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When Sparks Fly: Love and Rockets, page 1

 

When Sparks Fly: Love and Rockets
 


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When Sparks Fly: Love and Rockets


  LOVE AND ROCKETS

  An Ellora’s Cave Publication, February 2005

  Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

  1337 Commerce Drive, #13

  Stow, OH 44224

  ISBN MS Reader (LIT) ISBN # 1-4199-0163-X

  Other available formats (no ISBNs are assigned):

  Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), Mobipocket (PRC) & HTML

  LOVE AND ROCKETS Copyright © 2005 CHARLENE TEGLIA

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.

  Edited by Sue-Ellen Gower.

  Cover art by Syneca.

  Warning:

  The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers. Love and Rockets has been rated S-ensuous by a minimum of three independent reviewers.

  Ellora’s Cave Publishing offers three levels of Romantica™ reading entertainment: S (S-ensuous), E (E-rotic), and X (X-treme).

  S-ensuous love scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.

  E-rotic love scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. In addition, some E-rated titles might contain fantasy material that some readers find objectionable, such as bondage, submission, same sex encounters, forced seductions, and so forth. E-rated titles are the most graphic titles we carry; it is common, for instance, for an author to use words such as “fucking”, “cock”, “pussy”, and such within their work of literature.

  X-treme titles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storyline execution. Unlike E-rated titles, stories designated with the letter X tend to contain controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart.

  Love and Rockets

  Charlene Teglia

  Trademarks Acknowledgement

  The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:

  Bugs Bunny: Time Warner Entertainment Company

  Disney World: Walt Disney Productions

  Elmer Fudd: Time Warner Entertainment Company

  GQ: Advance Magazine Publishers Inc.

  James Bond: DANJAQ S.A.

  Kodak: Eastman Kodak Company

  L.L. Bean: L.L. Bean, Inc.

  MENSA: American MENSA Limited

  Miata: Mazda Motor Corporation

  Nikes: Nike, Inc

  Victoria’s Secret: V Secret Catalogue, Inc.

  Chapter One

  Anna Leslie was having a really bad day.

  In fact, she mused, she might be setting some kind of record.

  First of all, it was mud season. In other parts of the country, they had spring. In the extreme northeastern part of America, however, it just went from snow tire season to mud season. Right before black fly season. Which said it all.

  Anna wished with all her heart just then that she’d never left California, where the only problems were droughts and earthquakes. Earthquakes weren’t so bad. A little tremor now and then kept a person on their toes. And kept shelves from collecting too much clutter. True, there was the occasional difficulty on the LA freeway and the fruit police on the border who’d confiscate a wayfaring banana from the unwary traveler.

  But all in all, it didn’t seem bad in comparison to mud season.

  Gazing mournfully at the mud encasing her formerly white running shoes, she reflected that she should have seen it coming.

  It was Monday, after all.

  Not that she’d known it was Monday right away. She tended to forget to remove the previous day’s sheet from her daily calendar. Her lab assistant, Jane, usually did that. Anna let them pile up until Jane finally came and frenziedly tore sheet after sheet off until she found the actual, current date.

  Anna had tried to explain that she wasn’t terribly interested in time since it wasn’t her field. She left it to the theorists. But Jane just shook her head and told her boss that she had to get out more.

  Well, she’d gotten out today and the world was full of melting slush and mud. She really didn’t see much point in going back out there on purpose any time soon.

  Now it seemed she didn’t have a choice.

  Glumly, Anna looked again at the invitation that had been waiting for her when she arrived at work, evidently for the sole cosmic purpose of topping the traffic, the mud, her ruined Nikes and the bad karma of Mondays in general.

  It was pretty, she had to admit that. The midnight blue background showed off the neon streaks of color that depicted a fireworks display lighting up the night. Glittering gold cursive lettering read, “You’re Invited!”

  She flipped it open, already knowing what she’d find inside. She read it anyway with a growing sense of doom.

  “Frontier Fireworks celebrates its twentieth birthday.”

  She stopped and sighed. She really wasn’t up to this.

  “From seven to midnight, an open bar and buffet in the penthouse for all department heads and company officers is our way of saying Thank You for another successful year.”

  There was a note on the invitation indicating that she could bring a date.

  Maybe, Anna thought hopefully, she could just send a date.

  A handwritten note at the bottom demanded her continued attention. She read on, “Anna, don’t give me any excuses this year. I don’t care if you have a note from your doctor, you will be present for this company function or I’ll cut your funding. Go buy a new dress and save me a dance.”

  The lecturing note didn’t have a signature.

  It didn’t need one.

  It was from Lyle Grant, the scold-happy founder and president of Frontier Fireworks.

  Anna thought wistfully that making an appointment with her dentist wouldn’t work this year. If Lyle said he’d cut her funding, he meant it. He might be gruff and blustery, not to mention occasionally heavy-handed in his choice of words, but he didn’t make idle threats.

  He probably also knew it was the only way to get her out of her lab.

