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A NineStar Press Publication

Published by NineStar Press

P.O. Box 91792,

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

www.ninestarpress.com

2230: The Perfect Year

Copyright © 2018 by CM Corett

Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2018

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at Contact@ninestarpress.com.

Printed in the USA

First Edition

August, 2018


eBook ISBN: 978-1-949340-37-2


Warning: This book contains sexually explicit content, which may only be suitable for mature readers.

2230: The Perfect Year

CM Corett

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

About the Author

Chapter One

Alex Coulson’s sports shoes made a loud squawk on the polished floor. His step faltered. Had anyone heard? He scanned the cavernous office foyer. With gray marble floors and clusters of expensive couches, it looked nothing like a scientific research center and more like an exclusive hotel. An empty hotel. Of course it was empty; only the truly dedicated work on Sunday. Actually, the dedicated and people like him—sad, pathetic losers without a life. He shook his head.

Okay, Alex, quit the self-pity party. No one likes a whiner.

After another quick glance around the foyer, he strode forward and headed down the long corridor lined with identical doors. The small panes of glass in each one allowed him a glimpse inside the research labs—all empty. He appeared to be the sole, sad, pathetic person here today. At the end of the corridor, he stopped in front of the door labeled “Authorized Personnel Only.”

One wave of his security pass over the sensor and the lab door slid open. The sharp smell of smoke and plastic invaded his senses. His nose twitched. Crap! Electrical fire! No doubt about it. As the wire’s plastic coating melted, it gave off a distinct smell. He scanned the room, searching for the source, but everything appeared normal. He dashed through the main room and into the smaller lab.

Like an early morning fog, a veil of smoke hovered near the far wall, centered over the control panel. In seconds, his heart rate hit full throttle. “Crap! Crap! Crap!” The Accelerator control panel! His focus flicked to the partition wall protecting the experimental machine from prying eyes. Good. No sign of smoke there. That would be bad. Very bad. He dashed into the thickening cloud of smoke and headed toward its source.

With short, gasping breaths, he swallowed and choked on the thick acrid air. What about the fire alarm? Why hadn’t it triggered yet? He slammed his hand onto the control-panel power button and then stepped back. No shutdown. Nothing. Like ocean buoy lights viewed through the fog, the faint glow of backlit buttons and switches remained. He blinked rapidly as his tear ducts reacted to the invasive smoke, creating a torrent of tears. From beneath the watery veil, he focused on the computer screen embedded in the wall. What the hell? Why was the program running? Had he forgotten to close it the previous night? His boss would have his—

A flame erupted behind the control panel.

“Oh, God!” Coughing, he stumbled backward. What should he do? Brave the flames and try to turn off the program? Call the fire department? Fire extinguisher?

Yes! Fire extinguisher.

He spun around and grabbed the red cylinder hanging on the wall. Maybe he could put the fire out before it caused too much damage. Maybe it wouldn’t even come to the attention of management. He ripped off the safety guard thingy, pointed, and pulled the trigger. The white substance spewed out toward the flames, dousing them in a cozy blanket of white powder. “Ahhh, yes. Against all expectations, Alex Coulson saves the day!”

His boss would be pleased with him. Okay, not pleased exactly because he had most likely left the Accelerator program running, but pleased because a major fire would have brought their unauthorized work to the attention of management. “And that would be bad.”

With a few short blasts of the fire extinguisher, he completed the blanket of white over the control board. He frowned and contemplated the scene. A little more wouldn’t hurt. Better to be safe than sorry. Crouching down, he directed the nozzle under the desk and pulled the trigger. Just in case.

He stood up and surveyed the room. Okay, it could have been worse. The whole lab could have gone up in flames, destroying countless hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. Not to mention the oh-so-secret data his boss guarded as if it held the answers to the universe. Yes, it could have been much worse.

He drew in a deep breath…and doubled over with the force of a violent coughing fit.

Crap. Smoke. Not a good idea to take deep breaths.

Fire extinguisher still in hand, he stumbled back to the main lab. His breath rasped in his throat, forcing its way past raw, inflamed flesh. At least the air in the main lab remained relatively smoke-free. In a few minutes, he would re-enter the inner lab and clean up the mess. With a bit of luck, the damage would be minimal. Maybe he could fix it himself. Clean up the fire retardant, replace a few wires, and—hey presto! Good as new with no evidence of the program he left running—no cause to fire him.

