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by Jennifer Archer
Description: She might not be able to see him, but she knows how he makes her feel. Growing up with a mad scientist as a father wasn't easy, and J.T. Drake wants nothing to do with his dad's wild experiments now that he's an adult. But when a late-night trip to his father's lab results in a newfound gift for invisibility, only his father's assistant, Rosalyn Peabody, can help him. Rosalyn has never met her boss's son, but she knows he's an ungrateful child who doesn't appreciate his father's genius. And yet, every time they touch, sparks fly. But will their undeniable chemistry continue even after J.T. is cured? And can a science-phobic man and a science-focused woman find happiness together? This Retro Romance reprint was originally published in August 2002 by Leisure Books.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: October 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [389 KB]
Reading time: 245-343 min.
J.T. Drake stood in the shadow of an elm tree across the street from his father's rambling old house. He glanced at the glowing face of his watch. Midnight. Pop was up to something. J.T. had suspected as much even before Wanda Moody, owner of the tree under which he now stood, called his L.A. office last week. The widow Moody informed J.T. that, for three days straight, green smoke with a smell like burning rubber had drifted from the back windows of his childhood home.
Despite old Mrs. Moody's tendency to exaggerate, J.T. didn't dismiss her claim. The last time Pop's creative wires tangled, all the windows in the house next door exploded. The time before that, every dog in a three-mile radius howled for hours on end.
Remembering the news coverage on that one, J.T. covered his eyes with one hand and rubbed his temples. The so-called "humorous human interest" story had garnered national press, though Pop's name had miraculously been withheld. The reporters had simply referred to him as "a real-life absentminded professor in the small college town of Pecan Grove, Texas".
J.T. returned his attention to the window and whistled quietly. Even in Pop's younger days, some of his projects had gone haywire. And that was way back when he only got drunk on weekends instead of draining a bottle on a daily basis. His father's blundering was spiraling out of control, the repercussions more serious each passing year. If J.T. didn't take command of the situation soon, he feared what news the next phone call might bring. So it had come down to this--waiting like a thief to sneak into the house in the middle of the night, just like he'd done plenty of times in his youth before he finally figured out that Pop didn't care when he came and went; the old man didn't even notice.
A lightning bolt ripped the night sky. A rumble of thunder followed. Wishing he were back in his hotel room with the air conditioner blowing full blast, J.T. lifted the tail of his T-shirt to wipe his sweaty forehead and drew a breath of air so humid it felt like he'd sucked warm water into his lungs. The heavy, sweet blend of honeysuckle and roses drifted to him, bringing with it memories of stormy summers long past, memories that coaxed a smile from him one second then tightened his throat the next.
With an ease born of years of practice, he closed his mind to yesterday, forced his thoughts back to the issue at hand. According to Mrs. Moody, Pop's lights went out each night at 9 p.m.
A muted glow lit the front bedroom window, illuminating a scrawny, slumped-shouldered silhouette. The silhouette paced back and forth, back and forth, again and again.
J.T. shook his head and cursed. No doubt about it, Pop had something in the works. He couldn't begin to guess what; he wouldn't try. Considering all the crazy gadgets Pop had come up with over the years, a living, breathing replica of Frankenstein's monster strapped to a table in the basement laboratory would be no surprise.
Whatever this latest project might be, Pop had not been willing to discuss it over dinner four hours ago when J.T. asked how he'd been spending his time. Pop also, as usual, refused to discuss leaving Pecan Grove to move to an apartment in L.A. to be closer to J.T., insisting he was doing just fine on his own. J.T. scratched his nose. No surprise there. Pop had never pretended to need or want him around. Why would he start now? The old man could be down to his last dollar and dying of starvation, but as long as he had his experiments and inventions, he'd be satisfied. They fulfilled him; J.T. had accepted that fact a long time ago.
