Buried in Books

Chapter 1 continued

Read the beginning of the excerpt here

I whirled around and frowned at the red-haired woman standing a few feet away. “Yes?”

She laughed and ruffled her short red hair self-consciously. “I know it’s been years and I’ve changed a few things, but I don’t look that different, do I?”

I blinked. “Oh my God. Heather? Heather Babcock?”

“Yes!” She squealed and grabbed me in a crushing hug. “I was so afraid I wouldn’t find you!”

“I was just thinking about you,” I said. It was the absolute truth. She had been one of my favorite people back in the day. “I didn’t realize you were coming. Why didn’t you call me?”

“I didn’t know I was coming until two days ago and then it was like a whirlwind trying to get ready for the trip.”

“Wow. I’m stunned. But it’s a good feeling,” I added quickly, grinning to hide the fact that I was in complete shock. Heather had been one of my roommates in graduate school and a best pal from the good old days. She was so beautiful and petite, with a delicate bone structure and short-short hair. She always looked like an adorable pixie to me, but today she looked almost . . . haggard. Like maybe she hadn’t slept in a week. “Gosh, it’s been . . . how many years?”

“Ten, maybe? You look fantastic.”

“So do you.” It had been twelve years, but who was counting?

“Yeah, right.” She chuckled ruefully. “I do own mirrors, let’s not get carried away.”

“Don’t be silly, you’re beautiful,” I insisted, but quickly changed the subject. “Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”

“Of course.”

I bought two cafe lattes and two biscotti and we found a small table in the far corner. Within seconds we were talking and laughing like the old friends we had been, as if twelve long years hadn’t passed since we’d last seen each other.

Heather and I, along with our best friend, Sara Martin, had been roommates back in library school. We had clicked from the get-go and became so inseparable that our classmates took to calling us the Three Musketeers. Sadly, though, a few weeks before graduation, Sara and Heather had a major falling-out when Heather found out that her boyfriend, Roderick, had been cheating on her–with Sara.

Heather had been inconsolable, especially when news filtered back that Sara and Rod had run off to get married. About a year later, I heard through the grapevine that Sara had caught Rod cheating on her. This was not a big surprise to anyone since Rod was adorable, but very shallow and prone to believing his own hyped-up PR. But in the end, Sara forgave him and they were still together, as far as I knew.

Heather and I avoided the dreaded subject of Sara and Roderick. Instead, Heather talked about her fulfilling job at the local library in her small town, and I told her all about my adventures in bookbinding and my relationship with Derek. I didn’t mention the wedding, worried that my happiness would make her feel even worse. After thirty minutes of chatting and catching up, we both sat back and smiled.

“It’s really good to see you,” I said wistfully.

“You, too.” Heather’s smile turned enigmatic. “So, are we ever going to mention the big fat bitchy elephant in the room?”

I reached across the table and grabbed her hand. “I didn’t want to ask.”

She raised an eyebrow. “But you’re dying to know.”

“Sorry,” I said, wincing. “But yeah, I would love to know if you’ve had any news or run-ins with . . .”

“No.” Heather inhaled quickly, as if she were about to take some horrible-tasting medicine. “I haven’t seen Sara in twelve years. But I have a friend who has a friend who knows her, so I hear things.”

“I hope you intend to share what you’ve heard.”

She chuckled. “Absolutely.”

I frowned. “Do you think she’ll be coming to the conference?”

“I sure hope not,” Heather said. Her jaw tightened and her eyes narrowed in unrepressed fury. “Because I swear, if I ever see Sara Martin again, I’ll kill her.”

© Kate Carlisle