Friday, August 7, 2015

'Dark Stranger The Dream (Children of the Gods)' by I.T. Lucas Just #99cents!


Smart, dark and steamy, Dark Stranger – the first book in The Children Of The Gods Series – is the kind of paranormal romance I would've loved to read, and in a way I wrote it for myself. I believe, though, that there are a lot of readers, who like me, crave a book that stimulates their minds and hearts as well as their imaginations.

To that effect, the plot, as well as the paranormal element, are believable. There are no shape-shifters or teleporting, and no creatures that prey on human blood and burst into flames when exposed to sunshine. The main conflict deals with real world issues of human rights, women's rights, democracy and the power of religion, while on a personal level, my protagonists – as well as antagonists – face real life problems, deal with grief, and try to find their place in the grand scheme of things same as the rest of us.

Geared toward adults 18+, (unlike, for example, the Twilight series which targets the young-adult niche) the erotic scenes in Dark Stranger are on par with other contemporary romance novels, and although there is an element of dominance/submission, it is very gentle and loving. (Nothing like Fifty Shades Of Grey that, frankly, made me cringe.)

Dark Stranger The Dream

Since the dawn of human civilization, two warring factions of near-immortals – the descendants of the gods of old – have been secretly shaping its destiny. Kian's small clan championing progress, freedom and peace; their powerful enemy propagating ignorance, hate and war.

Leading the clandestine battle from his luxurious L.A. high rise, Kian is surrounded by family, yet alone. Descending from a single goddess – the only one to survive the ancient cataclysm that wiped out the gods and most of their immortal offspring – clan members are forbidden to each other. And as the only other known immortals are their hated enemies, Kian and his kin have been long resigned to a lonely existence of fleeting trysts with human partners. Until Kian's sister Amanda – a researcher of paranormal abilities – makes a game changing discovery; a mortal seeress who she believes is a dormant carrier of their genes – Syssi.

Ever the realist, Kian is skeptical and refuses his sister's plea to attempt the Dormant's activation. But when his enemies learn of Syssi's existence and attempt to grab the highly coveted soothsayer, he rushes to whisk her to the safety of his keep. Inexorably drawn to the shy beauty, Kian is startled by feelings he had sworn off long ago. Tormented by past mistakes, he wrestles with his conscience as he is tempted by Syssi and her budding interest in the spicier passions he favors.

When Syssi's paranormal foresight lands her a research assistant position at Dr. Amanda Dokani's neuroscience lab, it fails to predict not only that her boss is an immortal who would drag her into a secret, millennia-old battle over humanity's future, but the professor's imposing brother who would alter her own.

Would kian, despite his better judgement, succumb to Syssi's irresistible pull? Would Syssi discover that the man igniting her startlingly dark desires is a nearly two-thousand-year-old immortal?

Read an excerpt:

