Thursday, January 27, 2011
My new baby, Boiling Point
EXCERPT FOR BOILING POINT.... NEW RELEASE AT RESPLENDENCE BY MIA WATTS
Fauna Harper’s roller bag snagged on the door frame of her office, causing her to pull harder, which made her heel twist and ankle bend the other way—a way it wasn’t intended to bend—to knock her knee into her leg, which buckled, making Fauna fling her hands up to protect herself as carpet rushed at her face in her headlong fall to the ground.
“Phunk!” She swore into the carpet.
“Long trip, sis?” Flora asked her.
Fauna arched her neck to look at her sleek twin. Her short black skirt, tailored, white silk blouse, and three-inch pumps were exactly opposite of Fauna’s outfit. Fauna’s pin-striped pants had been rumpled from sitting on an airplane for the past ten hours and the pink sweater shirt she’d worn sported a ketchup stain, coffee dribbles, and precisely three snags from her watch band.
Fauna righted the skewed black-framed glasses on her nose. She shoved back the strands of escaped hair which had fallen across her eyes in a tangle of thready black waves. Gathering her dignity, she pushed up and tried to brush off carpet lint.
Flora tucked a lock of hair behind Fauna’s ears.
“Thanks,” Fauna muttered.
“Don’t mention it.” Her eyes still danced with mischief. “You might want to clean up a little.” She glanced at her watch. “In like, the next twenty seconds.”
Dread cooled the pit of Fauna’s stomach. “Why?” she asked, drawing the word out.
“Because Mom made Sage hire someone from the faery realm, and he’s showing up any second. You know how they like to just appear.”
She felt her shoulders drop with relief. “Who cares? You appear randomly, too. Maybe he’ll have control over his abilities the way none of us do.”
“You’ll care,” she sing-songed as she righted Fauna’s suitcase and sashayed out of the office.
“Why?” Fauna called after her twin. It never boded well when Flora acted smug. Like the smile she just flashed Fauna. She huffed with exasperation when her question was met with silence. “Fine, be cryptic.”
She cared about her pants though. She made a sound of annoyance at finding a scuff on the knee, and it wasn’t until she took a step that she realized the heel of her shoe had broken…and snapped. Fauna toppled. Her hair flung back into her face, and she hit her hip against the desk. Hot hands caught her elbows righting her.
“Thanks,” she grumbled as she looked over at her rescuer. “It’s been a day.” She said expecting to see one of her brothers.
“Fauna,” he murmured, his voice thick, husky.
Her eyes widened, and traveled up a broad chest to wide shoulders, over the arrogantly angled jaw, perfectly symmetrical features, and into brown eyes that seemed to glow with tints of red, like lacquered mahogany.
“Oh.” Breath escaped her on that single non-syllable.
“So you’re Flora’s twin,” he said.
Those same dark notes shivered up her arms and instantly peaked her nipples into tight, ready buds.
“Yup,” she answered stupidly.
His brow furrowed in confusion. He blinked. “Where’d you go, sweetheart?”
What did he say? Oh, crap. She’d disappeared again. Of course the one time she wanted a man to look at her was the one time he couldn’t look at her. Damn faeries!
“Don’t mind Fauna. She always freaks out and disappears,” Her brother Sage said strolling into her office.
“I’m here,” she squeaked.
“See?” her brother offered as proof.
“Too bad. Such pretty green eyes hidden from view,” the man said.
Thank God she was invisible so he couldn’t see her blushing. Unfortunately, she wasn’t also mute and he did hear the pathetic sigh that slipped past her guard.
Sage laughed. “Remember how I mentioned that the Harpers don’t have control over the faery portion of their heritage?”
“Fauna’s is invisibility. She disappears without provocation, or with provocation. Actually, she just disappears a lot. Especially when there’s a hot guy around.”
The following thunk, grunt, and wince on Sage’s face gave the only indication she’d kicked him.
“Must’ve hurt,” the man teased.
“This doesn’t creep you out?” Sage asked.
“It’s a little out of the ordinary.” The man shrugged. “But I’ve seen some unusual things in my time. Saw a two-headed cat once.”
“Aren’t you the new faery guy who’s coming to work here?” Fauna asked.
“No,” Sage answered for him. “Bruce should be here any second. This is our new tech guy, Cooper.”
“Human?” Fauna asked.
Sage sighed like she’d asked a dumb question, but the sympathetic smile he tossed her direction softened the blow. “She’s not a big fan of the faery realm.” He gestured to her see-through space. “None of us are for obvious reasons.”
“So what abilities do the others have?” Cooper asked.
“I read thoughts, Dill freezes time, Flora transports herself, and Willow changes forms between wooden based objects. We’re a regular circus of disasters.” Sage held out his hand. “Good to meet you, Cooper. It’ll be nice having someone on the team who behaves normally.” “Now if Bruce would show up, we’d have our full faery contingent.”
Cooper shook her brother’s outstretched hand. “I’m just glad for the work.”
“So you’re not the faery guy?” she said, needing to hear it repeated. As much as she didn’t appreciate the faery sense of humor, it would really suck to find herself ridiculously attracted to one.
