One of the plot elements in Dark Chemistry is that a brilliant but odd research chemist has learned how to create powerful, synthetic pheromones—odorless, undetectable chemicals that can exert strong subjective effects on people exposed to them. These chemicals can influence peoples’ moods, for example, or cause them to feel aroused.
The two characters we visit in this scene are Donavon Todde, the man who will soon fall in love with the protagonist. He’s known the other character in the scene, Jessica Thomas, since they were kids. Here, they learn that Gerad seduced an RMB intern. What they don’t know—yet—is that he used synthetic phermones to do it. Hopefully they’ll figure it out in time!
As soon as they were wheels down, he turned his phone back on.
It began to vibrate almost immediately: three texts, all from Jessica, all time-stamped from about an hour ago.
Donnyboy, you back in town?
Oh, boy. Donavon considered whether or not to text back. He liked Jessica okay—he’d known her for years, first as the older sister of one of his high school buddies, now because they worked for the same company—but ugh. The way women can turn the most inane crap into giant freaking soap operas ... And this Ellyn. Some intern working in R&D. Cute, but she’d turned out to be a bit of a flake. Crying jags at work—that sort of thing. Trouble at home or something, must be.
And of course, Jess had adopted her.
He peered out of his window. They were nearly at the gate. And all his stuff was in his carry-on, so once he deplaned he just needed to get his car. It wouldn’t take long. He’d be home in an hour ...
His phone buzzed again.
she screwed Gerad!!!!!!! dying here
He tapped a message back: just landed. what happened?
The airplane turned, slowed, eased into position near the jetway.
meet me at screechers. hour?
Eh, fine. Another beer or two wouldn’t hurt. And it beat going home and ... thinking too much.
k. cu there
The passengers in the row ahead of Donavon stood up, and he did too—rather, he stood partway, his head bent at an angle to avoid the low ceiling over his seat.
An older guy with a paunch wrested his bag from the overhead bin.
Finally there was room in the aisle for Donavon to step out and reach his duffel, and a few minutes later he was striding through the near-empty airport terminal.
He remembered the blond, then, but he gave an inner shrug. SU student, most likely. Just like a million others.
He’d never see her again.
Screechers looked its age. Built originally as an Inn, it had never been anything fancy: a big, no-nonsense block of a structure set perpendicular to the road. A hundred-plus years of wear and tear had left the building shabby and humbled, and the quarter acre or so of land around it—long since paved over—was broken only by an enormous sign in the front of the building, mounted on two 4x4s of unpainted, treated lumber that were set in a crumbling concrete footer.
“Screechers,” the sign read in fading paint, and then below that, in smaller lettering: “Lunch Served Daily.”
No outsider would be tempted to stop.
But to the locals from Amesbury, New York, Screechers was as good a gathering spot as any.
Donavon left his car next to Jessica’s—he didn’t bother locking it—and climbed the steps to Screechers’ main entrance, which faced the parking lot and was framed by a wide porch.
A couple pairs of splintery Adirondack chairs served as an outdoor smoking section in the winter, and an outdoor smoking and drinking section in the summer. They were empty, tonight.
He pushed the old wooden door open and stepped into the bar, a big, dingy room that smelled of pine-scented cleaner and rancid fryer grease and stale beer.
He spotted Jessica, sitting alone, still dressed in her work duds: blue jean coveralls and wool knit cap.
She didn’t speak when he walked up to her. But her face told him everything he needed to know: that she was mightily indignant.
“Table?” he said as he paid Thomas, the bartender, for his beer, and she nodded.
They sat down at one of the cheap Formica-topped tables along the wall of the main barroom.
Donavon took a sip of beer. “Okay. What happened?”
“I shoulda let you have at her,” said Jessica. She looked at him glumly.
“Hah,” said Donavon. “I told you. So she really screwed the guy?”
“Yup.” The expression of Jessica’s face morphed from gloom to disgust. “An’ now she’s quit, I guess. She came in this morning, went straight to HR, and gave her notice.” Jessica was drinking a Bud from the bottle. She set it down now and shrugged out of her jacket. “Damnit, Don, what was she thinking?”
