Chapter One : The Impulse
Jamie felt like a complete idiot.
Honestly, she should not have felt this way. After all, she recently finished her Masters degree and made her name for herself as a Medievalist. Not a well known one mind you, but one all the same and she felt that it was a just cause for celebration. With the vein of impulsiveness fueled by her own ecstatic feelings, she had hopped on to the next flight to London with plans to backpack across the country that had taken up so many years of her life. It was to be a wonderful vacation, away from nagging family members, rich successful friends, and most of all, papers and research.
She needed, no, deserved a nice long break.
Instead of the wonderful vacation she expected however, she found herself standing outside, huddled against the outside wall of a store which provided the only source of light and shelter on this wet, cold and dreary London night. The fog curled along the dark ominous streets that loomed on both sides and swallowed any light that dared venture in too far. It was, quite plainly, a miserable night to be out.
In retrospect, perhaps she should have planned a bit more ahead.
Jamie muttered to herself darkly as she rubbed her arms for warmth. That was the last time she decided to be spontaneous. A bloody fun vacation it turned out to be. She glanced down the streets for what she felt must be the hundredth time and pondered what to do. Dark thoughts penetrated her mind and she found herself more and more paranoid.
This was completely and utterly pathetic.
A muffled voice from behind her snapped her out of her reverie and she half turned to inspect the store she stood in front of.
It was... a store. She was unable to place what sort of store it was as the light did little to illuminate its large bold title. Its windows were dirty and covered under a thick layer of dust. As if to prove its existence as a store, various dusty volumes were strewn about in no particular order. There was a possible chance that it was a bookstore but a broken chair and a dusty coat in the corner seemed to suggest otherwise.
A light glowed from behind the layers of dust and to accompany the muffled voice were uneven footsteps. Jamie squinted through the rain and windows with a confused expression on her face.
Suddenly, a head popped up from behind the display.
Jamie stared at it blankly. The face stared back, frowned, and disappeared.
A few seconds later, the door to the store jerked open and there was the light tinkling sound of a bell. More out of instinct and the want to get away from the rain, Jamie hurried to take cover under the sheltered doorway.
"Who are you and what do you want?" the person demanded.
She shook the rain out of her eyes and stared up at the person who had just opened the door for her through wet bangs.
It was a man.
She looked up.
A very tall man. Though, standing a little over five feet herself, it wasn't hard to dwarf her in size. He glowered down at her. Other than his height, the next thing that struck her was his dark hair. It was a mop in all sense of the word and completely unkempt. It made her want to grab a comb and tame it in an aggressive and violent manner.
"Well? What do you want? You're blocking my light," he told her again as he crossed his arms in front of his chest.
She almost snorted. No amount of light was able to penetrate those dirty windows anyways. But this was Europe. She needed to play nice.
"Sorry to bother you but I'm a bit lost," she admitted with a sort of sheepish smile.
He frowned, "Go find yourself an officer who cares. Now, clear off!"
Instead of hurrying to do his bidding, she stood stock still as she stared up at the man with large eyes, astonished and surprised by his reaction. She gave herself a mental shake.
"I... I don't suppose I could use your phone to call a cab?"
He glowered, "Must you use my phone?"
"You're the only store with lights on..."
"That's because I live here. Now off with you!"
"But, I'm lost! I have nowhere to go. I might get mugged!" she exclaimed almost hysterically. She had been standing out in the rain for at least an hour now. She had no intention of going back out there to sleep for the night.
"Not my problem, get out!"
"I'll pay you to use your phone!"
The man jerked up and seemed to consider the proposition. Jamie watched him nervously. She really just needed a phone call. She'll call a cab and get the driver to take her to the nearest hostel. Then, everything will be fine.
"A phone call is ten quid."
"Ten pounds, you idiot woman. It's ten pounds to use my phone."
"I know how much ten quid is! That's... that's robbery!"
He smirked, "That's my condition."
Jamie looked at him despairingly. Was he serious? He can't possibly be serious... Weren't the English supposed to be friendly?
"Well?" he demanded impatiently, "If not, then clear off."
"You what? Go on then," he towered over her with his arms crossed and that damnable smirk stretched across his face.
