J.C. Conway is here with his new release Hearts in Ruin
Buy Link: Amazon
Andrea Hollister seeks a quiet career as a mainstream archaeologist—nothing more or less—and she’s one dig, and an ancient secret, away. So when Andrea must join super-hot maverick prodigy Daniel Fuchs on a New Mexico dig, her smartest move is to secretly undermine his unconventional theories, despite growing attraction and guilt. But what if Daniel is right? Two betrayals and a devastating court order later, Andrea and Daniel find their careers, and their shaky relationship, on the brink of ruins. To survive professionally and emotionally, Andrea must come clean and save Daniel’s dig. But can she do so in time, with bulldozers positioned to level the site?
Hearts in Ruin is a contemporary romance about two young archaeologists, Daniel and Andrea, struggling with each other’s conflicting goals and against sinister outside forces at a controversial New Mexico dig. In the following scene, they are attending a formal faculty dinner at Daniel’s former university–the school that founded the site and then shut it down. Tension between Daniel and Andrea has been high, despite (or maybe higher because of) a strong attraction both have been fighting to ignore.
Later in the evening, Daniel slipped out to the patio for a reprieve—just a few moments of peace. The wide balcony overlooked the east side of campus with the lights of town beyond, backed by the night shadows of the mesa. He inhaled. Even here, amid streets, buildings, miles of surrounding commercial and residential neighborhoods, the scent of the uncivilized desert predominated. Its stillness soothed him.
“So there you are.”
He turned, startled. Andrea stepped into view, stunning in Pamela’s dress. He’d seen her in it all evening, but not in the moonlight like this.
He struggled for composure. He hadn’t expected anyone to join him here, especially Andrea. She was a hit at the dinner, a fresh young woman, as smart as the stuffy regulars, but piercingly direct and good humored.
“Is everything all right?” he asked.
“Sure.” She stepped toward him. “Except my date ditched me.”
“I didn’t think you needed me in there.”
Her eyes glinted. “So, you tired of the crowd?”
He laughed. She could not have nailed it much better. “Let’s just say I’ve already been to enough meetings, dinners, and functions of all kinds with this group to fill a lifetime.”
She stood next to him now at the railing and stared across the campus. “It’s a pretty school.”
He shrugged. “It has its charms.”
A subtle hint of perfume mingled seamlessly with the desert breeze. Amazing. Most of the women inside seemed anxious to disguise or completely cover up the smell and feel of the dry desert environment. But Andrea, who had never lived in the climate or even visited the desert before, chose a fragrance that accepted it and even complimented its arid beauty.
“Not all fake Ivy-League like the U,” she explained.
He smiled. “No. And if you have a thing for adobe and stucco then you can really learn to love it.”
She turned, leaning back against the railing. “The people seem nice,” she ventured. “I don’t really know why you left. Just because they didn’t support the dig? It seems you could’ve worked it out with these folks.”
Daniel could not tear his gaze from her profile and the bare shoulders just touched by soft and inviting golden-brown hair. But he was held by more than that. All of her qualities were admirable. Not only was she fascinatingly attractive, and perhaps even in spite of it, she was brilliant and clear minded, and she loved her work.
“They um…” Daniel’s throat thickened, as if he were trying to talk underwater. There was something about her—something between them that transcended this project, he knew. He’d been avoiding it. He wanted no complications during the dig. But that was only part of the problem. The fact was, he didn’t want to draw her too far into his private quest. He couldn’t do that to her. Not now, not at this critical juncture with her career poised to launch. It was bad enough that she was the project leader, and he hoped she didn’t have to explain that away the rest of her life after he finally published his findings. But why then, if he felt that way, did he recruit her? She was clearly in the running for a post at a good school. This project, once the controversy surfaced, was not a good stepping stone on that path. Did he really think if he kept her role limited that it could minimize the fallout to her career?
It had been different for him. He didn’t work so hard for his opportunities. He had been young when he reached that point. Just eighteen, still a kid. He met Madeline and willingly abandoned most of the career courses Andrea should follow. He was committed to his project. He never saw it as a choice. But how could he lead Andrea down the same path—especially after she worked so hard for so many years to gain a solid foothold in academia?
Andrea’s brow furrowed with contemplation and she turned to him. “I think you should have just stuck to your guns here. They like you more than you know.”
He drew a breath. “Not all of them.”
She lowered her chin. “You’re about as likeable as they get.”
He smiled, and without thinking, touched her hand. She didn’t retreat. The air warmed with electricity. A remnant of his rational mind searched for a response to her statement—a quip, a compliment, a rebuttal…anything. But the futile effort was overshadowed by the sharpening of his senses, an awakening triggered by her presence and warm touch.
She turned to face him squarely. He touched her arm, feeling the impossible softness of her skin. Her hand touched his stomach and slide to his waist. Her expression shifted. Her eyes surveyed his face. Was she searching for resistance or its opposite? He didn’t know. He wasn’t sure he cared. But he could tell that this closeness was something they’d both thought about before.
The moment grew, nearly eclipsing all else. He knew in his mind and heart that if he didn’t embrace her now, the moment could vanish forever. His heart pounded. He did not weigh options. This was not a matter of choice. It was roaring compulsion. He leaned close. He felt the heat of Andrea’s cheek, her warm breath. Their lips brushed across each other. Daniel savored the soft pass once, twice, then opening slightly more and connecting, pressing, tasting and melding. His chest filled with fire. The world fell away. He reached around her, pulling her close. She nestled in, leaving no gap.
He felt no barrier between them. His lips touched her nose, her cheek, the crook of her neck. He returned to her lips and they tasted each other again. Andrea mewed. It felt right to be lost in her touch and her breath. Their chests heaved together. Their embrace softened. Daniel roamed the curve of her spine. She responded with equal, soft passion. He felt the release of a long, satisfied sigh.
They touched foreheads.
He smiled. She giggled lightly.
A rough, “Ahem,” broke the moment like shattered crystal. They weren’t alone.
Eyes widened, they released their holds and turned.
“I don’t mean to disturb you.”
Daniel regained his bearing. William Lassiter and Morgan Hamilton stood near the patio door holding cocktail tumblers.
Copyright (c) 2014, J. C. Conway
I write science-fiction, romance and fantasy stories for adults, young adults and middle-grade readers. I’m a a fan of great fiction that stretches the imagination, probes the depths of the human condition, or otherwise illuminates the unknown or the misunderstood. Aside from my devotion, as a reader and writer, to the truth and breadth of fiction, I’m also a complex-litigation attorney, a former high-school math and computer-science teacher, Vice President of the local NAMI affiliate (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a husband, father, grandfather and a child of this wonderful universe that is both crushingly clear and maddeningly mystifying.
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