Sunday, 26 April 2015

The end, the beginning

This is it, folks — the final glimpse into Tom Baker's thoughts before he steps into Kate Ramsey's life in The Science of Attraction and knocks her proverbial socks off. Last week we learned that he'd made it to Bonn in one piece, having waged a war with his brother and fought off the advances of an erstwhile lover. Now he's on his way to the lab to meet his new boss. Sparks will fly, have no doubt.

The whole novella can be read in one go by following the links, starting here. I'm also hoping to get it into all the regular outlets (as a freebie) soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the last bite-size piece of Tom before he slips into another story…

The Prelude to Attraction (Part 11)

I round the corner and stop short of the entrance to the institute, just to take it all in. The Germans really know what they’re doing with their architecture—this place is breathtaking. I cut through the car park and file into the building behind a group of people my age. They’re obviously from all over the place, all chattering away in a colorful jumble of pseudo-English.
There’s a leggy blonde girl near the front of the pack, and she shoots me a loaded stare before disappearing up the stairs. I feel like taking her aside and telling her that I’m spoken for, and the inanity of that idea almost makes me laugh out loud. Because who am I kidding? I haven’t even properly met the woman I’m supposedly saving myself for, and she may well fall very short of the pedestal I’m putting her on. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t kept up a steady diet of meaningless encounters in the last few months. There’s no reason a tall blonde German girl can’t help me maintain the tradition.
I turn my attention to the receptionist, who greets me in a thick accent and nods brusquely when I give her my name.
“Frau Dr Ramsey is expecting you,” she says, and sends me on my way.
I take the stairs to blow off the last trace of nerves coursing through my system, and round the corner into my new lab with as much confidence as I can muster.
I’m early, but what am I going to do— wait downstairs?
No. I walk in, and introduce myself to the first person I see: a timid-looking redhead sitting at a desk with a stack of articles and a laptop in front of her.
“Hi, I’m Tom,” I say. “I’m the new guy.”
The girl peers up at me and looks like she might want to vomit on my shoes. I step back instinctively, and consider asking her if she needs my help.
And that’s when I hear it. The rhythmic click of heels as she strides toward me.
I turn around, and fall for her all over again.
Her hair is a perfect mess, and she’s dressed like she has a team of tailors locked up at home, in a red top that shows off those fantastic arms, and a gray skirt that hugs her hips the way I want to. I almost ask her to turn around and walk away from me again, just so I can check out her ass in that skirt.
Somehow I manage to drag my eyes up to her face, and I’m more than happy to see a flicker of interest burning behind her professional facade. She looks like she’s been thrown just a little off balance, and the effect is intoxicating.
I want to throw her all the way off balance. In fact, I want to throw her down right here and now and get her good and naked. I’m silently willing Red to slink away somewhere, so I can get better acquainted with the beautiful Dr Ramsey. I bet I could have those clothes off in ten seconds flat. I briefly try to imagine what she might be wearing underneath them, but stop short, struck down with the clear and present threat of getting a boner on the first day of my new job.
She recovers herself just in time to pull up in front of me, and extends her hand, saying, “Kate Ramsey. Pleased to meet you.”
The accent itself is nearly my undoing. Her voice sounds like it was programmed for talking dirty, and I feel like anything and everything she ever says will run through an innuendo loop buried somewhere in my brain.
This is not a very good way of starting a professional relationship.
I gather all my best intentions and return her handshake, but the words that come out of my mouth next run dangerously close to how I’m actually feeling.
“Believe me, the pleasure is mine,” I say, and mentally kick myself for being such a sleaze.
I may as well have said, “Likewise, Dr Ramsey. By the way, have you met my cock? It’s currently your biggest fan.”
What a fucking creep.
But she’s all business as she rattles out something about the lab not being ready for my arrival. To be honest, I’m so lost in the gorgeous rhythm of her voice that I barely pay any attention at all. So when she stops talking, I fill in the silence with yet another ode to creepiness.
“That’s no problem, Kate,” I say, holding her gaze. “I’ll be happy wherever you put me.”
And at first I hate myself for not screening my thoughts before I voice them, but then her reaction has me feeling something else entirely. Her eyes glaze over a little and her beautiful mouth drops open a fraction, almost as if she’s gasping for air.
I like that look. I want more of it.
But all that can come later, I decide. Right now I want to find my equilibrium with her, and settle into this new trajectory that I’ve embarked on. I want to make my home here in this city, in this lab. And I want to kickstart all the amazing things I’ve envisioned myself accomplishing with this incredible woman.
Because something tells me my instincts are spot on here.
Something tells me this is our beginning.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Willkommen in Bonn

