Until Nico (Until #4)

by Aurora Rose Reynolds

Chapter 1

Sophie

I jump when the desk phone starts going off; it never rings, so I’m caught off guard by the shrill sound inside the quiet library. “Middle School Library, Ms. Grates speaking. How can I help you?” I answer on the second ring.

“I found a phone, and this is the number that comes up on the screen when I turn it on,” a deep male voice answers. His smooth Southern drawl makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. I pull my handbag out from under the desk and dig through it, looking for my phone. “Hello, did you hear me?” the guy on the other end says more impatiently. I forgot he was even on the line during my search.

“Yes, I’m here. Sorry. It’s my cell,” I tell him, holding the desk phone between my shoulder and ear.

“Look, I gotta get out of town and won’t be back for a week, so can you meet me somewhere?”

“Um, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I reply, worrying my bottom lip.

“Do you want your phone or not?”

“Yes, of course I want my phone,” I say, becoming annoyed. What kind of stupid question is that?

“Then you need to meet me so I can give it to you.”

“I don’t get off work for another hour. Can you meet me after that?” I cross my fingers, hoping he can. I don’t know what I would do without my phone for a week—not that I want to call or text anyone, but I was kicking ass in Candy Crush and wanted to beat my last score.

“Jesus, where the f**k do you wanna meet?” he grumbles, making me smile. I don’t know why, but it kind of makes me happy I am annoying him.

“Can you meet me out front of Jack’s Bar-B-Que in an hour and a half?”

“Sure, fine.” I can tell by his tone that he’s completely irritated, and I smile even bigger.

“Thanks a lot,” I mummer.

“What are you wearing?” he asks, making the grin slide off my face.

“What the hell does that matter?”

“Look,” he huffs out, “I have your phone, which means you don’t have a phone, right?”

“Right,” I repeat like an idiot.

“That means I can’t call to tell you when I get there. Therefore, I need to know what you’re wearing so I can spot you on the street, right?” I can hear the smile in his voice now.

“I guess that makes sense,” I say, and he chuckles, the deepness of his laughter making my belly flutter.

“So, let’s try this again. What are you wearing?”

“Oh.” I look down at myself, feeling stupid about what I’m going to say to him. “Um…a grey skirt, a white silk blouse… Oh! And I have brown hair,” I add at the end, since I don’t know how many women might be wearing the same kind of thing I am.

“All right, sweetheart. I’ll see you in an hour and a half,” he says, and before I have a chance to say anything else, the line goes dead.

I hang up the receiver and toss my bag back under the desk before putting all the books that have been checked in throughout the day back on the shelves.

I started working at the school library a year ago when I moved to Nashville from Seattle. I work here three days a week, and the rest of the time, I work from home as a medical insurance specialist. I like working here; it’s quiet, and the pay is good—and it doesn’t hurt that I spend most of my day alone.

I finish out my shift by updating the computer system, and after making sure that no one is still browsing the shelves, I lock up. When I leave the building, I notice that most of the staff has left for the day. The parking lot is empty except for my red Audi. I get in my car, turn it on, and flip the button for the convertible top, which takes a second to go back accordion-style and lock into place. The sound of Addicted to Love by Florence and the Machine starts playing as I head downtown.

When I reach the area I’m supposed to meet the guy with my phone, it takes a few minutes to find parking. This part of town is always crazy around this time of day. By the time I reach Jake’s, I’m about ten minutes later than I planned on being. I look around, wondering what this guy might look like. There are so many people walking around, so I feel like an idiot for not having asked him what he was wearing too. I pick a spot next to the building and cross my arms over my chest. I want to sit down so badly; my feet are killing me. I have a sick love for heels, and the ones I wore today are paying me back for wearing them for more than a few hours.

I look around and see a guy staring at me. He’s about my age, not much taller than my five feet five inches, cute, and wearing a suit and tie. I start to wave to see if he’s the one I’m meeting, but then another guy catches my attention. He’s about six three and huge, and I don’t mean just in height; his body looks like it’s been chiseled from stone. He’s wearing black boots, washed-out blue jeans, and a white t-shirt, and every piece of skin exposed is covered with tattoos. His ears have those gauge thingies in them. His dark blond hair is cut low on the sides, and the top is in a fauxhawk. His jaw is strong, with a few days of stubble, and his eyes are so blue that they almost look like contacts. He is beautiful in a way that is unusual but no less gorgeous.

His eyes come to me before looking away quickly, and the next second, they come back to me and do a head-to-toe sweep. I gulp at the intense expression on his face. I glance past him to the other guy—or at least try to—but Mr. Tattoo starts towards me, blocking my view. I want to take a step back, but I can’t go anywhere. Then I see my phone in his hand.

“This yours?” he asks.

I nod like an idiot. He shakes his head, running his free hand down his face, and then his eyes sweep over me again.

“You have got to be f**king kidding me,” he says, seeming upset.

I look down at myself, wondering how I could’ve offended him. I look normal—or my working-outside-the-house normal. When I’m at home working, I wear baggy sweats I cut off to make shorts or pajama pants that hang off of me along with tank tops or T-shirts. The few days a week I get out of the house, I like to dress up or at least wear heels.

“This cannot be f**king happening,” he growls, and I wonder if he is completely crazy.

“What?” I ask, finally finding my voice. I have to tilt my head way back; even in my four-inch heels, he still towers over me.

“You.”

“Me, what?” I ask, confused.