A New Release coming your way from the always-clever Cecilia Dominic. Mark your calendars for August 25th!
Eros Element ~ If love is the ivy, secrets are the poison.
Aether Psychics, Book 1
After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.
Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his school’s faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they search for an element that will help harness the power of aether.
Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholar—and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal—while hiding the truth of her father’s whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin.
Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discovery—and break their hearts.
Warning: Allergen alert! This book was produced in a facility that handles copious amounts of wine, tea and baked goods. May contain one or more of the following: a spirited heroine, a quirky hero, clever banter, interesting facts both made-up and historical, and lots of secrets. It is, however, gluten free.
Here’s tidbits about the author: Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.
You can find her at:
Web page: www.ceciliadominic.com
Wine blog: www.randomoenophile.com
To buy her books, you can get them in trade paper and all ebook formats from Samhain Publishing: https://www.samhainpublishing.com/author/1740/cecilia-dominic
Cecilia’s books are also available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, and anywhere else books are sold.
Eros Element Buy links:
Samhain Publishing: https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5545/eros-element
Here’s a sneak-peek From Chapter 2:
When they arrived in the large rectangular room, Edward first checked the windows, where the week before ivy had covered the panes on the outside and provided a sense of coziness. Now the sun shone in and threw harsh yellow squares on the floor.
“The ivy! Someone’s cut the ivy.” He dashed to the window and ran a finger over the smooth, warm glass.
“Open the window, will you?” Johann asked. “It’s beastly hot in here.”
“That’s because they’ve cut the shade away.” Edward pressed his hands to the panes, which almost seared his palms. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. Nothing important to me does.”
“On the contrary, I believe you’ll be excited to hear my proposition for you, Professor Bailey.” A voice boomed through the room and bounced off the hard surfaces.
Edward tried not to flinch—Dean Hartford had once called him a “sissy boy” when he’d observed Edward’s typical reaction to his sudden, loud entrances—and turned from the window. It always shocked him how such a big voice could come from such a small person as his dean, who stood at one and a half meters, and Edward suspected a good bit of that height was due to the slight lift in the dean’s shoes.
“Good morning, Dean Hartford,” Johann said and shook the dean’s hand. He looked like a blond giant next to the shorter man.
“Ah, Mister Bledsoe, I’m happy you could join us. The rest of our guests will be here momentarily, as should Miss Ellis with some tea.”
“Did you have the ivy cut back?” Edward asked. “It’s made the room too warm not to have it.”
“I didn’t, but I suspect Harry did. It’s tearing down your building, Professor. We’re taking advantage of the good summer weather to do repairs.”
Edward couldn’t help but shudder at the name of his chairman, Professor Harold Kluge. The man delighted in torturing him, or so it felt. It didn’t surprise Edward that his chair had been the author of tearing the ivy away from the windows and exposing everything in the room to the harsh light. Indeed, he wished he had some of the tinted lenses the Americans liked to wear.
Harold himself came through the door and was followed by a man Edward had never seen. Miss Ellis brought up the rear with a laden tea tray.
“Would you believe she was delayed because she was splitting sugar cubes?” Chairman Kluge asked the assembled with a scoff that poked Edward in the solar plexus. “Have you heard anything more ridiculous? I have instructed her that her job is too vital to waste time on such unimportant tasks.”
“I don’t mind,” Miss Ellis murmured and put the tray on the table. She shot Edward a frightened look that caused him to feel sorry for getting her in trouble. But she should have known better—he’d had already had his morning allotment of tea. Why would she split more sugar cubes?
“I think it’s a wonderful idea to make the sugar cubes smaller,” the strange man who had come in with Harry said in flat American tones. “Those last few sips of tea end up being ghastly because the regular-sized lumps don’t dissolve in time to evenly disperse their sweetening properties to the entire cup.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Edward said with a told you so look at Harry, who shrugged with his usual good humor.
“Ah, and here’s a smart young man,” the American said. “You must be Professor Edward Bailey, renowned aetherist.”
He held out his hand for Edward to shake. Edward took it reluctantly and studied his unwitting ally. He’d encountered few Americans due to their finances being tight from the economic results of their ongoing “Civil” War, and thus their travel limited. He didn’t understand what was so civil about it—beastly business, really. The man looked like a normal gentleman aside from that horrid accent. His dark suit was free of dust, and his graying hair neatly combed and beard trimmed.