We're getting close to the end of The Prelude to Attraction now, and we're sneaking up toward the beginning of The Science of Attraction. In this week's excerpt, Tom has managed to overcome all the roadblocks that stood in his path to Kate, and he's finally arrived in Bonn. Let's find out how he got there…

The Prelude to Attraction (Part 10)
Months later, I’m walking through Bonn, on my way to the Schaeffer, when I stop for a moment and take stock of the fact that I’m actually here—I actually made it. And when I look back on it, getting here was almost too easy.
Kissing Rob’s skinny ass in Colorado was the hardest part. I laid out my plans for him on the first night in the bar of the hotel we were staying at, and then we continued the discussion during our daily hikes. By that stage, I’d drawn up a near-flawless blueprint of the work I wanted to do, and so I really just had to sell it to him. More importantly, I had the fellowship in the bag by then, which meant that filling him in on my plans was mostly about stroking his ego. It was pretty clear he was likely to have very little to do with the project once it got off the ground. And that was more than fine with me.
Admittedly, he’d been a little skeptical at first—no doubt viewing my proposed research as a threat to his precious time. But once I dropped Kate’s name into the mix, he saw almost immediately how a collaboration might work in his favor.
The best part was that I found I was more than capable of tolerating his bullshit. The only exception to this rule came up when he aired one or two comments about Kate that made me want to knee him in the groin.
“Dr Ramsey is certainly one of our finest,” he said, when I first floated the idea in the bar. “And she pulls in funding like no one else I know.”
He shot me a sleazy sidelong glance that made me feel dirty by association.
“Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a rack like that,” he said, and I flexed my fist by reflex.
Somehow, despite the fact that I’d yet to actually meet her, I was under the impression that no one but me was allowed to think—much less talk about—her rack like that. Psycho, right? Yeah.
The next bombshell came during our hike on the second day. This time Simon was along for the ride, which was a good thing really, or else I might have followed through on the reflex.
“Kate’s a feisty little thing though, Tom,” he said. “I feel like I should warn you in advance that she can be a handful.”
Simon forced a smile and nodded out of politeness. I didn’t bother to do the same.
“But then, she’s pretty enough to get away with it most of the time.”
This time Simon cleared his throat and looked away, a gesture that I’d learned was one of his coping mechanisms when things got uncomfortable. I took solace in the fact that he found Rob’s snide little remarks just as inappropriate as I did, and changed the subject as quickly as I could.
In the end though, it didn’t matter how mad Rob made me. He was a means to an end—and that’s exactly how I view him to this day.
It’s been eight months since I first laid eyes on the enigmatic Kate Ramsey, and since then I’ve been through hell and back on a mission to draft, perfect and defend my PhD thesis. I’ve studied her work back to front and back again, and honed my plans for the research I want to do in the next three years.
I still think it’s a bit weird that neither Rob nor Simon has ever suggested I speak directly with her, but to be honest I’ve barely had time to breathe in the last few months, much less navigate a lust-filled Skype interview with the object of my affections. It’s better this way. In all likelihood, Rob has forwarded my research proposal to her, and she’s already in the loop, armed with ideas for expanding and improving on my plans.
I arrived in Bonn a few days ago, and I’m still feeling the jet lag like you wouldn’t believe. But I have a ten o’clock appointment that I intend to keep. Rob e-mailed a couple of hours ago to let me know he’d be too busy to meet me this morning, and that Kate would be standing in. I read the message in the middle of my hotel room, still wet from the shower. And I literally fist-pumped in the nude—something that I won’t be repeating in a hurry, especially if anyone happens to be around to act as a witness.