"Alright! Alright! Fuck!" she exclaimed exasperatedly as she fished around her pockets for a ten pound note. The man held out his hand but she clutched it in her hands and refused to hand it over with an uncharacteristic glare in his direction.
"Nuh uh, no way. I'm not giving you any money until I make my phone call."
"If you give me the tenner, you'll get your damn phone call."
"You're just going to slam the door in my face and tell me to clear off!" she protested vehemently. The man regarded her carefully before he muttered under his breath and shuffled back in. Jamie stepped into the shop after him carefully.
She was right on her first guess. It was a bookshop. A really run down, old, dusty bookshop that smelt of musk and old libraries. In other words, it was a second hand bookshop. She loved the place immediately. It had a certain charm and atmosphere that reminded her of the time she spent amongst the stacks at her university as she caught up in sleep.
It was a cozy little place. Aside from the ceiling to floor shelves that were pushed against the walls, there were small tables here and there littered with stacks upon stacks of books in no particular order. To one side, there was a lumpy overstuffed couch in a hideous orange colour that reminded her of the 70's. On that couch too, were stacks of books which took up most of the space.
But most importantly, it was warm and dry.
"This isn't a tourist attraction," came a snipe that jarred her out of her sleepy memories. Jamie scowled. Insufferable bastard.
She turned to face the man. He stood behind a desk at the far end of the small dusty bookshop. Holding up the phone receiver, he gave a sarcastic little bow.
"Yer phone, your majesty."
Jamie scowled. If he wanted to make it difficult for her, she should repay the gesture. She plastered on a fake smile.
"I don't know what number to call, me being a lost young lady in London and all," she said, her voice dripped with honey and a touch of malice.
The stare she received was one of complete loathing. For whatever reason, she felt an immense amount of pleasure and satisfaction in his reaction.
"Call a cab and get yourself out of my sight!"
"You surprise me. One certainly does not expect such behaviour from an English man."
He smirked, "Aye, from an Englishman. But I be from Ireland. So make your phone call and leave me in peace."
Jamie decided to drop it. Running a hand through her wet hair in some attempt to comb it down, she sighed, "What's the number for the cab?"
He stared at her.
"I thought you'd know, being one of those annoying trigger-happy American tourist bastards and everything."
"One, I don't know because I'm not from around here and two, that's quite an insult as I be from Canada," she replied hotly.
He rolled his eyes, "Oh yes, that certainly justifies you waltzing into my store to use my phone when you don't even know a bloody number to call!"
"I was willing to pay you ten pounds for that phone call! The least you could do is be civil to me," she snapped.
"Oh civil eh? You want me to be civil? What would you like then, yer majesty? Some tea? Crumpets? Would you like to eat me out of my home as well?"
"Argh! You insufferable little- Just hand me a fucking phone book and I'll look up the damn thing myself!"
Jamie jerked up and stared at him with disbelief, "What do you mean... can't?"
He shrugged, "Just what I said, you can't."
Once she heard his answer, Jamie became very, very frustrated. She was wet, cold, and unhappy. All she wanted was a nice hot shower, dry clothes and somewhere to curl up and not have to worry about money, food or annoying shopkeepers.
"You're a bookstore, you sell books. Why can't you?" she asked irritably.
He gave her a sheepish look.
"I don't have a phonebook."
She gaped at him.
"You… don't have a phonebook."
"… but you sell books."
"And you don't own a phonebook?"
"No! You North Americans are all the same! Always asking for a bloody phonebook! Do your damn bloody research yourself! I sell books, not lend them out for you to… to… dial numbers!"
Jamie looked at the angry man exasperatedly, "If people kept coming here and asking, then perhaps you should get one to shut them up!"
"You think you're so bloody clever don't you. You in your rain soaked clothes and smelling of wet dogs," he glowered back.
"Argh!" she threw up her hands in defeat, "What am I going to do now? I want to call a cab and everything is impossible with you."
"Oh sure, insult the man who took you in out of pity."
"Pity?! You were asking ten pounds for that stupid phone call!"
"Out of the goodness of my heart!" he protested.
Jamie sighed. Her head throbbed from the argument.
"Look, I'll tell you what. I'll give you ten pounds for letting me stay until tomorrow morning. I'll sleep on your couch. Then tomorrow, you'll be free of me forever," she offered.
