"Summer, we need another fan in here. Mrs. Carlyle is overheating again," Melissa said as she reached for a book and began waving it back and forth to create a breeze.
“Lift the lid and open her base. If you let her sit for half an hour, she’ll cool off.”
“We don’t have time for this. Jared’s coming to pick the flyers up in forty minutes.”
Summer Lansing pushed her reading glasses further up on her nose. What she didn’t have time for were Melissa Barr’s myriad of office problems.
Mrs. Carlyle always went on the fritz just when they needed the photocopier most. Melissa waited until the last minute on almost every project, causing a mini-meltdown on a weekly basis. Summer chose to overlook this minor annoyance because she was a topnotch bookkeeper. When it came to making sure the total of Column A equaled the total of Row E, Melissa was a wiz.
Right now all Summer cared about was Sir Isaac Petroth’s searing kisses with Lady Patrice Comstock. If the warmth from the copier wasn’t enough to heat up the small office space at the back of the bookstore, the novel she was reading certainly was.
She was behind again. The Port Townsend Book Club was meeting in less than three hours and she had four chapters to catch up on. Summer managed to fudge her way through the last two Monday night meetings, but her only hope of making any worthwhile contribution to the group was to reach chapter nineteen by eight o’clock.
“Mrs. Carlyle stinks! It smells electrical. When are you going to get a new copier?”
When she didn’t respond, Melissa said, “Summer, I’m talking to you.”
“I asked you when you’re going to get a new copier. Mrs. Carlyle has been on her last legs for years. She’s not going to last much longer.”
“There’s no money in the budget. FedEx has do-it-yourself copiers. You can use the credit card.”
“FedEx is clear across town.”
“We need the flyers.”
Melissa shook her head and grumbled, “Stupid copier.”
Summer took her nose out of her book and met Melissa’s eyes.
“Don’t give me that look. I know you’re going to say I should run smaller batches and let her rest in between, but if she ran properly to begin with, I wouldn’t have to do that.”
“Are you coming to book club tonight?”
“No. Ward and I are going to a business dinner. Some big shot is coming in from New Hampshire.”
“And there she goes again, ladies and gentleman. Yes, Ms. Summer Lansing has asked a question, then promptly ignored the response and shoved her face into another book.”
“Did you say something?”
“Nevermind. Do you need anything while I’m out?”
“It really is hot in here, even without Mrs. Carlyle’s temper tantrum. Can we get another fan?”
“Put it on the card?”
“Go ahead. My bookkeeper will take care of it.”
“I hear she takes care of everything around here.”
“And I appreciate it.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll see you in half an hour, I hope.”
Summer followed Melissa toward the front of the bookstore, checking on the four customers she knew were deeply engrossed in their books.
Seventeen-year-old Tommy Adlin had nine automotive technical manuals spread on a table. He bought a used car over a month ago and still hadn’t been able to get the thing running.
Carmen Smith was in the children’s area reading books to her daughter, Brittany, in one of the large overstuffed chairs purchased specifically for that purpose. The entire area had been designed for small hands and wild imaginations. A rug embedded with colorful alphabet letters defined the fourteen by twenty foot space featuring low-level bookshelves for younger patrons.
Kitty was responsible for the laminated book covers hanging on colored strings from the ceiling, as well as the busy boxes for the smaller children who often tried to eat the books rather than read them.
It always brought back tender memories when Summer saw a mother reading to her baby as she rocked them gently in one of the Shaker-style chairs.
Memories of visiting her local library pressed close to her heart. She and her sister, Meadow, would grab as many books as they could carry, then plop down on the brown and white braided oval rug by the potbellied stove and read for hours.
“Is this book available in paperback?” Niles Cannon asked as he handed his iPhone to Summer, forcing her to focus on the here and now once more. “It’s only listed as being an e-book on Amazon.”
“Let me check for you.” Summer typed the name of the book into her computer database. “No. It’s only available in digital format, but you can read it on your phone.”
“That thing is too damn small.”
“You can increase the font size to make it easier to read.”
“Nah. I like paper books. I guess we’re a dying breed.”
“You’re not alone.” Summer retrieved the book she was reading from under the counter.
Niles chuckled. “Guess it’s a good thing there are a few of us left or you’d be out of business.”
The bell rang denoting the entryway door had opened. Summer glanced up. It was him. Even though she’d been reading a book set in the 1800s, she imagined Mike Duncan would have made a most delicious lord of the manor with his sleek stature, dark hair and piercing aquamarine eyes.
Summer watched as he headed toward the philosophy section. He always visited that section first, followed by religion and then humor. She reasoned that he started out very serious, contemplating some important life lesson. When his answer wasn’t easily ascertained, he headed to the spiritual realm for answers. When that didn’t pan out, he threw his hands up in the air and went with the tried and true medicine for all that ails you, humor.
“Hello?” Niles waved his hand in front of Summer.
“I’m sorry, Niles. What were you saying?”
“Can you show me how to increase the font? Maybe I’ll give this e-book thing another try.”
Summer showed him all the tips and tricks until he felt comfortable using the device on his own. “And if you get stumped,” she reached for a flyer sitting by the register, “here’s a little cheat sheet.” She circled the information pertaining to the Kindle application. “Ignore the other instructions, they’re not for your device.”
“You’re a keeper, Summer.”
“Now can you tell me how to buy the damn e-book?”
When Niles was all set, he headed toward the door with a wave.
“Just wait, in a few weeks you’ll be showing me hundreds of books you’ve downloaded.”
“Don’t hold your breath.”
Summer knew better. Traffic at the bookstore had diminished considerably in the last year. She’d cut her staff by half. Kitty suggested they buy a few Kindles and download books for people to read in the store to get them used to the technology, but Summer had been dragging her feet. She liked the idea of people reading, but she would be shooting herself in the foot financially to provide free digital books.
Barnes and Noble and Borders had both closed in the past year. If they couldn’t compete, she wasn’t sure how Mind Travels was supposed to.
“I’m here, you can jet,” Kitty said as she tossed her backpack under the counter along with a super-sized soda.
Summer pointed to her ears.
“Sorry.” Kitty removed the button earphones and slipped them in her pocket next to her iPod. “My bad. Just the four?”
“Yeah. Mike just came in.”
“Isn’t every day?”
“Good. Algebra homework.” Kitty rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue, showing her piercing.
Summer raised her eyebrows and looked over the rim of her glasses.
“Sorry.” Kitty removed the tongue ring, slipping it into her pocket to join the other contraband. She glanced at Summer’s book sitting on the counter. “Did you get caught up?”
“I’m working on it.”
“I saw Mrs. Carlyle went belly up again. Is Missy fuming?”
“Yes. She’s at FedEx getting copies made.”
“It’s really hot in here.”
“I know. She’s getting another fan, too.”
“Little good that does. Just blows hot air around. What you need is air conditioning.”
“Can’t afford it.”
“I know. Just sayin’.”
“I’m going to get my things and head out. Hope you have a quiet shift so you can get your homework done.”