Tag Archives: Contemporary Romance

The Absence of Intellect – Four


Irritated with himself beyond belief, Hunter slammed the car door when he got back to his house. It didn’t matter that it couldn’t change anything that had happened, it made him feel better. The worst part of it was that Emily seemed to always be getting the brunt of his temper, even though she was the one who was going to try her best to help him. He should have been thanking her, not snapping at her, but he seemed to be getting more emotional lately and he didn’t particularly care for it.

He unlocked his door without incident and walked past the alarm keypad. He’d stopped setting it after the third time the police had come out because he couldn’t remember the alarm code or the security password, so there was no need to stop. Hunter threw his keys into the bowl on the table so he’d remember where they were in the morning, took off his jacket and tossed it over the back of one of the dining room chairs, then went into the kitchen and opened the freezer. His phone rang in his pocket as he was pouring himself a glass of vodka and he took it out, fully intending to turn it off, then saw who was calling and put it to his ear instead.

“Hi, Robin.”

“Hi, Dad!” His daughter’s voice came through the phone and made him smile. He could always count on Robin to be relentlessly cheerful. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No, sweetheart, I just got home and was pouring myself a drink.” He took a drink and heard her sigh.

“Are you supposed to be drinking with your medication?” She didn’t give him a chance to respond before she spoke again. “What am I talking about, of course you aren’t. You’re the most stubborn person I know, and I work with toddlers.”

“The way you say it makes it sound like a bad thing,” Hunter said, deciding not to go into the details of why he was at Emily’s house. He’d gotten so excited about the idea of the neural bridge that finding out it would take years to develop felt like he was getting diagnosed all over again. “And before you ask, I wasn’t at work, I was at a friend’s house.”

“Good,” Robin said. “You don’t need to stress yourself out. I know—” She was interrupted by a crash loud enough to make Hunter jump. “Itsy! I’ve got to go, Dad, Itsy just knocked over the fish tank and there’s gravel everywhere.”

“Go take care of it before your carpet gets ruined,” Hunter said, picking up his glass. “I told you that dog was a mistake.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Robin said. “Good night, Dad.”

“Good night,” Hunter said, then hung up and set his phone on the counter. As much as he loved his daughter, she had developed a maddening tendency to treat him like one of her students since his diagnosis. He tipped a little more vodka into his glass and took a drink.

Hunter leaned on the counter and thought about how he’d left Emily’s house. This time he had not only bitten her head off, but he’d run away from her house as if he was trying to escape his failing memory. He’d gone there to apologize and ended up making himself feel even worse. The dementia wasn’t her fault. In fact, she was trying to help him. It would have been easy to look up her phone number to call and apologize again but going to her house had already felt like an invasion of privacy. Instead he swirled his drink around in his glass and looked into it.

The most unexpected part of the whole thing had been her saying she thought he was attractive. She’d said it so casually, as if she handed out compliments every day, and it had made him feel better than he had in months. Hunter chuckled.

Good-looking, huh? I haven’t heard that in a long time. He tried to remember the last time someone had said it, and the only thing he could come up with was his wife telling him he looked handsome on their wedding day. He was fairly sure she’d said it before then, and certain she’d said it since, but she’d been gone long enough that time and Alzheimer’s were starting to steal little chunks of the days they’d had together.

He hardly knew anything about Emily, apart from her work on the cholinesterase inhibitor and now her neural bridge concept. He knew she liked cats, and that she had questionable taste in music, but he didn’t know why the other scientists at the lab were so happy to be rid of her, or why she was so interested in dementia treatment in the first place. All he knew was that she wasn’t bad-looking herself and she seemed kind. She almost always wore the same clothes under her lab coat, and her hair was twisted up in an unassuming knot, but the simplicity made it more appealing to him. Hunter finished his drink and set his glass in the sink.

First thing he’d do when he got to work in the morning was apologize to Emily for real. He didn’t want to alienate her the way he’d been doing to the rest of the people in his life, and he wanted to show her that he didn’t only want to be around her because of what she could possibly do for him. She was the only person who knew about his disease, and he trusted her. Hunter went up the stairs to his bedroom, then turned around and went back down to make sure he hadn’t forgotten to lock the door. It had become something of a nightly ritual for him, one he was tired of. By the time he finally got into bed, he’d checked the front door three more times.