“I’m the faery guy,” another man’s voice said from behind her.
Cooper’s gaze searched over her shoulder, then came back her direction after he’d dismissed the other man. He held out his hand toward where Fauna had been standing. “Cooper Blank. I’m most definitely at your service.”
Fauna grasped the offered hand and drew it into shaking range.
“Nice of you to pop in,” Sage told Bruce tightly. “We like to use the doors around here. Why don’t you two follow me, and I’ll get you set up.”
“Awesome. You guys go on. I need to…um, I need to find myself,” Fauna offered.
“You know, some people say that, but in your case I actually believe you mean it,” Cooper teased.
“All right! We have an invisible faery chick?” Bruce asked.
Fauna dragged herself away from looking at Cooper to face the new poppin’-fresh-faery in her office. His dark brown hair spiked in several directions and he favored dark colors, including the gray shirt stretched across his slim musculature. Typical of faery physique, he was perfect and beautiful, and he made Fauna uneasy with his cocky head tilt and condescending smile.
“The chick is my sister and one of your bosses. Might not want to piss her off,” Sage suggested.
“Oh, I see,” Bruce joked.
“Nice. Haven’t heard that one before.” Fauna said. She wasn’t looking at Cooper, but she thought she heard him snort.
Sage motioned for Cooper and Bruce to follow him out. “Fauna’s surprisingly less shy when not visible.” He glanced back into her apparently empty office, then speculatively at Cooper. “That seems to be a new development.”
* * * *
A week later, Cooper was still trying to find a way to talk to Fauna when Sage and his brother, Dill, called them into the office for a meeting. It wouldn’t have been such a challenge before—Cooper wasn’t exactly the kind of guy that could be intimidated—but Fauna was still transitioning from another position downtown and her hours at Harper Security weren’t predictable.
Neither was the opportunity to actually see her. Sage hadn’t been kidding when he said she flipped between visible and invisible at random intervals. How did she maintain a regular job without mortals noticing?
There was her guardedness with anything involving faeries, too. Not with her siblings whom she seemed to come alive around, but Bruce. What kind of reception would Cooper get if Fauna didn’t like faeries? Would she give him half a chance, or chalk up his kind as another thing worthy of disdain?
It was the only hitch he could see in getting to know her. He’d have to work on her aberration toward the other realms. Cooper was proud to be an elemental. It wasn’t faery, but it was definitely magical. Would she object?
He sat in one of the large chairs opposite Dill and Sage. Sage studied him intently, a curious look in his eyes. The mind reader, Cooper remembered. He cocked a brow at Sage in question. Sage smiled, curiosity becoming amusement.
“It’ll be good for her,” Sage said quietly.
So he’d read his mind.
Fauna’s light step clacked on the wooden floors. She wove between the chairs and sat down in the only other empty one, next to Cooper.
“Sorry. I got stuck on a call,” she explained.
“That’s okay. I was just getting to know a little more about Cooper and his talents,” Sage told her.
Cooper eyed Sage warily.
Fauna glanced at Cooper.
“Good morning, Fauna.” Cooper winked.
Her eyes widened and suddenly she was gone. He couldn’t help but smile. Her disappearing act was going to make things a little tricky, but Cooper liked a challenge and he definitely wanted to get to know Fauna Harper.
What she didn’t realize was that as an elemental, particularly a fiery elemental, he could detect body heat without thinking about it. Where undoubtedly Fauna was invisible to everyone else around her, Cooper saw a shimmery golden representation of her. The cooler temperature of her clothing made them fade slightly, which gave Cooper a deliciously enchanting view suggesting curves and swells. Right now those tantalizing breast swells had distinctly distended tips, swollen with hot blood.
She’s turned on.
Fauna’s golden form shifted nervously in her seat. Her hand fluttered up to her cheeks, pressing presumably cooler fingers to it. She stared openly at him, her bottom lip clamped by a row of golden upper teeth.
Cooper made a point of looking away so she wouldn’t guess that he could see her. If staring at him and getting turned on accurately reflected what she’d want to do in private, he’d eagerly play along.
Sage choked on a laugh.
“There’s a whole lot of subtext going on here. How about we cut to the chase and discuss the job,” Dill recommended. “Or you can share with the class.” He looked pointedly at Sage who shook his head, still trying to hide his mirth.
“What job?” Fauna asked, tearing her invisible gaze from Cooper’s profile.
“The one you and Cooper are being sent on,” Sage told her. “Pack your suitcase again, sis. I need you and Cooper to fly to Posada, Texas tomorrow morning. You’ll be setting up security protocol to head off some vandals.”
“Texas? In summer? It’s like a furnace down there,” Fauna complained.
“You and Cooper can handle it, and I need to put him on a solo tech run. It’s a straight forward security job protecting the biology department of a small town college,” Dill explained.
“I love summer,” Cooper said. Even if added heat did have a tendency to overwhelm his libido circuits, he thought he was up for the challenge. He eyed the golden-girl. In fact, he thought he was up for a failed challenge, too. Either way, a couple of weeks in Fauna’s presence promised to be unforgettable.