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Authors: Naomi Stone

Wonder Guy

BOOK: Wonder Guy
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Sometimes it takes true love and fairy godmother magic to save the world.

 

Science major Greg Roberts is all formulas and logic. Neither will win him the heart of his lifelong true love, girl next door, Gloria Torkenson. When the Fairy Godmother’s Local Union offers to give him super-powers, Greg accepts, hoping to earn a shot at Gloria’s love.

After her friend is murdered and her fiancé brushes off her shock and mourning, Gloria begins to see her engagement for what it is: a desperate bid for security. It’s Greg who is at her side, comforting her when she needs it most. His natural thoughtfulness and newly emerged confidence capture her attention. But Gloria’s desire for stability makes it hard to trust her heart.

With a dark fairy creating chaos, and her minions endangering Gloria, can Greg’s gifted super powers be enough to save the world?

 

A Lyrical Press Fantasy Romance

 

Highlight

 

“Let me introduce myself.” She fumbled in a small beaded handbag, pulled out a white card and handed it to him. “I’m Serafina, your fairy godmother.”

Just as it said on the business card:
Serafina, Fairy Godmothers’ Union, True Love Local 521
.

“I...see.” But he didn’t. This made no sense. It must be some kind of joke by one of his mother’s definitely weird friends.

“You will. Don’t worry.” Serafina took a dainty sip of her Code Red and snorted as the bubbles hit. “It’s simple, really.”

“I hate to rush you,” Greg took a swig of soda and leaned forward in his chair, “but I’d like to get out for a ride before I start grading papers.”

“Don’t worry, dear, this won’t take long. I know how you can win your love.”

“You’re here to rescue my love life?” If it weren’t so outrageous, it would be laughable.

“Yes.” She went on in perfectly sober tones, “You’re a good boy. You’ve probably been telling yourself you want only what’s best for Gloria and you’re happy for her because she’s found someone she wants to marry. We both know you’re only fooling yourself.”

 

 

Wonder Guy

By Naomi Stone

 

 

 

 

 

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Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to hearts that know True Love exists–even when it's only in our dreams.

 

Acknowledgements

 

I'd like to thank the many people who helped to make this story possible, those who have believed in, inspired, encouraged and supported me while writing.

Special thanks go to my critique partners, Liz Selvig, Nancy Holland and Ellen Lindseth, and to my editors, Abby Rose and Penny Barber. Jill Boughner believed in me long before I proved I could finish a complete novel, and Eloise Twining has been supportive beyond all expectation.

For general and moral support, thanks also to Jerry Corwin and fellow filk singers Richard Tatge, Thorin Tatge, Rich & Greta Brown, Sarah McMahill, John Sanderson and David Ackerman.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

“Hi, Greg!” Gloria Torkenson’s grin flashed past like sunshine off a moving car–hot and bright, but gone in an instant.

A full-body electric jolt slammed Greg Roberts to a stop. All thoughts of his mission vanished. Behind him, the screen door into his mother’s kitchen clapped back in its frame. He hadn’t expected he’d find Gloria here this early.

She turned back to her discussion with Aggie, their heads together over sketches they’d strewn like battle plans across the tabletop. Probably the latest artsy-craftsy project she had going with his mother. Aggie, as usual, too absorbed in talk to notice her only son, never looked up.

The topic of their conversation didn’t register. His gaze locked on the creamy column of Gloria’s neck where it emerged from the low collar of her blouse. Her throat formed a subtle line sweeter than any asymptotic or hyperboloid curve he’d studied as an undergrad. The murmur of her voice undercut all logic to turn his tin-man core into something closer to a lion. Her faint perfume of rose blossoms and citrus and her sun-gilded hair pulled his attention like iron-filings to a magnet.

Their conversation belonged to the world of e-commerce and public forums. Amazing how Gloria existed in that mundane context, yet embodied a whole alternate universe of her own where ordinary laws of physics did not apply and her eyes held alchemical powers to ignite heat in a stone.

He’d waited too long, content simply to be near her. Speaking of his feelings had never seemed right. They’d been little more than children when he’d first noted affection sprouting into something more. Back then, she’d only begun to turn from girl to woman.

But now the only world he shared with Gloria was this common one. He turned his attention finally to the discussion.

“This is your best idea yet,” Aggie said, her wheelchair hitched in close under the specially designed worktable replacing the former kitchen table. “I know where we can order more of this clear vinyl.”

“Terrific.” Gloria pulled her chair in, the legs scraping against linoleum as she scooted closer and wrote rapidly in the margins of a sketch. “How many should we make for a start?”

“Hmm. A few different colors. What’s our market?” Aggie rummaged in a pile of sample books on the shelves behind her and opened one displaying vari-colored swatches of fake leather.

Greg shelved a useless sigh. At least Gloria had acknowledged him. His mother had yet to look up since he’d entered the house. Not that she’d have missed the slam of the screen door.

