.com
Welcome to B’s Book Labyrinth and Bistro! The first novelette in this SilkWords Shared World Series, Sweet Trouble is the story of smart and feisty bookstore owner Bronte and sexy Seattle-area rock musician Brody.
Brody appears at the store’s grand opening to pick up a book recommended by an ex-girlfriend — and to meet the woman responsible for him losing his apartment.
The awkward first meeting does nothing to dampen the instant chemistry, but with Bronte wrangling menus, book buyers, and the resident ghost, and Brody’s rockstar-complicated past, can either of them afford even the sweetest kind of trouble?
Heading for the stairs, I met Trissa coming down. “You’ll never believe it!” she whispered urgently.
“I think Lenny Kravitz is here.”
Having Annabelle on my mind, I had braced myself for news of mischief directed at customers. Relieved, and feeling a little mischievous myself, I raised my eyebrows and replied, “Who?”
She groaned and rolled her eyes. “God! Do you do anything but read?”
As the grin I’d suppressed broke free, she frowned in annoyance. “B! You have to go talk to him.”
“It’s not Lenny Kravitz.”
She grabbed my arm and dragged me upstairs to the fantasy section, where she gave me a shove toward a man in distressed denim and black leather. He stood eyeing a shelf on the L-through-P aisle.
To be fair, he could’ve been Lenny Kravitz — like twenty years ago. This guy’s denim was truly distressed, not distressed by machines for that perfect, overpriced lived-in look. And the cracks in his leather jacket traced a map of a rugged landscape in some unknown, dark country. The heel and sole of one of his motorcycle boots were held together by duct tape. He was as poor as I used to be. Maybe poorer.
But his sculpted features were framed by a glorious but compact starburst of spiky dark hair bleached burnt-orange at the ends. And I’d stake my store on him being a musician.
As I stood there studying him, he looked up, and I took a few steps forward. “Can I help you find something?”
His eyes moved over me, but not in a way that felt creepy. He was studying me back. And what he was probably seeing was that the money I’d spent on my outfit would have bought him groceries for a month. It wasn’t the way I usually dressed. Well, it was now. But a year ago my clothes were all the same vintage as his.
“You work here?” he asked.
“I … ” I couldn’t bring myself to say I was the owner. “Yes. Can I help you?”
“Do you have sci-fi? This is all fantasy.”
I nodded. “We’ve got them in two sections. If you’ll follow me … ”
Chill bumps washed over my back as I listened to the thud of his boots against the hardwood floor behind me. I was suddenly self-conscious about the length (or lack thereof) of my skirt. No way of knowing whether I was imagining his eyes on my ass, but I was glad he couldn’t see my face, because the heat there confirmed my belief that they were.
“Here we are,” I said, waving at the first of the sci-fi shelves. Alpha by author. Is there something specific you’re looking for?”
He considered me a moment, delicious chocolate eyes fixed on my face. He was intense about eye contact. Finally he gave a slight nod. “Solaris.”
“Oh yes,” I said too eagerly, “that’s one of my favorites.” I walked to L through P and sank down to study the bottom shelf. “Looks like we have both a used and new copy.” Solaris was on the obscure side for sci-fi, and now my curiosity was piqued. Or rather more piqued.
“I’ll take the used,” he said quietly.
“Of course,” I said, again in a quick, nervous voice, as I slid the book off the shelf.
I held it out to him, and he said, “What do you mean?” Something dark flashed in his eyes.
I felt my smile slipping. “I’m sorry … ?”
Clearing his throat, he shook his head. “Nothing. I’ll take it.”
I handed it to him, annoyed that my heart felt like a box of wrestling kittens. The guy had spoken a handful of words, and he had me completely unsettled.
“What interested you in the book?” I asked, trying to sound casual and friendly rather than neurotic or stalker-like.
He hesitated, studying the cover. “My girlfriend recommended it.”
“Ah.” I swallowed hard to prevent any more words from coming out.
“Ex-girlfriend, I mean.” He glanced up, and a slow smile swung one corner of his lips up. “She left me for a guy with a PhD. I decided it was time to educate myself.”
“Ah.” I didn’t have to swallow this time. There was no way to reply to that without ending up a mess of blushing awkward.
“You’re Bronte, aren’t you?” he said, tucking the book under his arm. “The owner.”
I cleared my throat. No avoiding it now. “Yeah, that’s me. But it’s just ‘B.’”
“Nice to meet you, Just B.”
I tried and failed to stop the eye roll. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one.
He grinned. “Sorry. But I can’t call you that.”
Encore of the intense chocolate stare. “It’s a less than perfect grade, and that’s not you.”
I was so startled by this I forgot to notice that it sounded an awful lot like a cheesy pickup line. “That’s exactly what my moms say.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Your moms?”
Now the pickup line thing sunk in. “Yeah. You got a problem with that?”
“No,” he laughed.
No one here was ruffled but me, and I felt like a jerk. I couldn’t think of a single word to say to him now, except “if you’ll excuse me,” which at this point would only emphasize my discomfort. Luckily he took pity on me.
“I’m Brody, Bronte. Thanks for helping me with the book. Good luck with the store.”
Grateful to him for coming to my rescue, I smiled. Genuinely. “Thank you. I hope to see you here again.”
He gave another shake of his head, and his gaze slid around the second floor. “I don’t read much. But I had to see if it was worth it, me getting kicked out of my apartment because some rich kid wanted to open a bookstore.”
About the Author:
An RWA RITA Award finalist and a three-time RWA Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher writes stories for the geeky at heart — meaty mash-ups of sci-fi, suspense, and romance, with no apology for the latter. She lives where it rains nine months of the year. And she has a strange obsession with gingers (down to her freaky orange cat). In addition to her SilkWords stories, she’s authored three science fiction romance novels for Tor Books: Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8 (2015). She’s also the editorial director for (and a partner in) SilkWords! Visit her at http://www.sharonlynnfisher.com.
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