“It’s a commonplace book.”
He looked up at her, the little brown journal in one hand, a tube of mascara in the other. Her things lay scattered on the floor between them. “Beg pardon?”
She dropped her eyes, snatching up her wallet and keys and tossing them haphazardly into her purse. “Commonplace book. It’s just a thing I do.”
He sat back on his haunches, handing over the mascara but keeping the book on his knee. “What sort of thing?”
She blew at the hair falling in her face, finally giving up and scraping the rest of her belongings up in two handfuls and dropping it all in her bag. She met his eyes. “I collect quotes. Passages from books–speeches–lines from plays–whatever tickles my fancy. I copy it down in the book.” She held out her hand. “If you please.”
He smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners in that way that she always loved on a man, his dark hair falling over his forehead just so, and he cracked open the book. Looking down, he read the first thing his eyes landed upon. “‘Half of the harm that is done in the world is due to people who want to feel important.'” He lifted his eyebrows in mild surprise, then turned a few pages ahead. “‘Wearing underwear is as formal as I ever hope to get’?” His smile curled a little more tightly, his eyes darting up in a glance. He flipped back near the beginning. “‘And though she be but little, she is fierce.'”
“I’ve never been considered little, but I love that one.”
He eyed her, from her grown-out bob to her knee-high boots. “I’ll wager you’re fierce.”
She blushed, barking out a laugh. Shaking her bag to settle its contents, she rose to her feet. He followed suit, graceful even when coming up from being on his knees, and she stopped, just…waiting.
He towered over many, but she wasn’t petite–and in her boots, she wasn’t terribly far from matching him. As it was, he was looking down at her journal, eyes cutting to the side as he scanned further passages, and giving her ample opportunity to admire him: from the straight, clean lines of his features, past broad shoulders and onward, ending in long legs–and leaving her with the recollection of “Nature might stand up / And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!'”
“There’s much Shakespeare in this little book.” He tapped a two-page spread–Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy.
She nodded. “I’m fond of Will.”
“And of the Bible, too, I see.”
“It is the Good Book for a reason.”
He smiled, snapping the book shut. He looked down at it, the leather battered, the embossed sun all but faded. He stroked the cover with his thumb, peering at her through his lashes. “This be madness.”
One corner of her lip twitched; she fought back the smile. “There is method in it.”
He held out the book. When she reached for it, he pulled back. “Come to dinner with me.”
Her eyes widened. “I can’t. You’re–you–”
“I’m no one. Just a man you happened to bump into coming around a corner.”
She laughed, but it was edged with something frantic. “Hardly.”
He pursed his lips, then suddenly reached into his coat, retrieving a pen. She waited, puzzled, as he opened her journal to a page near the end, writing quickly. He paused, looked up at her once, then closed it gently before handing it over.
She watched him walk away, around the corner, before hurriedly leafing through the book. His neat, angled script covered an entire page:
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
She hesitated only a moment, then spun on her heels and ran around the corner, colliding soundly with the same lean figure she’d crashed into only minutes before. He caught her by the arms and held her tight. “You changed your mind.”
She smiled until she dimpled, her cheeks high with color, and disentangled herself. “I have to know who said it.”
He laughed–a rich, deep sound. She curled her toes in her boots.
“Perhaps I’ll remember when I’ve a full belly.”
She tucked away her book. “I know a fabulous little trattoria about three blocks from here. Will that do?”
“I count myself in nothing else so happy.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, a smile teasing her lips, and she walked away.
A quick run-step had him beside her, hands thrust in his pockets, shoulder brushing hers.