Chapter 1

Bookworm to Badass

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Some days were just terrible, good-for-nothing days that needed a swift kick in the butt. The frustration of dealing with idiots, day-in and day-out, was approaching the critical limit.

This then explained why Sarah was at the library, her most favorite of favorite places to be. The back had a secret corner, her corner, her special place where she could sit in peace, surrounded by the smells of new and old paper, bound by artful covers, their spines cracked, their words read by thousands of strangers.

But today, it served the purpose of hiding her minor indiscretion from lingering eyes of judgment while she devoured a raspberry glaze doughnut.

Cheat days existed for a reason, and today—even if it wasn’t technically a cheat day—had a good pile of reasons, reasons she didn’t want to think about.

Of course, not thinking about why she was using food to snuff out her emotions allowed other thoughts to manifest and meander.

One pervading thought was how this evil, no-good, but addictingly-delicious doughnut—that barely weighed two ounces—would somehow add ten pounds to her waist.

She sighed and slumped against the faux wood paneling. Why was she like this? Always sabotaging her efforts whenever she made a tiny bit of progress.

Every- single- time she got fired up to be healthy and fit, to be in control, life got in the way. It seemed rather obvious that the universe was conspiring against her.

What were the chances that today, of all days, would start with an avalanche of problems—missed deadlines because of her stupid team, upset clients, upset management, the threat of losing her job—and end with her favorite doughnuts on sale?

Only the universe could line up such events so maliciously. Every piece was in its predestined location to break her diet.

She might not be supermodel material; she may never fit in a size-4 dress, let alone a size 2. But at least she had her books, books filled with the fantastical adventures of people who actually succeeded in their struggles, saved the world, and had hot, steamy sex with a muscled shapeshifting wolf named Alejandro.

Just thinking of his name—Alejandro—sent shivers down her spine. Fiction was delightfully better than life.

She got comfortable on the old canvas upholstery, blew a brunette strand of hair from her face, and cracked open a new book that promised a sensual distraction from reality. What? She had earned this, just like she had earned her baker’s dozen.

An hour later, lost in the cinematic of imagination, she was rudely snapped out of it by a man’s shouting voice, slightly muffled behind the rows of bookshelves.

Sarah gritted her teeth. She would normally ignore such intrusions from stupid people—or smart people, or, really, people-people; she actively avoided confrontation; best to ignore them until they went away—but not today.

This was her sacred place. It was more home than home. You simply didn’t yell, shout, bellow, or otherwise make a clamor in a library.

Besides, it was getting late, and, like it or not, she wouldn’t throw away her gym streak for one lousy day. In fact, she would make a salad for dinner. Real food. Hear that, Universe?

It could keep on kicking her, but—doughnuts aside—she wouldn’t give up. Stupid people gave up on their dreams. And she was far from stupid.

Maybe that was what the universe wanted: a challenge. Well, do your worst!

She shoved her book and wrappers into her tote bag, lest one of the friendly but strict librarians discovered her breaking the no-food rules again, and marched her way out into the main foyer.

A man wearing a Ghostface mask from the movie Scream was dressed all in black, arm held out, pointing something at sweet old Maribeth, the acting librarian.

The thing the man held looked remarkably similar to a gun. And the words coming out of his mouth for the second time sounded remarkably like, “Now! Empty the register!”

Two things happened at once. The first was a thought. What stupid, stupid person would rob a library of all places? And the second was an unabated, habitual response to all noisemakers.

Shhh!” she shushed the robber.

This then triggered a flood of adrenaline and a series of thoughts about the proper behavior when dealing with someone handling a gun. Naturally, these thoughts always came after the fact.

The man jerked and spun.

Maribeth’s eyes went wide.

And the gun, now aimed in a most terrible direction, went off. The chamber flashed, the gun recoiled, the man swore, and a narrow piece of metal pierced Sarah’s heart.