Home > Filthy Cowboy

Filthy Cowboy
Author: Liza Street

 


1

 

 

Flipping to the next page of the picture book, Dew read aloud, “The vampire princess wanted to swim with penguins. She wanted to tell jokes in new languages. Everyone in her parents’ dark castle of werewolves and zombies was older than her. ‘I’m alone,’ she realized. ‘Alone while surrounded by people.’”

Three kids sat in front of Dew, cross-legged on the apple-styled floor rug in the children’s corner of the small library. The little girl squirmed while the older boy picked his nose. The younger boy, as if eager to prove he was the best behaved, sat still with his hands on his knees. Meanwhile, the dad who had brought them leaned against one of the low picture book shelves, tapping away on his phone.

The story continued, and Dew’s mind wandered even as she read. What kind of adventure would she want? Struck by the idea, she paused reading and said to her audience, “How about you? What adventure would you take, if you were in the vampire princess’s shoes?”

“I wouldn’t be a vampire pig,” one of the boys said. “I’d be a vampire tiger.”

Dew’s lips twitched. “And where would you go, as a vampire tiger?”

“Jungles,” he said.

As soon as the other two children had a chance to answer her question, Dew continued reading until she reached the final page. “And that was how Princess Pickle learned that adventure and friendship could be found just about anywhere.”

She held up the book for an extra moment so the three sets of eyes could absorb the illustration—one of Dew’s favorites in the book, featuring the vampire piglet princess catapulting off the tip of an iceberg in the direction of a giant party of friends. Dew wondered if it was really that easy to find adventure. Just…let go of routine, change your landscape, and suddenly you’re partying in the Antarctic, surrounded by penguins and…polar bears?

Dew sighed. Polar bears didn’t live in the Southern hemisphere. But she couldn’t get too upset with the author taking creative liberties, given the main character was a six-year-old vampire piglet princess with werewolf parents, and vampires and werewolves didn’t live in the Southern hemisphere, either…or anywhere else, for that matter.

After the children had feasted their eyes on the story’s grand finish, Dew closed the book, set it down, and clapped her hands. “What do you say we go to the craft table? We have some popsicle sticks, fabric, and markers for making our very own vampire puppets!”

The three kids followed Dew to the table, where they proceeded to make a mess of the craft materials—and themselves. Their dad, who’d barely looked up from his phone once during the entire story and craft period, gave Dew a dirty look when he collected the kids to leave. Dew just smiled and shrugged. They were kids. Making messes was what they excelled at.

In the children’s absence, the tiny library fell quiet. The head librarian, Jillian, poked her head of violently blond hair out of the office. Her gaze darted around the empty library and she asked, “Is it clear?”

“Yes, it’s clear.” Dew laughed. “You really don’t like kids, do you?”

“Nope, not in the slightest.” Jillian left the office and started toward Dew. “I do love their books, though. Like seriously, a vampire pig in Antarctica? Genius.”

Jillian began to help Dew clean up the craft mess. She lifted the book Dew had read aloud and flipped through the pages. “These illustrations are amazing. The message is a little heavy-handed, but it’s a good one.”

“Yeah, that’s why I chose it,” Dew said. “I’ve been craving a little adventure.”

“As I keep telling you, you have plenty of vacation saved up.” Jillian shelved the picture book and turned to level a stare at Dew before breaking into the song “I Love Paris.”

Dew laughed. “I don’t need to go to Paris.”

“City of…what is it? Light? Love? Sexytimes?”

“Jillian, hush. We’re in a library!”

“An empty library. It’s not a church.” Jillian’s humor shifted to something more like sympathy. “Come on, Dew, I can see you’re lonely.”

“I’m fine,” Dew said. But it wasn’t the truth, and they both knew it. Dew had moved here to this tiny town to escape the tragedy of her brother’s death and her parents’ clingy mourning. Before Rashid died, she’d been well on her way to starting what she’d thought would be a new and exciting life in the city. But after his death? She’d wanted a quiet town where nobody knew her and nobody did anything interesting. She cleared her throat, shoving aside those thoughts. “Moving on. Have you already ordered our new books?”

“There are a couple of contemporary romances I wanted your opinion on. George Sandoval requested about thirty, and our budget will only allow for fifteen or so. Maybe you could take a look, help me pick?”

“I’d be happy to.” Although Dew was technically the children’s librarian, both she and Jillian worked together managing both sides of the library—as long as Jillian didn’t have to interact with “real, live children” as she called them, she was happy selecting and ordering books alongside Dew.

The library was a small place, so they were able to collaborate. They both loved romance, but Jillian leaned toward paranormal, and Dew leaned more toward historical and contemporary. George Sandoval was a historical romance fiend and he’d be disappointed they couldn’t afford everything at once, but he was one of the more understanding patrons and he’d be patient until extra funding for new books came in.

Dew wet a paper towel in the bathroom and brought it back to clear some tacky glue-stick residue from the craft table. When she was done, Jillian waved her over to the computer at the circulation desk. Dew pointed out authors whose books she’d enjoyed, even if she hadn’t yet had a chance to read the new ones George had requested.

“I’m getting this one, too,” Jillian said, clicking on a paranormal romance she had open in another browser tab.

“Don’t tell me vampires are making a comeback,” Dew said.

“Vampire romance never died,” Jillian said, winking. “Get it? Because it’s undead?”

Dew snorted out a laugh and looked at the couple clutching each other on the book’s cover. She appreciated that the female model had brown skin like her own. The heroine clutched a much paler man who had very obvious fangs dipping below his upper lip. How would kissing a face like that even work? Dew pursed her lips together and made a kissy noise at Jillian, who laughed.

“I’m just a girl looking for a vampire,” Dew said with a laugh of her own. “If he has muscles like that, he can suck my blood any day.”

“I know, right?” Jillian said. “Tall, pale, and mysterious. Speaking of mysterious…have you heard from your pen pal lover recently?”

“Oh, nice segue,” Dew said with a playful roll of her eyes.

Jillian waved her hand. “I never pretended to be subtle.”

No, Jillian would be unable to manage subtle.

Dew went ahead and answered her, “I haven’t heard from him since last week.”

Jillian gave her a sly look. “His requested book came in. Are you going to write him back?”

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