Baumgartner Generations: Henry Ch. 01bySelena_Kitt©
Note: No sex in this first chapter – just an introduction of our players... Enjoy the continuing Baumgartner saga...!
I don't know if I would go so far as to say that every man should at some point in his young life be under the tutelage of an older woman, but I do know that if I could go back in time, I wouldn't even consider changing what happened during my freshman year in college.
What did Mrs. Toni Franklin teach me that was so valuable? It wasn't what you might think—it wasn't the tips or tricks or techniques she taught me to use with a woman in bed, although I have to admit, those were undeniably helpful. It wasn't really the sex at all, to tell you the truth.
Toni was a goddess, and she knew it. She taught me to worship her the way all women should be worshipped—not from afar, put on a pedestal like some untouchable, but in the flesh, as the sleek, voluptuous creature of the earth she was.
Women are amazing, amorphous, changeably delightful creatures, and I know most men spend their whole lives trying to figure them out. Toni made me realize that most men too often hit the tree, but miss the target. The lovely mystery of woman was meant to be experienced and enjoyed, not measured and controlled.
Toni taught me that women are the weather.
If you want to know what the weather is like, open the window. Can you predict the weather? Sometimes you can feel a storm rolling in, or see a gorgeous blue sky and know rain isn't anywhere in the near future. But how much energy have we wasted trying to control or manipulate it, living in fear of storms? Men have created all sorts of instruments in an attempt to predict the path of the weather, and while we have advanced to some degree, there are always rainbows that go missed, tsunamis that could never have been foreseen.
It is an impossible and futile task, when a man makes a woman a problem or puzzle to be solved. They are and always will be unpredictable. I'd rather spend my time basking in the sunshine and walking in the rain than fiddling with instruments and planning a siege against the next onslaught. If you're not living in the present, you're not living at all.
I was nineteen when I met Toni. I would never deny or discount how much I learned, the invaluable gifts she gave as my tutor—and not just in the lessons of love and women. Toni opened my life, unlocking parts of me I hid from everyone, even myself. And when she discovered my deepest secret, she still didn't falter.
Instead, she just taught me how to read.
Henry hated libraries. He couldn't think of a place he felt more uncomfortable than standing in the shadows of thousands of books. He was in the basement of the UGLi—the University of Michigan Undergraduate Library—and he couldn't have come up with a more apt name for the place than the one his fellow students had coined, the stacks looming, the florescent lights casting a dull, eerie glow.
"Four seventy-five." His whisper was barely an exhale but it felt loud in the silence as he ran his finger along the spines of books, their plastic covers crinkling. He repeated his excuse for checking this particular book out in his head. It's for my nephew. He's in kindergarten.
Of course, he didn't have a nephew. His older sister, as far as he knew, was far from hooked-up, let alone ready to get married and have a baby. But what were the odds he would run into anyone who knew his family here on campus? It's for my little cousin. He changed his head-story, just to be safe. He's having trouble.
Trouble. Yeah. He was in big trouble all right.
"Can I help you find something?"
Henry gave a strangled, smothered cry, taking a step back when a pretty redhead popped her head around the corner of the stacks.
"It's okay, I work here." The redhead stepped around to his side of the shelves, smiling, and he felt his heart pounding again, but for a different reason this time. "You sounded a little lost."
"I need a book."
He held out the paper scrap he'd copied the call number on to avoid any further talking and possible embarrassment.
She took it from him, studying it, and he studied her—gray skirt and black sweater, making her long red hair, straight and almost to the middle of her back, seem even more like fire, even in the dim light. She had to be a student, he thought, as she turned to the stacks, running her fingernail over spines the same way he had. She was young, about his age. He watched her fingers caressing the books, long and delicate compared to his big old paws, the nails neatly manicured.
"You're in the right place," she murmured, moving her finger up to the next shelf. "Would you get me that stool?"
He went to the end of the aisle where she pointed, dragging the rolling stool over toward her in response, not daring any more words. They'd just get him in trouble.
"Thanks." She gave him a grateful smile, stepping up onto the stool and reaching for the top shelf. Her legs were long, too, her skin pale and creamy. He realized, watching her stretch, one of her feet slipping loose of her heels, that she wasn't wearing any nylons. Seeing the intimate pink flesh of her instep as she went up onto her toes made his breath catch and he swallowed his immediate response, trying to look anywhere else.
