“I was hoping I could use your phone to call a taxi. Of course, I’ll buy something too,” I added hastily. Many of the local businesses posted placards advising that phones and bathrooms were only for paying customers.
She smiled. “No need for that, dear, unless you wish. Certainly, you may use our phone.”
After paging through the phone book and dialing up a cab, I set off to make good use of my twenty-minute wait, collecting two thrillers, the latest Janet Evanovich, and a fashion magazine. While Fiona was ringing me up, I decided to try a stab in the dark, figuring anyone who worked with so many books surely knew a little of something about a lot of everything.
“I’ve been trying to find out what a word means but I’m not sure what language it’s in, or even if I’m saying it right,” I told her.
She scanned the last of my books and told me the total. “What word would that be, dear?”
I glanced down, rummaging in my purse for my credit card. Books weren’t in my budget and I was going to have to float them until I got back home. “Shi-sadu. At least that’s what I think it is.” I found my wallet, withdrew my Visa, and glanced up at her again. She’d gone still and looked white as a ghost.
“I’ve never heard of it. Why are you looking for it?” she said tightly.
I blinked. “Who said I was looking for it?” I hadn’t said I was looking for it. I’d just asked what the word meant.
“Why else would you be asking?”
“I just wanted to know what it means,” I said.
“Where did you hear of it?”
“Why do you care?” I knew I’d started to sound defensive, but really, what was her deal? The word obviously meant something to her. Why wouldn’t she tell me? “Look, this is really important.”
“How important?” she said.
What did she want? Money? That could be a problem. “Very.”
She looked beyond me, over my shoulder, and uttered a single word like a benediction. “Jericho.”
“Jericho?” I echoed, not following. “You mean the ancient city?”
“Jericho Barrons,” a rich, cultured male voice said behind me. “And you are?” Not an Irish accent. No idea what kind of accent it was, though.
I turned, with my name perched on the tip of my tongue, but it didn’t make it out. No wonder Fiona had said his name like that. I gave myself a brisk inward shake and stuck out my hand. “MacKayla, but most people call me Mac.”
“Have you a surname, MacKayla?” He pressed my knuckles briefly to his lips and released my hand. My skin tingled where his mouth had been.
Was it my imagination or was his gaze predatory? I was afraid I was getting a little paranoid. It had been a long, odd day after an odder night. Ashford Journal headlines were beginning to form in my mind: Second Lane Sister Meets with Foul Play in Dublin Bookshop. “Just Mac is fine,” I evaded.
“And what do you know of this shi-sadu, just Mac?”
“Nothing. That’s why I was asking. What is it?”
“I have no idea,” he said. “Where did you hear of it?”
“Can’t remember. Why do you care?”
He crossed his arms.
I crossed mine too. Why were these people lying to me? What in the world was this thing I was asking about?
He studied me with his predator’s gaze, assessing me from head to toe. I studied him back. He didn’t just occupy space; he saturated it. The room had been full of books before, now it was full of him. About thirty, six foot two or three, he had dark hair, golden skin, and dark eyes. His features were strong, chiseled. I couldn’t pinpoint his nationality any more than I could his accent; some kind of European crossed with Old World Mediterranean or maybe an ancestor with dark Gypsy blood. He wore an elegant, dark gray Italian suit, a crisp white shirt, and a muted patterned tie. He wasn’t handsome. That was too calm a word. He was intensely masculine. He was sexual. He attracted. There was an omnipresent carnality about him, in his dark eyes, in his full mouth, in the way he stood. He was the kind of man I wouldn’t flirt with in a million years.
A smile curved his mouth. It looked no nicer than he did, and I wasn’t deluded by it for a moment.
“You know what it means,” I told him. “Why don’t you just tell me?”
“You know something about it, as well,” he said. “Why not tell me?”
“I asked first.” Childish maybe, but it was all I could think of. He didn’t dignify it with a response. “I’ll find out what I want to know one way or another,” I said. If these people knew what it was, somewhere in Dublin somebody else did, too.