Piper checked the spine of the book again and then slid it into place. She sighed and climbed down the ladder carefully. One more hour and she could close the library. Sometimes she regretted taking the night shift, but it was always so much quieter.
Every night at eleven she closed up and went straight home, even on Fridays. Piper didn’t have a life outside her research, Cat Solo, and her dance classes. And she preferred it that way. The excitement of history was far more interesting to her than real life.
Libraries were always the quietest on Friday nights. It was actually her favorite time to work. Something about the silence and the books felt almost holy – like a gateway to another universe, or reality. Sometimes when she read about those days in Egypt so, so long ago it felt like it wasn’t even real, like those stories were from another planet or perhaps just made up.
The Hellenistic Period had stolen her heart and Sacramento State had the entire Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection. It was a strange obsession she’d had ever since her father did one of those spit swab things where you find out your true ancestry.
When she was fifteen years old Piper learned she was descended from Cleopatra VII herself and so began her obsession with Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I, Marc Antony, and Cleopatra.
She checked the remaining books in the cart, mentally checking off what needed to be done before she could leave. Piper pulled the cart along with her and let her mind drift as she so often did. After she’d gotten her Bachelor’s in Library Science she’d gone back for a Master’s in History, and then finally her PhD. Her thesis was centered on whether Cleopatra truly did kill herself or not – a story told by her conqueror which made it suspicious. But there was just not enough information, not enough proof.
Piper sighed. Maybe she should change her thesis again. Her true interest was the love story between Marc Antony and Cleopatra, but it wasn’t something she could really write a thesis on.
No one risked their life for love anymore and that made her melancholy. A ‘daydreamer’ as her father said. Her dad was the practical and logical one. He was always reminding her that real life had to be dealt with whether she liked it or not.
It was because of him she owned a gun. Having a cop dad had never made her dating life easy, but Piper didn’t care. Her dad was better than any stupid guy. Whenever she had the urge to date again it was quickly squashed by some dumb frat boy testing her patience.
The doors to the library swung wide open and Piper jumped at the sudden sound. She checked her watch with a frown. No one came in this late on a Friday night.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” someone asked. He sounded…like velvet and brandy.
It was the stupidest thought Piper had ever had in her life and she’d certainly had some doozies. But there was no better way to describe the soft male voice that seemed to drift through her library like smoke.
“The witch said it was,” another man said. These voices were definitely not the boys she was used to. They were deep, gruff, and somehow sensual.
Piper frowned at the word ‘witch.’ Moving silently through the stacks Piper positioned herself so she could see who was in her library so late at night.
“I’m going to find her first,” one taunted.
“Oh no you aren’t, I am.”
“You’re mistaken if you think either of you are faster than me.”
What the heck were they talking about? Whatever it was she didn’t like the sound of it. Either they were searching for one of the students…or her. Neither sounded very safe. Piper cursed herself for being so far from her desk and the taser she kept in her purse.
Slowly she moved deeper into the shadowy stacks, keeping to the back. She just wanted to get out of the library without any confrontation. She didn’t know what these guys had planned, but she wasn’t stupid enough to wait and find out.
At least there were multiple exits. Piper pulled her phone out of her pocket and made sure it was on silent. She could text security but her dad would be there faster. She sent off a quick text and asked him to come to the library. It was difficult to ask him to come pick her up early without setting off his panic. But his patrol was in her area. It was the safest way.
Piper may not have anything on her person to defend herself with, but her dad had always said anything could be a weapon. She grabbed the heaviest book she could find in hardback. It wouldn’t do much but it would disorient an attacker.
So many years of self-defense classes and days at the gun range that she’d absolutely hated. Her father had insisted. Piper had never been so grateful for Dad’s bullheaded insistence in her life.
The voices stopped suddenly and Piper went still, cocking her head to try and figure out where the men had gone off to. The library was massive. They could be anywhere.
“Spotted her first, boys. I win,” a deep, rolling voice said from directly behind her.
Piper gasped and whirled around. The man before her was definitely like no one she’d ever seen before. Well, not in real life. He looked like he should be a model with his jade-green eyes and tanned skin. His blond-brown hair was thick and gorgeous, but it was his presence that had her captivated.
Then her senses came back to her. Piper hurled the book at his face as hard as she could and let out a little screech.
So much for leaving without them noticing, and they were definitely looking for her.
Piper took off running. It was difficult to keep tabs on them while she ran blindly through the library stacks for the exit. She looked over her shoulder and then slammed into something rock hard.
“Careful there,” one of those seductive voices told her.
Piper looked up into the most beautiful brown eyes she’d ever seen. They were light brown and had a bit of red in them, like amber. His teeth were white against his dark skin when he smiled at her, but it did nothing to relieve her fear.
