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It Had to Be You
By Sarah Webb
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Sarah Webb
All right reserved.
The minute Anita walked through the door of Happily Ever After bookshop that fateful Monday morning, Molly knew that something was up. Although Anita looked perfectly normal—her long red hair tied back in its customary loose chignon, her floor-sweeping black jersey dress clinging in all the wrong, bumpy places—there was a strange expression on her face. Her usual Monday wrinkled brow looked a little less furrowed and her gait was loose and almost girlish, unlike her more normal heavy-footed loaf. She smiled at Molly as soon as she swung open the door, sending the small bell into wild reverberations.
"Hi Molly, how are you this fine morning?"
Molly studied her boss carefully. Was Anita really smiling? It suited her: more's the pity that she didn't do it more often.
"Anita. You're early. I wasn't expecting you until lunchtime."
Although Anita lived in an apartment directly above the bookshop, she wasn't known to be an early riser. She rarely lifted her head from her anti-allergy pillow until after ten, and without exception never made it down the stairs and through the shop door before noon, though she was usually just in time to be taken out to lunch by whichever publisher's rep was currently courting her. Anita was crotchety andill-tempered at the best of times but she also had an unerring talent for spotting bestsellers. Every day she received at least ten couriered packages or jiffy bags containing manuscripts and proofs from various publishers—some from as far away as America and Canada. She was the best-kept secret in Irish bookselling and, as publishers had been telling her for years, she'd missed her calling as an editor. What they didn't know and what she'd never divulged was that she had worked as an editor for a large British publisher many moons ago and the experience had been enough to put her off the publishing business for life.
Anita sniffed. "Yes, well, I have some news. Where's the other poor unfortunate?"
"In the back going through the Eason's order."
"I see," Anita said dreamily.
Molly looked at her carefully—Anita was behaving most strangely this morning.
The bell on the door finally stopped ringing and Molly breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for the peace once again. As if to compensate, Anita picked up a stapler off the counter and began to play with it—pressing it together and watching as closed staples fell uselessly onto the fake pine with whispery rattles.
Molly coughed. Anita looked at her. She knew how much Molly hated her fidgeting. They'd had many minor arguments about it over the past few years. Molly had been working in Anita's bookshop for nearly six years now—ever since she'd left college—progressing from lowly part-time assistant to the lofty heights of shop manager. She and Anita were like chalk and cheese and it was amazing that they hadn't killed each other yet.
Molly brushed the wasted staples onto her right hand and dropped them purposefully into the bin under the counter. She resisted the temptation to pull out the duster to polish the fake pine. It was only ten o'clock after all and they'd only just opened. Not even one greasy customer fingerprint to warrant such action yet.
"Felix came in especially early this morning to get the new orders processed," Molly said. Felix was the other full-time staff member. "It's really busy at the moment what with the Rosemary Hamilton reading and the Book Club meeting, both on the same day." She looked at Anita pointedly.
Anita ignored her and instead picked up yesterday's copy of the Sunday Ireland newspaper and began to flick through it. Molly sighed and went back to cutting up The Times book pages, continuing her usual Monday morning review selection for the bookshop's large notice board. Anita had booked Rosemary to read and sign, forgetting that it would clash with the Book Club, which met religiously on the first Saturday morning of every month. And by the time Molly had realized the mistake, it had been too late to cancel Rosemary's event. Meaning yet more work for Molly. Still, she was looking forward to meeting the popular American writer.
Rosemary Hamilton was starting to break through in Ireland and the UK. She wrote big, generous, kind-hearted romantic sagas, exactly the kind of books that both Anita and Molly liked to read. It was one of the few things that they actually had in common. Rosemary had been described as an "American Maeve Binchy" and there had been terrific response to the event which they'd advertised in the local press and which had been picked up by some of the nationals, even the Irish Daily who weren't exactly renowned for their love of romantic fiction.
Anita Vickers had opened Happily Ever After to cater for readers like herself—voracious readers of popular fiction, especially romantic fiction, thrillers and crime novels. And although the shop had a decidedly female slant, including its very own pink-couched "Romance Room" packed full of all kinds of women's fiction from Mills and Boon to Jane Austen, they also had many loyal male customers who traveled to Burnaby Village, to find books by their favorite American crime writers which were difficult to come by in mainstream bookshops.
Happily Ever After was just off Burnaby's main street, tucked between Coffee Heaven, and Slick Harry's—Irish floral-design legend Harry Masterson's shop which specialized in unusual plants and shrubs and catered to the well-heeled market. Burnaby Village, nestled on the south Dublin coast, was a Mecca for shoppers with a taste for the unusual. Hidden within its windy, cobbled laneways was the tiny yet perfectly formed print and art gallery, Halo; Presents of Mind, a gift shop crammed full of all kinds of delights including a miniature stone Buddha carved from pink, black and white marble; funky American cloth bags decorated with Andy Warholesque prints for the discerning grocery shopper; not to mention Baroque, the uber-trendy shoe emporium stocking everything from Converse and Camper, to Gina and Jimmy Choo.
Excerpted from It Had to Be You by Sarah Webb Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Webb. Excerpted by permission.
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