Love in the Stacks

by Cara Malone

Mira Lockhart is married to her work. One of the youngest library directors in the state, she has been climbing ladders for so long she’s forgotten what life is like outside the library. Not that she has time for love and all that mushy stuff - Westbrook Public Library is the most challenging place she’s ever worked, and every day there’s a new crisis to avert.

Her new library page, for one.

Chelle Tate is young, wild, and free, with fiery red hair and a confidence that instantly draws Mira in – perhaps too close, as Mira finds herself crossing professional boundaries against her better judgment.

As tensions mount between the two women, so do the bizarre occurrences at the library – boycotts and vandalism and sex in the stacks all conspire to threaten Mira’s job and keep her from finding balance and happiness with Chelle.

Mira finds love in the stacks, but will she have the courage to pursue it?

Excerpt:

Chelle Tate sat in one of the worn-down chairs that lined the lobby of the Westbrook Public Library, clutching her resume and waiting for a job interview. It was mid-morning on a weekday, so there were not many people in the library – just her, the slightly mean-looking man at the reference desk, and a couple of patrons who looked like they might be homeless and just looking for an air-conditioned place to cool off for a few hours.

It certainly would not be the most glamorous job in the world if she got it, nor the most suited to the degree she’d just earned in exercise science. It was only a page position – a part time job putting books back on the shelves – and it really didn’t require anything more than a basic competency with the Dewey Decimal System. A high school kid could do it.

READ MORE

But here she was, dressed in a black blazer while the August sun beat down through the skylights, waiting for the library director and trying not to look too desperate whenever the reference librarian glanced over at her. Chelle needed this job – the only one in Westbrook that she was even remotely qualified for – because her parents had been threatening to cut her off ever since she declared her “useless major” (their words, not hers). Now that she’d graduated, the job search was getting dire and she had to cede the point that there weren’t a lot of places clamoring for exercise scientists.

“I don’t know why you couldn’t have gone into accounting like me. I make good money and work decent hours, and there will always be a need for accountants.”

Chelle could hear her mother’s objections running through the back of her mind like a nagging playlist. And of course, there was her father’s more blunt criticisms.

“Why do you need a degree to be a personal trainer? Michelle, I never did understand where your head was.”

The general consensus around the Tate household had always been that Chelle was a bit of a screw-up, a fact that was amplified the closer she stood to the golden child, her older brother Daniel. So while being a library page wasn’t exactly Chelle’s dream job, she hoped that it was enough of a step in the right (responsible, adult, bill-paying) direction that her parents would acknowledge the effort and back off a little while so she could figure out her next move.

Perhaps it would be a literal one, to a place where people really did want to hire exercise science majors. That, of course, would take a bit of capital, and Chelle was hoping that this library job could help with that goal, too.

The reference librarian looked over at her again and narrowed his eyes - sizing her up, Chelle thought – so she straightened her blazer and ran a hand over her long red hair to tame any fly-aways that the summer heat might have caused on the drive over here. She was determined not to mess this up.

A door opened just behind the reference desk and Chelle straightened up.

“Michelle Tate?”

The girl who called her name was petite, dressed in a very conservative black pant suit and pointed heels with her chestnut hair done up in the stereotypical librarian bun, and the wispy strands of her bangs were the only thing about her appearance that didn’t scream ‘formal’. These were the first things Chelle noticed about her, but as soon as she stood up to greet her, she noticed what was actually the girl’s most prominent feature.

Her large eyes were a stunning, icy blue that drew Chelle into them and awoke something wanton in her core. She had to make a conscious effort not to bite her lip or turn on the charm like she most definitely would have done if she’d been doing almost anything except waiting on her job interview. The girl was gorgeous, and all the stuffy business-woman suits in the world couldn’t conceal the curve of her hips.

A bit of a rake at heart, Chelle tucked the thought into the back of her mind that perhaps this girl would still be around after her interview was over as she said, “I’m Michelle.”

She went across the small lobby, past the reference desk where the librarian still hadn’t found anything better to do than openly watch the exchange between them. Then the girl held out her hand and said, “I’m Mira Lockhart. I’m the director.”

Chelle slid her hand into Mira’s waiting palm, trying to disguise her surprise at this announcement. Mira was so young, she’d been expecting her to be the director’s assistant. The handshake lasted only a couple of seconds – Mira’s palm was warm and soft and she gave Chelle’s hand a firm, almost aggressive shake – but it made Chelle’s heart rate jump a little.

She had a long history of reading into handshakes, smiles, and the language of the eyes, and however brief it had been, there was something flirtatious about the way Mira’s hand lingered in Chelle’s just an instant too long.

“We’ll go to my office for the interview,” Mira said, then turned to the reference librarian and asked, “Holding down the fort okay, Jack?”