Jump to Part 11.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Brother love

Welcome to the next episode in Tom Baker's recent history. So far, our hero has seen and swooned over the future love of his life, the beautiful Kate Ramsey. He's talked his adviser into helping him land a job in her lab. And he's taken care of a little roadblock in the form of over-enthusiastic booty call, Saskia. Now he just has to figure out how to deal with his brother, Nate, who is adamant Tom make the move back home to Austin.

The Prelude to Attraction (Part 9)
My brother is next on the list.
I still haven’t replied to his last text, but he hasn’t sent me any more, so I’m guessing he’s realized what a dick move it was. And I want to stay mad at him, especially as it will make it way easier to do what I’m about to do, but I just don’t have it in me. I love the guy. Even when he’s shoving my face in the dirt, or comparing me to our jackass dad.
I wait until the following evening and then head home, determined to suck it up and stand my ground.
But when I make it back to my apartment, my roommate Kevin is just putting the finishing touches on a batch of chili, so I crash his party and sit down to eat with him and his girlfriend Tara.
I tell them about Saskia, playing out the events of the previous night until Tara is doubled over laughing.
“I can’t believe she said that,” she says, shaking her head from side to side.
“She’s an actress,” I shrug, taking a swig of beer. “Everything has to be a little dramatic.”
I can’t believe you turned down another chance to hit that,” says Kevin, and Tara kicks him under the table.
“What?” he cries, playing at innocence. “I didn’t say I wanted to.”
She narrows her eyes at him and swings back to face me.
“So what about this other girl then?”
“What other girl?” I say. But denial is futile with Tara. She knows me too well.
“You know which girl, dumbass.”
I flick the top of my bottle, eyes cast down.
“The hottie from the conference,” she says, annoyed at having to spell it out. “We got a fucking photographic account of the sexy white dress and the luscious curves.”
And I can’t help it, I smirk despite myself.
“Don’t play coy with me, Baker,” she says.
I wait a beat, because I can. But then I look up and nod. “I think I’m going to go work for her,” I say.
The table erupts with a single coherent “Whoa!”
“You sly dog,” Kevin says. “You gonna get busy with the boss?”
It earns him another kick under the table, but I smile at him and raise an eyebrow.
“Sure as hell hope so. I think I might be in love.”
I say it for comic value more than anything. And he gets the joke, laughing out loud and reaching across the table for a high five. But Tara just watches me and nods. She sees right through my bullshit.
It’s late by the time I actually get around to calling Nate. I’m buzzed from the beer and still exhausted from the trip. But the phone nearly rings out before he answers it, so I have a minute to gather my wits. And by the time we’ve cycled through the small talk, I know what I need to say.
“How was the conference?” he asks, his tone cautious. He clearly knows how much he fucked up by pulling the emotional blackmail shit on me.
“Good,” I say. “Great. Really great.”
“Hey listen, Tom,” he starts, but I can’t let him finish that sentence. I can’t let him apologize before I lay my plans on him.
“I’m going to Germany,” I blurt out. It’s a half truth, I realize. But I want it to be true, so I don’t feel bad about lying.
“You’re what?” He’s still on the back foot, but he’s mounting for a fight, I can tell.
“To Bonn,” I say. “To the biology institute there. It’s one of the best in the world.”
“To Germany?” he asks, and I leave it answered. Because what else can I say?
There’s a pause on the other end of the line, and then a long, low sigh.
“That’s really fucking far away,” he says at last, but his tone is resigned, like he’s backing down.
“It’s not that far,” I say. “And it’s not forever.”
There’s another silence, and I have clench my fists to stop myself from filling it. Because I hate this tension. I’m three seconds away from telling him I’ll move back home.
But then he fills it for me.
“I guess I’ve just been feeling guilty about leaving Texas,” he says, exhaling hard and fast. “I guess I’m trying to put that on you.”
I’m lost for words for a second, unsure of whether he’s just messing with me. But he’s not, I realize. He’s actually going to let me go.
“Germany sounds like an amazing opportunity,” he says. “You should do it.”
I close my eyes and smile. This is really happening.
“Thanks Nate,” I breathe into the phone. “You’re the best.”