The shrieking of an alarm pierced the air, assaulting his eardrums with shrill vibrations. He closed his eyes and mouth, scrunching and squeezing his face as if trying to block the sound from entering any other orifice. A millisecond later, a deluge of water erupted from the ceiling sprinklers like an unexpected shower of summer rain. The muscles in his jaw slackened, and his mouth fell open.

Oh, crap!

Water drummed on his head and shoulders, seeping under the collar of his jacket. Mini rivers flowed across computers and desks before cascading to the shallow lake forming on the floor. The fire extinguisher hit the ground beside his foot with a waterlogged clunk.

I’m a dead man. Not to mention fired!

His shoulders slumped. Could his life get any worse?

The floor shook, sending vibrations up his legs and into his queasy stomach. Oh shit. Rule number one: never ask if it could get any worse. What the hell? An earthquake? Light exploded from the inner lab, propelling bright sparks through the doorway like tiny shooting stars. Water sloshed around his feet as he stumbled backward. The Accelerator! “Oh, shit, shit, shit!”

So. Not. Good.

A loud humming joined the vibrations. It pulsed through his body, loud enough to be heard over the sprinklers and fire alarm, shaking him to the core. Paralyzed, he stood transfixed. The inner lab glowed with a pulsating green light, matching its beat in harmony with the tremors running through the building and his body.

The vibrations were so intense he couldn’t move his legs. His head hurt and numbness crept over his face. He clutched his head and squeezed his eyes shut. Vibrating, pulsating, and humming. Could his brain explode? Would they find his gray matter splattered all over the lab and floating in the newly formed lake?

As he opened his eyes, a fresh shower of sparks shot toward him. Burning! His arm burned, stinging like the devil at a precise spot on his forearm. He slapped the sleeve of his jacket like a maniac until the pain receded to a dull ache.

Okay, time to run.

In his mind, he stumbled toward the door, but his body refused to cooperate. He looked down. His legs were—

What the hell? His body appeared pixelated and a few sections were…missing? Whoa! There was some weird, scary shit happening.

The humming intensified, sending a wave of nausea through his stomach. He couldn’t feel his legs. Were they still attached to his body? The world tipped and then faded around the edges. No, no, no! He’d seen the experiments, and he had no way to stop the Accelerator from frying him—like those rats.

So. Not. Pretty.

At least no one would miss him.

Oh, God, that’s a sad and pathetic fact.

Searing hot pain exploded in his head like a—

“Ahhhhh!”

Chapter Two

The heart monitor continued to announce a strong, steady pulse, beeping with a confident, regular rhythm. Doctor Baylin Davies dragged his focus from the young man lying motionless on the bed and directed his attention to the computer. With a swipe of his finger, the 3D image of a DNA sequence appeared, hovered above his desk, and slowly rotated. Baylin frowned. All the tests pointed to the same conclusion—an ordinary, healthy human being.

The image disappeared with a flick of his finger. With the tests completed, the mystery deepened. Who was this young man, and where had he come from? Baylin pushed back his chair and crossed the room to stand beside the bed.

He had found the young man three days ago, unconscious and soaked to the skin, in the middle of his genetics laboratory, along with a large volume of water. His gaze ran over the man’s form and features. Short brown hair, pale clear skin, and of medium height with a slim build—an ordinary human being.

As he straightened the sheet, tugging it higher to cover the man’s torso, he studied the man’s toned biceps and forearms resting atop the white cotton bedcover. All well-proportioned and unremarkable. Baylin reached out, his hand hovering over the young man—his patient. He had to keep reminding himself of the boundaries of behavior, as the baffling urge to touch and stay close to the unconscious man tormented him.

But still, he could not deny himself the occasional incidental touch. He pressed down, tracing his finger over the man’s motionless hand and fingers. The simple contact was…reassuring. Smooth, unblemished skin, trimmed nails, and long, slim fingers—smaller than his own hand, yet unmistakably male.

He jumped as the heart monitor gave an uneven squawk. The pale hand lying against the sheet jerked, and a pair of eyelids fluttered open, then closed again.

