(A/N: Read and enjoy! Reviews are much appreciated, too. :) Other chapters are to come soon.)
Thunder rumbled across the sky, making Quaid glance up in alarm. She muttered under her breath. It was going to rain; she could smell it. Quickening her pace to a run, she tucked her messenger bag under her hoodie. If the books got wet... heck, Batty wouldn't kill her, he'd stake her to the wall and flay her.
She saw the bookstore as she rounded the corner and was about to let out a sigh of relief when the clouds promptly dumped a few buckets on her.
"Son of a-!" Throwing her hood up, she ran so hard that she skidded along the sidewalk and slammed against the store window, cursing her boss for such ordering the books so late. The store closed hours ago. She beat her free hand against the door.
"Boss! Boss, open the damned door; it's pouring out here!" she shouted, banging her fist against the door. It took her a few seconds to remember that the spare key was with her. She nearly smacked her forehead in exasperation.
She fished it out of her back pocket, fumbling as she tried to steady the bag against her side. Quaid unlocked the door with a sigh of relief and stepped inside, hearing the slight tinkle of a bell above her. She breathed in the smell of leather, old paper and cherry smoke, the familiar scent calming her frazzled nerves as she flipped the lights on.
The Legaria was one of those old, homey stores that were deceptively small but held a veritable treasure trove of books. The counter stood a little to the right, by the stairs leading to the second floor. There was a doorway by the counter that led into a larger room, and there was a smaller room to the back that led to a reading area. The store was crammed from top to bottom with all sort of books, some hiding in the most unexpected places. Though it seemed like a mess, there was at least some semblance of order in the way the books were stacked. Quaid doubted she could really organize everything on her own, since her boss refused to do any of the organization. She traced a finger over one of the bookshelves and frowned at the layer of dust she saw there. Or any cleaning, for that matter.
"Batty?" she called out, wiping her finger on her drenched jeans. "Wakey-wakey, boss!"
He made himself known from behind the counter, groaning like an old man as he sat up. She saw the fuzz of his red hair just above the table stacked with long-forgotten bills and documents. Quaid walked over and grinned at him, placing her bag on the wooden surface of the counter. "Sorry to wake you. Here are the books you ordered from Kingsley."
"Hmph. Ye don't sound verra sorry to me." Batty grunted, his normally faint brogue a little more pronounced and ran a hand through his messy hair with a sigh. Peeking over the counter, she saw the scattered pages and blankets on the floor, and she knew he had been sleeping there. He did like sleeping in the strangest places. Batty squinted at her, then grasped around him for his glasses. Snickering lightly, Quaid took the rounded pair sitting on the counter and gave them to him.
"Thanks," he mumbled and put them on, his baby blue eyes becoming nearly three times bigger than normal. When he finally looked at her, a frown crossed his face. "What the devil happened to ye?"
She laughed. "Look out the window." Pushing her drenched bangs away from her face, Quaid slowly took the books out, breathing a sigh of relief when she saw that they were relatively dry. "Thank god! I thought the rain would damage the books-" She was cut short by the towel that Batty threw at her, taken from one of the counter's numerous drawers. Quaid nearly dropped the leather-bound novels. "Batty!"
"Dry yerself before ye say anything else." he grunted and stood up. At his full height, Batty was about six foot seven, one of the tallest people she'd ever seen. She would have started calling him Goliath instead of Batty if he didn't threaten to fire her for it.
Of course, Batty wasn't his real name. She only called him that because of the way he cooped himself up in the shop, as he usually only left when he absolutely needed to. Bartholomew Miller was a quiet, anti-social man of thirty-two years, and the good friend of Quaid's eldest sister, Dahlia. Deep hollows under his eyes showed the sleepless nights he endured, repairing the books she would deliver to him every few days. Besides owning the shop, Batty restored the old, leather-bound books that collectors kept. It was tedious work, but he loved it, despite how much his appearance seemed to disagree. Plus, it did pay him relatively well.
"Thanks Batty." She grinned at him and began drying her hair, the black strands of her hair falling to her chin. "Do you mind if I stay for a bit?"
He answered with a small grunt, turning his attention to the books on the counter. She grinned and moved into the inner part of the store.
A small smile graced her lips as she skimmed her fingers over the spine of the near-ancient books, relishing the silence that surrounded shop. She loved being able to sit down and read a book in peace - an opportunity Batty's store readily gave. It was sheer bliss, next to eating her favorite sweets.
Her blue-grey eyes landed on one of her favorite books, a which was a collection of uncommon fairy tales. It was probably the most worn-out book in the store, her fault, of course. Just as she was about to reach for it, a sudden sound from behind her jolted Quaid out of her thoughts, and she turned. A rather large book sat on the floor, wide open with its pages still fluttering. She went to pick it up, giving the dyed crimson cover a rather curious look. Batty didn't usually re-bind books in red leather; he always said it looked too gaudy. Quaid glanced at the title and the author. Confectionary Wonders for the Curious Mind by R.L.B., it said in bright gold lettering. Flipping it open, she saw a small note written at the lower left corner of the first page, which read:
Magical recipes for sweets that will make your deepest wishes come true.