As he started to fall asleep, Hunter’s mind began to wander and he wondered if it was the dementia or the normal driftings of a tired mind. He rolled over so his back was to the window. He would give anything to be free of this disease. Anything at all.


The Absence of Intellect – Three


At least three times a week, often more, Emily’s neighbors had friends over. Since she shared a wall with them, she got to hear their muffled voices shouting about sports, games they were playing, and once or twice she’d heard them singing. That wasn’t even counting the dancing or the smell of marijuana that sometimes came through her vent. It didn’t really bother her unless it went on past midnight, which was rare.

She was in the kitchen washing the cat’s food bowl when the doorbell rang, and she turned off the water and dried her hands on the kitchen towel before going to answer it. Once in a while her neighbors came over to apologize for the noise or offer her a beer, but she still checked the Nest app on her phone to see who it was. To her surprise, it wasn’t Rich or Evan on her doorstep, it was Hunter Chambers. She opened the door immediately.

“Dr. Chambers,” she said, at a loss for why her boss would be at her house at eleven at night. “What are you doing here?”

“Mind if I come in?” Hunter looked exhausted. Emily nodded and stepped aside. “Thanks.”

“You want something to drink? I just made cinnamon cocoa.”

“Sure.” He seemed preoccupied, but followed Emily into the kitchen. She poured two mugs of cocoa and handed him one, then leaned on the counter. She felt more than a little self-conscious in her flannel pajama pants and tank top, especially since he was still wearing the same suit he’d been wearing at the lab, but if Hunter noticed he didn’t mention it.

“So what can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry to come by so late,” he said, lifting the mug to his lips. “I got your address from your HR file. It’s inappropriate, I know, but there’s something I wanted to talk to you about and I don’t feel comfortable discussing it at work.”

“It’s no big deal,” Emily said. She couldn’t help being a little excited. She’d never even considered the idea that he would be helping her with her laboratory, much less coming to her house. “I’ve always wanted a late-night visit from a good-looking doctor.” Emily felt herself instantly turning red. She had no idea what had made her say it but Hunter didn’t seem to have noticed. “What’s going on?” He took a deep breath and looked down at his cocoa. “Dr. Chambers?”

“I want to apologize for the way I behaved earlier. There was no excuse for my taking my stress out on you.” His words made Emily smile, glad that he was at least acknowledging what had happened.

“It’s all right,” Emily said, smiling. “The doctor I used to work for used to throw things at the wall when he was mad, and I was just glad I got out of there before he started throwing them at us. I suppose it’s the price of working with geniuses.”

“That’s a joke,” he said bitterly.

“What is?”

“What’s the first thing you think about when you think of me, about Apogee Labs?” It was an odd question but Emily didn’t want to push him too hard for fear he’d shut down.

“Let’s see, the first time I saw you speak was at a conference in Evanston. It was right before I applied to Apogee. You were talking about the use of anticonvulsants to treat other conditions because they targeted similar areas of the brain, and the potential for creating a next-generation medication. I was so impressed. I applied to Apogee before I even checked out of my hotel.” She smiled. “That’s probably what I associate you with the most.”

“If I told you that I not only don’t remember that lecture, but what area of the brain seizure medication affects, that would change your opinion of me, wouldn’t it?” He was finally getting at it and Emily shook her head.

“Not really. It was three years ago. It’s impossible for everyone to remember everything they’ve ever done.” She nodded toward the living room. “Come on, let’s go sit down.” Hunter didn’t argue. He followed her through the kitchen and into a rather spacious living room. It was, however, the wall she shared with her neighbors and they seemed to be getting rowdy.

“Sounds like they’re enjoying themselves over there,” Hunter commented and Emily sighed as she sat down on the couch.

“I honestly don’t think there’s a time when they aren’t.” A muffled roar of laughter came from the wall and she gestured to it. “That guy in particular. I wish I could get as excited about anything as he seems to get about everything.”