“You’re asking me?” Donavon’s smile was bitter. “I’m a guy, remember? You can’t expect me to understand what the fuck you women are thinking.” He took another drink. “So what happened, exactly?”
Jessica sighed. “Well, you know I kinda took her under my wing—”
“Yeah, I know.” Although the metaphor Donavon would have chosen was more along the lines of Jessica-as-mama-bear. Right after Ellyn was hired, he’d mounted a charm offensive—and could you blame him? She had quite the body and he was a single man. But Jessica was having none of it. She jumped all over him. Told him to back off. Ellyn was fragile, is how she’d put it. Leave her alone.
Jessica guessed what he was thinking. “Hey, you can’t blame me.” She gestured at him, palms up in a show of innocence. “She was an intern. And she was fragile. And you weren’t into her for the right reasons.”
“There’s nothing wrong with having a good time.” He smiled, teasing her.
Jessica’s eyes narrowed in an expression of pretend accusation. “Don’t give me shit, Donnyboy.”
“Hey,” Donavon said. “There’s not a lot else to do in Amesbury.”
“Right. Anyway, we were out last night after work—me, an’ Kim, an’ Ellyn—and Ellyn’s been acting really weird lately, so we were asking her what’s the matter—and then she finally came out with it, man—”
“That she’d screwed Gerad?”
Jessica nodded. “I lost it,” she said. “I totally lost my shit, Donnyboy.”
“Well, I can see why,” said Donavon, although he wasn’t being entirely truthful.
“I mean, of all people—shit. Anybody else but Ger-fucking-AD.”
“Maybe she’s a gold-digger.”
Jessica checked his face quickly to see if he was joking. “Nah,” she said. “Seriously. I can’t figure it out. I mean—Donny. The guy’s gross. Gross.”
Donavon considered her words a moment, trying to figure out how women might filter Gerad Picket. As the CEO of RMB—at least temporarily, since Richard Molnare had ejected from the earthly coil—Gerad was more or less king of Amesbury. Top dog of the county’s biggest employer, the biggest suit in a pond too small to hold more than a handful of suits. And gals like that kind of thing, right? Power’s the big aphrodisiac ... plus his salary was probably three times the county average. So what if he was a bit ... dumpy-looking. And that strip of a moustache over his upper lip, didn’t that look go out of style with Clark Gable?
And yet, apparently, gals don’t mind that kind of stuff. Donavon had seen enough to know.
“Well,” he said. “Maybe the guy’s got a way with the ladies.”
Jessica scrunched her nose and shook her head in violent disgust. “No,” she said. “Trust me on this, Donny. The man is gross. And he’s a sucky boss.” She looked at Donavon again. “She might have been just an intern, but she knew he was a sucky boss. She knew. I think that’s one reason it pissed me off so much. She let me down. She let us all down.”
The bar door banged and they looked over and nodded in unison at the newcomer—Wayne Peters, a local who ran a little auto repair shop out of his house. A bit of a drunk.
They sat in silence another moment while Wayne took a seat at the bar, and Tom emerged from the kitchen, and Wayne ordered a draft Miller Lite.
“Anyway,” Jessica said, and sighed, and seemed to lose herself in her thoughts again.
Donavon sipped his beer.
The lights flickered. The wiring at Screechers acted a bit funky at times. But neither Donavon nor Jessica really noticed, they were used to it. All of the regulars were, except once in a while someone would joke that the place was a firetrap.
“Donny, I lost my shit,” Jessica started talking again. “I told her it was a violation of RMB policy for managers to have sex with employees and we’d get his ass fired, and she—my God, Donny. She was like crying and all ‘no, no, no, you promised you wouldn’t tell anybody.’ Goddamnit, I just lost my shit. I told her she was a fucking dumbass and would probably get herpes or something from that creep. An’ I left.”
“Harsh,” said Donavon.
Jessica nodded. “You know me. I was kind of looking after her, Donny! She’s so... ... young.”
Yeah. Young. And pretty too—at least a 7. Dark, with a pointed chin and small high breasts. Yeah. He’d checked her out. Not every day they hired someone that cute at RMB. But Jessica had told him “no” and he’d held off ... hah. So old Gerad had—
He realized that Jessica was watching his face. “Hey,” he said. “She’s cute.”
