Random.org chose infinitieh as the winner of yesterday’s book, so contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a mailing address and I’ll send your book right out. You have till the end of this week or Random.org must choose another!
And hey, I’m going to combine all the comments I’ve already gotten, starting with Friday’s excerpt, with new comments today and tomorrow and give away another book. I’ll choose the winner Tuesday, when OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS comes out.
Today’s excerpt brings us into Simon’s laboratory. This isn’t Ivy’s first time there, but it’s the first time she’ll have a chance to get her hands on Simon’s secret apparatus. She’s breathless with excitement - how many women are afforded such opportunities? And she’s burning with curiosity about Simon’s…um…equipment…
“I’ve a surprise for you today, Ned.”
She didn’t say that each day with him brought surprises, both joyful and disconcerting. Instead she watched him cross the room and shovel coal into the furnace, her ungovernable fascination drawn to the wide stance of his brawny legs, the knotting of the muscles in his forearms, the hard arc of a rear that made her wonder, scandalously, if it would be as hard to the touch as it appeared.
As she pondered this possibility, Lord Harrow abruptly turned and caught her staring. With a start she flicked her gaze upward to a more appropriate vicinity of his person, but too late. His pale eyes flashed with surprise and then darkened with acknowledgment, and all Ivy could do was look away while her cheeks burned and her vision swam in a haze of embarrassment.
Lord Harrow cleared his throat, and Ivy died a small death inside. Had she revealed the truth in that careless moment? Surely he would realize that only a woman, an inexperienced, spinsterish woman at that, would gaze upon him so brazenly and with such longing. Unless he thought her one of those young men with irregular predilections. Surely that would be worse. Surely Lord Harrow would never stand for such a thing.
After an interminable pause he said, “Well, Ned, aren’t you going to ask me?”
Ivy’s breath trembled. “Ask you what, sir?”
“About the surprise. Aren’t you burning to know?”
Oh, yes, burning…in his presence, she always felt flushed, inwardly ablaze. His smile grew when she didn’t answer. He raised the shovel, then half turned to bring the contraption behind him to her attention.
Her eyes gone wide, Ivy sprang forward. “The generator?”
“We’re going to turn it on. If you think you’re ready, that is.”
“I’m ready.” Her voice surged an octave. “I’m quite ready, sir.”
“Good. Bring me the lucifers from my desk. The long ones.”
Ivy brought the friction matches to him. Within a few minutes the coals glowed brightly inside the grate. “It’s going to take a little while for the water to heat. Damn, but I wish steam weren’t necessary. I’ve tried electromagnetic and electrochemical induction, but thus far they haven’t generated a strong enough charge to activate a motor of this scale. That is what I am hoping you and I together will devise.”
“You seem to have a classic paradox.” Ivy loved an intricate puzzle, and the challenge Lord Harrow described sent an electrical-like charge through her. “You’ve developed a device that can potentially replace non-electric sources of power, but which is nonetheless dependent on those sources. What you need is something entirely new, something as yet undiscovered.”
“Exactly, Ned.” His features took on an animation that matched her own excitement as he crossed the room to her. “That has been the focus of my experimentation.”
“It isn’t so much what you wish to power, as how.” Ivy’s pulse took off at a near canter. “That is why your challenge centered on the process of electrolysis. That’s the meaning of your question, the answer to your elusive why. You’ve been separating compounds in the hopes of discovering a powerful new element.”
Her gaze fused with his, and their combined zeal all but sent sparks shooting in the air between them. “You are hoping,” she whispered, “to recombine elements in a manner that improves upon nature. You are dabbling in a whole new kind of physics.”
“More than dabbling.” A slight tremor shook his voice. “And more often than not practically blowing myself up in the process.”
Her hand flew to her lips, but she quickly dropped it upon remembering that men don’t use such gestures. “Hence your caution in allowing me to operate the equipment.”
He drew closer, his next words a caress against her ear. “Can’t be blowing up my assistant along with me, now can I?”
He raised a hand, and for one exhilarating, startling moment, the warmth of his expression led her to believe he was going to reach for her, take her in his arms. How eagerly she would have gone, her passion for science and her growing passion for him impossibly entwined.
The moment throbbed with anticipation and uncertainty and nervous fear, and ended all too soon. Lord Harrow merely gripped her shoulder and gave her the shake that had become so familiar, so endearing, and so dreadfully insufficient. No man had ever tempted her like this before, because with every other man came the unhappy prospect of setting her interests and aspirations aside.
Ivy had never wished for a husband, but daily now she found herself wishing for Lord Harrow. Wishing for more than these affectionate gestures of his…wanting everything she could never have.
Across the room, the vat began to hiss. Lord Harrow grinned and his eyes lit up. “We’re ready to begin. Sir, let us start our engine.”
Tomorrow we’ll find out what happens next. Are you a science buff, or do all things techical send you running? Leave a quick comment to be entered in Tuesday’s drawing.