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EDITOR'S NOTE:
Denise Little

INTERVIEW: JULIET MARILLIER

STORIES:
Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Research and the Research Librarian

Casey Chapel: Lost Luggage
Yvonne Jocks:
A Solitary Path
Jean Rabe:
Misery and Woe
Petronella Glover
: Quebec Romeo Victor

Dayle A. Dermatis
: This is the World Calling
Deb Stover
: The Enchanted Garden
 

SERIALIZATION:
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Part 1)

RECOMMENDED BOOKS:
C.S. DeAvilla

LOVE'S PHILOSOPHY (POEM):
Percy Bysshe Shelley

ON A DATE WITH JANE AUSTEN:
Lezli Robyn and Ellen Josina Lowry

WRITER'S CORNER:
Denise Little:
The Profit Motive
Julie Pitzel: You Read That: Genre
Shaming and How to Deal With It

Kristine Kathryn Rusch usually writes romance under the name Kristine Grayson. Occasionally, though, she will commit romance under her real name (Rusch). If you liked her novelettes in this issue, pick up The Death of Davy Moss, the romance novel she’s most proud of. To find out more about her work, go to www.kriswrites.com. This is the author’s third appearance in Heart’s Kiss.

 

RESEARCH AND THE RESEARCH LIBRARIAN

by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 

It was a quixotic quest. Stacey lived in the past, but she normally didn’t live in her past. Normally, she picked an era, researched the hell out of it, and wrote a kick-ass bestselling historical book, usually about something most historians looked down upon, and then moved onto another item.

And usually the past she spent her time in was pre-1958, when her own past began. Or rather, her future. Or, whatever.

But here she sat, in the newspapers archive at the brand-new Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library, researching her own history—and only because she couldn’t remember it.

The chair she sat in was deeply uncomfortable—made of blond wood like a student desk chair from her childhood—and the microfiche reader was touchy. The library had just upgraded the microfiche readers so that she could make photocopies directly from image she saw in front of her—for a mere dime per page.

Mere dimes per page added up. Usually when she did this research, she wrote down the information on a notebook. She had a hugely expensive Macintosh PowerBook laptop that she kept in the backpack at her feet. She had found that laptop drew too much attention when she tried to balance it on her lap while working the microfiche room. Patrons wanted to know what it was, and most librarians somehow thought she was stealing information from the newspapers without paying for it.

Of course, most people had never seen a laptop computer before. They had only read about such things, and wanted to see one in use. Stacey had decided, long ago, that pencil and paper was easier—at least in the microfiche room.

But she hadn’t expected to be here today. She had planned to be three floors up, handling books. There, she could spread out on the table, the books beside her, and take copious typed notes, storing them for later use.

At this moment, though, Stacey wasn’t taking any kind of notes. The backpack leaned against her leg, nagging her about the research she should be doing, not the research she actually was doing.

She was the only patron in this part of the microfiche room. The librarians were doing some kind of shift change—if, indeed, the woman manning the desk was a librarian. She had looked young enough to be a student. About ten minutes ago, a deep and warm male voice had started quizzing the young woman about something.

Stacey had tuned it all out. Oddly enough, she was having more trouble tuning out the banging of the metal file drawers behind her, as someone was either putting away some reels of microfiche or was getting some. The bangs sounded like the occasional gunshot, echoing in the obscenely large room.

This part of the library didn’t feel like a library. It felt like some kind of demented office space, what with the florescent lighting bleaching everything, even the bleach blond chairs.

Most people did not usually stay long in the microfiche room. They showed up, had a librarian help them find the small box with its typed label, and then helped them to a machine, queued up the film so that the person didn’t tear it, and hovered while the person found the one article they were looking for.

Stacey usually camped in this room. She always read entire badly photocopied and reduced newspapers in the dimly lit viewer, searching for tiny facts.

It was a tiny fact—one she doubted—that had sent her here in the first place.

