She beckoned him toward the back of the library, into a row lined with shelves of Dean Koontz and Ayn Rand. She called it her “Aisle of Solitude,” a place she was assured no one would ever come to interrupt her.

“Are you sure it’s safe?” he asked, glancing about and folding his arms across his jacket. She slipped her slender yet still paper cut-hardened hands in between the opening of his outerwear, eventually sinking elbow-deep into the leather folds.

“You’re not getting soft on me now are you, rebel?” She winked at him coyly from behind her rectangular, black-rimmed glasses.

“I just had an overdue book…” he said quietly, his awe-struck gaze unable to fall away from the librarian’s face. This somehow was not the same creature he had faced the day he brought back that 24-year-old copy of “The Pokey Little Puppy” he had found in the crisper drawer of his parents’ old refrigerator. Her eyes were cold that day, peering through his soul from behind those same lenses that now framed her green eyes in a knowing sort of sexiness. Her ghastly wan lips, thin and tightly pressed as they assessed his fine, were now plump, red and pouty as she leaned closer to take in his scent. Even her bun, so tightly wound atop her head he thought she would lift off at the snap of a hairpin, had somehow undone itself and dropped her silky, dark brown tresses in a wild yet gentle storm along her shoulders.

What wonder was this? How had this steely bookworm metamorphosed into an alluring butterfly so quickly? Was it some mystic cipher within the Dewey Decimal System? Was he falling victim to some cultish ritual of librarianism that dated back to the papyrus-keepers of Alexandria?

Did it matter anymore?

Her full lips curled into an almost devious smile as she sensed him relax in her arms. His arms slowly unfolded, one hand setting upon the hip of her long, black skirt as the other gently brushed the side of her neck. He took a few strands of that soft hair along the edge of his fingers and brushed it back, a small slip causing his fingertips to catch the top of her ear, bending it slightly.

The startled cry and recoil was enough to cause him to jerk back from her grasp in fright.

“Ah! Holy crap; I’m sorry!” he blurted. “Did I scratch you or…”

She was still breathing heavily, her eyes darting skittishly from side to side. A hand was cupped protectively over the contacted appendage.

“No, no,” she said. “I’m fine, I think. I just—it felt…”

He edged toward her in an attempted show of support. She backed away.

“It was like you… dog-eared me.”

“Dog-eared you?” he echoed, arching an eyebrow. “It’s not something I’d do on purpose! I mean, even if you were a book? I guess?”

“Yeah, maybe,” she looked toward the shelves. The color seemed to drain from her lips. Her glasses gave a cold glint that partially hid her eyes. “I’m sorry, this was a mistake. I… There’s work to do.” She walked past him, back toward the reference desk. A hairpin seemed to appear in her hand from out of nowhere as she piled her hair up.

He stood dumbfounded, wondering if something about the library’s lighting had merely played tricks on him, before seeking out the self-help section.