“You were pretty excited about the neural bridge earlier,” he said, sitting on the opposite end of the couch. His closeness was distracting and Emily attempted to focus on her work instead of the blueness of his eyes.

“Of course I was,” she said. “Being the one to create a new treatment for such a devastating disease is exciting; it could impact so many people.” She debated telling him about Melissa but decided not to. The last thing she wanted was for him to question her reasons for creating the neural bridge, especially since he seemed to have single-handedly found the funding for her lab. He had apologized for yelling at her but she didn’t want to push her luck.

“Yes,” Hunter said, looking away from her. “I’m one of them.” Emily frowned slightly. She was on the verge of asking which of his parents had Alzheimer’s when he turned his eyes back to her. “I’m in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.”

“You are?” Emily couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Hunter nodded. “How bad is it?”

“I’m starting to forget things that have happened in the past. Sometimes I can’t remember peoples’ names when I’ve just been introduced to them, and depending on the day I have trouble planning out things at work.” He took a drink of his cocoa. “It gets worse as the day goes on. I make a lot of lists in the morning.”

“Are you on medication?”

“Yes, but as I’m sure you know it doesn’t stop the progression of the disease, only slows it down.” Hunter sighed. “The medication gets better every generation but I’ve exhausted all the options. It’s getting to the point where I don’t know how much longer I can work. That’s why your neural bridge therapy is so important.”

“Dr. Chambers,” she said, trying to be as kind as possible. She hated letting people down. “I’m years away from clinical trials. I’d be happy to pull strings to get you into one but by that time the majority of the damage may be irreversible.” Hunter looked as if she’d punched him. “I’m so sorry. I’ll do my best but I can’t guarantee anything.” To keep from seeing the look on his face, she picked up the cat bowl and filled it with food. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to feed my cat. You can see her if you want.” Hunter was silent and she went up the stairs to her bedroom with him on her heels.

Her closet door was partially open and she pulled it open all the way to reveal a cat laying on its side with five tiny kittens nuzzling into her belly. Emily squatted down to put the bowl near another that had water in it. Hunter finally smiled.

“I found her a couple of weeks ago and brought her home. She’s really skittish, though, so she’s spent most of her time hiding. I wasn’t expecting to open my closet a couple of days ago and find this.” She put her hands on her hips. “They’re cute, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Hunter said. “Of course they’re cute. They’re…” His words trailed away and Emily looked over to see him frowning, as if he was trying to figure something out. Emily’s body went cold. She knew without asking that he was trying to remember the word. “They’re…”

“Kittens?” Emily supplied the word gently and wasn’t surprised to see Hunter’s face flush.

“I don’t need your help,” he said harshly, and Emily suddenly felt guilty. “I have to go,” he said, turning around and walking quickly down the hall. Emily stood up and hurried after him, taking the stairs two at a time but she’d barely reached the bottom floor when her front door closed. She put her hands on her hips and looked at the floor, disheartened. She waited until his car drove away, then sighed and locked the door.

Emily went back to the kitchen and picked up his mug, then poured out the last of his cocoa. She couldn’t believe that her boss, the man who had made Apogee Labs into one of the top pharmaceutical companies, couldn’t remember the word for kitten. There had to be something she could do for him, she just had to figure out what that was.


The Absence of Intellect – Two


“Thank you,” Emily said to the young man who had set up her new computer. He nodded and left her alone in her newly outfitted lab. It was hard to believe that in just over three weeks she had everything she needed to start work on the neural bridge. She hadn’t asked for the computer but it had come anyway and she wasn’t about to complain. She’d been dreaming of this moment for years and it was finally happening.

Before she’d come to work at Apogee Labs, she had been a neurologist, and the idea had come to her then. She’d been working on the theory in her spare time, and on the biochemistry end whenever she could. It had been moving at a snail’s pace but now that she had the equipment and the director’s blessing, she could really do it. Not only that, but it would make development of the new cholinesterase inhibitor go ten times faster.

