“Just making sure you don’t have little X’s in your eyes. You went down pretty hard. Great eyes, by the way. I’m Flynn.”
“And I’m tired of sitting on the sidewalk. Do you mind?”
“Oh. Yeah.” He stood, took both her hands in both of his, and pulled her to her feet.
He was taller than she’d realized, and she automatically stepped back so she didn’t have to tip her face up to keep an eye on him. The sun was streaming over his hair—a lot of thick, wavy brown hair with hints of chestnut. His hands were still clasping hers, firmly enough that she felt the ridge of callus on them.
“You sure you’re all right? Steady? You went down pretty hard.”
“I’m aware of that.” Painfully aware in the portion of her anatomy that had hit the sidewalk first. She crouched and began gathering what had spilled out of the box.
“I’ll get this stuff.” He crouched beside her, then stabbed a finger at the dog who was trying to inch his way toward them with the same stealth as an elephant tiptoeing across the African plain. “Stay, or there’s no treat for you.”
“Just get your dog. I don’t need any help here.” She snatched up her emergency cosmetic bag, tossed it in the box. And when she saw that she’d chipped a nail, she wanted to curl into a ball of self-pity and wail. Instead, she selected the temper button.
“You have no business being out on a public street with a dog of that size if you can’t control him. He’s just a dog, he doesn’t know any better, but you’re supposed to.”
“You’re right. You’re absolutely right. Um . . . this must be yours.”
He held out a strapless black bra.
Mortified, Malory grabbed it out of his hand, stuffed it in the box. “Go away now. Go very, very far away.”
“Listen, why don’t you let me carry that—”
“Carry your silly dog,” she snapped and, hefting the box, strode away with as much dignity as she could muster.
Flynn watched her go as Moe lumbered over to press his considerable weight against his master’s side. Absently, Flynn patted the massive head and enjoyed the indignant sway of feminine hips in a short skirt. He doubted that run in her stocking had been there before her encounter with Moe, but from his perspective it did nothing to detract from a pair of great legs.
“Pretty,” he said aloud as she slammed into a building halfway down the block. “And pretty steamed.” He glanced down at the hopefully grinning Moe. “Nice job, jerk-face.”
AFTER a hot shower, a change of clothes, and a medicinal bowl of cookie dough ice cream, Malory headed for the library. She hadn’t made any firm arrangements with her—she supposed they were her partners—the night before. As she was the first, she would have to be in charge.
They needed to have some sort of meeting, to go over the clue, to plot out a plan of action. She didn’t hold out any real hope of winning a million dollars, but she wasn’t going to shrug it off or go back on her word.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually been in the library. For some reason, going in made her feel like a student again, full of näiveté, hope, and an eagerness to learn.
The main area wasn’t large, and the tables were mostly unoccupied. She saw an older man reading the newspaper, a few people wandering the stacks, a woman with a toddler in tow at the checkout counter.
The place was so hushed, the ringing of a phone was like a shout. She glanced toward the sound, and the central island of counter. Dana sat there, a phone at her ear while her fingers clicked on a keyboard.
Pleased that she wouldn’t have to search the building to find her, Malory walked over. She wagged her fingers as Dana nodded at her and finished the call.
“I was hoping you’d come by. Didn’t expect you this soon.”
“I’m now a woman of leisure.”
“Oh.” Sympathy softened Dana’s face. “You got canned?”
“Canned, booted, axed, then knocked on my ass by an idiot and his dog on the way home. All in all, it’s been a lousy day, even with the expansion of my bank account.”
“I have to say, I didn’t believe it. Those two up on the Peak are certifiable.”
“Lucky for us. But still, we have to earn it. I’m first up, so I figure I need to get started. Somewhere.”
“I’m ahead of you. Jan? Will you take the desk?” As she rose, Dana gathered a stack of books from under the counter. “Come with me,” she told Malory. “There’s a nice table by the window where you can work.”
“Work at what?”