“Have been long before you got here, my dear,” he replied with a somewhat tense smile that did a pretty half-hearted job of making his comment into a joke.

“And we’ve only had one trash can fire this week,” Mira shot back, completely unfazed by this apparent effort at insubordination. “Keep up the good work.”

Then she opened the door and gestured for Chelle to follow.

Once she was at Mira’s back, trailing her down a narrow hallway with office doors lining one side and a large, window-lined conference room on the other, Chelle felt free to smirk. She was liking Mira more and more with every passing minute, a woman who didn’t take shit and managed to look damn fine even in a shapeless pant suit.

Chelle let her eyes fall down from the tight bun of Mira’s, over her small frame, to her cinched little waist, and finally down her slender legs swimming in formless black fabric. She was just trying to keep herself from imagining Mira in a stereotypical librarian’s outfit – skin-tight pencil skirt that hugged every curve, blouse billowing open just beyond decency, horn-rimmed glasses, and a pair of sheer stockings with a seam running up the back of her legs and disappearing under her skirt – when Mira opened a door at the end of the hall.

“Home sweet home,” she said, stepping aside to let Chelle enter.

The office was on the smaller side, not cramped exactly but not what one would expect for the director of an organization – then again, Westbrook was not the most metropolitan of towns. The room was cozily decorated and it was obvious that Mira spent a lot of time here - from the extra blazer hanging on the back of her door, to the mini fridge along one wall, to the small pile of well-worn books on the arm of a comfy-looking plush chair by the window.

Chelle went to one of the less inviting straight-backed chairs in front of a large oak desk while Mira closed the door and walked behind the desk.

“So,” Mira said, settling into her chair. “Tell me about yourself, Michelle.”

“Chelle,” she corrected automatically, having adamantly resisted her full name for her entire life. Then she bit her lip, wondering if it was appropriate to ask this steely-eyed goddess to call her by her nickname. “Sorry. I just always thought Michelle sounded… uptight.”

The space between her words and Mira’s response seemed to stretch out for a beat too long, during which Chelle wondered how bad a breach of interview etiquette she’d just made, but then Mira smiled. It lit her whole face up, erasing any lingering formality she’d worn in the lobby. Chelle hadn’t thought it was possible for her to be any more breathtaking, but clearly she’d been wrong.

“My name is Miranda, so trust me, Chelle, I understand,” she said with a slightly self-conscious laugh, and the craving stirring in Chelle’s core made itself known again as her name passed over Mira’s delicate lips.

“Oof,” Chelle answered with a playful wince. Even as the logical part of her mind was screaming at her to take this interview seriously, the more primal parts of her couldn’t help turning on the charm. “You’re right. Mira suits you much better – it’s soft and beautiful, like you.”

“Umm,” Mira paused, looking away as a faint blush formed on her porcelain cheeks.

Chelle was thoroughly enjoying her front row seat to watch Mira’s reactions. It was pretty obvious that she wore her heart on her sleeve and by the flush of her cheeks she probably wasn’t much good at poker. Chelle could see the effect she was having from halfway across the room, and she wondered how much closer Mira would allow her to get.

But Mira cleared her throat and composed herself, sitting a little straighter in her chair and looking Chelle sternly in the eyes as she said, “You never answered my question.”

“You’re right,” Chelle said, smiling back at her. “I’m a new graduate. I majored in exercise science, which my parents thought was a dumb idea and which I’m starting to agree with them on since no one in Westbrook except my exercise science professors has ever heard of that term. I spent the last four years in the circulation department of the university library as a work study student. I’m a runner, I like long walks on the beach, and I forgot to give you my resume when we sat down.”

As a job interview, this was one of the worst ones Chelle had ever been on. There was something about Mira that just made her want to sweep everything off the desk between them and lay her down on it, regardless of what it meant for her bank account, her parents’ support, or even her reputation in their small community as an unprofessional person who doesn’t know how to act in an interview.

As a study in flirtation, though, it was a master class.

She’d only been in Mira’s presence for around ten minutes, but she couldn’t imagine making it through the rest of the hour giving straight answers and ignoring the heat building between them. Chelle looked down at the neatly printed resume that she’d all but forgotten was in her hands, and she decided to go for broke.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Cara Malone writes contemporary lesbian fiction exploring the thrills – and challenges – of new adult romances.

She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Writing and her Master’s in Library Science, and after nearly ten years as a librarian, she is transitioning into a full-time writer, aka. her dream job.

Cara’s debut novel, Awakened, was published in April 2017, and she has over 20 published short stories and personal essays. She can be found writing – and caffeinating – in coffee shops around Northeast Ohio, and when she’s not working, there’s a good chance she’s curled up on the couch with her house rabbits, binge-watching terrible TV.