She was just sitting down to sign into the intranet when her cell phone rang and she glanced over at it. Her stomach turned. There was no name, but she’d seen enough numbers from the hospital to know one on sight. Afraid to pick it up, but even more afraid not to, Emily grabbed her phone and hit the talk button.

“This is Emily Ashton.”

“Good afternoon Dr. Ashton, this is Amie Declan from the billing department at St. Cecilia’s. I’m calling because our most recent invoice for Mrs. Amell’s continuing care was returned to us and we need payment for last month’s charges.” The woman’s tone was businesslike and Emily assumed this was because she had to deal with collecting money from people all day, but she was in too good of a mood to care.

“Yes, I just moved. I thought I’d forwarded my mail but apparently I hadn’t. I can stop by the hospital later and pay. Or can I just set up online payments through my bank?” Emily held her phone between her ear and shoulder as she entered her password into the computer.

“I can set up a bank draft, yes. You’ll have to come by the hospital, but I leave today at three o’clock. I’ll be back tomorrow at nine, though.” She could hear the woman typing on the other end of the line and sat back in her chair.

“No, no, I can come today. I’d rather get things taken care of so there’s no lapse in Melissa’s care.” Emily looked at her smart watch and saw that it was one o’clock already. She doubted anyone in the lab would care if she left early, especially if she was planning to come back. “Give me about an hour and I’ll be there.”

“Of course. And you don’t need to worry about Mrs. Amell’s care. You’ve never been late with a payment before,” Amie said. “I’ll see you in a little while.” She hung up and Emily leaned back in her chair with a sigh. She’d been so preoccupied with the move to her new place that she hadn’t even noticed that the bill hadn’t arrived.

I have to be more careful, she thought. I can’t let anything happen to Melissa.

“Dr. Ashton?” The voice from behind her made Emily jump, and she sat up so fast that she nearly slid off her chair. She scrambled to her feet and turned to see Hunter standing just behind her.

“Dr. Chambers,” she said, exhaling with relief. “You have to stop sneaking up on me.”

“Sorry. I just came down to see if you got everything you needed.” He looked around the room at the brand new machines, some of which had only just come out of their boxes. “I took the liberty of ordering you the new computer. A project like this requires much more computing power than the ones we have now.”

“The ones we have now are pretty great,” Emily said with a smile. “This one is on another level, though. I really appreciate it.”

“Good, I’m glad. You can get started as soon as possible, then.” He picked up a ball of clear tape and held it up, and Emily coughed into her hand.

“I have a bad habit of fidgeting when I watch people setting things up,” she said. “The IT guy was having problems and I started rolling tape around in my hands to keep my mouth shut. It’s hard for me not to just lean over and telling him to just let me do it.” She held out a hand to take the ball but Hunter tossed it into the trash instead.

“I can’t blame you, I feel the same way when I watch someone fumbling around.” He went to one of the machines and studied it. Emily watched him, trying not to be obvious. She had a crush on Hunter that had started when she finally got the opportunity to meet him, and she’d never thought she’d be so close to him. She joined him at the table that held all her equipment, fully aware that she was close enough to reach over and touch his hand. She’d never dare, of course, but it could be done if she wanted to. Instead she smiled up at Hunter.

“Isn’t it great? I had no idea they were making them so small now. The one I saw at the CDC was much bigger, but that was years ago.” She looked over at the computer, which had rebooted itself and was working on updating the program.

“You worked at the CDC?”

“No, just toured the headquarters as part of a conference. Working with viruses and infectious diseases never interested me much. Pharmaceutical research is much more interesting.” She folded her arms over her chest to remove the temptation to get closer. “I guess I’d rather be the one to solve the problems, not discover them.”

“I see. We’re lucky to have you, then.” Hunter went to her computer, which was displaying a login screen.

“You want to be the first to log in? I’d consider it an honor,” Emily said. Hunter smiled and leaned over the desk. She expected to see his fingers fly over the keyboard but instead he frowned. It looked as if he was trying to remember something, and after a painful few moments he straightened.

“This is your lab,” he said. “You should do it.”