She glanced down at him, still smiling. "Would you hold me?"
He gaped up at her, dumbfounded. Hold her? That wasn't exactly what he wanted to do to her—but hell, it was a start.
"Hold...you?" He faltered.
"I don't want to fall," she explained. "Just hold me. Here." She reached for his hand, guiding, placing his palm flat against the curve of her hip. He matched the gesture on her other side, squeezing gently, feeling her skirt shift over her skin underneath as she stretched up again. He steadied her, his eyes level with her back, her hair tickling his nose. Not that he was complaining.
"Ah, got it!" she announced, triumphant, turning around on the stool so quickly it startled him and he grabbed her waist, finding himself eye-level now with the tiny buds of her breasts in her black v-neck sweater. He realized, too late, that he should have offered to retrieve the book, but he was too distracted by his current view to lament his lack of chivalry too much. "Oh. Wow. This is the book you wanted?"
He flushed, glad for the dark shadows now, his story all ready in his head. "It's for my little cousin. He's having trouble in kindergarten."
He waited for the anticipated response. Hell, it might even earn him some points.
Oh how sweet you are to help him. You must like little kids.
The redhead was silent. She stepped off the stool, out of Henry's arms, and held the book out to him. Glancing down at the cover, his eyes widened, mouth dropping. If he'd been red before, he was positively purple now.
"That's—" He couldn't get the words out, staring at the picture of the completely nude, entwined couple on the front. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Kama Sutra. "That's not—"
"Not what?" She blinked at him, trying not to smile. "Not appropriate for kindergarteners?"
"No," he croaked, desperate to correct the mistake. "That's not the book I was looking for."
"You sure?" She smirked. "It's the number you wrote down." She showed him the slip of paper, and sure enough, the Dewey decimal matched perfectly—375.4 W.
"But I looked it up on the computer!" He pointed desperately to the end of the aisle.
She hesitated, not sure she was ready to believe him.
"Come look!" He stalked down to the end of the stacks and around the corner. There was a row of computers near the elevators and he went straight to the one he'd used to look up the book. He turned to find her behind him, curious, and he pointed to the screen. No one had touched it since and it was still up there, plain as day. "See!"
She leaned in, glancing from the title to the slip of paper she held. "Well, I found your problem." Sitting down at the computer, she began to type. Another title came up on the screen, the one Henry still had in his hand. He dropped it on a chair face down when he realized, glad it was out of sight. Not that he hadn't appreciated the subject—or the picture on the front, for that matter. If he'd been alone, he probably would have flipped through it, just out of curiosity. But with the redhead there, it was all too embarrassing to be contemplated.
"The call number for the Kama Sutra book is 375.4 W." She pointed to the scrap of paper. "That's what you wrote down." She hit the back button on the screen to the book Henry had originally looked up. "The call number for the book you wanted is 372.4 W. You transposed the five and the two."
"Brilliant, Henry," he muttered.
She used one of the stubby pencils to correct the number on the scrap of paper, trying to hide a smile. "Well, the good news is this book should be on the same shelf. And it's much more age-appropriate."
"Pretty diverse subject matter to be on the same damned shelf," he growled as he followed her. She had picked up the other book to re-shelve it.
"They're both guides," she explained, getting back up on the stool. Henry reached out to hold her hips again without thinking and she smiled a thanks down at him. "You know, those Idiot Guides and the books For Dummies, they're all shelved in the same place, by last name. Just so happens both are written by an author with a last name starting with W."
"Oh damn." Her shoulders slumped. "Teaching Kids to Read for Dummies isn't here."
"Is it checked out?"
"I don't think so." She slipped through his hands on the way down to the floor and the feel of her lithe little body gave him a jolt. "It would have said so on the computer. I bet someone's stolen it."
"That's pretty low, stealing from a library."
"Happens all the time. I can't wait until books go all-digital. No more stealing, no more late fees, no more re-shelving!" She regarded him, cocking her head to one side, and he didn't point out the obvious 'no more librarians' conclusion implied in her train of thought. "Do you have an e-reader?"