She should have been gathering secondary material for her book on the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana seventy years ago. She needed some general books on the Klan in the north, and some earlier works on the 1925 murder that eventually brought down the Indiana Klan’s leader.

Instead, she was chasing a phantom from her own past.

And all because of something she had seen over lunch.

She had been reading one of those Where Are They Now? articles in a tabloid someone had left on the table at her favorite diner a few blocks away. The article claimed that it had been twenty years since the Symbionese Liberation Army shootout in Los Angeles. Twenty years since all of America watched six SLA members die, right in front of their eyes.

The article tied the twenty-year-old shootings to the OJ Simpson Bronco chase, which everyone had watched just one week ago. Even Stacey had watched it, in stunned amazement at how weirdly fascinating it all was.

But she didn’t remember the SLA shootout—and it was the kind of thing she would have remembered. Stacey’s parents left the TV on all the time. She watched everything, from political conventions to the Watergate hearings to the burning of villages in Vietnam. Sometimes she thought her interest in history came because she had seen so much of it unfold before her eyes.

And she always—always—remembered where she had been when she watched something. She also remembered all kinds of details from the video footage of anything she saw—a fact that had stunned her once, when she discovered she could recite every line of dialogue from a Bewitched episode she had only seen once.

Stacey remembered Patty Hearst. Stacey remembered the kidnapping, the bank robbery, the later bank robbery, Tania, and the capture of Hearst (who had become part of the SLA gang).

Stacey remembered everything, except this one event.

It wasn’t even in her memory. She had no idea the SLA shootings had even happened.

And frankly, that freaked her out.

May 17, 1974. She would’ve been sixteen. Tenth grade—a seminal year for her. One in which she avoided the parents a lot, and did a lot of extracurricular things prepping for college, but they were nerdy extracurricular things—debate, public speaking, a little theater. She had had a deep interest in American history and American politics even then.

Something this big was something she would have paid attention to. Especially since the article claimed that the shootout between the nascent SWAT unit in Los Angeles and the members of the SLA (except Hearst and two others) had been the biggest shootout in American history—a fact she doubted.

But the article also claimed the shootout was broadcast live. Nationwide.

She had stuffed the tabloid in her backpack next to the laptop, and then headed back to the library, partly to prove the tabloid wrong. She should have calmed down on the walk, but instead, she got more and more uncomfortable. So, instead of going to the sixth floor, she found herself on the third floor where the newspaper archives were kept.

Most people would consider the change of focus impulsive, but she had learned to trust these hunches. She’d learned those hunches led to the kind of books that people actually read. Especially when it came to true crime and history.

That didn’t mean she’d abandon the Klan book. But she hadn’t even done a full pitch on it to her publisher, so she had the freedom at the moment to see where the hunches led her.

She had to get out of this chair. She had a crick in her neck from peering into the microfiche reader’s screen, and her eyes were watering from the badly copied newspaper pages.

She’d been staring at the Los Angeles Times articles about the shootout, and none of the pictures looked familiar. She really did not remember this event, and she wasn’t sure why.

This machine had an automatic rewind button, and she hit it, then took the warm microfiche reel off the machine, and put the reel back in the cardboard box. Technically, she wasn’t supposed to refile—the librarians did that—but she thought that a waste, since she was going back to the filing cabinets anyway.

Only this time, she wasn’t going to look at any Los Angeles papers. She was going to look at her hometown newspaper, to see what had been going on that Friday night. Maybe she hadn’t been home. Maybe whatever was going on in her life at the time had been a lot more important to her than some big shootout thousands of miles away.

She stood, cardboard box in hand, and slung the backpack over her shoulder, wincing at the weight. She walked past six empty viewers to the rows and rows of metal file cabinets filled with film copies of newspapers from all over the country.

Apparently, she hadn’t entirely closed the big early 1970s drawer for the Los Angeles Times. She pulled the drawer open, slipped the box into its place, and followed the pasted typed strips on the top of the file cabinets, thankful everything was alphabetical.

