Between the Pages - Lauren Baker Page 0,1

a sea of email and texting, especially now that her Grammy had discovered Skype — but there was something deeply satisfying about it. She emphasized the close links she'd established with both the university and the press departments of major publishers who were willing to make her store a regular stop on publicity tours, and pulled out her best sales speak. Open Book was outperforming other stores across the city and had been mentioned in the Times as an example of a well-managed bookstore with a perceptive buying policy, and Natalie's coffee and cakes had been recommended in a couple of influential foodie blogs. In short, it was a critical and commercial success, and deserved more than a couple of lines to close it down. As the new landlord, Mr. Oswell should consider seeing it with his own eyes before taking action.

As she copied out the final version and signed it, though, Emmy bit back a sigh. Chances were this was a pointless effort, that Oswell was a businessman with no interest in books or bookstores, and too busy for a visit anyhow. On impulse, she added a final line.

"Free coffee and cakes if you make it this week — as well as a book of your choice and an escorted tour of the premises. Don't miss a great opportunity."

It looked absurd, but maybe the quirkiness would get his attention. She went out to mail the letter before she could change her mind.

The air outside was balmy, with the faintest hint of fall on the breeze, although it was already mid-October. Walking back across the street, Emmy made a point of noting everything around her. The neat row of Norway maple trees, leaves still green as other trees started to turn; the contrasting facades of the buildings, grey and cream and pale pink against her storefront's unadorned brownstone; the slightly gaudy art nouveau Renaissance Hotel opposite, gargoyles jutting above the ornate doorway; even the Korean convenience store on the corner — they were all taking on an unexpected poignancy. Abruptly, she realized quite how much the neighborhood had become her home, infusing her with renewed energy.

"I'm not going to let that man close us down," she announced as she marched back into the store. Natalie looked up from the pile of books she'd been sorting on the bargains table.

"That's more like it. What do we know about this guy Oswell anyhow?"

"Nothing, but I'm going to change that," Emmy said, sliding behind her desk and booting up her laptop. "Let's see what we can dig up online."

There wasn't much personal information to be found, but Eric Oswell had enough of a public persona for them to get a broad portrait of their new nemesis. A quick Google search brought up a couple of articles in the business pages of the Times. They praised the business acuity of Oswell, who was making his mark as a property tycoon, having chosen not to follow his father into politics.

"Hang on — he's Senator Glenison's son," Emmy said.

"Glenison? Why Oswell, then?"

"He chose to take his mother's name. He said he didn't want to ride on his dad's coattails. Or his money — Glenison made a shitload on Wall Street, but apparently Oswell struck out on his own. Built his own company from scratch. Millionaire at 26."

"Impressive," Natalie said. "I bet he looks like a toad."

The next profile had a photo attached, and it wasn't at all what Emmy expected. Natalie whistled.

"Whoa. My mistake. God does give with both hands."

Oswell had the kind of bone structure male models would kill for, cheekbones that could cut glass with blue eyes and dark hair slicked back so it just touched the collar of his perfectly cut dark suit. His whole demeanor projected self-confidence to the point of arrogance, and the crisp button-down paired with a designer tie maintained the model illusion. He was breathtaking, broad-shouldered and lean, with endless legs, and didn't look a day over thirty.

"He's so young. I figured he'd be at least in his forties with his track record," she said.

"Isn't Senator Glenison, like, 102? He must be nearing retirement."

"Yeah, well — obviously he had him late. Maybe with his second wife."

Emmy checked the next few links but it was more of the same — business-page portraits of her new landlord, only a couple of them featuring pictures that she could scrutinize for any indication that Oswell was at all interested in literature, or just to gawp at the guy and his endless supply of