Scientist Bethany Morgan discovers the schematics to a world-changing recycling system that will help her realize her greatest dream: providing clean water to the world. The only problem? She must track down the creator, a Dr. Anderson, to help her complete the prototype, and he’s been missing for decades.
James Anderson has clung to the quiet, pain-free existence he’s made in the mountains since his father’s death years ago. But when the determined scientist he rescued gets snowed in at his cabin for an undetermined time, his world is turned upside down.
As their chemistry sets their libidos ablaze, Bethany struggles to convince James the world needs this invention, despite his fears of re-entering public life. Will exploring this attraction mean she needs to sacrifice her long-held dreams and beliefs? Before the rescue team arrives, they must each make some hard decisions about what’s most important.
by Micah Persell
Sensuality Level: Spicy
Micah Persell holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a double master’s degree in literature and English pedagogy. She is an avid reader of all types of literature, but has a soft spot for romance. She currently teaches high school language arts classes.
An excerpt from Uncharted Waters:
Bethany Morgan narrowed her eyes at her boss. Had she heard correctly? Granted, the words flirt for results had not actually left Dr. Dewinter’s mouth, but everyone in this room had heard them anyway.
Excellent. Just what she needed a room of men to hear.
She cleared her throat and set her pencil down on the tabletop before she snapped it in two. “Just to clarify, I’m to . . . get friendly”—she struggled not to emphasize the words and lost the battle—“with this Dr. Anderson to get him to hand over the schematics for our water system, even though we already own them?”
Despite the ickiness of the request, Bethany couldn’t even think about the water system without a thrill shooting through her gut. In the biggest coup of her career, she had discovered the world-changing plans for a gray-water recycling system on a dusty Delaney Science computer when she’d taken a box of surplus beakers down to the basement. Even though Anderson himself was a relic who hadn’t worked for Delaney since way before anyone seated at this table, he’d used Delaney equipment to create the system. Therefore, Delaney owned it. And no one would have known it even existed if it wasn’t for Bethany.
She was the best in this field, but as much as she wanted to fool herself into thinking prowess in gray-water systems had earned her a spot at this table, it was the stroke of luck of finding the schematics that landed her here. And now it seemed as though her looks were the only thing keeping her here.
Dewinter, the only other woman in the room, pursed her lips, and to Bethany’s right, one of her more insufferable coworkers, Jonathan, said, “But you pointed out the schematics were incomplete. And you haven’t been able to figure out how to finish them. We most likely need Anderson’s help.”
Mansplaining was just precious. Really. “I recall that,” she replied through only barely gritted teeth. Showing up on Anderson’s doorstep and informing him that his water system was being legally commandeered would probably—definitely—be met with resistance. Social finesse was a necessity. “But surely there are . . . ” More dignified? “Better ways to approach this. Any of us could make overtures.” She nodded toward her dearest—only, really—friend. “Mark could get friendly with him.”
That lightness in her belly turned to a lead balloon in an instant. What was she doing? Had she really just offered this opportunity to Mark on a silver platter? She could be friendly!
Mark’s eyes seemed to dance with light. “I’m game.”
No! “I mean—” Bethany began, mentally scrounging for a way to land back at the helm of this mission in a way that afforded her a modicum of self-respect.
Dr. Dewinter held up a hand, and if she had been Evita Perón herself, she would not have gotten everyone’s undivided attention faster. “We can send a team.” She shrugged. “That’s probably best anyway.”
Fuck! She’d done it. Managed to flush away the only viable, mass-producing gray-water solution she’d come across in her career. In anyone’s career. Anderson’s water system was groundbreaking. Capable of solving the world’s clean-water crisis. No one would have to die like Bethany’s mother had ever again.
No child would ever go thirsty.
What would have happened if she’d simply said sure when Dewinter had asked her to sidle up to the elderly Dr. Anderson? So, she’d been asked to use her feminine wiles. It hadn’t been the first time; it would not be the last. Is your pride, your principles, worth more than human life?
She’d made a mistake.
Dewinter opened the file folder in front of her and scanned a document. “Anderson’s last known location was high in the Rockies.” She closed the folder with a snap. “The Colorado Rockies, so it’s a short trip.”
Bethany’s lips parted. A short trip high into the Rockies in the dead of winter? That was a paradox if ever she’d heard one.
Dewinter slid the file folder toward the center of the table, and all eyes locked on it as though it were a Nobel Peace Prize up for grabs. And, in all probability, it was. Bethany’s hands itched to snatch it.