Baylin leaned closer, his heart racing, as the man’s eyelids opened again to reveal brown irises.

“Argh!” The man squeezed his eyes closed. “So br-ight.” His gravelly voice broke, and he swallowed.

“I’ll dim the lights.”

Within seconds, Baylin had a glass of water ready, the lights at half strength, and once again, he hovered near the bed. “The lights are dim. You can open your eyes again.”

Brown eyes opened and blinked a few times. Rich, chocolate brown. Of course, he knew their color. Over the past few days, he had checked the pupils for light sensitivity, but now, with both eyes open and life shining from within…

Beautiful.

“You’re safe here. You’re in—”

“Heaven?”

It was his turn to blink. “Well, I’ve been giving you morphine, so it could be—”

A rasping cough jolted the young man’s body.

Baylin winced in sympathy as the man clutched the right side of his rib cage and gasped. When the wheezing breaths subsided, he held a glass to his patient’s lips and helped him take a sip of water before easing him back down against the pillow. “Your pain is caused by three rib fractures. I’ve injected Calcitern into the fissures. They should heal within the week.”

Eyelids drooped over brown eyes and then opened again.

Unable to resist, he skimmed his forefinger across the hand lying against the sheet. “Now, how about you tell me your name?”

“A-Alex.”

“Alex.” Repeating the name, he savored the sound for a moment before smiling. “Well, hi there, Alex. I’m Baylin.”

Heavy-lidded eyes studied him. “Hot.”

He settled the back of his hand against Alex’s forehead. “You don’t feel hot. I don’t think you have a temperature, but I can adjust the cooling system for you.”

The eyelids closed again, and Alex mumbled.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”

Alex’s eyes remained closed.

He cupped his hand around the pale cheek. The skin beneath his hand seemed normal.

Alex sighed. “You. You’re hot. Too hot for me.”

“I apologize.” He slid his hand away and wiped it against his white coat. “I didn’t realize.”

The young man opened his eyes, stared for a moment, and then rolled to his side. “Angels are really…” The pillow muffled the remainder of his words.

Baylin gave a short, sharp laugh. Morphine. It made people say strange things. He couldn’t keep the smile from his face. Awake at last, the young man was healthy, semicoherent, and he had a name—Alex.

He inched his hand toward Alex’s forearm and brushed his finger through the fine brown hairs. In a few hours, when Alex fully regained consciousness, he would be able to ask him questions. Where did Alex come from, and what miraculous event brought him here…

To me?

The door behind him opened with a whoosh.

Snatching his hand back, he spun around to view the newcomer. Why is he here again? He cleared his throat. “Good afternoon, Major Marcais.”

The large uniformed man gave a curt nod. “Doctor Davies. Any progress?”

The major’s direct stare made him pull his shoulders back and stand a little taller. “Our patient regained consciousness briefly, but he wasn’t lucid enough to answer any questions. All the tests reveal a healthy human being of approximately twenty-four years of age. No genetic abnormalities of any kind. He has three cracked ribs, for which I have administered Calcitern and morphine. His blood work is normal, bar the unexplained presence of radium.”

“Radium?”

“Yes, sir. The level of radium is high but not dangerous.”

The major strode to the other side of the bed and studied the patient. “That is…interesting.”

Baylin frowned. The major’s face, as usual, revealed nothing of his thoughts. Damn emotionless military ma—

The piercing blue gaze locked on his.

“Do you have any theories, Major?” His heart rate increased. Just a little. Luckily, the only heart rate machine in the room monitored the young man in the bed. Still, the major probably knew.

The major’s stare never wavered. “Theories?”

Deep, even breaths. Don’t let him get to you. “Yes, sir. Theories on how our patient appeared or how radium could be relevant.”

“Possibly. So you say he is a regular, healthy human being?”

“Yes, sir.”

The major’s brow furrowed, and he returned his gaze to the patient. “Interesting.”

Wait. Did the major just frown? He had never before seen any sign of emotion from the overly muscled giant of a man. That square jaw and chiseled face usually imitated a mask of plastic perfection.

With the emotionless mask back in place, the major’s stare drilled into Baylin’s soul. “Don’t let me keep you from your work, Doctor.”

“Yes. Right. Yes, I’ll get back to it then. I’ll let you know when our patient awakens fully.”