“Oh. Sure.” Emily typed in her login credentials, then looked over her shoulder at Hunter. “I can’t believe you got the funding for this so quickly. I couldn’t even get anyone to take me seriously a couple of years ago,” she said, then grinned up at him. “You really are a genius.” Emily expected Hunter to make some sort of joke, but his expression darkened instead.

“It’s none of your business where I got it,” he snapped. “Just do your job.”

“Yes, sir,” Emily said, her smile disappearing. She’d thought they were getting along well but he’d thrown that idea in the trash with the tape ball. “I’ll get started transferring my files.” Hunter didn’t reply to this, only turned and went to the door, slamming it behind him as he left. Emily winced, then stood in the middle of the room trying to figure out what she’d done. She wasn’t expecting them to be best friends, but she hadn’t expected him to be rude either.

She sighed and shook her head, then sat down in front of her computer. The molecular mapping software opened and she started to type in the specifications for the structure she wanted to simulate, then glanced over at her phone. When she saw that it was 1:30, she jumped out of her chair.

“Dammit!” She grabbed her backpack from the coat peg beside the door and slung it over her shoulder, then headed out the door. It took her a minute or so to realize that she was still wearing her lab coat and she ran back to the lab to pull it off and hang it on the peg. Then she hurried down the hallway as fast as her heels would let her. No one seemed interested in the fact that she was leaving and she couldn’t bring herself to care.

Figuring out her boss’ mood swings was not a priority at the moment, getting to the hospital was. She skipped the elevator and went for the stairs, wondering if it was worth going back to work after she took care of her business. It wasn’t as if anyone would miss her.

The Absence of Intellect – One


Thoughts crashed into one another inside Hunter Chambers’ head as he stared out the window of his office. It was getting harder and harder for him to focus, and it seemed like the more he tried, the more the threads retreated from him. He was the director of Apogee Labs, held a PhD. in biochemical engineering as well as one in organic chemistry, and at the moment he was having trouble remembering the difference between valence and covalence. He wasn’t even certain that one of those terms was an actual word but it didn’t make much of a difference. The meaning of them slipped through his fingers as he tried to grasp them.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Chambers,” a young man said as he walked through the door. He was wearing a dark blue suit with a skinny tie, yet somehow still seemed to look casual. Hunter, on the other hand, was wearing a black suit with a gray pinstriped shirt but his lack of a tie or the use of his top button somehow made him feel conservative next to his assistant.

“Good afternoon, Dale,” he said, suddenly annoyed with himself for being able to remember the kid’s name but knowing at the same time that he was going to have to look up the security code to his alarm system when he went home so he wouldn’t set it off. Again. “Is there a problem?”

“No, just dropping off the quarterly reports.” He handed a thick binder to Hunter, who flipped through them. He was dismayed to realize that he couldn’t simply scan them in an instant anymore, and he wondered how much longer he could keep this up. “Kimberly in payroll wanted you to stop by when you get a minute. Something about approving the latest round of raises.”

“Sure,” Hunter said, tossing the binder on his desk and hoping his frustration didn’t show through. “I’ll call her after lunch. I doubt it’s really important enough for me to go down to HR. Anything else?”

“Dr. Ashton is making friends in the pharmaceutical lab again,” Dale said, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Drs. Peltier and Foreman refuse to go into the lab, and the techs are giving it a wide berth now too. Nothing for you to worry about, though. The best thing to do with that situation is just let her have her own corner of the lab.” Hunter didn’t answer and Dale shrugged. “If you need anything else, let me know. I’m going to lunch in thirty.”

“Thanks,” Hunter said absently. When Dale had departed, he jumped up from his chair. Of course, he thought. Dr. Ashton. Not wanting to give himself time to forget what he intended to talk to her about, Hunter hurried out of his office and to the elevator without a word to anyone on the way.

The pharmaceutical development lab was four levels down from his office, and he paced around the elevator as he rode down, repeating the same words over and over so he wouldn’t look like a fool in front of her when he got there. This was too important to screw up.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Chambers,” two women in white lab coats said, looking up from a tablet as he passed. Hunter raised a hand to them, afraid that if he spoke to them he’d lose what he wanted to talk to Dr. Ashton about, and they went back to their work. The people around the lab were used to him being somewhat reserved, and if anyone had noticed his slow decline they hadn’t mentioned it to him.

