'Tis the season
Dr. Lora Rice is done flying through life solo. 30 Days to Romance guarantees the Maryland researcher will finally snag the man of her dreams. He's not Dr. Justin Silver, who is brilliant, full-of-himself and totally wrong for her. So why is her hunky fellow scientist awakening feelings that make Lora long to come in from the cold?
Justin is a man of science. When he finally notices Lora, he no longer sees her as his work-obsessed colleague and competitor for a coveted fellowship, but as an incredibly desirable woman. And when a business trip strands them in a snowbound Minnesota cabin, he's suddenly a man ruled by desire.
As passion heats up the long winter nights, Justin has to find a way to convince Lora that rivals in business can become the best partners in love .
Kimani Hotties: It's All About Our Men
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Dr . Justin Silver was knockout gorgeous. It was a shame he was such a jerk. Why, of all the labs in the entire world, had he come to work in hers? It had been a cruel twist of fate to have to seelet alone work witha man she'd never wanted to set eyes on again. Lora had joined Ventico Labs to work under Dr. Shirley Coolidge, a former professor she'd adored, and to research sickle cell anemia. Then Silver had been hired to replace the former director who'd overseen the three lab teams at Ventico. The other two teams were run by Dr. Kevin Yung, who focused on juvenile diabetes, and Dr. Carla Petton, who focused on effective pain management for the elderly. She'd cringed at the thought of working with Silver, but because she hardly saw him and only heard his name once in a while, she had discovered that his presence hadn't made much of a difference.
That was before the unthinkable happened. Dr. Coolidge left unexpectedly to take care of her sick mother, leaving a vacancy open that Silver had to fill until they hired a new manager. So for the past several months she'd had to deal with him, and now she found herself in his office for her performance evaluation.
When she'd first entered his office, for some reason the thought of desert sands and an ancient Mali palace came to her mind. He had the regal bearing of a king and acted as if he were lord and master of all.
Lora studied him as he sat behind an enormous glass-and-chrome desk, which was organized with military precision or obsessive compulsion, she didn't know which, nor did she care. He was a difficult man to categorize. His large office, which was enviable in their small facility, had several large windows with a view of the office complex with its manicured lawns and lake. But he didn't seem to take any pride in his status as director at Ventico Labs. His office was stark and about as welcoming as a broken-glass chair. No pictures were on display on the desk or on the walls; only a large erasable calendar and a Baltimore Ravens cap that sat on a chair in the corner stood out.
The one bit of whimsy was a small silver sculpture that sat on his desk. She couldn't make out what it was supposed to be, but it looked like macaroni and kidney beans sprayed with silver paint. Something a small child would make. It was positioned next to a large thermos that looked like it could hold enough food for a family of four. The second incongruous item in the room was the chair she sat in. It was surprisinglyalmost annoyingly socomfortable.
Lora hadn't expected that and wondered if the selection had been accidental. He wasn't the type to care about the comfort of others, just about getting the job done. He was a man of precision.
Lora flexed her fingers, pushing the sound of his voice to the background as he continued discussing her one-year evaluation. She found his voice unnerving. It was alarmingly deep and almost soothing and as deceptive as an ocean's wild undercurrent. His voice could make a person ignore what he was actually saying. It could lull a person into agreeing with him, even when you didn't plan to. She could see why he was so successful as a director. No one argued with him. It was always "Yes, Dr. Silver."
"Of course, Dr. Silver." But she wouldn't be conned. Lora knew who he really was. She listened closely to each word and let them cut right through her while she silently planned her revenge.
He'd said that her lab notes, usually handwritten, weren't always well organized or coherent enough. That, at times, she jumped to conclusions without stating adequate justification. But his most cutting assessment had been when he'd called her undisciplined. Undisciplined? She was one of the best researchers in the lab, and she wasn't being modest.
She had always been the best. High school valedictorian, youngest student to graduate from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Research doctoral program. Upon her arrival at Ventico Labs, she'd quickly organized several systems there that helped it run efficiently. And not only that, but people actually liked her. Unlike him. Nobody liked Justin Silver, not that they'd say so to his face. He wasn't someone to like. He was someone to follow, perhaps admire, even reluctantly respect because of his brilliance as a research scientist. But likable? Absolutely not.