The major remained motionless and silent.

Baylin took one sidestep toward his desk and then stopped. Why wasn’t Major Marcais leaving?

“Thank you, Doctor. That will be all for now.”

Baylin’s head reared back as if he had been slapped. Had he been dismissed from his own office? Despite doubling as a temporary hospital room for their visitor, the room still belonged to him. If anyone needed to be dismissed… His mouth tightened as he marched back to his desk. As much as he would like to, he couldn’t say anything. The major had seniority. He didn’t have to like the man, but he had to remember that the major and his kind were in control.

The chair protested loudly as he fell onto it. Control. Power. By an accident of birth, he would never have either. His work and scientific knowledge gained him a respect of sorts, but he would never be seen as anything more than a useful curiosity. Other scientists, the government, Major Marcais, all were quick to use his skills for their own purposes, but none would accept him as an equal.

After reactivating the computer, he attempted to appear busy, but his gaze soon returned to the major. Safe in the knowledge he sat beyond the major’s peripheral vision, he watched and waited.

The breath caught in his throat as the major reached out a hand toward his patient. A hand that had killed countless men hovered above the chest of the unconscious man. The heart monitor went wild, beeping at a frantic rate. What was Major Marcais doing? The gigantic hand pressed down, fingers splaying to span the entire width of the chest beneath it. Should he intervene? Could his patient be in danger?

The beeps decreased to a regular rhythm. Silent and unmoving, the major continued to stare at the point of contact where his hand pressed against the patient’s chest. The major bowed his head over the young man, then removed his hand. Five regular heartbeats later, the monitor went wild. Once again, when the large hand settled on the unconscious man’s chest, his heart rate slowed. Had Alex’s heart rate reacted to Major Marcais’s movements and proximity?

Did that mean…? No! No, it can’t be true! His chest tightened as if a steel band had clamped around it. Fate could not be so cruel. He lurched to his feet, the backs of his legs propelling the chair across the floor to crash into the wall behind him.

The major removed his hand and locked Baylin in his steel-hard stare.

Frozen to the spot, Baylin opened his mouth and then closed it again. The monitor began to beep at such a fast rate he feared for Alex’s life. “Please…”

As the major stepped away from the bed, the beeping returned to a normal, even rate. With his hands clasped behind his back, the major stared down at Alex for a moment before striding toward the door. The door slid open, allowing the commanding force of nature to exit before closing seamlessly behind him.

Baylin released the breath he had been holding and hurried to the bed. He studied the monitor. Even breaths, steady pulse—everything appeared normal. The tightness in his chest eased, and his breaths slowed to match the rise and fall of the young man’s chest. Something about this man…called to him. As if he knew him. He caressed the side of the pale face. Alex’s face. The face of a man he had come to think of as…

Mine.

He sighed and withdrew his hand. It seemed ridiculous to hope that an unconscious man could be someone special, sent from an unknown location to arrive in his lab like some type of gift. He scoffed. Foolishness. A man of science should know better.

Sliding his hand across Alex’s chest, he smoothed the wrinkles from the sheet before settling his palm over Alex’s heart. With each passing day, he had anticipated Alex’s awakening and the chance to befriend him—to know him. His mouth tightened, and the muscle in his jaw contracted. But Alex’s heart rate had altered when Major Marcais touched him, and that opened up an unwelcome possibility. A possibility that could change everything.

Chapter Three

Alex’s eyelids fluttered open. He blinked as his eyes focused on the tiny lights dotting the ceiling. Like tiny yellow stars, they cast a soft glow over the room. A room he didn’t recognize. Where the hell am I? As Alex turned his head, the crisp white pillowcase rustled against his hair and ear. At the other end of the room, a lamp illuminated a large desk and the man seated there.

At this distance, the man’s features were indiscernible. He wore a white coat—possibly a lab coat, had broad shoulders and short blond hair. Alex slid his gaze from the man to scan the room. With white walls and cabinets, sparse and clinical, it appeared to be an office and yet… He frowned. And yet he lay in a bed. In an office?

Am I dead? He blinked. No. In no alternate universe would the afterlife resemble an office. Just… No.

The man stood up. “Alex, you’re awake!”