The Children of The Gods
Book 1
Copyright © 2015 by I.T. Lucas


manda wasn't about to argue. The conversation she planned to have with her brother required privacy.
Agh, he is going to fume and rant, she cringed.
For a good guy, he sure had a very short fuse. But giving up was not an option.
The future of their clan depended on it.
"I'm so proud of you!" Kian got up and pulled her into a hug.
"It's about time someone was!" Lingering in the comfort of Kian's warm embrace, Amanda sniffled, blinking back the tears that were threatening to ruin her makeup; looking like a raccoon with runny mascara was so not happening. "The naughty party girl is finally making a contribution to society." She chuckled.
Nine years ago, Amanda decided to enroll in college, surprising everyone, most of all herself, with how brilliant she turned out to be. In just seven years, she earned a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Neuroscience. Hailed as a new and fresh thinker, a leader in her field, her papers were published in the most respected scientific journals.
"Oh, sweetheart. When you look ahead to a life span of thousands of years, two centuries of partying seem like nothing at all. And after the sorrow you had endured, you deserved all the joy you could find." Gathering her into a tighter embrace, Kian kissed her forehead.
With the old pain, she had buried deep down behind thick walls and a moat, surfacing and dragging its serrated edge through her insides, the tears began running freely down her cheeks. "You know I don't talk about it!" She pushed away from him, wiping the tears with her thumbs, careful not to smudge her mascara.
In the silence that followed, the sound of Gino's light footfalls, echoing from the stairwell, announced his arrival a moment before he rushed in with a loaded tray in one hand and a folded stand in the other. Setting it up by the table, he proceeded to pull out a chair for Amanda. "My lady?" He gestured for her to take a seat.
Donning her usual cheerful mask, Amanda wondered whether Gino insisted on always serving them himself because he coveted their generous tips, or more time to admire her. "Thank you, Gino." She sat down, sneaking another discreet swipe at her eyes before offering him a bright smile.
After fussing with the placement of the wine glasses, Gino removed the napkin covering the basket of freshly baked rolls to let the steam out, then made a big show of opening the bottle and pouring each of them Amanda's chosen wine.
Pulling out two menus from the pocket of his apron, he was about to hand them out, when Kian stopped him with a chuckle. "That will not be necessary. Unless you have added new items since the last time, I can recite your menu verbatim I'll have a Caesar salad and the vegetable lasagna, please."
"The garden delight fettuccine and your delicious house salad, perfavore." Amanda smiled at Gino and reached for one of the fragrant rolls.
"Very well!" His face brimming with satisfaction, Gino puffed out his chest and stuffed the menus back in his apron's pocket. "I'll be back with your salads momentarily."
Sipping her wine, Amanda stole a furtive glance at Kian to assess his mood as she thought of a way to broach the delicate subject she needed to discuss with him.
"You're plotting something" Kian narrowed his eyes. "I know that contemplating look, the one you have when you want to tell me something you know I'm not going to like. Let's hear it then and get it over with, so I can bite your head off and we can eat in peace."
Amanda pouted. "You could be nice and agreeable for a change.
"I want you to meet Syssi." She blurted in a hurry, cringing in preparation for his retort.
"Syssi?!" He arched a brow.
"Yes, Syssi; my research assistant. Remember? I mentioned her before." Amanda looked hopefully at Kian. He didn't seem angry. Yet Maybe this would go easier than she expected.
"Last I heard you mention that girl, you were blabbering about an architecture graduate who excelled at predicting coin tosses."
"I hired her," Amanda said, trying to look remorseful.
"And what credentials did she bring to the job? Arranging the Functional MRI machines in an esthetically pleasing manner? Painting the lab in designer colors? I understand you wanted to test her, but why hire the girl?"
Kian's level of aggravation was rising with each sentence. He had this tendency to fuel his own temper over minor issues. And yet, when things hit critical mass he somehow managed to be as cool as a cucumber.