“You know, I’m supposed to do that,” a deep warm voice said.

She started. Had someone just spoken to her? She didn’t see anyone. She looked around, uncertain where the voice came from. The filing cabinets were six feet high, so she couldn’t see over them. They were formidable things, braced against each other so no one could accidentally knock one over.

Finally, she saw a man leaning against the metal cabinets on the far wall. His tan slacks and short sleeved white dress shirt marked him as a library employee, rather than some casual user of the library itself. He wore running shoes, though, which seemed out of place.

He had brownish-blond hair that brushed the edges of his collar. He was tan—which should have ruled him out as a librarian—but he also wore stylish black glasses that accented his angular face. He had broad shoulders and muscular arms—which were crossed.

If Superman were blond and worked in a library instead of at the Daily Planet, he might have been this man. There was a sense of pent-up energy about him, and a square-jawed handsomeness that the glasses and the clothing couldn’t hide.

“Sorry,” Stacey said. “I’m here all the time. It’s just easier to put things back myself. That way, if I need it again later in the afternoon, I know where it is.”

He tilted his head as if she were a strange and unusual kind of bug.

“All the time?” he asked. “I’ve never seen you before.”

She flushed. Normally, she avoided the librarians and the staff. She didn’t like to be interrupted, and she usually found their help annoying.

“I should probably rephrase,” she said. “I practically live here for a few weeks, and then I—um—go home—um—for a while.”

She had almost said “go home to write when the research is done,” but she caught herself just in time. She’d made that mistake after one of her early books, and got trapped in conversations about writing and historical research. Now, she was as vague as she could possibly be about what exactly she was doing.

“Where’s home?” His tone was lackadaisical, but his brown eyes weren’t. They had an intensity that made her uneasy.

“Um, north of here,” she said.

“Suburbia,” he said, and she heard judgment.

“No, no,” she said. “The edge of Old Town.”

That was always what she told people, rather than tell them she had splurged on a Gold Coast apartment after her book on John Dillinger and the Lady in Red spent three months on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.

“Ah,” the man said. “You don’t look like an unreconstructed hippie.”

She smiled. He was a Chicagoan, then. “I’m not,” she said. “I’m a little too serious for that.”

He pushed off the filing cabinets. “You know, I’m required to check that overstuffed backpack of yours. And you were required to leave it at the desk.”

She half-shook her head. “I got special permission to carry it,” she said, hoping she wasn’t getting the girl who ran the desk in trouble.

“Special permission.” He walked over to her. His movements had the ease of a natural athlete. “From whom?”

“The desk,” she said, being deliberately vague. “There’s no protection there for expensive items.”

“The protection is in the main room,” he said. “You should have left the backpack there.”

He extended his hand. His fingers were long and lean, just like the rest of him.

She found herself staring at his hand because it was just so perfect. Her flush deepened, and she slid the backpack off her shoulder, nearly losing her balance as the weight shifted.

She was always a king-sized klutz in front of an attractive man. He had reached out to steady her, but didn’t quite touch her, a kind of casual near touching that people did when they were being protective.

She moved the backpack toward him, then worried at her own stupid trust. What if he didn’t work here? What if he ran off with the backpack?

She almost smiled at herself. She read about true crime too much—even if it was historical crime. If he ran off with the backpack, threading his way through the machines and into the main part of the third floor, she would follow him screaming, and someone would stop him.

This was a library after all.

He took the backpack from her, hefting it as if startled by its weight, then put it on top of the nearest row of cabinets. He unzipped the pack and stared into it for a long moment.

“What the heck is that?” he asked.

“Laptop,” she said, and didn’t add, See why I wouldn’t leave it at the desk?

“How come you weren’t using it?”

So he had seen her working. She often got lost when she was digging into the past, and didn’t keep track of her surroundings. She had clearly missed seeing him gazing at her. If he gazed. Not that there was much to gaze at. She hadn’t dressed up. She wore a summer sweater over a pair of jeans. She didn’t have a pen tucked in her frizzy hair, but only because she had used the pen just a few minutes ago. She might have had the pen in her hair when he was looking over at her—she always kept an extra one there—ah, who was she kidding? She usually forgot she had one there.