Alex stared at the approaching man. He was more than merely handsome. Square-jawed with high cheekbones, he resembled the classic superhero.

The man halted by his bedside. “How are you feeling?”

The voice proved deep and smooth, rich and thick, sending shivers down his spine. And those shoulders…

“Alex?”

“Wha-what?” Another shiver ran through him as the man’s finger skimmed his bicep.

“How are you feeling?”

“O-okay, I guess.” His voice rasped and his throat stung. “Who? Where?” Blue-gray eyes! The man had blue-gray eyes. And he wore…glasses? Alex blinked and forced his eyes to focus. Yes, frameless and barely visible but definitely glasses. So, more like the superhero’s alter ego, trying to appear all nerdy and inconspicuous but failing miserably.

God, he’s beautiful.

“My name is Baylin. Doctor Baylin Davies. You’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness for three days.”

“Th-three days?” Warmth flushed through his chest as the doctor gently cupped his shoulder.

“Yes, the morphine kept you from awakening fully, but it was necessary while your ribs healed.”

At the word ribs he became aware of a dull ache in his left side. “They’re broken?”

“Yes, three ribs. They were fractured when you…fell.” Doctor Baylin brushed his fingers across the white cotton covering Alex’s ribs, indicating the affected area.

With the light, sweeping contact, tingles skittered along Alex’s side before heading southward—straight to his groin. Shit! He groaned as he pulled his lead-weighted knee upward and placed his foot flat on the bed. The action raised the sheet, tenting it away from his body—just in case. What is wrong with me? Okay, the doc was way-out-of-his-league sexy, but who the hell woke up from a coma and instantly had inappropriate thoughts about his doctor? “Who… Who found me?”

“I did.”

Alex frowned. “But you don’t work at the Research Center, do you?” He shook his head to clear it. “No, no you don’t. I would have known about it if you did. You’re so…” Heat crept up his neck and scorched his cheeks. Oh, God don’t say anything embarrassing. “You’re pretty hard to miss.” Oh, crap! The burning in his cheeks intensified. “So, um, how did you find me?”

Doctor Baylin broke eye contact and grabbed the glass from the bedside cupboard. “Don’t worry about that now. You must be thirsty. Here, have a drink. A few sips.”

The cool water slid over his tongue and down his throat, soothing the raw flesh. Maybe it didn’t matter. At least, I’m alive. A few broken ribs were way better than flame grilled and charred to death. And he had a superhero look-alike cupping his cheek with a warm, gentle hand and staring at his mouth. I could drink water all day just to stay like this. He took another sip.

The doctor’s smooth-skinned hand slid away from Alex’s face, leaving a hollow ache in the pit of his stomach as if something had been lost. “So I guess I’m pretty lucky to be alive. There was some serious stuff going on in the lab. Are my legs still attached? They looked like they weren’t even…” He frowned. Should he mention the Accelerator? Would Doctor Baylin think him a crazy man if he said his limbs had gone all pixilated and hologram-ish?

Ha! Beam me up, Scotty! No. Better to keep his mouth shut until he knew what the hell was happening.

“Your legs are fine, Alex.” The doctor brushed his hand over Alex’s thigh and then grasped the sheet. “Here, you can see for yourself.”

“No!” He white-knuckled the sheet, desperate to keep it tented over his raised knee. “No, I believe you, Doc.” He really didn’t want the good doctor to look under the sheet. Seriously, his self-control seemed to have vanished at the first sight of the ridiculously good-looking man in the weird-looking lab coat.

But then again, it could have something to do with all the touching. Doctor Baylin seemed very fond of hand-to-body contact. What was that about? Those gentle touches probably meant nothing, but he wasn’t used to being caressed by men who looked like movie stars. Well, any men really. It had been a long time since anyone had run their fingers over his arm. Or his thigh.

In an effort to calm himself, he drew in a deep breath, but it proved difficult to focus with the doctor’s hands hovering, threatening his self-control—and his sanity.

The doctor snatched his hands away, clasped them behind his back, and rocked on his heels. “I apologize, Alex. I didn’t intend to make you feel uncomfortable.”

What? Alex glanced down. Oh, great. Stop clutching the sheet like a panicked, quivering virgin, afraid of molestation—you idiot!