“A team of five seems sufficient.” All gazes snapped to Dewinter, who was perusing the Delaney employees gathered around the table.
Oh, God. Pick me. The words were plainly written on each of their faces.
Damn it. That one was her fault. Mark can get friendly with him. Ugh, she was an idiot.
“Jonathan, Eric, Bryce, and . . . ”
A roar set up residence in her ears, and she watched Dewinter’s lips moving without being able to hear what she said. Had her lips formed Bethany?
She darted a glance at Mark, whose subtle wink was promising. When he mouthed She picked you, her hearing came back with a pop just in time for her to hear Dewinter say as she rose, “You all leave tomorrow morning, so get packing. It’s cold out there, folks.” She exited the room in a waft of floral perfume.
With grumbles, those who had not been picked pushed to their feet and began exiting the room. As two men passed her, she heard one say to the other, “Like Morgan can be friendly. You hear the things she says? She’s so . . . crass. The old guy will be turned off in a second.”
These two guys in particular could make a porn star blush with the things they said about women’s bodies. And she was crass?
Bethany saw a buzzing red cloud but leaned back in her chair, projecting the professionalism that got her through similar situations several times a day. Then, like it usually did, her mouth had to go and ruin it. “You can kiss my crass, Jerry. All damn day.”
Across the table, Mark coughed a laugh and covered his mouth with finely manicured fingertips, but the other three men around the table—the rest of her team—shook their heads uniformly.
They can kiss my crass, too.
But she swallowed and eyed the folder that still gleamed from the center of the table. This was important. Maybe she could reel in . . . well, everything?
When Jonathan reached forward, his fingers creeping toward the folder, Bethany launched. Her hand landed first, and as Jonathan scowled, she slid it toward herself.
Bryce pushed to his feet with a sigh. “Well, I’m off to pack. We can talk plans on the way to the mountains.” He nodded at the folder in front of Bethany. “Study up, Morgan. And don’t forget to pack your lipstick.”
Jonathan and Eric chuckled as they followed Bryce out of the room.
“Pricks,” Mark muttered. “They will not be cuddling with me on that cold mountain.”
Lifting her chin, Bethany smiled at him. “A terrible loss.”
After a moment, Mark’s answering grin dimmed. “What’s your plan, Bethany? Because we both know it isn’t flirting for information.”
Bethany opened the folder and rolled her shoulders. “Of course, it isn’t. I’ll be professional. Courteous. Anderson is a smart man.”
Her words drifted off as she leafed through the copies of what appeared to be every memo Anderson had sent out during his employment at Delaney. His signature graced the bottom of every page; she traced the scrawling script with her pointer finger. Like many brilliant people, his letters were barely legible.
Near the end of the stack, a new item joined his signature. Beneath his name, in exact block letters, Eugene Anderson had written ignotumque aquas. She frowned. Latin of course, but it wasn’t any scientific term she was familiar with. Aquas was water, but ignotumque?
Dr. Anderson had signed this memo with the phrase “uncharted waters.” She flipped through the rest of the memos; he’d signed all of them that way.
A slow grin spread across her lips. Oh, she was going to like this man. Uncharted waters would usually be a nautical term, but she knew that wasn’t what he meant here. His system would take clean water to uncharted locations. Exactly where it was needed.
Eugene Anderson knew precisely what he wanted to do with this system. And it was what Bethany herself wanted to do with it: save the world.
She transferred her grin to Mark, who was staring at her like she’d been woolgathering for several awkward moments. She flipped the file folder closed. “He knows what he’s created and what it means to the world,” she said. “Only the worst kind of person wouldn’t want to get this water system out there to save lives.”
“And if Anderson is the worst kind of person?”
If she was right about him, that wasn’t a possibility. She shook her head. “Then we reevaluate. But Bethany sacrificing her self-worth won’t be one of the options I agree to.”
“Damn right it won’t be. So, when do you tell everyone else that?”
“I’ll tell the guys as soon as we hit the road.” As for Dewinter? Well, Bethany didn’t need to be burning any bridges right now. Her place on this team was tenuous; that was more than obvious. Telling Dewinter to take her suggestion of flirting and shove it up her ass was probably a bad idea.
Bethany pushed to her feet, tucking the folder beneath her arm. It wouldn’t matter. Dewinter didn’t need to ever know she wouldn’t follow instructions. “This is going to be quick and painless. “I mean, how hard can it be?”