"Syssi is an amazing person; smart, dedicated, and hard working. The internship she had lined up bummed. The poor shmuck died of a heart-attack on a fishing-trip of all places. I needed a research-assistant, and she was both available and the best test-subject I had to date. She is off-the-charts, Kian. And it's not only the coin tosses, which in itself is beyond impressive; she guesses with eighty-seven percent accuracy. The random-computer-selected-images test? You know which one I'm talking about?"
When he nodded she continued. "She was spot-on, or close to the correct image, in ninety-two out of a hundred pictures. She has the strongest precognition ability of any mortal I've ever tested. I'm telling you, Syssi is a Dormant, Kian. I just know it." Amanda could barely contain her excitement.
Kian ran both hands through his hair. "I can't do it again, Amanda. It's just wrong. I'm still cringing from the memory of having to seduce the last girl you were convinced was a Dormant. Pick another male. It doesn't have to be me."
"I don't know what your problem is, Kian. You bang random women you pick up at clubs and bars, and I know for a fact that you even paid for it on occasion. So why not Syssi? Why not someone who has the potential to change your life and give hope to the rest of us? We know there must be Dormants out there; carriers of our unrealized genes who can be turned into near-immortals like us. Potential mates we could bond with for life. And I think I finally found a way to identify them. You know why I started this research in the first place searching for anomalies, paranormal abilities once we realized DNA testing produced shit, instead of giving up, I took a different approach. Don't you want children, Kian? Immortal children? Don't you want a life-mate?" Amanda was exasperated. If it was up to her, she wouldn't even pause to think. But only males had the venom necessary to activate the dormant DNA.
It was a cruel twist of fate, or as Kian believed; the work of a crazy geneticist. Only the immortal females contributed the special genetic material to their offspring. And only males could activate it in a Dormant.
An immortal mother and a mortal father, produced mortal offspring that possessed the dormant immortal genes that could be activated by venom. If not activated, the dormant genetic material would still be passed from mother to daughter, and so on. But not the sons.
The line was matrilineal.
To facilitate the activation of a Dormant, an immortal male would have to inject the latent with his venom. When sexually aroused, the male's fangs descended and venom was produced in specialized glands; the need to bite and release it into the female's system congruent with the need to ejaculate.
Aggression toward other males triggered similar reaction, though the venom produced for the purpose of immobilizing or even killing an opponent was obviously more potent and carried a different mix of chemicals. A large amount of it, pumped into the victim's system, paralyzed the body and stopped the heart. Even in immortals.
Kian just stared at his sister, looking stunned by her audacity. But she did not back down. Holding his stare, she challenged him to pick up the gauntlet.
"You really want to know what the big deal is? I'll tell you. I hate it! I hate what I have to do. I feel like a drug addict; needing, craving the release sex provides and despising the need. I wish I could abstain, or at least have the luxury human males have of taking matters into their own hands, so to speak. But I can't bite myself, can I? I tried, and how pathetic is that? If I could put my hands on the sick fuck who designed us this way, I would kill the fucker slowly." Kian took a fortifying breath in an obvious attempt to calm down, then in a quieter voice, continued.
"I use these women. I don't remember their faces or their names. They are all interchangeable in my mind. Not to feel like a jerk, I try not to objectify them, giving them as much pleasure as I can, and when tempering with their brain, I leave the memory of pleasure intact, erasing only the biting part, and replacing my features with those of another. That's all I can do to ease my conscience. But there is nothing I can do for myself, for the way I feel As if I'm a goddamned animal with no control over my baser needs."
As she reached over and took Kian's hand, Amanda purposefully kept the pity she felt out of her expression. "I had no idea it got so bad for you."
She did not understand his misery. She loved sex. Loved the variety of partners. Perhaps it was different for the females of the clan because supposedly, there was a purpose to their sexual appetite. Conception was extremely rare for her people, and pregnancy was hailed a miracle. With the females of the clan holding the key to its continuity, as only their progeny could turn immortal, they were encouraged to seek a variety of human partners in the hopes of conceiving.
