Today, I have a super special awesome chocolate-covered extra-long snip of Protect Me for you!
"And here..." Rick took hold of both handles of the double doors, and threw them open with admirable dramatic flair, "is the library!"
Hope stared into a huge, airy room with a floor-to-ceiling windows and bookcases that stretched up to cover every wall entirely. They were crammed with everything from obvious textbooks to what looked like the Harry Potter novels. A tasteful arrangement of sofas and chairs decorated the middle of the room. It looked at once pristine and well-loved; the long white sofas appeared to be new, but the brown leather chairs looked like they were often used. There was a spiral sprawl of books on the coffee table in the middle that somehow managed to look like it was actually in use rather than a feature in a magazine.
“Um. Wow. It's... lovely,” she said, feeling Rick's eyes on her.
The nice thing about Rick was that you didn't have to worry about figuring out what he thought. He had no problems letting you know.
Rick frowned and stared at her quizzically. "I was going for a Beauty and the Beast moment here," he said, which meant nothing to her. "I thought you'd be a little more excited."
She stepped inside the room, because Rick seemed to want her to, and gazed around at the shelves stacked with books.
"I'm not really a big reader," she said, hating the hesitation in her voice. "I wasn't very good at school, and now I'm busy." She'd had more important things to worry about at fourteen than homework. And her mother certainly hadn't cared. Hope reminded herself of those things, but it felt hollow. She stared helplessly at the thousands upon thousands of books filled with wisdom and enjoyment that she couldn't understand.
"That right?" Hope glanced back at Rick; he was watching her with a soft look in his eyes. "That's a shame. You're too smart not to read."
Hope blinked. Smart? That phrase didn't sound familiar to her ears. Strong, yes. Capable, absolutely. But she couldn’t remember a time anyone had described her as intelligent before. Not ever.
Pride bit her tongue and held her back from saying so. She stared at the calm confidence on Rick's handsome face. Something in his expression gave her courage.
"So… what do you recommend?" she asked quietly.
Rick's eyes lit up and he darted forward into the room. He went to one bookshelf first and then hesitated, moved over to another. He poked around in the shelves in the familiar way of a frequent visitor.
"Here." He pulled an old, worn hardback off the shelf and handed it to her.
Hope took it gently. She stared at it for a second and burst out laughing. Even she recognized this one.
"Jane Eyre? Really”
Rick cocked an eyebrow at her. "Yes?”
"Isn't that a romance?" Hope wasn't sure if she was protesting him giving a romance to her, or him knowing a romance well enough to recommend it. But it was easier to make a case for the latter. "You like romance novels?"
Rick didn't look put off in the least. He just grinned a little, his eyes catching the sparkle of the afternoon sun filtering in through the huge windows.
"I like good books. And Jane Eyre is a damn good book." His grin widened. "Besides, it seemed appropriate. An over-large mansion, a bright young woman, a dashing, handsome, charming, clever..."
"Alright!" Hope actually laughed a little and Rick joined in, the rich sound of his deep, rolling laugh filling up the room that had seemed intimidatingly large a moment ago.