"You mean, like one of those Kindle things?" He shook his head. "I've got a laptop, though."
"You can check it out digitally if you want." She sounded excited as he followed her down the row and back through the aisles of books. Pausing at the row of computers, she frowned. "But I don't know if it would work so well for your little cousin, reading it on the computer."
"Oh that's okay." He waved her concern away. "I'm just reading it so I can help him. The 'Dummy' in the title is me, not him." That he believed the statement to be more true than he wanted to admit, even to himself, was another point he wasn't going to bring up.
"That's so sweet." The look she gave him made him want to melt. There was the reaction he'd been expecting in the first place.
He hoped his blush appeared properly humble. "Thanks."
"Let's see if we have a digital copy." She sat back down in front of the terminal, typing away again, and this time Henry sat beside her. He was big for the little chairs, but she fit perfectly, crossing her slender, shapely legs and leaning toward the screen.
"So are you a librarian?" He didn't believe it for a minute.
"I'm just a student assistant," she explained, frowning as used the mouse to scroll down the screen. "I started working here last year and love it so much I changed my major to library science."
"So you're a sophomore?"
At least she's not a senior, he told himself, not volunteering the fact that he was just a lowly freshman. She could probably tell anyway, the way he'd been stumbling around the stacks, looking lost. His roommate, Dean, said freshmen were like baby pigs, he'd said, lost and rooting around looking for something to get into. Of course, Dean didn't really consider himself a freshman, even though he was. His parents were both alumni, his brother had graduated the year before, and his sister the year before that. He was like a celebrity on campus, a first string wide-receiver on the U of M football team.
"I'm sorry." She pointed to the screen. "It's not available as an ebook."
"Ah well." He shrugged. "We tried, right?"
Her eyes were a bright, shocking blue, and that, combined with the red hair and the smattering of freckles across her nose, and the way her lips pursed and her brow furrowed— he thought he'd never seen anything cuter in his life.
He'd seen lots of girls in his five weeks on campus since school started—blondes, brunettes and redheads alike. Dean had introduced him to most of them. Some of them had been real knock-outs, the sort you couldn't even approach without stammering and going cross-eyed, the kind you knew had to spend hours getting ready to go out every night.
But this girl...she was so naturally pretty it was hard to even wrap your head around it. She was the kind of girl that would grow old gracefully, who would spend her whole life looking beautiful not because she tried to be, just because that's who she was, at her very center. It radiated out of her like light and he gravitated to it like a moth, feeling like he was bumping his head against glass the whole time.
"How about this one?"
He just observed her as she spoke, trance-like. "Huh?"
"We've got Phonics for Dummies." She tapped the screen with her fingernail. "And most beginning reading problems usually stem from a phonics issue anyway."
He stared at her, not really understanding a word she was saying, just sort of basking in her light. Now he didn't feel like a moth—he felt more like a lizard on a rock, lazy and slow to respond, with no other thought in his head but his own basic need, which was growing more apparent by the moment.
"Um, okay," he agreed. She could have said, "I think you should set your hair on fire and jump out the window," and he probably would have agreed. Good thing they were in the basement.
"How exciting!" She stood, smoothing her skirt, and he remembered the texture of the material, wooly and soft, under his hands. He couldn't have agreed more about the exciting part. "Let's go upstairs. The ebook system is brand new, and this will be my first digital checkout!"
"So I can say I was your first?" Henry grinned as he followed her to the elevator.
"Dubious honor." She pushed the button, giving him a sly, slanted look as she reached down to pick up the book he'd left in the chair. "But I suppose you can say you broke my digital-checkout cherry."
He laughed. "Not quite as fun as the other one."
"Print books, you mean?" She winked as the elevator doors closed behind them.
"Right." He nodded. "That's what I meant."
Of course, now he was thinking things he shouldn't and silently cursing the guy who got to hit that for the first time, if he was being totally honest. Which he wasn't about to be, at least out loud, with the girl standing next to him.
"Have you ever read the Kama Sutra?" She leaned in close, as if there was someone else who could hear her, leafing through the book she'd picked up on their way into the elevator.
He eyed her, surprised, brain devoid of any snappy comeback. "No."