Instead of releasing Edward’s hand, the American clasped his other one around it. “I am relieved to see you, Professor. I was led to think you may not come.”
Edward took his hand back from the man’s unrelenting grasp. “I am fortunate to have friends who look out for my best interest.” He looked at Johann sideways. “I think.”
“You are indeed a fortunate man.”
“Professor Bailey, this is Mister Parnaby Cobb,” Dean Hartford said. “He has an interesting proposition for us as soon as our final guest arrives. Perhaps we should take our seats?”
Edward would have preferred to be where he could see the ivy, but since it wasn’t there anymore, none of the seats seemed right. Finally, he took one beside Johann because it was farthest away from Chairman Kluge, who seemed to bask in the sunshine.
There goes my theory of him being a vampire. Edward took his watch from his pocket and glanced at the time: five past ten. Five more minutes, and I’m declaring this a waste of my time and getting back to work. I need to set up the aether chamber and tweak the calibrations so the pressure is higher to begin the process of refining it to—
The sound of scraping chairs brought Edward to the present, and he got his feet under him in time to rise along with the others in response to the appearance of two women.
“And who have we here?” Dean Hartford asked. “We didn’t order any files or food.”
The young woman in front held out a folded piece of paper. “I am Iris McTavish, Dean Hartford, and this is my assistant Sophie Smythe. You summoned me?”
“I requested the presence of Professor Irvin McTavish,” the dean told her. “I’m sorry, Miss McTavish, but there must have been some mistake. We’re in need of an archaeologist, not a secretary.”
“Professor McTavish is indisposed currently, as you know,” Miss McTavish, whom Edward found to have a frightening degree of calmness and poise, said. “He trained me, and so I am here in his stead.”
Edward wondered how she managed to keep her composure under the irritable scrutiny of the men in the room. Well, not of Johann, who looked at her like she was a piece of candy, or of Edward, who truth be told, enjoyed the dean’s surprise and consternation. Edward’s sense of vindication evaporated when Johann pulled out the chair beside Edward and indicated Iris should sit there. Miss Smythe took a seat at the edge of the room and pulled a small pad of paper and pencil out of her reticule.
Iris sat and folded her hands in front of her on the table. Edward noticed the dust smudges at the tips of her gloves.
“I understand this is a matter of some urgency?” she asked.
“Well, young lady, I can’t say this has anything to do with you,” Parnaby Cobb said. “The journey we’re talking about is going to be too rough for a woman. That’s why we wanted your pa.”
“Journey!” Edward stood. “I’m not here to discuss a journey. I have work to do this summer.”
“Hold on,” Johann said and put a hand on Edward’s shoulder, drawing him back to his seat. “Let’s hear what this is all about, and Professor Bailey and Miss McTavish can make their own decisions about their participation.”
“And you are…?” Cobb asked.
“Johann Bledsoe, a talented musician and artist,” Harry told him. “He is to give this project’s cover story its air of legitimacy.”
“And the project is…?” Edward thrummed his fingers on the table. He knew it was rude to do so, but he couldn’t help it. Sitting beside Miss McTavish made him remember things he had tried hard to forget and would have been able to keep shelved in the back closet of his mind if not for her calm, cool presence. The effort to prevent the memories from spilling out made him feel as if each of his cells was made of aether and insisted on vibrating with the kind of energy he was trying to harness through his experiments.
“The northern American states are running out of resources with this war,” Cobb told them. “And frankly, gentlemen, and ladies, we’re getting desperate.”
“What kind of resources?” Miss McTavish asked.
“Power-generating ones. Coal is getting more and more expensive as manufacturing takes off here and at home. Professor Bailey, you know as well as I that in spite of the excitement around its discovery, aether has yet to prove, well, useful.”
“It has a lot of potential, and we’re getting closer every day,” Edward said. “And I would make more progress if I didn’t have to sit in meetings about projects I have no desire to participate in.”
“And what about your funding, Professor?” Chairman Kluge asked. “Do you think the money for your little experiments grows on trees? Or in that ivy you’re so fond of?”
“Little experiments?” The rest of Kluge’s sentence processed through his brain. “And the University funds my research.”
“Well, that’s the problem, Professor,” Dean Hartford said. “The University is growing impatient. The administration had hoped to see a return on its investment in aetheric research by now.”
