The Earth is dying, and Lucian Hoyt is going to die with it thanks to his parents cancelling his pass aboard the last shuttle off the planet. There is hope, though–a brilliant inventor has come up with a plan to build a ship to evacuate those who’ve been left behind.
That inventor turns out to be Genevieve Scott, Lucian’s bitter ex-fiancée. If they’re going to work together to get off the planet, they need to put their past aside, but even melting the ice between them can’t erase all the scars.
The run-down laboratory on Fifth Avenue didn’t so much sit next to the building beside it as lean against it for support.
Lucian stared at the corrugated iron roof and the boarded-up windows in some disgust. He’d not expected this when Drew had explained about the female inventor who, with the government gone and her usual work dried up, now repaired heaters in between designing a starship that ran on alternative fuels. He couldn’t imagine how she did anything in the hovel in front of him.
I wouldn’t house a dog in such a place. He walked over to the ill-fitting door. His knock echoed hollowly. He waited…and waited.
Did he have the right address, or was the woman just was not awake? It was early morning, but not so much that anyone should still be in bed. At least, not in his opinion, but he supposed the inventor might have a different one. He knocked again with as little result. He sighed and glanced around. A passing couple spared him a quick look but didn’t say anything. Still he felt oddly conspicuous, as if he was doing something he shouldn’t be.
He tried the handle. It turned easily. Okay, then. Pulling it open, and wincing at the screech of the hinges, Lucian poked his head through the gap. “Hello? Is anyone home?”
A faint shout came from somewhere within the tangle of machinery and littered benches. Taking it as an invitation, Lucian stepped in out of the cold and wandered around the laboratory. Most of the benches groaned under the weight of a variety of heaters, all in various stages of assembly or disassembly—Lucian wasn’t sure which—but there was one given over to an intricate, clockwork-driven device that he could not make head nor tail of. He picked up a roll of paper and unwound it to find a blueprint. That made no sense either.
He shook his head: he’d been to university and had education in every science and theory going, but the level of intelligence indicated by the blueprint was still far beyond him.
Putting the roll down, he called again. “Hello?”
Her voice was husky; mid-range feminine with a hint of smoke. It also carried a note that Lucian thought he recognised yet couldn’t quite place. A shadow shifted on the opposite wall, shortening as she came into the laboratory, nose buried in a thick book.
She wore leather trousers spotted with burn marks and grease, and a tightly-fitted blouse under a heavy apron. Her hair was swept up and gathered into a loose bun atop of her head, and the hands that held the book wore gauntlets. She looked up and her mouth dropped open, her eyes widening in shocked recognition.
“Lucian?” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.
He could only stare. It had been so very long since he’d last seen this woman. Long enough that it had taken seeing her face to recognise her fully. Five years too long.