Jump to Part 10.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Psychoanalysis and melodrama

A quick hello from the other side of the world today. I'm on vacation and so pressed for time in my heavy schedule of doing very little. But I've definitely got enough time to post another missive from Tom Baker's brain.
And to remind you that:
1. The Music of Temptation is out now! Read all about Margot Duke's love affair with the the drool-worthy Jonathan Young.
2. The Science of Attraction is FREE on Amazon for another couple of days. FREE goddamnit! Go and download yourself a copy now.
In the meantime, you can read about how Tom first met Kate in The Prelude to Attraction. He's already addicted to the Ramsey brand, and now his adviser is on board with a cross-continental move. But first he has to deal with a rather persistent admirer... 

The Prelude to Attraction (Part 8)
I meet Saskia later that evening at a bar near her apartment. The place is a regular student haunt. It’s wall to wall with football paraphernalia, full of drunk undergrads feeling each other up.
Saskia’s already there when I arrive, leaning against the bar and sucking on a straw immersed in some sticky green concoction.
She takes one look at me and says, “You’ve changed. Something’s changed.”
I sidle up to the bar and nod. “I’ve just figured out what I want to do next year.”
I lean in and kiss her on the cheek, signaling the barman for a beer over her shoulder as I pull away again. 
“No, it’s not that,” she says, sizing me up.
Sometimes I hate psych majors. She narrows her eyes at me, then tilts her head and smiles.
“You’ve met someone,” she says, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. I’m meeting her here in some sort of capacity as her casual, soon-to-be-ex lover, and yet she seems totally relaxed about the idea that I might have met someone new. Suddenly I love psych majors.
But technically, she’s wrong, and I feel weird about owning up to my phantom crush on some woman who lives on the other side of the globe. It’s like saying, “I can’t be with you anymore because I’m in love with Scarlett Johansson.” Lay that one on the table and let her psychoanalyze the shit out of it.
Instead I lie to her.
“There’s no one else,” I say. “But I’ve decided I’m leaving Boston in the spring and I’ll have to work my ass off to make that happen.”
The barman plants a bottle on the bar in front of me and I nod my thanks, hand him some cash.
I turn back to find Saskia staring at me. There’s a silence that she refuses to fill, mostly because she’s still busy trying to figure me out.
“I don’t have time for distractions,” I add.
“No, that’s not it,” she says again. “This is definitely about a woman.”
She seems almost gleeful to have me all figured out—or at least half figured out. She sucks on her straw again, pursing cherry-red lips into a provocative little pout.
“What’s her name?” she says, glancing up at me through her eyelashes.
I look away and feign interest in a sign behind the bar.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And I have to hand it to her. She spends half her life on the stage—she knows a bad actor when she sees one. She doesn’t call me on it though, and I love that. Instead she turns the crank on her own drama-queen side, playing at being put out.
“Whatever,” she sighs. “I can’t say I’m happy to have to give up my plaything.”
Her tone is whiny, which I get—it fits part. But it still makes me want to shake her, because we literally only spent a single night together. I’m no more her plaything than I am a complete stranger. She has to recognize the absurdity of her lament.
Something tells me that I’m better off staying tight-lipped though.
“I guess I don’t have much choice in the matter,” she says, still working the coquette angle.
I meet her eyes and press my lips together. Silence is still my best move.
 “So this is it, huh?” she says, and I realize with relief that she’s totally getting off on all the melodrama.
She steps in toward me, reaches up to swing an arm around my neck, and then kisses me deeply, fully, until I almost feel my resolve start to crumble. But her timing is perfect, and she pulls away right on cue, spinning out of my arms and stalking away from me. And all I’m left with is a face covered in lipstick, and a good few seconds to contemplate her swinging hips before they disappear out the door.