“Science takes time.”
“And money,” the dean told him. “And if there isn’t a breakthrough by the end of the summer, the Department of Aetherics is in danger of being dissolved. We may be able to find a position for you in the general sciences, but it’s not a guarantee, and the sole area with openings is the new Department of Geology.”
“Geology?” Edward cataloged his experiments in his mind with some desperation. Although he felt close to a breakthrough, it would take him at least until the end of the year, and he doubted his colleagues were any closer.
“There’s a chance to expedite your research,” Cobb said. “Legend has it that there’s an element to be found somewhere around the Mediterranean that can serve as a catalyst to turn aether into heat energy in a safe manner, which is what we need.”
“What kind of legend?” Miss McTavish asked. “And what are your sources?”
She startled Edward every time she spoke. His mind tried to ignore her in spite of her sitting beside him, but he couldn’t help but appreciate her questions.
“Ancient scripts and tablets, of course,” Cobb told her. “A lot of them have been lost to time, but enough survive with tantalizing hints. There have also been rumors of this element referenced in classical works through the Renaissance. The question is how to get to those artifacts and works of art without tipping off my competitors to the project.”
“Hence where you two come in,” Chairman Kluge said to Edward and Johann. “It is a dying custom, but young men of means still take a Grand Tour through Europe, ending in Italy, Greece, or the Ottoman Empire.”
“You wanted us to pose as tourists?” Johann asked.
“Yes, your musical and artistic backgrounds will be invaluable in recognizing clues and in gaining entree to private collections.” The dean poured a second cup of tea for himself. “But the original idea was for Professor McTavish to accompany you under the guise of looking for artifacts to bring back to the University for our museum. I don’t know how we could include an unchaperoned female.”
“I’ll have Miss Smythe with me to serve as chaperone,” Iris said. “And women take the tour as well. I could accompany them and pretend they are family friends protecting me and my virtue.”
“I don’t like all this deception,” Edward said. “If you want an aetherist to play this game of ‘let’s pretend,’ you need to find someone else.”
“You are the one whose specialty is the closest to the purpose of this quest. Plus, there is no one whose research shows the brilliance yours does, and I would hate for us to have to shut it down over lack of funds,” the dean said. “Or are you so eager for that appointment to Geology?”
Edward sat back with a huff, although his ego did inflate at the compliment. “No.”
“Let the young lady go,” Cobb said. “What’s more innocent than a group of young people?” Something about the way the American looked at Iris disturbed Edward. There wasn’t anything lustful or inappropriate, but rather a sense of cold calculation. It reminded Edward of the expression he felt on his own face when he was in the midst of an experimental manipulation—let’s make this adjustment and see what happens.
But Miss McTavish isn’t aether or an experimental material. She’s a female. Granted, she’s a bit talky, and she needs clean gloves, but…
“So are we decided?” Chairman Kluge asked. “That Professor Bailey and Mister Bledsoe will pose as Grand Tourists and Miss McTavish and her assistant will pretend to be a young lady and her maid, also on the Tour?”
“That should be easy enough,” Miss McTavish said with a look at Miss Smythe, who bit her lip.
Ugh, females. Edward didn’t want that kind of complication, but he also desired to keep his job and his department.
“What say you, Professor Bailey?” the dean asked.
“Very well,” Edward told them, making sure to sound very unhappy about it.
“Excellent, gentlemen and ladies,” Cobb told them. “I’ll have my people make the travel arrangements so we can keep as much of this out of the university gossip circle as possible. You’ll be hearing from them soon. Be sure to pack and set your affairs in order. You’ll depart for Europe on Friday.”
Chairman Kluge looked at Edward with a huge smile. “I’ll have Miss Ellis circulate a note that you’re taking a research sabbatical on the continent for the summer.”
“And how much do you propose to compensate us for our time and trouble?” asked Johann.
“I trust you will find my terms to be most reasonable,” Cobb said.
Edward rose, trusting his friend to take care of the boring financial bits. He supposed he should go back to his office and pack a trunk of the journals and books he would need so he wouldn’t get too far behind while gallivanting about Europe.
“Oh, and Professor Bailey?” Kluge asked.
“Pack light. Once you leave the main Continent, your transportation will become quite limited with regard to luggage space.”
Edward didn’t miss the glee with which Kluge said the words. Is that true, or is he saying it to torture me?