He gave her a calculated look before he stuck out his hand, "It seems like we have an accord."
She managed a smile and reached out to shake his hand. To her surprise, he jerked away.
"What are you doing?!" he demanded. She looked at him, confusion written all over her face.
"I'm shaking your hand?"
"Don't touch me. I want my ten pounds you American harlot!"
Jamie was very tempted to chuck ten pounds in coins in his face. How she resisted such a strong calling, she did not know. With a sigh of defeat, she dropped the note on his table and turned to the occupied couch to start moving the books off.
"Don't you dare touch my books!"
'Oh for the love of…' Jamie thought to herself as she whirled around and glared at him.
"You're wet," he stated simply and moved forward to move the dusty tomes off. Jamie watched silently as he worked. At least he was somewhat civil towards her.
"Is… is there a place where I can change?"
"There's a door to your right, change in there."
Jamie nodded to his turned back. She dropped her things on the floor with a loud and satisfactory thunk that made the man wince before she pulled out a towel and a change of clothes from her backpack and headed off to change. What she discovered was not quite to her liking.
The door revealed a small filthy washroom that needed dire cleaning. Cautiously, she stepped inside and closed the door. It took several attempts to finally lock the door. Jamie looked around the cramped space and sighed. At least it did not smell bad. She quickly changed into a pair of comfortable pants and a dry and clean t-shirt.
When she came out with the towel wrapped around her wet hair, the couch was already clear of books. Jamie smiled tiredly. It wasn't much but it was certainly a place to sleep. And only ten pounds! It was a bargain. Not only was there a working roof over her head but it was warm and the couch looked comfortable, if a bit dusty. She didn't mind. She had slept on worst.
She settled herself on the hideous orange couch with a small sigh. At least something turned out right for her on this trip. Curling up on the couch with her damp towel as a makeshift pillow, she stared at the man who allowed her to spend the night in his shop with a little monetary persuasion.
He sat at his desk engrossed in a large book. While she changed, he had gone into the back to take out a couple of glasses and opened a bottle of red wine. He held one of the glasses in one of his hands and periodically took little sips from it. He looked up and saw how she looked at the other glass on his desk with some degree of expectation.
With that, he set down the glass in his own hand, picked up the other and stood up. He smiled sweetly in her direction.
Then, in one go, swallowed the contents of the other glass and sat back down to read.
Jamie stared at him, wide-eyed in shock. As she fumed silently on the sofa, she observed him intently in a vain attempt to make him feel uncomfortable.
He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. His unruly dark hair not only covered his eyes but hid a large forehead. His features were accented by his small slender nose and the strong square jaw covered in faint stubble. Messily clad in a not-quite-buttoned-up-all-the-way maroon shirt and a black casual jacket that had seen better days, he looked every part the reclusive intellectual.
While Jamie hated to admit it, he was not at all bad looking. Downright adorable even.
"Go to sleep already!"
…it was too bad about that mouth of his.
"Why don't you go to sleep," she snapped irritably and she settled against her damp towel, "you obviously live here. Go to your room and I'll be able to find some solitude in the silence."
He snorted before he downed a newly poured glass of wine. He stood up and wrapped a thin, hideous pea green coloured blanket around himself before he settled back down in his chair with a glare in her direction.
"I don't trust you alone with my books."
Jamie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Who would want to steal a bunch of dusty tomes when it was less troublesome to just buy them? She settled down on the couch with her arms wrapped around herself for warmth. It was not for some time before she spoke again to break the silence.
"Not that it really matters I guess, but I'm Jamie."
"From Canada," she added as an afterthought.
"I don't care," was the surly reply.
Jamie closed her eyes and wished sleep would come soon so that she no longer needed to deal with the man in her waking consciousness.
There was a loud thud from the desk and the lights flickered off. There were sounds of rustling from his direction before silence echoed in the shop. Already exhausted by the events of the day, Jamie drifted off. She almost did not catch what he muttered in her direction.
End Chapter One
A/N: Well what do you guys think so far? I would love some critique or suggestions. It's been a while since I've wrote something.
Edited: Fixed my tenses. I think I got all of them. Hopefully it's all good now. Leave a review to let me know if there's anything wrong! Thanks to Chocolate Hazelnut for bringing it to my attention!