"Look at that." She paused at one of the pages. The book didn't just have drawings of people, no—it was fully, pictorially illustrated. Christ. Henry swallowed, studying what was essentially porn open in the girl's hands."Do you think that's even possible?"
"Ouch," he agreed, noting the position, the guy standing, the woman's legs bent at an awkward angle. How was he even holding her up?
"Oh, but this one's nice," she said, stopping on another page. The couple was kind of spooning.
"Nuh-nice." Henry stammered.
"Sure you didn't want to check this book out?" She winked and he noticed that even her eyelashes were red. A natural redhead. That meant that wherever else she had hair on her body, it was most likely red, too. She interrupted his straying thoughts. "No law saying you can't. Thank god."
"Yeah, censorship sucks," he agreed, boldly reaching over and flipping a page. Then another. He could smell her, a light, clean scent, soap or shampoo maybe.
She stopped him, a small noise escaping her throat. "That one."
The guy's face was buried between the woman's thighs, her legs up over his shoulders. You couldn't really see anything, but you knew just what was going on.
"One of my all-time favorites." Henry's arm brushed hers as he reached out to turn the page again.
"Mine, too," she breathed, making another noise at the position on the next page. "That's a fun one. Ride 'em, cowgirl."
"Is it just me or is it hot in here?" He shifted from foot to foot, peeking at the lights on the elevator. They were passing the ground floor now. Checkout was on the second floor.
"Got kind of intimate all of a sudden, didn't it?" She was so close he could count her freckles. "Elevators do that to me anyway." Her voice was low and sexy. The tone made his mouth water. He saw a smile playing around the corners of her mouth. "Closed spaces."
"You're obviously not claustrophobic."
First floor. Almost there.
She laughed as the elevator doors opened, stepping out and walking toward the checkout. Henry followed, giving up his student ID, which doubled as his library card, watching her as she typed and swiped and did whatever she needed to do.
There was another woman watching them—probably the real librarian he guessed, a pudgy woman with short black hair and thickly painted on red lipstick that was bleeding into the faint outline of her mustache. She was a far cry from his wet dream archetypal image of a librarian, but her demeanor was similar, the serious frown, the watchful eyes. She looked like she was about to say, "Shhh!" at any moment.
The flirty, suggestive girl from the elevator had disappeared—the redhead turned into all-business when the librarian was around.
"Okay, I think I did this right." She handed back his card. "You'll get an email with a link. Just click it and download the ebook file. It will expire in two weeks."
"Two weeks?" Henry gulped. How in the hell was he going to learn to read in two weeks?
"You can check it out again, as long as it hasn't been requested by someone else," she explained. There was a line behind him now, and the red-lipstick librarian was watching them with raised eyebrows.
"Okay you're all set...Henry," the redhead said loudly, squinting at his card as she handed it back to him.
"Thanks." He leaned forward onto the counter, his voice dropping to a whisper. "You know, they say you never forget your first."
She smiled. "But you don't even know my name."
"I'm such a dog." He pulled out his wallet so he could put his card back—just an excuse to talk to her longer. "With a long string of ebook checkout firsts all through the state..."
"Olivia." She leaned forward to tell him, so close he felt her breath on his cheek. "Libby."
He heard the girl behind him grumble loudly as he slipped his ID into his wallet.
"Maybe I'll see you around, Libby." Henry put his wallet into his back pocket, stepping away from the counter.
Libby winked. "I'll be here."
* * * *
The dragon-lady, a name passed on year after year to incoming freshman by her former students, was a formidable figure in front of the classroom. She towered over them, her heels clicking up and down the aisles, hips swaying. She reminded Henry of both a dragon and a cat at times. It was the way she moved, the way her eyes narrowed, and if she had a tail, it would swish constantly.
She was also drop-dead gorgeous. It wasn't just her curves—and the woman had those in spades, and in all the right places—she had a kind of cool beauty that made your breath catch in her presence. Unlike most women her age, she hadn't followed the trend and cut her hair short. Instead it hung long and free, so black it was almost blue under the fluorescents. She wore it up on occasion, or braided into a long, thick plait down her back, but mostly she didn't and it was a terrible distraction.