Their plight was not as bad as that of the males. The possibility of having a child to share their long life with, to bear witness to their journey, made the lack of a life-mate tolerable. But for the males there was no such solace. If their dalliance with a human resulted in a child, that child was mortal, with a mortal's short life span and vulnerability. But wasn't that exactly what she was trying to rectify? Find Dormants that were descendent from other matrilineal lines?
As all members of her clan were the progeny of one immortal female, they were forbidden to one another.
A big time taboo.
Kian took her hand. "You're still young, Amanda, so it's still fun for you. But I bet it will get old by the time you reach my age."
Amanda looked into his eyes and spoke softly. "Forgive me for pushing. But I still don't get what all of that has to do with you attempting Syssi. If she turns out to be a dud, all you did was have sex with another faceless, nameless female. But if she is the real deal, isn't it worth a try?"
As his handsome face hardened, Kian pulled his hand away, leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Here is the thing, sister of mine. She will not be another faceless nameless girl. We don't know how long it takes to turn an adult woman. We agreed to give it up, after how long with the last one? Three months? Those were the longest three months of my life. I didn't find her attractive or engaging. I felt like a man-whore." He uttered that last bit acidly, his expression turning to menacing.
"She wasn't completely hideous." Amanda attempted a sheepish apology.
"No, she wasn't hideous. She was an average, decent girl that did not deserve her brain being messed with. She probably still visits the shrink, trying to figure out what's wrong with her, and why she can't remember chunks of her life."
"She does. I'm paying for it." Amanda admitted, sinking low in her chair. "She had a decent telepathic ability, and I was hopeful. I'm sorry it was so hard for you." Then shaking off her despairing mood, Amanda straightened her back and leaned forward. "Syssi is beautiful, Kian, and smart. You're going to love her" She paused, realizing that the word love, really did her a disservice in the context of this conversation. "I mean, she is your type. She is blond, very pretty, with a deliciously curvy figure. I'm sure you'll find her attractive. And engaging. Did I mention already how smart she is? And nice?"
"I'll take your word for it, but I'll pass. Ask someone else. If she is so wonderful, I'm sure you'll have no shortage of volunteers." There was a finality to his tone that would have deterred a lesser opponent. But Amanda remained adamant.
"I'm not going to choose someone else." Amanda hissed, then hushed as she heard Gino climbing the stairs.
Sensing the heavy tension in the room, Gino's smile faded. "Here are your salads, and more rolls. Enjoy! He turned and beat-feet in a hasty retreat.
Amanda waited till Gino was out of earshot before resuming her offense. "You are my only brother, and what's more, you're our mother's only living son. You're the closest to pureblood male the clan has. Your venom's potency is Syssi's best chance of turning. And when she turns, she will have the potential to create a new matrilineal line. Don't you want to be the one who creates it with her? Who knows if I will ever find another one? Maybe she is the one lucky-shot? Are you willing to bet on it? To forfeit your one chance because of pride and arrogance?" Amanda was practically huffing with righteous indignation.
Kian regarded her coolly, still leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed over his chest. "Nice speech, Amanda. One problem. The when, is an if. If she turns. And if I was a betting man, I would've not put my money on this one. And the answer is still no."
Amanda set her elbows onto the table, dropping her forehead on her hands. "You are such a stu stubborn old goat. Just sleep on it. Don't decide anything yet. Maybe when you meet her, you'll change your mind."
"I don't think so, princess." Kian's tone got a shade warmer as he leaned in and patted her cheek as if she was a petulant child. "Look, you will have similar chances of success using another male. The only thing I'm spoiling for you are your romantic fantasies. It's not a big disaster. Put on your big-girl panties and deal!"
Amanda smiled at his feeble attempt at levity. Despite his stubbornness and gruffness and bad temper, she knew that he loved her. "If I was leaning that way, I would have snatched Syssi for myself in a heartbeat. I like her that much." She pouted.
Kian rolled his eyes and dug into his salad, letting her know that as far as he was concerned, this discussion was over.