She almost touched her hair reflexively to make sure there was no pen in it, then changed her mind. She was acting weird enough in the presence of the World’s Sexiest Librarian.

And because she was acting weird, and obsessing about herself, she had nearly forgotten the question he had asked.

“I wasn’t using the laptop,” she said, “because this room isn’t set up for it.”

He raised his eyebrows. “It is a lap-top, isn’t it?”

“And too big for my lap,” she said.

His gaze flickered downward before he seemed to catch himself. Then he turned back to the backpack, thumbed through it, and found nothing. Of course.

He zipped it back up, slid it off the top of the filing cabinet and said a little sheepishly as he handed the pack to her, “It is procedure, you know.”

“I know,” she said, bracing herself. He had that look people got when they wanted to see how the laptop worked. “I just couldn’t leave something this expensive in an unguarded area.”

“I get it,” he said. “Lucy should have told me that you had a pack.”

Lucy, apparently, was the young woman he had replaced at the desk.

“What are you working on?” he asked. “Maybe I can help.”

Stacey felt her cheeks grow warm. “It’s kinda stupid, actually.”

“I doubt that,” he said.

She had no idea where he got his confidence from. He didn’t know her. Plus, in her experience, most people who came into this room were either on a class project or were looking up their own birth announcement or something.

“I—you’re probably old enough—I—Did you watch a lot of TV as a kid?” Oh, God. Now she was being stupid.

He frowned at her, but the expression wasn’t foreboding. He looked a bit bemused.

“I mean,” she said before he could answer that very general question. “I was reading an article over lunch that compared the OJ Simpson Bronco chase to another event twenty years ago, one that it said captivated the nation, and I don’t remember it, and I usually remember that kind of thing, so I’m wondering if I just….”

She let her voice trail off. Still sounding stupid, and she had learned long ago that when she got caught in a stupidity cycle, she should simply stop talking.

“What event?” he asked.

“Do you remember Patty Hearst?” she asked.

“Who doesn’t?” he asked.

And she felt a bit of her tension ease. At least she said something recognizable.

“The kidnapping wasn’t televised,” he said. Then his frown deepened. How did a man look so good with just a frown? “Was it?”

She shook her head. “That happened late one night, somewhere in Berkeley. No, this was the Symbionese Liberation Army shootout. Six of the SLA people died—”

“Wasn’t that entire SLA?” he asked. Oh, he knew more about this than she had expected.

“Yeah, except Hearst and two others,” she said. “It aired live in Los Angeles, and people saw it, but the article said everyone in the country watched it, like we all watched Simpson.”

“Except me,” he said. “I didn’t see the Simpson thing. I was working.”

He sounded almost sad about that.

“It was just a Ford Bronco driving down a freeway, with news helicopters tailing it, and then police cars….” She trailed off again, the flush warming her cheeks so badly that she felt like she was going to explode in a cascade of steam. “You’ve probably seen it by now.”

“Bits of it,” he said in that same tone he used for the word suburbia.

“The shootout should’ve been more memorable,” she said. “I mean, hundreds of rounds of ammunition fired, and then half the block went up in flames. That’s more frightening than some car driving down a freeway.”

He frowned. “When was this?”

“A Friday night—just like Simpson. May 17, 1974.”

“Weird,” he said. “Both happened on Friday the 17th.”

She grinned. “It would’ve been more interesting if it had been Fridays the 13th.”

“True.” He smiled, and she wished he hadn’t. He was even better looking with that smile. Like a male model, wearing glasses not because he needed them, but because they were fashionable. Or a movie star, who secretly needed glasses, and only put them on to look at a piece of text someone had given him.

Or something.