She knew the moment she'd seen him again that it would be difficult, but she wouldn't think about their first meeting right now. He couldn't hold that against her, could he? They were adultsscientistsand they dealt with facts, not emotions. But with this evaluation Lora knew she wouldn't be granted the transfer she wanted to work on a project with Dr. Petton. Not only would the transfer allow her to work under a new head, but collaborating on Carla's project on the use of non-addictive pain medication would greatly advance her study of pain management and sickle cell anemia. Silver was halting her progress and stunting her career growthand she couldn't fight him.
Lora blinked then cleared her throat. "Yes?"
"Do you have any questions?"
Plenty. Such as whether he had a heart or if he rusted in the rain like the Tin Man. She brushed imaginary lint from her lap. "No."
"I'm surprised," he said coolly.
Lora took care to keep her gaze lowered, pushing up her glasses before they slid down her nose. Avoiding his gaze was her best defense. The best way to remain civil. "Why?"
"It's not like you to agree with everything I say."
That was true. But what was also true was that he was trying to bait her. She knew she had to tread carefully. She needed to end the meeting and leave. "This is an evaluation. Whether I agree with your assessment is immaterial."
Dr. Silver leaned forward. It wasn't an aggressive move, but it put her on notice. "That doesn't stop me from being curious as to your feedback."
Lora nodded, straightening the cuff of her sleeve. No, she wouldn't tell him anything. She'd let him wonder. "Most scientists are curious. That's why we're in this field."
"You're so angry you can't even look at me."
Lora stiffened, sensing the challenge. Not just in his words, but also in his tone. That deep, slow timbre held a hint of mockery. But she wouldn't let him mock her. She was a different woman now. Different from the one he'd first met. She'd completed fourteen days of her 30 Days to Romance project. Her progress had been slow, but she was determined to succeed. This was going to be a new season for her. She'd no longer be the wallflower.
She lifted her gaze. The moment she did, she knew she'd made a huge tactical error. Silver's voice was dangerous, but his eyes were lethal. They weren't just brownthey were like petrified wood, as if any emotion that had once been there had been frozen in time. Nothing was left but cold stone. At that moment she realized that Dr. Justin Silver was one of the most coldly calculating men she'd ever met. Just being in his presence gave her goose bumps.
Again, the desert sands image came to mind. He looked as if he came from a legion of warriors. She could picture him riding into battle, his brown skin polished by the sun, and conquering whoever he deemed his enemy. He had a warrior's arrogance and cunning. Aside from his steady brown eyes, he had a firm mouth that was solid like a blade and a ridged jawline. His eyelashes were the only problem. They were graceful and beautiful, and it annoyed her that they were wasted on such a man.
But she knew he was not a man to make either a friend or an enemy out of. Lora shifted in her seat. She was required to stay on his team and didn't want to do anything to jeopardize her position. She boldly held his cold gaze, determined to keep her composure. "I'm not upset," she said, pleased by the neutrality of her tone.
His voice grew soft and remained low. "Yes, you are."
Lora sighed, hoping to appear bored, although inside she was steaming. "May I leave now?"
"I'm not holding our first meeting against you, if that's what you're thinking."
"I wasn't thinking that," she said, wishing he hadn't brought it up. She hated that he remembered and mentioned it so casually, as if it didn't matter.
He frowned, confused. "Then why are you upset?"
"I didn't say I was upset."
"You don't need to. I can tell."
"I'm sure you can. You're very observant, after all. I just know you don't care." She stood, calculating her distance to the door. "Now excuse me."
"I do care."
Lora bit her lip to keep from laughing.
He raised his brows. "You don't believe me?"
"Does it matter?"
"Yes, I can't allow what happened in the past to affect our relationship now. I've moved past it, but obviously you haven't."
"I have. And I'm trying to be polite."
"Then stop and be honest."
"And risk losing my job?" she shot back, her patience thinning.
"You won't lose your job."
Lora returned to her seat and sat. "Is that a promise?"
Silver fell silent and leaned back, a casual gesture that was anything but. "I already know what you think of me, and I know you're not shy with voicing your opinion, so why start now? Although you are one of the best scientists we have here at Ventico, there's always room for improvement."
"I agree. May I go now?" Lora saw his eyes narrow, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of letting him know what she thought. She'd done that before, and it hadn't changed anything.
She stood again and walked to the door, feeling a small sense of victory.
"So what happened to your hair?"
Her hand flew to her hair as if she feared it had disappeared. She spun around and glared at him. "What do you mean?"