I think my days of having a phone full of Saskia Harding’s boobs have just come to an end.

Jump to Part 9.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Imaginary friends

I like to think I’d be friends with my main characters if they were real people. But sometimes I also like to imagine who they might befriend in other works of fiction. I’ll be reading a book, or watching a film, and wonder in passing whether Kate Ramsey or Margot Duke would fit into a fictional friendship group. Often it’ll make reading that much more fun to imagine my own characters in between the pages. So here’s my list of Kate’s make-believe BFFs: 

1. Max Stella, Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren 

Max and Kate go way back, I’m sure. He’s from Leeds and studied art at Cambridge, while she, a Londoner, was majoring biology at Oxford, but I feel like they must have crossed paths somewhere. I can see her holding her own in the pub after some university rugby match. Come to think of it, she probably would have made friends with Beautiful Bastard Bennett Ryan too.

2. Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex 
Not strictly fictional, but a perfect match nonetheless. The only problem is that they’re a good half century out of sync. But there’s little doubt they would have been friends in a parallel universe. They’re both sexually liberated and scientifically successful—although Ginny definitely had a much harder time of it. In any case, they’d certainly have a lot to talk about. And no one knows how to navigate sex-in-the-lab better than Mrs Johnson.

3. Davis Milo, Playing With Her Heart by Lauren Blakely 
Kate lives and breathes her work, so it’s hard to imagine her having any time for the outside world, but I like to think that if Davis and Kate were to cross paths, she would soak up his intellect and passion for the theater like a sponge. I’m sure she’d have a crush on him too, were Jill and Tom not around to put that little flame out. 

4. Annie Walker, Bridesmaids 
Annie and Kate both know what it’s like to have casual relationships with obnoxious ageing bachelors. It suffices to say that cocktails would be consumed if these two inhabited the same world. 

5. Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling 
As far as nerdy girls go, they don’t come much cooler than the inimitable Ms Granger. Kate would have been a few years behind Hermione had she attended Hogwarts, but I’m sure she would have been a source of inspiration. Their paths might have diverged a little after school (Kate is definitely not one to settle down with her high-school sweetheart) but they’re certainly on the same page. And Kate knows Kings Cross station like the back of her hand...

Don’t forget that The Science of Attraction is FREE for another few days! You can also read more of the Tom–Kate universe in The Prelude to Attraction, serialized on this blog.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Be tempted

Today marks the release of my second book, The Music of Temptation. For those of you familiar with my first, The Science of Attraction, you’ll recognize the protagonist in this one as Kate Ramsey’s student, Margot, who can arm wrestle with the best of them, and match you drink for drink when the occasion presents itself.

But this is Margot’s story, and you don’t need to know Kate’s to enjoy it.

Margot’s life traces a kind of double orbit around science and music, and she’s rarely unplugged from one her favorite albums as she traipses around the lab. So when the singer of a touring rock band captures her attention by showing an interest in her work, her twin obsessions become one.

I really loved writing this novel, and part of it had to do with the fact that it borrows quite heavily from my own history. Whereas Kate is the wildly successful scientist that I never quite became, Margot is the hard-working student who gets to enjoy living abroad for a while—soaking up a new and alien culture, a million miles from home.

My backstory definitely doesn’t feature the lovely Jonathan Young (although Mr Jacobs is quite the catch), but I’ve traveled far and wide for once-in-a-lifetime concerts—and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

It suffices to say that I love Margot and Jonathan to bits and pieces, and I hope you do too. Stay tuned to this blog for a sneak peek into Jonathan’s side of the story in the coming months.