God, she usually didn’t swoon over men like this. Maybe she really did need to get out more. She had been working too hard the last few years, focusing on the writing and the research, not dating. Her friends hauled her out for meals at least once a week, but that was about movies and drinks and great nutritious food, not about spending quality time with a member of the opposite sex.

And apparently she needed that.

“I don’t remember it,” he said. “But that would’ve been my last two weeks of high school, so I’m pretty sure I was focused on other things.”

He was only a few years older than her, then. She would have guessed that, but she was often wrong. She did better with paper and research and words than she did with actual people.

Obviously.

“Parties, dances, prom,” she said lightly.

His smile faded just a bit. “No. I wasn’t that kid. I was scrawny and nerdy. I had early admission to the University of Chicago for the summer session, and I was scared to death they’d see right through me, and send me somewhere else.”

“Did they?” she asked.

His smile widened again. “I was so overprepared I was bored for the entire summer. Not at all what I expected.”

She nodded, remembering that feeling. “Yeah, college. I memorized the entire campus map so I wouldn’t get lost.”

“You went here too?”

She shook her head. “Madison. The Big City, then, to me at least. I came from a city most people would call a small town.”

“The University of Wisconsin is big,” he said. “I would’ve worried too.”

He extended his hand again. “I’m Greg,” he said. “Greg Durbin.”

She took his hand, his skin smooth and warm against hers. At least her fingers weren’t cold, like they usually were when she worked long hours in this room.

“Stacey Gilsoul,” she said.

“S.C. Gilsoul?” he asked. “The writer?”

She swallowed hard, startled. No one ever recognized her by her name. Ever. Even when she did the occasional book signing, she always had to introduce herself as the writer who is doing the signing today.

Apparently her surprise was evident, because that wonderful smile returned to his face.

“I shelve books for a living, remember?” he asked.

“Mine aren’t on this floor,” she said.

“But you research here enough,” he said. “We’re told not to disturb the writers. There are a bunch of you. I just didn’t realize you were so…”

Her brain added so many words into the pause—Tiny, ineffectual, mousy—that she almost missed what he did say.

“Pretty.” Now his cheeks had a touch of red in them. “I hope that’s not too forward. Or ridiculous. I mean, writers can be pretty. I just didn’t think that…”

He closed his eyes, and let go of her hand. She felt the absence. She wanted to grab his fingers again, and say something triumphant like I finally believe you! You were a nerd. Or are a nerd. Or are worthy of those glasses.

But she didn’t say any of it.

“Sorry,” he said opening his eyes. “I was blathering. I like your books. They’re well researched, but the research isn’t intrusive. You tell great stories.”

She hadn’t expected the compliment at all. “Thank you.”

“So you’re writing about Patty Hearst?”

“I—.” She stopped herself before she added the word wouldn’t, before launching into some kind of diatribe about media sensationalism. But didn’t she focus on media sensationalism anyway? Only she focused on media sensationalism decades afterwards, when the trials of the century became historical footnotes.

He was watching her closely.

“I—I wasn’t planning on it,” she said. “I really did want to see if my memory was faulty. They made it sound like such a big deal. SWAT was new, and the shootout was really ugly, and you’d think I’d remember.”

“Why does it bother you so much?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, and then felt a surge of adrenaline. She reached for the pen in her hair, only to realize she hadn’t put a pen there. She held up a finger, knowing she was being weird, but not caring. “Sorry, hang on, gotta write something down.”

She was starting to head back to her notebook when he handed her a tiny call sheet and one of the pencils that the library had everywhere.

“Thank you,” she said absently as she wrote down: Deadly Days: The Beginning of SWAT and The Destruction of a Neighborhood.

She had a book, and a focus, and something that would actually work for her. Much better than the Klan, and more relevant too, after this whole OJ thing. Because some things—like SWAT—became institutionalized, and relatively quickly.

“You found your answer,” he said.

She folded up the paper, put it in her back pocket, and handed the pencil back to him. “Well, not to the question I was asking,” she said. “But that’s usually how the research works. I start into something and then I find myself somewhere else and suddenly I’ve lost days.”

