Landry couldn’t get hold of Karin.
She hadn’t answered the texts he’d sent and she wasn’t answering his calls either. He knew there was tension between them after their last date, but she said she’d see him when he got back. Well, I’m back, Landry thought, but where are you, Karin? Since when had he ever worried about a woman like he did about Karin? Landry tried not to analyze this new feeling.
Jess, Landry thought, Jess would know where Karin is.
Jess looked at the name of the person calling – Landry? He didn’t usually call her.
“It’s Jess,” she answered. “Hi, Landry.”
At the mention of Landry’s name, Jeremy turned to look at Jess with a puzzled look in his face. Jess just shrugged.
“It’s Saturday, she’ll be at 126 Crosby St,” was all Jess said. “You are welcome. I will.”
“Landry says hi,” Jess said when she cuddled up to Jeremy on the couch. “You do realize your best friend is hung up on my gal, right?”
“Oh yeah, he’d been that for a while now.” Jeremy smirked. “I love Landry, but Karin is a bit out of his league.”
Jess did not say anything. She remembered the last time Karin was involved with a sports star and came out of it with scars. She was worried – for whom, she did not know.
Landry had never been in this part of the city before. When Jess gave him the address, he never thought it was a bookstore. Just one more layer to her, he thought.
The bookstore café was huge. Shelves lined the walls and were filled with books of various sizes and colors. There weren’t too many people around. As he walked around, he admired the laid-back atmosphere and the coziness the place projected, despite the high vaulted ceiling and the industrial look of the building.
Then he saw her.
Karin sat by one of the windows, the light falling around her.
Landry held his breath; she looked like an angel, he thought. He leaned against one of the many bookshelves in the place and stood as he saved the sight of her in his memory. He never knew how much he could miss her – how she could fill a part of him that he never knew was empty.
Karin was intently reading Pride and Prejudice, her favorite book. She has several copies of it already, but this one she just found was leatherbound and exquisite. Of course, she needed to have it. Karin moved her gaze from a page to pick up her mug of tea. This is what she used her Saturdays on –whenever she could, that is. She would get lost in the pages of a book in her favorite bookstore. Karin loved supporting the cause Housing Works had and she loved second-hand books – books with character; books that have been enjoyed by people.
“Miss Bennett,” she heard him say. It made Karin smile.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Darcy,” Karin answered as she looked up at Landry.
“You think I’m a Mr. Darcy?” he complained with false indignation, sitting on the ledge beside Karin.
“Well, you’re definitely not a Bingham… would you rather be a Mr. Collins?” she joked.
“Mr. Darcy, it is,” Landry decided.
He quickly leaned in to give her a kiss – long enough to satisfy the need he’d been feeling while he looked at her. The implied passion surprised Karin just as much as the fluttering she felt in her gut as they kissed.
“Hi, Karin,” Landry said with a smile.
“Hello, Landry,” Karin answered.
Landry had a problem – he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her face. Her face haunted him – asleep or awake. His mind kept wandering to Karin and the happy face she had when they went ice skating.
“Do you do this every weekend?” he asked, still not taking his eyes off her.
“Yes. It’s my me-time,” Karin replied. She was conscious of how close they sat and of how he smelled.
“Oh, was I intruding?” Landry apologized.
“No, you weren’t,” she assured him. “How did you find me?”
“Jess gave me the address. I was worried when you weren’t answering my texts or calls,” Landry explained.
Karin was surprised at how his concern touched her heart. “I’m sorry, I usually close my phone when I’m reading.”
“It’s okay,” Landry said, “I have you with me now.” He took her hand in his and kissed it. Karin felt a frisson of excitement from her hand to her spine.
“You can keep on reading if you want to,” he answered – her hand still clasped in his big hand.
“What are you going to do?” Karin asked.
“Admire you,” Landry said.
Karin thought he was joking, but judging by the way he was looking at her – he wasn’t.
“You can’t do that,” she said laughing.
“Why not?” reasoned Landry. “I missed you, so I’d like to just sit here and enjoy you.”
Karin blushed at his words. “”Help yourself with a cup of coffee and pick a book.”
Landry grinned and enjoyed the rare blush she showed.
When Landry left Karin to find a book he wanted to read, Karin sat and gave herself a mental kick. Men rarely made her blush with compliments. She’d heard so many compliments from the opposite sex, so why would Landry’s words evoke such a reaction from her? She sighed, be careful, Karin.
While browsing through the shelves, Landry couldn’t help but look at Karin whenever she came within view. She looked so relaxed and soft sitting there reading – so unlike the modern, polished career woman he’d seen most of the time. Landry had a feeling that not many people besides her family and friends, perhaps, were allowed to see this side of her.
What am I even doing here? Landry asked himself. This wasn’t his style; he usually ordered his books online. Yet looking at the endless line of shelves filled with books made him curious anyway. His eyes finally fixed on Lost in Shangrila-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II. He pulled it out and proceeded to the coffee bar.
Who would have thought Landry Fields would be here with her right now? Karin thought. Not that Karin doubted his intelligence, but Landry didn’t look like the type who spent Saturday afternoons browsing through the shelves of a second-hand bookstore. She glanced at him discretely whenever he showed up in her line of sight.
He is gorgeous, she sighed. Too gorgeous, the reasonable Karin warned. People in the store probably would never identify him with the New York Knicks; Landry was dressed casually in jeans and a hoodie. There was a five o’clock shadow on his face. He looked relaxed and well-rested despite the fact that she knew he’d just come home from a road game.
Landry came back with a big cup of coffee and a book and took the spot he vacated – beside her.
“Nice choice,” Karin commented when she spotted the title.
“Have you read it?” Landry asked.
“Not yet. It’s supposed to be good,” she answered.
They sat in companionable silence, the sound of pages being turned and the clinking whenever a coffee cop or mug was lifted. Landry and Karin were conscious of how close they sat – could both feel the other steal glances – and enjoyed it. The smell of Landry’s aftershave was driving Karin crazy. She was really tempted to run her fingers through his hair.
Landry liked the book, but struggled to concentrate. He finally gave up – he had bought the book, so he could continue later, when Karin couldn’t be a distraction. He kept looking at her lips, sorely tempted to taste them again.
“How many times have you read Pride and Prejudice?” he asked.
Karin grinned, “Too many times.”
“Don’t tell Jeremy and the others, but I’ve read it way too many times too,” he whispered secretly.
Landry leaned close to Karin when he said that, so their faces were so close to each other.
Karin closed the gap this time and took Landry by surprise.
“I’m a sucker for a man who’s an Austen fan,” she murmured just before her lips touched his.
Whatever happened after that kiss was a blur for Landry.
All he could remember was Karin’s husky voice, the taste of her lips, how her smell drew him in that brief kiss haloed by sunlight.’