hy Amanda thought I could do this is beyond me," Syssi muttered as she stared at yet another printout. With the computer spouting nonsensical results all morning, and no closer to finding her error than she was five hours ago, taking a hammer to the thing was looking more and more appealing
Heaving a sigh, she ran her fingers through her long, thick hair, again. Sticking out in all directions, it was tangled and knotted from the number of times she pushed her fingers through it.
I probably look like Einstein, unfortunately, not because of what's inside my head.
It was time for a break, the hollow feeling in her belly reminding her she didn't eat yet. Two espressos, one cappuccino, and eight cups of coffee all consumed before lunch wasn't food, and was excessive even for the caffeine addict she was. Syssi reached for coffee the way other people reached for alcohol. When agitated, or worried, or just in need of a break, the ritual of making it, pouring it, and stirring in the precise amount of sweetener relaxed her.
Drinking a truly good cup of coffee was her idea of bliss.
Pushing up from her chair, she stretched her back and turned toward the two postdocs. "I'm going to grab a sandwich. You guys want anything?"
Hanna shook her head, pointing to the empty protein-shake container on her desk. Her latest diet craze consisted of protein shakes, protein bars, and water. Nothing else.
David, the other postdoc, smiled his creepy smile and took a big bite off his salami sandwich.
Ugh, she must have been really engrossed in her work not to notice the nauseating stench.
"I can bring cookies ..."
Hanna made a sad face. "Rub it in, why don't you. Waving sweet, delicious carbs in front of the fat girl. Meanie!"
"Okay, no cookies."
"Hey, what about me? I want something sweet..." David leered.
"In solidarity with Hanna, no dessert." Syssi pretended not to get it her usual line of defense against unwanted advances.
David was a jerk. He didn't flirt or tell jokes, or any of the other things guys usually did to get Syssi's attention. He ogled, made inappropriate comments, and habitually invaded her personal space; believing for some inexplicable reason that he was god's gift to women everywhere. His delusional beliefs aside, his problem wasn't that he was ugly; just schlummpy and un-kept.
Though, more than his personal hygiene or taste in clothes, it was his personality that needed a major makeover.
In the lab's kitchenette, Syssi slapped together her favorite sandwich of goat-cheese, tomatoes and basil on whole wheat, then ate it leaning against the counter. Besides needing a break from sitting at her desk, she wasn't ready to go back yet and deal with David.
Now that he started with his idiotic comments, he'll be on a roll for the rest of the day.
Oh, the joy...
"Good afternoon, darlings!" Syssi heard Amanda make her grand entrance. "Missed me terribly I hope? And where is my girl Syssi?"
"Over here!" Syssi called over a mouthful.
Amanda poked her head into the kitchenette, then stepped in and leaned against the counter next to Syssi. "So, what's up, how are you doing?"
"I'm dying out there. I can't find what's wrong with my programming. The computer is spouting nonsense all morning, and I'm ready to go at the thing with a sledgehammer."
"Why didn't you ask David for help?" Amanda crossed her legs at her ankles and her arms over her chest.
Syssi cast her boss a sidelong glance. "Are you serious? He will never let me live it down, probably demand a hook-up as payment. The creep." Syssi snorted.
Amanda's expression turned serious. "I know you don't like David, heck, I don't like him either. But he is very good at what he does, and you need to use him. There will always be men like him trying to mess with you, but if you let them, you'll find it damn hard to accomplish anything. You need to be forceful and refuse to take shit from anyone. Sometimes a girl needs to be a bitch not to get pushed around. Be a bitch, Syssi! You might even enjoy it." Amanda winked, her gorgeous face returning to its usual brightness.
"Thank you for the advice, mommy."
Amanda was right, though. Syssi needed to deal with David, or working in the lab would become intolerable.
"What I don't understand though, is why did you hire him if you don't like him?" Syssi frowned.
"He was the best applicant for the job. And besides, I hired him because I don't like him."
"So am I to assume that you don't like me either? Since you hired me..." Syssi pretended offense.
"No, my dear, sweet Syssi. I adore you. You know that! Stop fishing for complements!" Amanda slapped her cheek playfully, then kissed it. "I hire females I like, and males I don't."
Searching her face, Syssi realized Amanda wasn't joking. Her boss seemed completely sincere. "I don't understand."
"Better shun the bait, then struggle in the snare." Amanda quoted, looking down at her stiletto clad feet.
"Oh, Amanda, you're not that bad. I don't buy the whole femme-fatale act."
"Who said it's an act? And I am bad... really bad... You have no idea how bad!" Amanda made a wicked face.
"You witch!" Syssi laughed, mock punching Amanda's shoulder.
Amanda shrugged, pushed away from the counter and headed for her desk with the sensual saunter of a seasoned temptress.
Syssi believed Amanda's sex-on-a-stick act was mostly the theatrics of a drama queen. Being so strikingly beautiful, she naturally expected to be the center of attention wherever she showed her face. Still, was it possible she really was as bad as she claimed to be? Maybe.