  Well, it was easy for him to order her to go shopping, buy a slinky evening gown and dance the night away. He didn’t know what it was like.

  Anna wished again that she hadn’t left California. She’d blended in there. It was the plastic surgery capital of the world.

  Here in Maine, a six-foot redhead with a body like Venus and a face that cried “cover girl” stuck out like an Amazon. In the world of business, it was even worse.

  She didn’t look like the scientist in charge of Research and Development at Frontier Fireworks.

  She looked like a high-priced call girl.

  Anna looked at the invitation again and wanted to cry.

  It wouldn’t be so bad if she could hide in one of her shapeless lab coats but it was strictly black tie and she had what she knew perfectly well was a direct order to attend in formal evening dress.

  She silently cursed Lyle and his whole company. She’d be tempted to let his threat backfire on him and leave but she was working on something really special. A longer-lasting, more vibrant blue as the final color in a combination red, white and blue rocket. She planned to call it the Freedom Finale.

  It was a real pyrotechnic challenge.

  Anna couldn’t walk away from a challenge.

  Her work was a dream come true. She created the colorful and noisy rockets used in big fireworks displays. The job combined chemistry, physics and thermodynamics and it was as much an art form as applied science. It was an ancient art that went back
as far as the Sung dynasty and Anna deeply, passionately and wholeheartedly loved her work.

  Lyle couldn’t have threatened her with anything worse and he knew it, the fiend.

  Jane reappeared with two cups of herbal tea, took one look at her long face and let out a whistle. “Hey, who died?”

  Anna wordlessly waved the invitation at Jane and took her cup of tea.

  “Oh, the annual bash! Great, you’ll have a ball. And look, you get to take the afternoon off to go shopping. Anna, that’s wonderful!” Jane enthused.

  “Wonderful. Just the word I was thinking of,” she grumbled in reply.

  Jane gave her an impatient look. “Come on, you live like a hermit and you practically have to be forced out of here at gunpoint. You work too hard. You should get out more, enjoy your success.”

  “Jane, it was awful that last time I went. That’s why I used the dentist excuse last year. The other VIPs are all men and they were either patting me on the head or pinching my rear.”

  “So take a big, strong date to protect you and defend your honor.”

  Maybe that wasn’t a bad idea. “Do you have anybody in mind?” Anna asked curiously.

  “You could take my twin,” Jane suggested.

  “Isn’t he dating somebody?”

  “John would break a date with Sandra Bullock for you. He likes you. He gets to be the protective big brother with you that he never got a chance to with me.” Jane leaned forward and stage-whispered, “I know you probably haven’t noticed but I’m kind of pushy and assertive and I always fought my own battles before he could.”

  That got a smile from Anna. Although she looked like an Amazon, in truth she wasn’t much on confrontation. She wished she was more like Jane. The plucky brunette would take whatever any man who tried to patronize her dished out and serve it right back in his face.

  Her vivacious assistant was everything she wasn’t. She was six inches shorter, to begin with. A cap of curly dark hair set off an oval face and sparkling blue eyes that could light with the fire of battle in an instant. Jane had the temperament of a little terrier that doesn’t know it can’t take on a Doberman.

  “What I need isn’t a date,” Anna mused. “I need a course in assertiveness training.”

  She was half-joking as she said it but it dawned on her that from the depths of her subconscious mind she’d spoken the truth.

  She was a big girl, in more ways than one. She should be fighting her own battles. Why should she let anyone intimidate her or talk down to her? Jane was right. She’d worked long and hard for her success and she deserved to enjoy it.

  What did those men have that she didn’t have, besides the obvious physical differences? None of them could replace her in a job that blended three scientific disciplines with the added element of artistic mastery.

  She was hardworking, productive, creative and brilliant.

  She was a valuable asset to the company.

  She was woman. Maybe it was time they heard her roar.

  Anna took another sip of her tea.

  “Jane,” she said, “I need the local directory and the phone. I’m taking the afternoon off. I’m going shopping.”

  “Fantastic!”

  “And I’m going to see a therapist.”

  Jane stopped dead in her tracks. “You’re kidding. This is a joke, right?”

  “No, it’s not a joke. I’m going to make an appointment and go see a therapist. Immediately. I’m a crisis case.”

  “Anna, you’re talking about seeing a shrink,” Jane pointed out, as if she might have missed that obvious detail.

  “Everybody does it in California,” Anna answered stubbornly. “Even busboys have therapists there.”

  “May I point out this is Maine? We do things a little different around heah.” Jane deliberately used the local pronunciation to emphasize her point.

  “Well, I’m not from around ‘heah’.” Anna stated the obvious with a determined air. “And I’m not afraid to admit it if I need help. I need help, Jane. This is ridiculous. I’m six-foot tall and twenty-eight years old. I’m an adult and I need to learn to stand up for myself.”

  In fact, now that she thought about it, it occurred to her that she needed all kinds of professional help.