From the sketches visible over Aggie’s shoulder, and their talk of clear vinyl, he understood the new project. They planned to add window pockets to their designer cell phone holders. Most of their customers were women. Pretty rhinestones, appliqué or beadwork decorated the majority of their customized “Cell Shells,” but this design might appeal to a wider audience.

“Pink, sky blue, yellow, violet...” Gloria jotted as she spoke.

Daring to broach the girl-talk walls felt like taking his life in his hands, but he was going in. Greg found his voice. “Don’t forget us men. We’ve got cell phones, too.” He nodded at the sketches. “Guys will like these. They can carry an ID card in the window pocket, or tell the world you’re on their last nerve, but not in pink or baby blue.”

“Oh, hi, dear.” Aggie turned to smile absently at him.

“Okay, okay.” Gloria wrinkled her nose, sticking her tongue out at him in a gesture she’d used since they were six-year olds. Since then, it had only grown in its powers of provocation.

“Black, brown, red...” She turned back to Aggie. “Navy blue and forest green. How many is that?”

Before either Aggie or Greg answered ‘nine’, the door behind Greg rattled under someone’s fist.

“Oh, that must be Pete. I asked him to meet me here.”

“Come in!” Aggie called at the same moment Gloria spoke.

Greg stepped aside, further into the kitchen, and nodded a mechanical greeting to Pete Jensen, Gloria’s fiance.

Greg had no explanation for the way he bristled like a wild boar around the fellow. He couldn’t put his finger on anything specifically objectionable about Pete. Pete constituted an enigma to be studied, maybe not actually dissected, but certainly observed closely. There had to be more to him than met the eye. How had this bland specimen managed to win the heart and hand of the incredible Gloria–the sassiest, brightest, sweetest girl in the world?

* * * *

Gloria gathered up her sketches, her excitement bubbling over. This project might be the one. The one to get her out of her stuck-in-limbo-between-career-heaven-and-grindstone-hell job as an administrative assistant. The one to show her father how wrong he was, the way he dismissed her hopes and dreams. She tucked the notes into a thin leather portfolio and the portfolio into her shoulder bag.

Pete liked her ambition. She shot him a welcoming smile as she gathered her sweater up along with the bag. She’d been lucky to find a solid, respectable guy who made her feel like a glass-bauble safely wrapped in cotton wool. She liked his friendly smile and his nice suit. Pete had a nice, solid, responsible job as a junior accountant with a firm allowing plenty of room for him to grow to be a senior accountant. He treated her right, often making small romantic gestures like sending flowers and chocolates. Everything she wanted, certainly more than her father thought she deserved. Pete was perfect.

“Bye, Aggie. I’ll be back later and we can get started on the prototypes.” She bent to give the older woman a warm hug. Since she’d lost her own mother at the age of twelve, Aggie had been there for her in more ways than she could count. She’d needed her kind neighbor’s support after being left alone to take on too much responsibility in a household her father neglected.

She hugged Greg too, hovering there like her personal domesticated Sasquatch. She tousled his caramel blond hair, though she needed to stretch to reach it these days. “You need a trim, my boy.”

“Do I?” He looked up as if he might see his own head. Well, maybe he saw his hair hanging across his forehead.

“Definitely. You’re looking scruffy again. Don’t you want your professors to take you seriously?” Sometimes dealing with Greg seemed like dealing with a child. How could he be so smart in some ways, a graduate student in computer science no less, and yet miss so much?

“They do take me seriously, and half of them are scruffier than this. Haven’t you seen pictures of Einstein?” She’d heard him before, venting his frustration at having to live in an appearance-obsessed society valuing hulks who carried inflated pig bladders across a field more than they valued a technical genius. His tone now evoked the whole rant.

“You know what I mean. Aren’t you applying for grant money? They don’t just look at your ideas. You’ll have to meet with people. They’ll look at what kind of person you are, no matter how brilliant it is to make a computer go super-fast.”

“The speed of light. Photonic computing is the obvious next step for laser technology.”

“Yes, that. You listen to me this time.” She exchanged a frustrated glance with Aggie, who’d long since given up on reminding her son of these things. How could the boy be smart enough to think up speed of light computers and be absolutely helpless when it came to living in the real world? What would he do when she wasn’t around to look after him?

“I always listen to you.” The intensity of the look in his mild brown eyes made her gut do a jig.

“Well, we’ve got to go. See you later.” She turned to her date, who’d stood at the door, without speaking to anyone while Gloria made her goodbyes. “C’mon, Pete.”

The neatly dressed and trimmed Pete held out his arm for her, and finally gave a wave to Greg and Aggie. “Good night, folks.”

* * * *

“Did you need something, hon?” Aggie drew Greg’s attention back to the familiar kitchen.

BOOK: Wonder Guy
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