She sighed again, heavily this time. “I should call her up, apologize for yelling at her. But every time I think about it, I get pissed off again. An’ you know me.”
He did. Jessica was not the sort of gal who could be coaxed, easily, out of a temper.
“So what’s next?”
“I dunno.” Jessica shook her head. “Do you think I should report it?”
“Hmmmm.” Donavon looked at his beer. On the one hand, he was no big fan of Gerad. The guy was a douche—the sort of executive who thinks that if he exhorts staff with half-assed platitudes he’s being a visionary leader. On the other hand, he was a man, and he’d bedded a cute girl. Donavon couldn’t quite help feeling a bit of solidarity with him on that. Like he should be on Gerad’s side, kinda.
Fortunately, Jessica didn’t really seem interested in Donavon’s opinion. “Maybe I’ll just go to Ellyn’s and apologize in person for losing my shit like that. I mean, she says she’s into him—and once you got that situation, there’s not much anybody can do.”
“His days at RMB might be numbered anyways,” said Donavon. “Depending on what happens with Richard’s daughter.”
“Yeah. She’s supposed to be at the plant tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? I thought it was next week sometime.”
“You think she might fire him?” Jessica finished the last of her beer and began picking at the label on the bottle.
“Depends. If she has more sense than her father, she will.”
“I never understood why he hired Gerad. Richard was a good guy.”
“Who knows? Gerad was supposed to be this hotshot business transformation guru. Maybe Richard thought he needed to burnish RMB’s management team a bit. Maybe he was planning to take us public or sell us or something.”
“Shame he passed like he did.”
Donavon didn’t answer. Richard Molnare’s death had been sudden, and RMB was a small company. They’d all felt the shock.
“Well.” Jessica stood up, pulling her jacket from the back of her seat. “Guess I’ll go see if Ellyn’s home.”
Donavon couldn’t resist. “If she’s not,” he said, “check Gerad’s.” He grinned and sure enough, he was rewarded for his teasing. Jessica’s mouth and nose crinkled immediately in horror.
“Oh GAWD,” she said. “Seriously. Gerad? GERad? Of all the people in this town ... I wouldn’t fuck that disgusting slug of a piece of human crap if he was the last hard dick on Earth.”
A woman's worst nightmare
Drugged by something...that makes her think she's fallen in love.All Haley Dubose has ever known is beaches and malls, clubs and cocktail dresses.
But now her father is dead.
And if she wants to inherit her father's fortune, she has to leave sunny Southern California
for a backwater little town near Syracuse, New York. She has to run RMB, the multimillion dollar
chemical company her father founded. And she has to run it well.
Keep RMB on track, and she'll be rich. Grow it, and she'll be even richer. But mess it up, and her inheritance will shrink away before she gets a chance to spend a dime.
Donavon Todde is her true love. But is it too late?He's RMB's head of sales – and the more Donavon sees of Haley, the more he's smitten.
Sure, she comes across at first as naïve and superficial. But Donavon knew Haley's father. He can see the man's better qualities stirring to life in her eyes. And Donavon senses something else: Haley's father left her a legacy more important than money. He left her the chance to discover her true self.
Donavon has demons of his own.
He's reeling from a heartbreak that's taking far too long to heal. But he's captivated by this blond Californian, and not only because of her beauty. It's chemistry. They're right for each other. But has Donavon waited too long to woo this woman of his dreams? Because to his horror, his beautiful Haley falls under another spell. Gerad's spell.
A web of evil.Gerad Picket was second-in-command at RMB when Haley's father was alive. And with Haley on the scene, he's in charge of her training. But there are things about RMB that Gerad doesn't want Haley to know.
And he must control her. Any way he can.
Romantic suspense for your KindleWill Haley realize that her feelings are not her TRUE feelings?
Does Donavon have the strength left to fight for the woman he loves?
Will the two of them uncover Gerad's plot to use RMB pheromones to enslave the world?
And even if they do – can they stop it?
Genre – Romantic suspense
Rating – PG-13
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