Whew! After delays and set-backs due to everything from illness to just plain bad luck, Chaos Theory, Book 2 in the Nerds of Paradise series, is finally here! And it’s just 99 cents, for this weekend only! Bright and early on Monday, it’ll be back to its regular price of $3.99, so scoop it up now! And to put you in the mood, here’s the beginning of Chapter One…
Will Darling was running late. Which meant he was only five minutes ahead of schedule. Late or early, it didn’t matter. If he wasn’t exactly where his daily schedule told him he was supposed to be, a deep-seated feeling of dread filled him. That’s what came from being raised in a military family.
He closed the spreadsheet he’d taken home from work, and pushed back from his desk. The clock on the wall above his workstation said 11:35. He checked his watch. 11:35. Yep, five minutes early. That gave him time to pop into the bathroom of his swanky, Paradise Space Flight-issued apartment to switch out his glasses for contacts. In theory, he could go around with his glasses and no one would think anything of it. It wasn’t like his father would find out. But he’d rather not risk it.
As soon as his eyeballs were taken care of, he headed across the apartment to the door, picking up his phone from where it was charging on an end table by the sofa and his wallet beside it. He tucked the wallet in his back pocket, and checked the phone. 11:37. He checked his watch to be sure everything was coordinated. Good. Perfect. Let others laugh at him, but there was something about keeping to a schedule, staying on course, that filled Will with contentment. It was why he had chosen to work for Paradise Space Flight in the first place. The company was new, innovative, and miles away from the distracting chaos of big cities and government bureaucracy. NASA might have been more prestigious, as his dad was constantly, constantly reminding him, but PSF was focused. It was comfortable.
So was his apartment. Another awesome perk of working for Howie Haskell. Like most of the rest of the young, single engineers and scientists who had come to Wyoming to build the space flight company from the ground up, Will had taken advantage of the special employee housing. His apartment stood in the center of town, on the third floor above a clothing boutique. It was newly renovated and ran on renewable energy sources. But what Will loved most about it was the clean, streamlined design. He headed out the door, locking it with the fancy, high-security, electronic key all of the apartments had, and made his way down the airy, white-painted stairway to the ground floor and the front door. Even though the building had been constructed in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t frilly and crowded. It got the job done, and that’s all he had ever asked of anything.
Will glanced up as he stepped out into the balmy, spring air and found his team member, Laura Kincade, waving to him from across the street.
“Laura.” He waved back with a nod, lips twitching to what, for him, counted as a smile.
“Are you heading over to PSF for the big luncheon?”
“In a minute,” he called back to her, then nodded to the General Store one building over from his. “I need to pick up a few things first.” He didn’t really want to have a shouted conversation across a street packed with pedestrians, but it was Laura, so he’d make an exception. Besides, everyone looked as though they were heading up the street toward the PSF building instead of browsing through the shops anyhow.
“Okay,” Laura called back with another wave. “I’ll save you a seat.”
“Thanks.” He raised his hand in goodbye, then strode a few yards down to the General Store’s entrance. The advantage of being slightly ahead of schedule, he guessed, was that he could take time to interact with his friends without tensing up. Although, if he was keeping track, he’d been much less tense since moving to Haskell than he’d been for most of his life.
The General Store was another part of the reason he loved his new hometown. It was the perfect size for dropping in to pick up a few essentials in a hurry. On top of that, whoever had built it had a keen eye for ergonomics. He could make one efficient pass from the toiletries section where he picked up shaving gel—which he would need in exactly two days—to the stationary section for pens—because he was not one of those people who took pens from the office to use at home like they were perks of the job—to the snack food section for a large bag of unsalted nuts—because you had to live a little sometimes.
Yep. Everything was just where it needed to be. Everything was in precise order. Everything was—
He rounded the corner and nearly crashed right into a splash of color and brightness and wild blond curls. His heart thumped against his ribs, like someone was punching him from the inside, and his groin tightened.
“Sorry.” Melody Clutterbuck laughed as she made her apology. Her blue eyes sparkled with happiness and light. She wore a long wrap-around skirt printed with an Indian pattern and a white peasant blouse decorated with embroidery that matched the colors in her skirt. Her arms were filled with items from around the store, otherwise Will would have had a big glimpse of the creamy skin of her shoulders and chest.
It took his brain far too long to catch up enough to say, “No, I’m sorry. I should have looked where I was going.”
“You always look where you’re going.” She continued to smile as they headed to the counter at the front of the store. “I’m the one who was floating around like a leaf on the wind.”
Prickles of pleasure filled Will at the image. Melody was a leaf on the wind. He’d seen that the first time he met her, at the winter mixer Howie had held for his employees and the citizens of Haskell after Christmas. She’d been there with a group of her friends, looking just as amazing as she did now. His friends talked about that event as the day his supervisor, Scott Martin, had met the girl he was now engaged to, Casey Flint, but secretly, Will marked it as the night Melody had blown into his world.
He blinked himself out of thoughts that were, frankly, disturbing. He had a schedule to stick to, a routine. “Why don’t you have a basket?” He lifted his own blue plastic shopping basket.
Melody giggled, her face going pink. “I didn’t realize I was going to need one.”
They reached the register, and she spilled her purchases across the counter. Will did a double-take, brow sinking into a frown of confusion. Baby oil, sandpaper, latex gloves, and an enema.
“Hey Bernie,” Melody greeted the cashier, an white-haired guy who Will figured had been working there forever.
“Hey, Melody,” Bernie answered. “This everything?”
“Oh! I’ll take one of these too,” Melody added, face growing even pinker and her giggle more pronounced as she plucked a small jar of cherry lip balm from a display and popped it on the counter.
Will’s blood rushed to all the wrong places. Cherry lip balm? Baby oil? An enema? Why, why, why did that selection of items turn him on? And sandpaper? He swallowed hard, trying to rein in his imagination, and ran a hand over the bottom half of his face.