Quaid stared at it. A book of recipes? Turning over more pages, she noticed that everything was written in the same, beautiful script, with the occasional ink blots here and there. Little notes dotted the pages, and Quaid saw the care that the author put into the writing of the book. It made her appreciate it a little better.
That was when she decided she would borrow it. It wouldn't hurt to try some of the recipes, would it? Maybe copy two or three...
"Batty," she called out to the man hunched over the counter, moving back to the entrance of the Legaria. "Do you mind if I borrow something?"
"Just return it when yer through." He didn't even look at her as he carefully inspected the books she brought him, a cigarette between his lips. "And for Pete's sakes, take an umbrella with ye."
A grin broke out on her face and she placed the book in her messenger bag. "Thanks, Batty! And try to lay off the cigarettes, you know they're bad for you."
He only snorted in response.
Quaid laughed, grabbing a yellow umbrella leaning against the doorframe, and headed back into the unrelenting rain.
It was pretty late by the time she got back. As she trudged up the long sycamore driveway, Quaid's eyes fell on the immaculate white house she called her home. Although her family's property spanned a few hundred acres, the house itself was inherited from the ancestors on her mother's side of the family. It had over ten bedrooms, most of which were just used for storage, and boasted a large ballroom that encompassed nearly a third of the building. Dahlia had the rest of the house renovated, except for the ballroom, which they felt was a part of their history they wanted to preserve. Although Quaid felt the house was too big for just four people, it was still her family home.
She rang the doorbell once she reached the wooden doors, sighing as she ran a hand through her black locks, which were still wet despite the ten-minute walk. A few seconds later, the door inched open, and she saw the heart-shaped face of Helen, their hired help.
"Hey Helen." Quaid greeted, giving the girl a half-smile.
"Oh, miss Quaid, you're back. Welcome home." Helen said in return, adjusting her glasses. Her brown hair was pulled into a tight bun, making her look older than she really was.
"Are either of my sisters back yet?"
Helen shook her head. "Miss Dahlia hasn't returned, but miss Skye came in just a few minutes before you did."
"Okay. Thank you Helen." Quaid nodded and went up to the spiraling staircase to the second floor.
Including her, there were three daughters in the Nox family. Quaid was the youngest, and Skye was the middle child, older than her by two and a half years. Although the age gap wasn't big, they couldn't be more different than the earth and the stars. It wasn't too bad though. Their love-hate relationship was pretty standard for siblings, especially with Dahlia to mediate.
She turned right when she reached the top of the stairs and heard music blaring from Skye's room. She had painted her door a hideous hot pink that made Quaid cringe whenever she saw it. Knocking loudly, she yelled, "Sis! Can I please talk to you for a second?"
Soon after the door burst open, and her sister's tall form filled the doorway. Skye's dyed blond hair fell in mussed-up curls around her face, her brown eyes rimmed with heavy eyeliner that made her look more intimidating as she narrowed her eyes at Quaid. "What do you want, marshmallow?"
Quaid glared back at her. 'Marshmallow' was her sister's favorite insult-slash-pet name for Quaid, referring to the time when she still had her marshmallow-like baby fat. Not that she did anymore... well, maybe just a bit. Her cheeks were still a little round, though she'd never admit it out loud. "I was just gonna ask about-"
"No." And then she slammed the door in her face.
Quaid let out a frustrated sigh. Skye was in a bad mood, as usual. She'd probably gotten into a fight with her boyfriend, Erik. Again.
"Never mind." Quaid grumbled and trudged to her room, located at the end of the corridor. The sight of her apple-green room filled her with a sense of relief and warmth, one that made her smile a little. A sudden wave of exhaustion swamped her at the familiar sight.
She threw her bag on the floor. Her black sneakers came after, followed by the damp clothes she dumped in the hamper in the bathroom. She was way too tired to take a shower, all that seemed to register in her head was the sigh of her bed and the lead in her bones. Quaid quickly pulled her flannel pajamas on, grateful for the warmth the clothing provided. Flopping onto the bed like a dead fish, she let another sigh escaped her lips and she felt her body sink into the soft down of the mattress. "This is heaven..."
Quaid soon forgot about the book that sat in her weathered bag, and sleep claimed her just as quickly, falling into an unconscious state that even an earthquake wouldn't have disrupted. As her steady breathing filled the room, she dreamed that the her bag was glowing an unearthly red from across the room, a dark, pulsing light that danced across her vision, dragging her down into the oblivion of her unconscious.