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.