He forced his fingers to release the edge of the sheet, his knuckles cracking as he relaxed his death grip. Okay. He had to stop thinking about the sexy doctor’s hands.

“Alex?”

“What? I mean, no, you didn’t make me uncomfortable. It’s fine. Sorry, I guess I’m a little confused about all this.” He gestured with his finger toward the room. “So, where’s Doctor Hansen?”

“Doctor Hansen?”

“My boss. I guess he’s pretty pissed at me.”

Doctor Baylin raised an eyebrow. “Your boss pissed at you?”

“I’m guessing he blames me for the fire, but seriously, I don’t know—”

“It’s all right.” The doctor reached toward Alex, his hand hovering above Alex’s arm for a moment before returning it to his side. “Please don’t concern yourself with anything. Aside from a few broken ribs, you’re alive and well. That’s all I care—” He cleared his throat. “That’s all anyone cares about. Now, I think we should get you more comfortable. Tell me what you need. Bathroom? Food? More sleep? How can I assist you?”

Alex’s gaze slid over blue-gray eyes and broad shoulders before settling on the doctor’s strong, long fingers. There was no way he could say what he actually wanted the doctor to do for him. He bit his lip. “Umm, bathroom?”

Doctor Baylin smiled. An honest-to-God, Hollywood-perfect smile that sent Alex’s heart into overdrive and his cock twitching.

Oh, crap!

Chapter Four

Alex pulled on his jeans and fastened them. After lying in bed for four days wearing nothing but a bare-your-ass hospital gown, Alex savored the snug fit of rough denim encasing his skin. Given the proximity of his bed to Doctor Baylin’s desk, God only knew how many times the poor man had gotten an eyeful.

Heat crept up his neck as he imagined the scenario. The tall, good-looking doctor seated at his desk, minding his own business when a snore, or something equally as embarrassing, causes the blond Adonis to raise his head and see…

A bare ass hanging over the edge of the bed.

Crap! What an impression!

As he reached toward the cupboard and his neatly folded black T-shirt, the door behind him opened with a whoosh. Still shirtless, he turned toward the door. “Good morning, Doctor Baylin.”

Midstride, the doctor stopped and stared before clearing his throat and continuing forward. “You should have waited for me, Alex. You could have become disorientated or fainted.”

“Sorry. I didn’t think. Could you help me with my T-shirt? My ribs are still a bit painful.”

“Of course. Perhaps you should sit on the bed in case you become light-headed.”

“Okay.”

Baylin’s warm hand brushed Alex’s back and then skimmed his chest and stomach as he settled the shirt into place. Alex’s stomach muscles contracted, and his dick jerked. Oh, crap! Here we go again. He needed to control himself and stop reacting like a horny teenager.

Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out.

“Alex, are you all right?”

Alex gave a small nod while envisioning a fat, old man sitting in his saggy underwear. The breath drained from his lungs in a rush. Yep. That worked.

Baylin stepped back from the bed. “Well, I believe it’s time to discuss your situation. I have orders to withhold information from you, and I’m sure, at times, my answers have seemed cryptic and for that I apologize.”

“It’s okay. I’m just amazed I’m still alive. Although, I would like to know if I’ve been fired.”

Baylin scraped his hand through his hair. “Right. Firstly, I believe it’s about time we got you out of this office-turned-hospital-room and into your own space. I’ve organized rooms for you in the east wing, two doors down from mine. That way I’ll be close by…if you want me.”

“What?” His gaze locked on Baylin’s blue-gray irises. Oh yes, he wanted Doctor Baylin, but the good doctor certainly didn’t mean that. Besides, a super-hot man like Baylin wouldn’t want someone like him.

Baylin tugged at the neckline of his white lab coat. “What I mean to say is, you seem fine, but there could be complications or side effects. So, if you need me in a medical capacity, you can call on me anytime.”

Alex’s entire body slumped. And there it was. Confirmed. If he needed a doctor there would be one close at hand. Biting his lip, he focused on the top button of Baylin’s white shirt. “Sure, thanks.”

“Secondly, and more importantly, we have established that your accident occurred on Sunday the eleventh of March.”

“Yep.”

“Could you clarify in what year?”

“Huh?”

“What year did the laboratory accident occur?”