And why not? Amanda wasn't married, didn't even have a boyfriend, she could and did as she pleased. Good for her!
Reflecting on her own nonexistent love life, Syssi cringed. She hadn't been on a single date since things finally fell apart with Gregg. For two lonely years she mourned a relationship that was dying a slow death long before it ended. Though, in retrospect, she realized it was the sense of failure more than any lingering tender feelings that had her stuck on the sidelines, while everyone around her was having the time of their lives, or at least pretended to.
Syssi met Gregg her first week of college, and they stayed together till he graduated four years later. Being her first serious boyfriend, and her first and only lover, there was this expectation that their relationship would lead to marriage. Except, when he moved to Sacramento for a job, it was a relief for both of them.
So why was she still alone? Syssi had no good answer for that. Men found her attractive, and she didn't lack propositions. Except, there was no one she found even remotely enticing.
Her relationship with Gregg left her insecure in her sexuality and weary of men. In truth, he wasn't even aware that he was being a jerk; never actually saying or doing anything that was outright derogatory. He just always managed to twist things around and blame her for everything that wasn't working to his satisfaction. His grades falling short of spectacular was her fault because she was taking too much of his time. They didn't go out enough because she didn't schedule and plan it. They didn't have enough friends because she wasn't outgoing enough, and so it went.
But the worst blow to her self-esteem was the sex. There was no intensity to it, no excitement... it felt like a chore. Was it a wonder then, that she wasn't looking forward to it? And of-course, it was all her fault. She didn't initiate enough, she wasn't hot enough, she didn't excite him enough.
Blah, blah, blah...
Logically, she knew he was full of shit. Where was his contribution? Was he just a bystander in their life together? Waiting for her to do everything? But on the inside, in that irrational place where her fears and insecurities hid, she sometimes thought that maybe he was right. Maybe she really wasn't assertive enough, outgoing enough, sexy enough...
Lacking... She felt lacking.
Syssi shook herself. That's definitely enough self-pity for one day. And besides, not all of it was bad.
Gregg was loyal, stood by her side in her time of need, and was a pleasure to talk to... when he wasnt complaining. But when a relationship ends, there is a tendency to remember all the negatives while the good parts get marginalized, forgotten.
It was time to move on, though. Maybe go on some of the blind dates her friends were trying to set her up on. Or even look into those dating sites Hannah had suggested. But although Syssi promised herself she'll do it, she never took a step in that direction. Tomorrow, next week
"Yo! Syssi! Your cellphone is ringing!" Hanna called from the other room.
"Coming!" Syssi hurried to retrieve her phone from her purse. But by the time she fished it out, her brother's call had already gone to voice mail. And if that wasn't frustrating enough, David's salami breath assaulted her even before he bent over her shoulder to look at her screen, invading her personal space.
"Amanda said you needed my help," he breathed into her ear. "For a little smooch, I'm willing to do you a favor." He added with a smirk, amused by his own wit.
"Cut it out, David, and move your salami breath away from me before I puke." Syssi snapped.
David eyes widened. "That was such a bitchy retort, so unlike our polite, proper Syssi. It was hot!" he hissed. "Nothing turns me on like a bitchy woman. I'll scrub my mouth with thorny roses for a kiss from you, my precious." Riding on a wave of his fetid breath, David's whispered poetic attempt did nothing but trigger Syssi's gag reflex.
"You could wash your mouth with Lysol, and I still wouldn't want it anywhere near me!"
Syssi couldn't believe it. Instead of being discouraged, he seemed even more determined.
"Look David, I'm going to return this call, and you are going to find out what's wrong with my bloody program. Not as a favor, but because it's your job. Amanda hired you for your programing skills. It sure as hell wasn't for your charming personality!" Pushing up, she almost toppled her chair backwards, forcing David to back off.
"Oh, baby. You have no idea how hot you look when you're angry." David leered but took the seat she vacated. "You want me. I know you do. That's why you're so flustered. Don't worry, sweetheart. I'll take good care of you." He winked and started scrolling through the program.
"Ugh! I'm going to strangle him!" Syssi kicked the leg of the chair he was sitting in.
Snorting, Hanna shook her head.
"It's not funny!" Syssi barked, and taking her phone walked out of the lab.
She hated confrontations. Especially futile ones like this. But at least David was going to fix her programing. Except, what would it take to fix him? For some reason a vet with a scalpel came to mind.
Leaning against the wall, she banged her head. Today was such a shitty day, with her shortcomings and insecurities popping up like teenage zits. Just when she thought she was rid of them for good, they returned sprouting white heads. More than the confrontations themselves, she hated how ill equipped she was dealing with them. Why the hell was it so hard for her to assert herself or show her temper?