He cursed again. He didn't like the thought of moving Pop to L.A. either, and had hoped to work out some sort of a compromise. Pop was still a reasonably young man with the possibility of a long life ahead of him. But if he insisted on digging in his heels and continuing his reckless habits, sooner or later J.T. would be forced to chop off his feet at the ankles.
He studied his father's restless shadow as it, again, passed by the bedroom window. Pop's movements seemed steady. Surely that was a good sign. And the old man had only downed one whiskey sour at dinner. A double, granted, but only one.
Swatting a mosquito away from his face, J.T. listened to the steady drone of cicadas and counted blinks of tiny yellow firefly lights. July in south Texas was a ruthless, tormenting bitch. Though he'd worn running shoes, shorts and a lightweight T-shirt to stay cool, the shirt, now clammy with perspiration, clung to his chest and back like cellophane. The threatening rain only added to the unbearable humidity, and when the first drops hit the sidewalk, J.T. half expected them to sizzle.
He muffled a sneeze. Mrs. Moody's flowerbeds still teased his allergies, just like they had before he'd left Pecan Grove at the age of eighteen. He couldn't afford to get sick. This unexpected trip was a bad enough blip in his schedule at the magazine where he worked. And on top of that, a book deadline stared him in the face. By the end of the month, his editor expected to see the story he'd been investigating and writing for the past two years.
J.T. stooped, plucked a blade of grass, stuck it between his teeth. And then there was Giselle. Leggy, cat-eyed Giselle whose French accent would make the contents of one of Pop's boring Scientific Quarterly magazine articles sound sexy. Finally, after weeks of trying to coordinate their schedules, he'd booked a date with the busy model. If not for Wanda Moody's call, J.T. would be coaxing a kiss from those expensive, pouting lips of Giselle's right now instead of standing in the muggy Texas heat spying on his father.
When Pop's bedroom light finally went out, J.T. waited another fifteen minutes. Then he stepped from the shelter of the tree into the Light drizzle of rain, crossed the street and unlocked the front door with his key. He disarmed the burglar alarm before moving quietly through the dark foyer toward the back of the house and down the basement steps.
White light shimmered beneath the door to Pop's laboratory. J.T. heard a steady, high-pitched hum coming from the other side. He stooped, lifted one corner of the area rug, found the loose floorboard and wedged it free. The key was still there, hidden away where it had been for as long as he could remember.
Seconds later, when J.T. inserted the key into the lock and touched the doorknob, a faint but steady vibration tickled his fingertips. He turned the knob, pushed the squeaky door open, stepped through.
The cluttered laboratory from his childhood had been transformed. Only the old sofa against the wall remained. Shelving and cages lined the other walls. Inside the cages, white mice ran to nowhere on metal wheels. Machines beeped. Computers hummed. A tall metal box with a glass door dominated the center of the immaculate room. On the floor beside it, connected by a host of coils and tubes, sat a generator and another large machine J.T. could not identify.
"What the...?" He left the key in the lock and closed the door behind him.
The box emitted a tremulous radiance, making it unnecessary for J.T. to turn on the overhead light. Careful to avoid the wires and other hardware stretched across the floor, he circled the machine. When he returned to the glass door, he reached for the handle. Upon contact, a tingling sensation raced up his arm and prickled the hair at the nape of his neck. He stepped onto the metal floor inside, catching a faint whiff of the burnt rubber scent Wanda Moody had described. With his back to the door, he studied the knobs and switches on the control panel across one wall of the box.
At the sound of Pop's voice, J.T. jumped, turned and stumbled against the glass door, slamming it shut. To right himself, he reached back, bracing a hand on the control panel behind him.
A thunderclap rattled the house's rickety rafters.
The white light brightened, the humming grew louder, the floor beneath J.T.'s feet quivered. A flash of heat entered his toes, shot through him with the force of a lightning bolt, froze him in place. His shoulders lifted with the surge; his body stiffened. A sharp, metallic taste tainted his tongue, and his nostrils burned from the harsh stench of the green smoke filling the box.
On the other side of the glass door, Pop's face contorted...blurred...then slowly faded from view.