She didn’t know what these men wanted with her, but there were three of them and only one of her. And they were huge. It would be best to ask questions later – preferably with other people around. Her heart pounded in her chest and despite how mesmerized by him she was – her instinct to flee was stronger. She brought her knee up into his groin without even thinking.
Instantly the man released her with a curse and she took off.
Piper ducked down row, but another man with ice blue eyes and blond hair stared at her like he knew exactly where she’d planned to go. She was frozen in place as she stared at him. He was too beautiful to be real, but the way he walked towards her…this man had the same presence as the other two. It was more of a prowl than a walk and it left her weak in the knees and breathless.
The way she was attracted to them made absolutely no sense to her. Piper wanted to stop and get to know them, but that more than anything was what scared her. When was the last time she wanted to talk to any guy, let alone three? It felt like a trap.
The blond man moved toward her and Piper grabbed every book her hands touched and hurled them at him, screeching and generally making as much noise as she could. Maybe someone would hear her and come see what all the racket was about.
Piper had heard the horror stories before about rapes and such. She refused to be another victim.
“Christ woman, would you stop?” he yelled.
“We’re not here to hurt you,” another yelled from somewhere within the library stacks.
They may be telling the truth but Piper was done. This was too weird.
She ran in a different direction. Her purse didn’t matter. A taser wouldn’t work on all three of them, not in time. She ran as fast as her legs could carry her until she hit one of the exits, listening as the three men behind her cursed and pounded after her.
Someone in a security uniform grabbed her before she hit the opposite wall. “Miss, are you all right?”
Piper shoved her hair from her face and tried to get enough breath to talk. “Yeah I’m fine,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath. She pointed back at the library. “There are three guys following me though and I don’t know what they want.”
The security guard frowned and pulled her with him. “I’ll take you somewhere safe and then I’ll call in back up.”
She nodded numbly. Piper prayed her dad would be there soon. She didn’t want to hear his mouth about the hours she kept, but she wanted to see him. Her dad always made her feel safe even if it was just her overactive imagination.
Piper’s heart leapt into her throat when she heard one of those men. She whirled around and hid behind the security guard who refused to let go of her.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to vacate the premises,” the security guard said. “Or I’m going to call the cops.”
The other two popped out of the library next and Piper squeaked. All three of them were huge and muscled. Definitely not the average Sac State college boys.
All three of them froze when they saw the security guard. Piper watched them sniff the air and she frowned. These guys were so strange. Thank goodness she’d found someone who could help her.
“Get away from her,” the green-eyed one growled.
Piper took another step back. It looked like a fight was about to start and she wanted no part of it, but the security guard wouldn’t release her. “Please, I just want to get out of here.”
Instead of removing his hand from her wrist it tightened painfully and a flash of fear went through her.
“Piper…” the drop-dead gorgeous African American man warned. His voice was so deep she imagined she could feel the vibration of it in the air. “If you can get over here, we’ll help you.”
She shook her head, not understanding how these strange men could possibly know her name or why the security guard was now somehow the one she should be afraid of. But she felt it – something primal and insistent. Piper had to get away from him.
It was difficult to think while she was panicking. What the heck had she even learned in all those classes? Vulnerable locations, right? She glanced back at the three men and every single one of them was tense as they tried to slowly approach. The blond gave her an encouraging nod and for whatever reason it helped.
Piper looked back up at the security guard and he glared at her, expecting something from her no doubt. He pulled her close and she hated the feel of his body against hers. His arm went across her chest and he started backing them up. Piper. Wanted. Him. Off.
So she sank her teeth into his arm as hard as she could and bit down until she could taste blood. It was oddly spicy, but she didn’t let herself think about it as the guard howled and thrashed. When she hit bone he released her and she ran straight towards the men she’d just run from.
It may have been sheer stupidity, but instincts were telling her if nothing else – they would protect her from the security guard.
“Good girl,” the green-eyed hottie murmured, but she ran from him too.
Her dad should be right outside in the parking lot any minute now. Piper knew and trusted her dad, not these guys. She burst through the doors and ran around the fountain. Her eyes searched the area for her dad, but it didn’t look like he was there yet.
She ran towards the closest parking lot and then with a loud ‘pop’ the security guard was suddenly in front of her. Piper gasped and stumbled backward, not quite believing what her eyes were seeing.
“Piper!” her father’s familiar voice shouted from farther away than she preferred at the moment.
“Dad!” She turned to run through the quad instead. Piper was officially terrified. This guard could just teleport?
Another ‘pop’ and the guard was even closer this time. He wrapped his hand around her wrist and she screamed, trying to give anyone her location. The three men shouted her name and Piper glanced over her shoulder to see them coming at her and the guard from three different angles, closing in like hunters.
“I’m sorry,” the security guy told her with a grimace. “I didn’t want to do this.”
And with another ‘pop’ the world disappeared into inky blackness.