Thursday, June 21, 2007
Today's the day and I'm so very excited!
My first Cerridwen Press book Dragon in the System was released today!
Computer science professor Eric Gordon has been asked to find the hacker responsible for a virus that is embezzling from University accounts. When his investigations indicate that some sort of large reptile may be living in the steam tunnels under campus, he turns to biology professor Lori Tremain for help. Lori’s life is crazy with her tenure review looming, but she’s too curious and attracted to turn down Eric’s request. Together, Lori and Eric start to uncover things that their scientific minds can barely imagine. Can they find the thief and still find time to fall in love? Is everything on, and under, campus what it appears? Or could there truly be a dragon in the system?
Lori was working late in her lab—again. So what if it was Friday night and everybody else on campus, whether student, faculty or staff, had a date? She had better things to do with her time, right? Right. Like getting this research paper finished and published before her tenure review next December.
She automatically brushed back the strand of hair that had escaped its barrette—again—and fallen into her eyes. As a result of not watching what she was doing, as usual, her elbow bumped hard into the wooden two-by-four forming the corner of a large wire cage. Lori swore out loud, jumping up and down until the irritating tingle receded from her funny bone. A hiss from inside the cage let her know that the occupant hadn’t appreciated the jolt either.
“Sorry, Q,” Lori told the iguana that served as her lab mascot and, too often lately, Friday night date. She bit a big chunk off a half-eaten apple, then slid it between the wires to the five-foot long, bright green lizard. Nodding as regally as a cat, the iguana accepted the peace offering, graciously allowing Lori to scratch the top of his head while he ate.
The loud knock echoed through the empty hallway, startling Lori, who narrowly missed whacking herself on the cage all over again. Oh, crap, she’d almost forgotten she had a visitor coming.
“Dr. Tremain?” called a hesitant male voice. It was a nice voice, though, deep and faintly husky. She spun around to face the open doorway.
“I’m Lori Tremain.” She smiled at the tall, slim man framed in the opening. “Hi. You must be Dr. Gordon.”
“Eric,” he offered, holding out his hand, which he’d apparently forgotten held a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. Lori grinned to herself. Shy and absentminded, in a cute sort of way. Yep, this was definitely the guy from the computer science department.
“Come on in,” she told him, ignoring the hand. He seemed to notice his glasses then, because he rubbed them off with the tail of his Hawaiian-print shirt, then stuck them back on his face. Somehow, instead of detracting from appearance, the spectacles made him seem even more attractive, calling attention to the friendliness and intelligence that gleamed in his green eyes.
Hmm, Lori thought appraisingly. Not so geeky after all. Maybe she needed to revise her stereotypes. She assessed his appearance again, this time with distinctly feminine approval. He was tall, well over six feet and slim, but his snow-dampened shirt clung to a form that was lean and muscular, not the scrawny body she’d expected from a computer geek. His straight hair was a light golden-brown, liberally streaked with blond and it was just beginning to recede a little from his forehead, adding a faintly cerebral quality. He’d probably forgotten to get a haircut recently, she figured, considering the damp strands that hung past the rims of his oval wire glasses, with the ends curling just slightly on his collar in back. His big, slightly lopsided grin was engaging and hopeful.
They stood awkwardly for a moment in the front section of Lori’s lab, which was divided from the rest by open metal shelving. This front portion served as her office, housing an ancient, cluttered desk, several metal file cabinets and a small round table of chipped wood-grain Formica surrounded by three mismatched vinyl chairs.
“Have a seat.” Lori pointed to the blue chair, it was the tallest and best suited to her guest’s lanky frame, then sat across from him in the chrome and orange one, which was patched here and there with silver duct tape. Dr. Gordon obediently folded himself into the seat she’d indicated. His hands were never quite still, she noticed. He tapped his fingers, adjusted his glasses and periodically slicked his hair away from his face. Lori couldn’t help but feel sorry for his obvious discomfort even while she wondered just what a computer science professor wanted from her on a Friday night.
“Want a soda?” she asked, trying to break the ice. Without waiting for a reply, she leaned over and retrieved two bottles from the small refrigerator next to her desk, which had been her birthday present to herself last month.
“Sure.” He accepted the Diet Dr. Pepper with a strong, lean hand that Lori couldn’t help noticing. Yum. What was it, she wondered briefly, about big masculine hands that always got her going?
He opened the screw-top lid of the soda and took a long pull, while Lori shuffled an overflowing stack of papers out from between them. When he rested the half-empty bottle on the table, she decided it was time to get down to business.
“So how can I help you, Dr. Gordon—Eric?”
He looked away, fixing those brilliant green eyes on Q. Their colors weren’t that far apart, Lori noted before she could stop herself. Her guest continued to avoid eye contact, but at least he finally spoke. “You’re a herpetologist, right? You study reptiles.”
“What kind of lizard is that?” he asked, pointing.
“That’s Q,” she answered, confused by his apparently idle question. “He’s a green, or common, iguana.”
“Q, as in Star Trek?” Eric asked, his eyes shifting back to Lori. She liked the way they crinkled at the corners. “Or the James Bond movies?”
She grinned back. Okay, so he definitely was a nerd, even if he was kind of cute. “Neither, although some of my friends like to argue the point.” For scientists, after all, science fiction was practically a part of the standard curriculum. “Actually, Q was a lab reject back when I was in grad school. He was too mean to handle, so they were going to euthanize him. I couldn’t stand the thought of them putting him down, so I asked if I could take him home and my boss agreed. At first, he used to bite me all the time, so I kept threatening to turn him into a barbecue. When we eventually made friends, the name got shortened to Q.”
“So you’re into lizards?” he asked, almost eagerly.
She nodded. “Lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs. They’re all part of herpetology, but most of my research focuses on lizards. My current study is on the use of chemoreception by leopard geckoes.” She waited for the glazed look as he asked her what the heck was chemoreception, but he seemed to ignore that part of her speech and his eyes actually brightened.
“More lizards?” he asked, looking around, probably for more large cages.
Lori nodded. “They’re little guys, not like Q.” She used her fingers to indicate a span of about six inches. “Want to see them?” She didn’t know why she offered, but hey, it was Friday night and she had a sort-of-cute guy in her office, who seemed marginally interested, in her work, at least, if not in herself.
She led him around Q to the main part of the lab. Several rows of small glass aquaria topped with heat lamps filled the rough wooden shelving lining one cinder-block wall. Each of the tanks held two or three brown-and-yellow spotted lizards.
“Cool,” Eric remarked absently, studying one of the tanks for a while. “But, if you don’t mind my asking, how much can you tell me about big lizards?”
“How big?” she asked. They moved around back to the table, where he downed another quarter of his soda.
“Really big.” He pointed to Q. “Say, five or six times as long as that guy.”
To read the rest, head over to www.cerridwenpress.com today!