Even now, her hands were still shaking, and she had to take a long calming breath before returning her brother's call. If Andrew detected her agitation, he would start a full-blown interrogation. And she was so not in the mood for that.
He answered on the first ring. "Hi, Syssi. How's the new job?"
"It's okay. Though I really suck at programming. Other than that, Amanda is a great boss and the work is interesting." Syssi paused before plunging. "You really should come visit. The woman is a stunner, and I would pay good money to see your jaw drop when you see her. The great Andrew Spivak would be speechless!"
Syssi was joking. Nothing ever fazed Andrew. But he was single and so was Amanda. Who knew what might happen if the two got together...
"You piqued my curiosity, though I doubt she's all that. Anyway, I spoke with dad today."
"Yeah? How are they? What are they up to?"
Their parents were volunteering in Africa. Her mother, Dr. Anita Spivak, a retired sixty-six year old pediatrician, was working twelve-hour-shifts in the harsh conditions of the ravaged region, providing much needed medical care to its children. Her father, who spent his professional career as a pharmaceutical sales rep and later as an executive, was enjoying his retirement; photographing nature and wildlife while helping his wife.
They rarely called.
Syssi wished she could blame Africa for that, but it was nothing new. Her parents were always too busy with their careers, their social life... each other.
Andrew was the responsible adult in their household, practically raising Syssi and their younger brother, Jacob.
Their mother had Andrew at twenty-eight, then figured she could no longer conceive as the years passed and nothing happened. It wasn't a big heartbreak. Raising even one child was difficult with her workload. Lucky for Andrew, their grandparents stepped in and provided the care he needed. Syssi's arrival was a miracle, the pregnancy taking Anita by surprise at the age of forty-two. A year later, she was blessed again with another miracle. Jacob.
The two babies were welcomed and loved, but left mostly to the care of nannies. By the time they arrived, their parents were too established in their routines to make any changes for their sake.
"Dad sends their love. He says he has enough material to publish his first book, and promised to send us the files to look through and choose the pictures we like most."
"I wonder when that will happen. You know him; lots of promises and little delivery." Syssi could not help sounding bitter. Their dad was promising to drag their mother away from her work for a few days back home. Syssi was still waiting... two years later. She hoped they would at least show up for her graduation, wishing they'll surprise her at the last minute. How naive of her... They never did.
"How are you doing, Andrew? Still bored at your desk job?"
It has been a while since he was sent away on one of his assignments abroad, and being stuck in the office usually made him stir-crazy with restlessness.
Syssi often wondered, what it was that he did on his frequent trips. After retiring from a hash-hash special-ops unit, he joined "The Internal Anti-Terrorism Department" supposedly as an analyst. Why then, was he spending months at a time abroad? Doing what? Research?
"Actually, I'm swamped with work here, and truth be told, I'm tired of living out of a suitcase. I think you'll have to tolerate my annoying presence in your life for a little longer this time."
Andrew sounded happy to stay home... Intriguing... Was it possible he finally met someone?
"There must be a woman involved. I can think of no other reason for you to sound so cheerful about staying put. So tell me, who is she? Did you find someone special?" Syssi asked hopefully.
Andrew chuckled. "No, there is no one special. Who's crazy enough to stick around me?"
"You're a great guy, Andrew. Someday, you'll make some lucky girl very happy."
"I doubt it."
"You'll see. I have a feeling... Soon."
When Syssi had a feeling, those who knew her listened. Her premonitions had a freakish tendency to come to pass.
"I hope you're kidding because if you're not, you are scaring the shit out of me. You know I'm not built for anything serious!"
It was funny how scared he sounded. The brave warrior afraid of being snared by some mystery woman. "Nah, just messing with you." She lied.
"Wow! You had me there for a moment." Andrew took a deep breath and exhaled it forcefully, exaggerating his relief... Or maybe not.
"I have to let you go. I have to get back to work and deal with a pesky problem." Syssi sighed.
"Need me to come beat that problem up? I will, you know..."
"I just might take you up on that offer." Syssi answered, not sure she meant it as a joke. "Goodbye Andrew. I'll talk to you soon."

Andrew leaned back in his swivel chair and laced his fingers behind his head. He wondered what Syssi wasn't telling him. The pesky problem was probably a guy, he smiled knowingly.
Nothing new there. Syssi was so lovely, there would always be some poor schmuck making a pest of himself over her.
Maybe he should visit that lab after all, and not to admire the infamous Dr. Amanda Dokani.

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