His eyebrows rose. “Okay…” He had no idea where the conversation was headed, but he decided to play along. “It was the eleventh of March, 2030.”

Baylin looked him straight in the eye.

Oh, God. His heart began to pound at a crazy rate. Had he been fired? Charged with arson? Or worse, had someone died in the explosion? Could this be some kind of pseudo police investigation?

“There’s no easy way to say this, Alex. Today is Saturday the seventeenth of March…in the year 2230.”

“Huh?” He stared blankly at Baylin’s mouth while trying to process the words. Seconds passed before their meaning sank in. 2230. The year twenty-two thirty. He blinked. Not 2030!

He sprang from the bed, his heart pounding. “Two hundred years! I time traveled two hundred years into the future? That’s freakin’ amazing. I mean, I knew my boss was aiming for time travel, but after some pretty scary experiments and a few fried rats… I didn’t actually believe it could be done. This is amazing.” He laughed. “Wait, I already said that, didn’t I? But it really is.” Crap. To be honest, he sounded a little bit like a crazy person. Hell, he didn’t care. Much. He gripped Baylin’s arms. Whoa. Nice biceps.

Wait! What was I—oh yeah! “Time travel! I’m probably the first person to ever time travel.” He frowned. “Or not, depending on time continuums and stuff like that. But whatever!” He released Baylin and plopped onto the bed. “I traveled two hundred years into the future, and I’m still alive.” Alex smiled and shook his head. “Wow. This is amazing. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true.”

Baylin raised his eyebrows. “You’re taking this surprisingly well. I have to admit that as familiar as I am with the concept of time travel, it was not my first or even second guess as to how you arrived here. It wasn’t until Major Marcais deigned to share his radium theory that… Well, never mind all that now. I imagined you would react with disbelief, panic, or worry over how to get back to your family and…your life partner? But you needn’t worry as we have the capabilities to send you back. We will need to perform some calculations that could take some time but—”

“No.”

“Pardon?”

“No, I don’t want to go back. I have nothing worth returning for.”

“I’m sure it must be difficult to process thi—”

“No. It’s not. I want to stay here—in the future.” He had left his world—his life—behind. A scary thought, and yet…not. Surely he should feel panicked or despairing at the mind-boggling turn of events, but instead, he experienced a surge of exhilaration unlike anything before. Never excited by life, he had drifted wherever the current flowed and hadn’t particularly cared where he ended up. Working in a dead-end job with a salary that barely covered the bills, he had no time to socialize. He had acquaintances but no real friends. No one who truly knew him. He had spent the last few years merely existing.

Until now.

The corners of Baylin’s mouth curled upward for a moment before falling again. Two deep furrows appeared between his eyebrows. “Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Even though I would love— I don’t have the authority to allow you to stay. We are governed by a High Council. They met to discuss the possible ramifications of your arrival in our time, and the consensus is to return you home as soon as practicable. I’m sorry.”

“No way! This is the most amazing thing to ever happen to me—to anyone, and I can’t waste it by scurrying home. I have nothing to return to. No family, no friends. No boyfriend. Nothing. Don’t I even get to speak to the High Council?”

Baylin shook his head. “I’m sorry, Alex, I wish I could do something, but I’m afraid I have little influence with the council.”

Alex clenched his fists. “There has to be something I can do to change their minds. I can’t… I won’t give up. This whole thing is like one crazy roller coaster of an adventure, and I’m telling you now—I’m not getting off!”

Chapter Five

Alex groaned as another sharp pain caught him off guard. He clutched at Baylin’s bicep, his fingers tightening around the hard muscle.

Baylin paused, his muscles tense. “Are you all right, Alex?”

“Yes, just give me a minute. It’s harder than I thought.”

“I’m sorry. You’re still recovering, and we shouldn’t be attempting this.”

Alex concentrated on taking slow, shallow breaths. “No, it’s okay. I told you I was okay to do this, and I am. Truly. It’s just… Who knew this would hurt so much?”

Baylin’s eyes widened. “How painful is it?”

“It’s okay. It’s just…”

“Yes?”

“Well, cracked ribs are a bitch, and this corridor is fucking long. I feel like we’re never going to reach the end. I should have used that hover-chair thing like you suggested. How much farther until we get to my new room?”

“Only three more doors. Room fifty-seven.”


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