I arranged the books on the shelf, listening with pride as the bell over the front door continued to ring. Business on most days was brisk, but today business boomed thanks to foot traffic from the street fair.
"Well done, Sarah," my sister Lisa offered, handing me another book from the box. Anticipating an increase in business, I'd asked her to help today.
"Do you think Mom would be proud if she could see what I've done to the store?" I asked, noticing the growing line at the cash register. Looking around at the people milling about the new and used book, a handsome man in the technology section caught my attention. He'd been reading the same book for a long time and as I watched him, he glanced up, his eyes holding mine for a moment before I turned away. However, something about him drew my attention and I glanced back only to find him smiling at me. I offered him a quick smile then returned to shelving books.
"She'd be very proud," Lisa replied, looking between me and the man. "But I think she'd have a thing or two to say about your personal life."
"What's wrong with my personal life?"
"You haven't had one since Ray left you."
"Why do you have to bring up such a bad topic on such a good day?"
"Because you're thirty-one, attractive and you should be living life, not hiding from it." She took the last book from the box and held it out to me.
I snatched it up and shoved it roughly into place on the shelf. "I'm hardly hiding."
"Aren't you?" she challenged.
"No," I lied, unwilling to admit that since the divorce I'd been hiding in work, trying to forget my loneliness, afraid to take another chance on love.
"Prove it," Lisa insisted.
"I don't need to prove anything." I walked behind the front desk, happy to see my part-time cashiers ringing up sales. Lisa was quick to follow, determinedly dogging my heels.
"Yes, you do because I know you're lying," she whispered and I whirled to face her.
"What could I do to make you believe me?"
Her face lit up as if she'd spent the whole morning thinking of just the thing. A little shiver of fear went through me. I knew that look from childhood. It was always followed by a double dare and I didn't know if I was ready to deal with a double dare.
"I double dare you to talk to a man today," she replied. "Not any man but a single man of my choosing."
Now I had to accept the dare, if only wipe the smug smile off her face. "Fine. Who should I talk to?"
"Let's see," she scanned the room, her lips curling into a smile as she spotted the object of her dare. "Talk to him."
She motioned towards the man standing in the technology section and my heart gave a little flutter of excitement tinged with fear. "I can't talk to him."
"He's probably married."
"He isn't wearing a ring."
He ran his left hand through his brown hair, revealing his ringless finger as he continued to read. My fear increased as I tried to think of a graceful way out of the dare but Lisa was persistent.
"Go talk to him."
"I will," I insisted, trying to sound more confident than I felt.
"Then go." She gave me a little push.
I slowly made my way through the crowd, reaching the technology section much faster than I would have liked. A few feet from him I stopped, my courage deserting me. I was about to walk away when he looked up from his book.
"Hi, you must be Sarah. I'm Tom. Pleased to meet you." He smiled, holding out his hand. I was almost too surprised to take it but I quickly recovered, grasping his hand and enjoying his firm grip.
"How did you know my name?" I asked, feeling my nervousness disappear as I took in the warmth of his deep brown eyes.
"I'm the new IT guy in Lisa's office. She's told me a lot about you."
"Really?" Suddenly I understood Lisa's double dare. Leave it to her to be so subtle about trying to set me up. "What did she tell you?"
"All about your book store. It's amazing and your selection is impressive."
"Thanks. I'm quite a book lover."
"Me too, especially old books on early computer programming. I collect them." He held up his selection, a 1940s book about IBM punch card computers. "Where did you find this?"
"I have a knack for finding rare books. I love rummage sales and thrift stores. It's amazing the treasures people give away."
"Some people don't recognize a treasure when they have one. I guess that's good for us, isn't it?" he asked with a chuckle and I nodded.
The conversation eventually turned from the thrill of finding rare books to sharing our stories of divorce. We both knew what it was like to start over, personally and professionally. Our conversation continued for quite some time until I could no longer ignore the business of running a very busy store. With regret, I told him I had to get back to work and disappointment flashed across his handsome face.
"Do you have your catalogue on-line?" he asked.
"Not yet. I haven't had time."
"I can help you build a website, if you'd like?"
"That would be great. I love helping people find what they're looking for."
"This is certainly the place to find something special." He smiled, a genuine smile to make a girl go weak in the knees. "I'm glad I took Lisa's suggestion to come by today."
"Me too," I replied, knowing I'd see a lot more of Tom and happy I'd accepted Lisa's double dare.
About the Author: My first traditional Regency romance, Lady's Wager is now available from Cerridwen Press. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and the Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter. I hold an MA in Screenwriting from California State University, Northridge and a Certificate in Screenwriting from the UCLA Writer's Program. Before moving to Los Angeles, I wrote marketing videos, public service announcements and promotional spots for a cable television station in San Diego. firstname.lastname@example.org www.georgie-lee.com http://georgielee.blogspot.com