“So, you’re no longer trying to figure whether the broadcast aired nationwide?” he asked.

She gave him a sheepish grin. “I actually was going to look up my hometown paper, and see if I could find a clue about what I was doing that night.”

“You would have made the paper?” He sounded shocked.

“No.” She laughed. “Not the way you’re thinking, anyway. Small town, remember? They reported high school news as if we were the Congress or something.”

“I’ve got to see this,” he said.

“Let’s hope you can,” she said. “It’s in the list of papers that the library has, but that doesn’t always mean I can find the paper itself.”

She headed down the rows. She knew where her hometown paper was, because she had looked up a few things in it years ago, on another quest, similar to this one. Only that quest hadn’t turned into a book.

Greg followed her. “I know that the microfiche is sometimes hard to find,” he said. “We’re working on improving the system. And we’re still assembling parts of the library.”

“Oh,” she said, waving the hand that wasn’t clutching the backpack strap, “I’m used to it. This is a problem in every reference library.”

“I don’t like it being a problem in mine,” he said.

She stopped in front of the correct cabinet and paused before opening it. “You think of this library as yours?”

“Research librarians,” he said with a bit of a wry grin. “We can be possessive.”

She grinned back at him. She liked him, and she was beginning to feel at ease with him—enough so that she was willing to make a comment most people would find a bit personal.

And because she knew her statement might veer past normal politeness, she fell back on her Midwestern heritage, and started her statement with an apology.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but I have to say, you don’t look like a research librarian.”

He laughed. “All pasty and flabby?”

She shrugged. She didn’t quite mean that, and she wasn’t quite sure how to dig her way out of it.

But before she could say anything more, he added, “I used to. I got tired of looking like the scrawny kid in the Charles Atlas ad—you remember Charles Atlas?”

“I do,” she said, flashing on the ads on the back of her best friend’s comic books, as a bully kicked sand on a poor glasses-wearing wimp who looked like a good wind could knock him over.

“Only,” Greg was saying, “I don’t look like Charles Atlas either.”

“No,” she said, “you look like you could pose for a Hot Librarians of the Midwest calendar.”

Then the blush returned, like a radioactive rash. She had blurted out the sentence without thinking about it.

His eyes twinkled. “No one called me hot before.”

“They’re not looking past the glasses,” she said as she turned away, knowing it was too late to hide the blush, but needing to break the eye contact anyway.

She pulled open the drawer, found her hometown paper, and found all of 1974 in one reel—so different from The Los Angeles Times, which had taken half the length of the drawer to complete 1974.

“Oh, crap,” he said from behind her. “Patrons. I’ll be right back.”

His shoes squeaked as he scurried along the tiled floor. Stacey leaned against the drawer, feeling stupid. Of course, he had made up the patrons, so that he wouldn’t have to talk to her again.

Had she ever called a man hot to his face before? She didn’t think so.

She grabbed the reel and pulled it out, then pushed the drawer closed, just as she heard Greg say, “Ladies! What can I help you with?”

So there had been patrons after all.

That made Stacey feel only marginally better. She took the reel back to her microfiche viewer, and slowly paged forward, seeing headlines from her sixteenth year. Some of them even looked familiar—her family had taken the paper, and she sometimes read it.

Greg was talking to someone else now, explaining how the microfiche worked.

Stacey was hyper-aware of him. He had seemed a little too perfect, as if he were designed in a lab as a Stacey-attraction magnet.

She had never reacted like this to anyone before, not even when she was sixteen.

She threaded through the paper, slowing down when she got to May 17. Of course, nothing was in there about the shootout—it happened that day. The national news was pretty thin in that paper. Everything was. But she remembered how important the high school news was. Everyone wanted to get local recognition.

But prom was one week previous, and graduation wouldn’t happen until after Memorial Day, so she still wasn’t sure what was going on that night.

Until she glanced at one of the ads.

“Find it?” he asked.