"I know." Lora gaped at him, trying to figure out if he was joking, but his tone wasn't mocking and his expression remained interested. Why was he casually talking about her hair? How had he noticed it? No one else seemed to. She'd gotten a trim and permed her thick hair to make it more manageable. She now wore it in a low, soft ponytail, using a decorative comb to hold it in place instead of a rubber band, and she'd added thin bangs and light brown highlights but nothing dramatic.
His eyes caught and held hers. "Whatever you did, it looks nice."
Lora blinked, unable to respond. Was that a compliment? Had she fallen into a parallel universe? She turned to the door, eager to escape. It didn't matter. He could be nice all he wanted, but that didn't change the fact she thought he was a bastard.
Lora left Silver's office, sat down at her desk and wanted to scream and kick something. Why did he criticize her one moment and compliment her the next? He was playing games. Yes, Justin Silver would get his payback.
"How did it go?" Carla asked. She was in her early forties, and Lora had met her briefly several years ago but had gotten to know her better while working at Ventico. She was slim with a face best suited for an operatic tragedy. Her lips turned down, and she had large somber brown eyes. She kept to herself. Lora knew she was single, never married, with an excellent mind. She was always very calm, as if she could walk through a storm without flinching. She'd helped Lora through the transition after Dr. Coolidge left and Dr. Silver took over. But although Carla was observant, she hadn't noticed Lora's new hairstyleor at least she hadn't mentioned it. No one had, not even Warren who she wanted to. Why had Silver noticed?
Why had he said anything? "I'm still in one piece,"
Lora said with a nonchalance she didn't feel.
"Lucky you. He nearly made Dr. Yung cry with"
"I don't care what he says to me. I know he can be mean." She'd never let herself care enough to let him hurt her. She was angry but not hurt.
"How was your eval?"
"It was fine, but from your expression and tone I think I can surmise that we won't be working closely together."
"No. He effectively shot that possibility down." She clenched her hand into a fist and shook it at his closed door. "He's ruining my career."
Carla laughed. "It's not like you to be so dramatic. He's a savvy director and has a keen eye for what's best for us and our department."
"He moves us around like chess pieces."
"He's used to winning."
"So did he say anything specific?" Lora asked.
"Not really. I got good marks. I'm truly hoping he'll allow more funding for my project."
"You deserve it. I can't see him not letting that happen."
But as Lora said the words, she knew it was a lie. She could easily see him stopping Carla. Just as he had stopped her. If he didn't think something was worthwhile, he would disregard it. But she didn't care what he thought of her. He could think whatever he wanted. He was the type to always find fault anyway. But why had he given her a compliment? What was wrong with him? What was wrong with her? She wanted to stop thinking about him. Her makeover plan was supposed to impress men, but he didn't count.
In following the steps in 30 Days to Romance, she'd already gotten a new pair of designer glasses. She'd tried contacts years ago but had never been able to adjust to them, and she had no interest in laser surgery. She'd also changed her hairstyle and even started wearing lipstick. She wasn't averse to wearing makeup; she just hadn't made it a priority. She'd even taken two dance lessons and was learning the salsa.
"I wonder what his evaluation was like," Carla said as she peered at an attractive black man hurrying past.
Lora looked up and saw Warren Rappaport walking by; she hoped she wasn't visibly drooling. She'd give him high marks all around. When Rappaport had arrived, most of the women had taken notice, but Carla hadn't shown much interest. She never seemed to take interest in men, or women, for that matter. Her main focus was her work, just as it had always been for Lora.
"Have you talked to him yet?" Carla asked, knowing of Lora's interest.
"Personally, if I had to choose between Rappaport and Silver, I'd go for Silver."
"Are you insane?"
Carla held up her hands in surrender. "I know he's terrifying and a bit distant"
"As far as the Arctic."
"But he's established, respected and easier to read.
Warren is attractive, I admit, but he's still building his career, and he's a little too charming."
"How can a man be too charming? Everyone likes him."
"Hmm. He just doesn't seem as transparent as he acts. I hope that book you're reading tells you how to catch the right man."
"How do you know about my book?" Lora asked, surprised.
"I saw it in your bag. You better be careful about reading it in here. And whose interest you get." She grinned, then walked away.
Lora folded her arms. Silver's response was an aberration, that was all. It had to be. She had holiday plans, and Dr. Justin Silver would not be part of them. But Dr. Warren Rappaport definitely would be.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved this story....dealt with family issues, romance and sickle cell anemia. This was a great book.
Pads in hor<_>ny his di<_>ck dragging on the ground. I want some