And to celebrate the release, I’m making The Science of Attraction FREE for the next five days. Tell your friends. Everyone loves a freebie.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Hatching a plan

Time for another Tom Baker update. Last week, he figured out (somewhat belatedly) that following Kate Ramsey back to Germany might be a way of solving his problems. Now he's back in Boston, trying to figure out how to make all the pieces fall into place. The first step is getting his adviser Simon on board.

Read the whole story from the beginning here, or skip forward to find out what happens when his plans become a reality in The Science of Attraction.

The Prelude to Attraction (Part 7)

I walk into Simon’s office as soon as I get to the lab on Monday morning. I could easily waste time with pleasantries, but I don’t bother, for two reasons: first, I know he doesn’t need them, and second, I’m busting out of my skin to move this plan forward.
I’ve spent the last three days learning everything there is to know about Kate Ramsey, and if anything, I’m more sold on the idea than I was before. I’ve read every last one of her scientific papers and decided that the woman is almost smarter than she is beautiful. Which is, as we know, a fairly tall order.
“I know where I want to work next year,” I say, and Simon straightens his bowed posture to hear me out.
“Oh yeah?” he says. “Where?”
“The Schaeffer in Bonn,” I say. “Kate Ramsey spoke at the conference last week and she blew me away.” It’s the understatement of the year, but he doesn’t need to know that.
“Kate’s good,” he says, rolling the idea around in his mind. “That might be a good fit.”
And this is why I love Simon. This is how I know not to bother with the small talk preamble.
Any normal, red-blooded male would see straight through my ruse, and call me on wanting to work with the world’s hottest lady biologist. But for all Simon’s brilliance—the PhD in theoretical physics, the quick transition into award-winning biology research—he’s a little socially challenged.
It’s nothing major. He can hold a conversation, and he’s married with a couple of kids, so he obviously gets women to some degree. But his brain seems incapable of following the natural trajectory that starts out with a solitary thought about Kate Ramsey and ends somewhere in the gutter.
This is my litmus test, really, because Simon’s inability to pick up on all the untoward reasons I might want to work with Kate is precisely how I’m going to make sure that my dick is not leading me into career suicide. I’ve worked far too hard to throw it all away on a bad decision fueled by desire. I decided that much at the conference, just as soon as I’d moved out of Dr Ramsey’s tractor beam.
But my weekend reading has shifted the goal posts again. Because Kate really is good. And the work I’m writing up in my PhD thesis lends itself so naturally to the sort of research she does. Seeing the way Simon is putting all the pieces together in his head only confirms the feeling in my gut: this is meant to be.
“Yes, I think that could work,” he says finally. “And a couple of years in Europe can only mean good things for your CV.”
My CV and my sex drive, says a voice in my head. But I play it cool, and nod once in agreement.
“But I think you should aim to work with Rob Schaeffer rather than Kate,” he says. “They collaborate closely, so I’m sure he’ll pair the two of you together anyway. But having Rob’s name on your papers will be a kind of insurance policy.”
I find myself frowning at this, mostly because Rob’s a dick, and I don’t want anything to do with him. He visits our lab once or twice a year and lavishes a little of his genius on all of us. The effect is nauseating.
But Simon reads my response as confusion.
“Kate is very young,” he says, by way of explanation.
“She is?” I say, perking up. I can’t believe that my mammoth Ramsey readathon didn’t involve any actual internet stalking.
“Yes,” he says. “The youngest hire to date in Bonn. I don’t think she’s even hit thirty.”
And I’m almost embarrassed to say that I feel my cock twitch in response. Why, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it’s because I’m realizing she’s just two or three years older than me, which might better my chances of getting her naked. Or maybe I’m just supremely turned on by her precocious success. Whatever the reason, I need to get out of my adviser’s office before he realizes I have a hard-on for my future boss.
Simon is clueless, but he’s not that clueless.
“OK, so I’ll write to Rob,” I say, backing up toward the door.
“Do that,” he says. “And remind him about our trip to Colorado. You two can chat while we hike.”