Unlike the majority of the doctors who were used to his occasional presence, some of the newer assistants in the pharmaceutical lab had never met him in person before and they seemed awed by him. It normally would have made him feel good about himself but today it just served to annoy him. He looked around, and when he didn’t see Dr. Ashton he motioned to one of the assistants.

“Yes, Dr. Chambers? Is there something I can do for you?” Hunter looked over the young man’s badge. Even if dementia hadn’t been creeping up on him, he wouldn’t have known his name, and it probably would have disappeared just as quickly as it did then.

“I’m looking for Dr. Ashton.”

“She’s in there,” the assistant said, pointing to a door at the far end of the room. “She sort of lives in there.”

“Thanks,” Hunter said. He went to the door and put a hand on the knob, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Talking to her could change his life, all he had to do was explain what he needed. He pulled the door open, still holding his breath, and was immediately hit in the face by a wave of electronic music so loud that he was surprised that he hadn’t heard it when he stepped out of the elevator. He glanced back and saw one of the other doctors look up from his computer with a scowl. Now I see what Dale meant about her ‘making friends.’ Not wanting to draw more attention to himself than he had to, Hunter braved the dubstep and went into the room.

Dr. Emily Ashton was standing in front of a computer at the far end of what looked like a cobbled-together version of the main lab, her arms folded over her chest. She didn’t seem bothered in the least by the music and didn’t show any sign she had heard her boss come into the room. It annoyed him and he clapped his hands to get her attention. Emily jumped at the sharp sound and turned to see him.

“Turn that off,” he said, raising his voice so she could hear him. It made him sound like he was shouting at her and her eyes widened.

“Dr. Chambers!” Emily reached down to her smart watch and turned the dial so the music fell to an almost inaudible level. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I don’t know how you could have with that music,” he said, not intending to sound quite as brusque as it came out. Emily turned slightly pink and tapped her watch to turn it off. Hunter felt a little guilty about his tone. He wanted – no, needed – her help and he wasn’t going to get it if he kept snapping at her.

“What can I help you with?”

“How are you coming along with that…that new…” The words wouldn’t come to him and he wished he could look it up on his phone without feeling like an idiot. “…memory medication you’re working on?” He spoke the last part with what felt like resignation and was relieved to see Emily’s face light up.

“The cholinesterase inhibitor? Really well, as a matter of fact!” She motioned for him to come closer to the computer. “I’ve managed to isolate the part of the compound that results in the gastrointestinal side effects, and it seems to have improved prevention of the breakdown of acetylcholine significantly. I’ve almost figured out how to create a combination medication that adds in memantine which will result in a significant savings to suppliers.”

“I see,” Hunter said, though he had only understood about half of what she was saying. “Impressive. When do you think you’ll have something ready for clinical trials?”

“Soon, I hope,” Emily said. “Maybe six months? Now that I’ve been banished from the main lab, I can focus on my work.”

“Six months,” Hunter said, hoping he didn’t sound as dejected as he felt. Emily nodded.

“Maybe less if I can get approval to go straight to clinical trials.” She raised an eyebrow at him and he looked at her, trying to figure out why. “Approval? You know, from someone higher up?” Hunter felt like he was on the verge of a panic attack. He’d fully intended to come ask for her help but now that he was there he couldn’t even make small talk. Emily sighed and shrugged. “It was worth a try.”

“Dr. Ashton—”

“Want to see something really cool?” She grinned and tapped a few keys on the keyboard and a completely different screen came up. Just as her words hadn’t before, the images meant nothing to him, but Emily seemed to expect him to understand. He didn’t have to spend long trying to pretend he did, though, she was obviously bursting to tell someone. “I’m working on something now that could change the treatment of dementia forever.”

“Really?” She suddenly had Hunter’s full attention. “Tell me more.”

