THE TWIST Now #1 on BookStrand's Bestseller List!
A clever and witty sci-fi romp through big corporations, marriage and the gender wars.
Dee S. Knight , author of Heat Wave
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Cover Art by Jinger Heaston
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Zane Tollison's wife is running through their cash faster than he can make it. A "Hail Mary" contract with Clearwater Tobacco arrives in the nick of time to keep his fledgling consulting firm afloat, and to unchain him once and for all from his narcissistic wife.
Beautiful, brilliant, and estranged Kathy Davis is desperate for a new beginning. The feisty post doc bio-geneticist jumps at an offer from Clearwater, pouring her soul into a development that will revolutionize the tobacco industry.
The two are unwittingly reeled into a convoluted plan to steal $12 million. Zane is changing into a carbon copy of Kathy, a pawn in a bizarre genetic metamorphosis, entangling Kathy in a sinewy web of seduction and deceit. Forging a bond that will set the course of their destiny, they fight to overpower the diabolic hold that has taken over their lives.
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Theme: High Tech Metamorphosis
Length: 79,000 words
Zane heard the tap, tap, tap of a woman’s heels on the tile floor as he stared at his watch anxiously waiting for the elevator.
She was a tiny thing, not more than five foot three, probably in her early thirties. She stepped up beside him. Their eyes met and she smiled.
One of the big guns’ secretaries, I’ll bet. Zane couldn’t keep his eyes off her.
Wearing a stylishly short, gray tweed business suit, her long auburn hair was pulled in a French twist. Designer gold-rim glasses framed her petite face and green eyes. She looked like she had just stepped out of the latest issue of Vogue.
Zane’s eyes followed her every move as she stepped into the elevator. A leather notebook clenched to her chest, she was one hundred percent professional and drop dead gorgeous.
She turned to him, a ghost of a smile on her lips. Looking Zane squarely in the eyes, she matter-of-factly quipped, “All right, you’ve seen my ass. I guess you can come in now.”
He turned beet red as he walked into the elevator. The doors closed like a vault. “I, I am so sorry, but—”
“No buts about it. I wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t think you were cute.” She stepped out onto the second floor “See ya!”
He stood, frozen like a pillar of salt, as he watched her walk in slow motion down the hall.
“What did you say?”
She peered over her shoulder and grinned. “Chorde’s office. It’s on the seventh floor.”
Eyes glued to the seam along the back of her skirt, he opened his mouth to speak, but the words refused to come.
She rounded the corner out of his sight. His eyes still peering into the hall, Zane’s finger pressed the button for the seventh floor. As the doors began to close, he blurted out to the brushed steel walls of the elevator, “Thanks.”
* * * *
Chorde glanced at the clock as he reached for his hand. “So good to see that you are prompt. Nine o’clock on the button.”
Clenching his hand with a confident grip, Zane put on a well-practiced smile. “Well, I try, Jonathon.” The truth was he was late for everything. Pat often teased him that he’d be late for his own funeral.
Jonathon Chorde was a stately gentleman in his early sixties. His British accent and tailored, double-breasted suit gave him an air of cosmopolitan sophistication. He was medium height, perhaps five foot ten, balding, and a bit over weight.
Chorde motioned towards two stuffed leather chairs at the far corner of his office. He poured two cups of tea from a silver carafe and offered a small serving tray. “Pastry, Mr. Tollison?”
Never one to pass on a free breakfast, Zane reached for a cherry Danish. He flashed a grin as he took an over-sized bite. “Mr. Tollison was my father. You can call me Zane.”
“As you please. Down to business then, shall we?” He set his cup on the marble tabletop and leaned forward. “We are both businessmen. I shan’t beat around the bush. Simply put, Clearwater wants to buy your name.”
A piece of Danish caught in Zane’s throat and he coughed into his napkin.
Chorde ignored the outburst. “As I indicated when I spoke to you yesterday, we are in the process of pulling together a study to refute the accusations of the anti-smoking coalitions. Although we certainly value your insights, there is really very little we expect you to do. We already know what we want to find, and except for going through the motions of the actual ten-day investigation, our people have basically completed the final report.”
He reached for his tea and leaned back in his chair. Chorde continued, “We did feel that it was important for you to actually be here while we conduct the study to lend a touch of credence to the work. In any case, it will certainly benefit us both for you to learn as much as you can about the project. So you’ll be better prepared to field any questions that might come up about the research in the future.
“We shan’t detain you once we’ve gathered our data, but please, feel free to stay at Clearwater to dot and cross whatever I’s and T’s you feel are necessary to put the finishing touches to the report. After all, the findings are going to be released by Tollison Consulting.” Chorde’s smile could have belonged to the Grinch who stole Christmas. “We had hoped we could attract your services and took the liberty of having our legal people draft a preliminary agreement.”
He pushed a pen and a stack of papers towards Zane, and reached for a French
crulleras he continued, “A good faith advance in the amount of 1.15 million dollars shall be deposited to your account upon signing the contract, with the balance being paid in ten equal installments of 1.15 million dollars each day for the duration of the study. The total for your services will be 12.65 million dollars.
“The future of the entire tobacco industry depends on the timely release of these findings. We shan’t tolerate any mishaps. The agreement provides a rather stiff penalty of 2.3 million dollars per day should you fail to see the job through.” Chorde’s face grew cold as he glared over the top of his glasses. “I prefer not to elaborate, but please understand, this would be the least of your concerns if the details of your actual role in the investigation should ever chance to leave this room.”
Zane stared at the contract, contemplating the contrast between the white paper and the brown marble tabletop. Ever since he could remember, he had been a tinkerer. From high tech military jets to antique cars, from tube-type radios to house renovation, at one time or another, Zane had seen or worked on just about every mechanical device imaginable. Starting as a model builder as a child and learning the building trades while working his way through college, there was very little he could not or would not do. Combined with a graduate degree in engineering, he was able to view most situations from both sides of the fence.
A few well-timed hat tricks had earned him quite a name for himself. After ten years in the aerospace industry, Zane had managed to save a small nest egg and opened his own consulting firm. Most of his clients were companies he had worked with at one time or another while he was still in aerospace. The work was sporadic, but at least he wasn’t a wage slave for one of the airframe giants anymore. He smiled. Living like a starving animal is a small price to pay for your independence.
There were big contacts, with even bigger expenses, but Elise’s addict-like preoccupation with her beauty had brought him to his knees. There were spas and salons, waxes and peels, life coaches and Feng Shui instructors, and a whole host of female must-dos she assured he need not and could not possibly understand. Added to her weekly jaunts to Europe to shop at some swanky new boutique with one of her upscale girlfriends, their bills were a four million dollar snowball rolling down hill.
Zane twirled the ballpoint pen between his fingers. A whole career boiled down to two simple choices: his morals and financial ruin, or the answer to a prayer for selling his professional reputation down the river.
Twelve million dollars. Half for the Governor’s share, and a third to keep him out of debtor’s prison, there would be a million apiece left so he and Elise could go their separate ways.
Zane took a...
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