He hadn’t quite snuck up on her, but she hadn’t heard him coming. So much for the hyper-awareness. Get her focused on research and she would get lost in it every single time.

“I think so,” she said, and tapped the screen.

He leaned over her. He wore just enough sandalwood cologne to entice. She wanted to turn her head and nuzzle his neck.

It took a lot of self-control to continue looking forward.

“I don’t see anything,” he said.

I do, she thought. That lovely skin of yours….

“There,” she made herself say. “The ad for the Palace Theater.”

“Limited Engagement. One Week Only,” he read. “The Great Gatsby. God, I had forgotten they used to treat movies like theatrical events. No opening weekends, no all-important box office.”

Then he looked at her, his face level with hers, his mouth only a few inches away from hers.

“You remember what movie you saw?” he asked.

“Robert Redford,” she said. “I was obsessed ever since The Sting. I would even stay up late at night and watch his early movies when they aired, all cut up, on TV.”

Greg’s eyes were deep, dark, not at all like Paul Newman’s baby blues. She could get lost in eyes that brown.

“And you remember that?” Greg asked again, softer this time.

She smiled. “A girl doesn’t forget her first crush,” she said, and then, before she had time to think about it, leaned in.

Her lips brushed his. He tasted faintly of coffee and something she had never tasted before, something she wanted to taste again.

He leaned back, and said, just as softly as before, “I’m working.”

“I’m sorry,” she said automatically.

“I’m not,” he said, then leaned in. He kissed her this time, and the kiss was tender, and warm, with some of that pent-up energy she had seen when she first met him.

Finally, he moved his lips just inches from hers, his gaze on hers like a caress.

“I’d love to explore this more,” he said quietly, “but…”

“You’re working,” she said. “I know.”

“Yes,” he said, “but I’ll be done at five.”

“I’ll still be here,” she said.

He ran his knuckles along the side of her face, then stood up. He started to leave, stopped, and put his hand on the back of her chair.

“For the record,” he said, his voice just a bit louder, “I’m not the kind of guy who normally…” He shook his head, as if changing his mind about how to express himself. “I don’t…I’m still that nerd, you know? I don’t…I’m not…”

“Neither am I,” she said.

“Huh,” he said, biting his lower lip. “Kindred spirits?”

“Researcher and research librarian?” she said. “I would think so.”

He laughed. The sound boomed in the room, and then he put his hand over his mouth as if the laughter was the serious breach of workplace etiquette, not the kisses.

She liked that about him. She liked him.

“Oh,” he said, reaching into his back pocket. “Almost forgot. Wanted to show you this. I printed it out while I was talking to those patrons.”

Then he winked and walked away.

She unfolded the piece of paper he set before her. It was a newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune about a group of high school kids who won a national chess tournament.

Beneath the headline, a date—May 20, 1974. She was about to say wrong date, but her training kicked in, and she scanned first.

The National Chess Championships held at the Blackstone Hotel over the weekend ended with a local surprise when the underdog Wrigley High School Chess Team won. Wrigley High’s team, runners-up for Chicago, stepped in after….

She ran her fingers over the screen. The picture accompanying the article was grainy, but the small kid in the front had a familiar grin—and familiar black glasses. They weren’t stylish. They were the kind of glasses he preferred.

The caption identified him as Gregory Durban, not Greg. He had been winning a chess tournament that Friday night.

She glanced over at the desk. He was talking to an elderly man, pointing at something on a page. Handsome, yes. But smart and, it seemed, an open book.

Like she was.

Dinner, and maybe another kiss. Her romantic teenage self would approve.

Hell, her not-as-romantic adult self approved. She knew that it was too early to declare this meeting a relationship. But she had a hunch it was going to be one.

He was the person who had mentioned kindred spirits, and even though she hadn’t answered him directly, she had a hunch that he was right.

She had had a lot of hunches today.

And she had learned to trust her hunches a long, long time ago.

Copyright © 2017 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Heart's Kiss Magazine

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