“I call it a neural bridge,” she said, clicking from one screen to another that had a 3D model of cells on it. When she clicked again, an animation started. “It acts as, well, a bridge that mimics the connections between cells that have deteriorated or been lost entirely. Theoretically, it could reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia and retain most if not all memory function indefinitely.”

“That’s amazing,” Hunter said. “Can you really do this?”

“First I need funding so I can get the equipment to create a dedicated lab. No one seems to care if I use this room, I could work through it here.” She leaned on the desk and folded her arms over her chest again. “You’re the only one I’ve told about it. I have a feeling my colleagues would have a field day if—”

“I’ll get you funding,” Hunter said, not letting her finish. Emily looked at him, surprised. “Make a list of the equipment you need and give it to me.” She opened her mouth to speak just as his phone rang, and he held up a finger. “What is it?”

“Sorry to bother you, Dr. Chambers, but we’ve got a problem,” Dale said. “The power’s out on the entire third level and the generator’s not working. Dr. Evens says we’ve got about three, maybe four hours before the frozen things start getting unfrozen.”

“Is that the technical term?” He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. “Never mind. I’m on my way. I’ve got to go,” he said to Emily. “We’ll talk more later. Just get me that list.” She nodded, looking slightly dazed, and he left before she could say anything else.

As he went up the stairs rather than the elevator, Hunter’s mind wasn’t on the power outage. If Emily’s theory was sound, there was a chance he could not only stop his dementia from worsening, he could reverse the damage and be himself again. He realized that his hands were shaking and clenched his fists to stop it.

She’d get her equipment, even if he had to pay for it himself.

A Preview of Turn the Page

As promised, here’s a little bit from the contemporary I’ve been working on, Turn the Page. It’s very early in the process and I can’t guarantee it’ll even be in the finished book but I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

“Sorry I took so long to call you. I should have done it yesterday. I like hanging out with you,” Marc said. “Even if it’s squeezing in a snack on my way to a reading.” Then, before she could come up with something clever to say, he leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. Chelsea stopped in her tracks and he looked at her curiously. “Should I not have done that?”

“No,” she said quickly. “You definitely should have done that.”

“I’m glad.” He grinned at her. “Mind if I do it again?”

“You can do it all you want.” It didn’t seem possible but Marc’s grin got even wider and he put the hand not holding the last of his ice cream on her waist to draw her closer. The warmth of his body pulled her like a magnet and she resisted the urge to press every inch of herself against him. It had been a long time since she let anyone kiss her and she had missed it. His mouth that was still slightly cold from the ice cream warmed as his kiss became deeper and Chelsea’s lips parted to let his tongue brush past. She tasted blueberries as their breath mingled and her heart beat faster. When they parted, his face was completely serious for the first time since she’d watched Crosswind and she hoped she hadn’t done anything wrong.

“I hope you don’t think I’m bailing on you after that,” he said with another glance at his watch, “but I have to get going.”

“Sorry if I made you late,” Chelsea said, tugging at her shirt uncertainly. It was something else she hadn’t done in a long time and she willed herself to stop it. Marc smiled at her, this time more gently than he had before.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It was worth it.” He brushed back the side of her hair. “Are you going to ask me out now?”

“You’ll have to wait and see,” Chelsea said with a smirk. “See you tomorrow.” She walked to the end of the block, then turned around to make sure he wasn’t following.

Now For the REAL Fun!

CNW_Winner_1500-1Sunday night a wonderful thing happened. I finished the first draft of Turn the Page, the contemporary romance story that started out as a novella and turned into a full-length novel. If it hadn’t been for Camp NaNoWriMo I don’t think I could have gotten it done this quickly, and time was of the essence since I really need to be getting back to the pirate novella that was supposed to be finished by now.

The next step is to give it a quick once-over, attach a bunch of tape flags to the pages, and chase my husband around the house trying to get him to read it before sending it to beta readers, then off to my editor at Booktrope!

I’m really excited to get this next book out there, so hopefully it’ll be out later this year! I might have an excerpt for you on Friday if I can get my stuff in order before then. It’s the first contemporary I’ve written and I can’t wait to share it with you all!