  “Jane, what’s the name of that big beauty salon? I need a facial, a manicure, a makeover and I need to get my hair done.” Her waist-length flaming mane lay in a long, ropy braid at the moment. Practical for lab work, but hardly the thing for a party dress.

  She considered other possibilities. Maybe a pedicure, too. A loofah treatment. A massage.

  She was starting to warm to the idea of going all out and letting her hair down. Why not? She was entitled. In fact, she’d like to see anybody try to stop her. Determination took root and grew until it solidified in immovable decision.

  Once she made up her mind about something, she stuck to it. Her redheaded stubbornness, no doubt. The more Anna thought about it, the more ridiculous she felt for letting a handful of Neanderthal leftovers intimidate her. What was she, a woman or a mouse?

  Woman, Anna decided firmly.

  She would not hide in a shapeless lab coat for the rest of her days. She had a body to be proud of. So it wasn’t model skinny. It was better. Not even remotely straight-lined in quasi-masculine, androgynous style. It was boldly full-blown and shaped in dangerous curves that declared femininity in no uncertain terms.

  And what was wrong with that?

  Suddenly, the frustration of years of dissatisfaction and discomfort with her own body and her own sexuality boiled up and overflowed.

  She’d never been able to wear a suit and look masculine. So she’d be feminine to the hilt. She’d never been able to look most people in the eye without bending down. So she’d stand tall and even wear heels if she darn well felt like it. With her hair and her figure, not to mention her face, she’d never blend in with the background. The only solution was to make the most of it and learn to enjoy center stage.

  By God, she’d upstage Lyle tonight and love it.

  Jane returned with the phone and the directory. “You’re really going to do it? Go in for the full beauty treatment?”

  “I am. The works,” Anna announced. “And then I’m going to buy the reddest, slinkiest dress I can find and the highest, skinniest heels.”

  The ultimate in forbidden for the toweringly tall and the blindingly redheaded.

  Anna was on a roll now.

  “I’m going to dance and drink champagne. I’m going to go alone and stand on my own two feet. And I’m signing up for self-defense training, too, so any man who tries to pinch my behind had better move fast or lose a hand.”

  Jane whistled and clapped. “Go get ‘em! You’re my hero. But you need to sign these first.”

  Jane snagged a pile of papers from her “in” tray and slid them in front of Anna, separating them to the proper page for each signature. Anna dutifully signed them without looking, her mind focused on party strategy.

  It was too bad she hadn’t decided to get into the spirit of the party sooner, Anna reflected. She’d known it was coming up for weeks. She could have set up a dramatic entrance with a flash and a puff of colored smoke. Nothing too big or flammable. Just the kind of thing used in stage magic.

  Well, tonight she’d leave chemistry in her lab and go for a different kind of special effect.

  And Lyle Grant would rue the day he’d used an underhanded ultimatum on her.

  She’d dance his feet off.

  Then she’d leave a little smoking surprise in his office. Something with a self-consuming remote switch she could trigger from afar. Just as a little reminder about who he was messing with.

  With an evil chortle, the mad scientist sat down and started to make phone calls.

  So he wanted her to go to his party? She’d show these Yankees how to party. In California, it was an avocation. No, a profession. A calling.

  She didn’t really regret the fact that she’d made the move to the east
coast instead of doing Hollywood special effects or going to do pyrotechnics for NASA.

  Something about Maine deeply appealed to Anna, in spite of the snow and mud. It had a sense of history, of roots. Portland was a fairly typical city but in most places in Maine, a person who’d been there ten years was still a newcomer and could expect to be referred to as “the one who bought the old Johnson place”.

  Perversely, Anna liked that. And the state had a rugged beauty, from the mountains to the rocky Atlantic coast. It had drama and it bred hardiness.

  She sometimes felt as out of place as a hothouse flower dropped in the wilds but that was what her little rebellion was all about.

  She was different. She couldn’t change it but she could change how she felt about it. She’d be different all the way and like it. Celebrate her unique self.

  And she’d go see a therapist about assertiveness and confrontation if she felt like it.

  Right after she went to the salon for every service they offered.

  It took quite a while to get the full treatment. Anna had plenty of time to think while she was wrapped in a mudpack as a preliminary to being loofahed within an inch of her life.

  She felt like she’d shed old insecurities with every layer of skin.

  She got a massage with an oil that, according to the believers in aromatherapy, would relax and revitalize her.

  She had her long hair washed and styled in an intricate weave that made a net from the sides and ran down the center of her back.

  A professional makeup artist gave her an updated look, since Anna hadn’t bothered to change the colors or techniques she used since she started wearing makeup.

  And she got a manicure, including a cuticle massage.

  With every step, Anna felt transformed. She was being remade in a new image. An image of confidence. An image of being comfortably at home in her own skin.

  She was a hardworking professional woman who made very good money. She should pamper herself more. Besides, Anna decided, it was about time that she started dressing for success. At least, as far as she could. Lab work demanded rather casual dress. But that didn’t mean she had to let herself go completely.

 
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