Today we're featuring V.E. Lemp's THE LIGHT FROM OTHER SUNS. Check out this excerpt and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post.
THE LIGHT FROM OTHER SUNS by V. E. Lemp
The man moved closer and laid one hand on her arm. His slender fingers were cool against her skin but sent a frisson of heat rocketing up her arm. “Alex Wythe, professor of psychology.”
“Karen Foster.” Her smile froze into an uncomfortable grimace. His name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it.
“You plan to pursue art professionally?”
“Yes.” Karen met his searching gaze without flinching. She had to pull herself together. She couldn’t allow some random guy to intimidate her. Not even if he was older than her by several years. And no matter how gorgeous he was.
“Nice. I’ve no talent for art, but I do appreciate it.”
Of course—Dr. Alex Wythe. A girl in her studio had taken his class and never stopped yapping about him. The charming, fatally attractive psychology professor who supposedly dated a new woman every month. But never students, much to her studio mate’s dismay.
“Nice to meet you, but I certainly don’t want to interrupt your moment of solitude.”
“Nonsense. I was just watching the stars. There’s supposed to be a meteor shower tonight, you know.”
“Is there?” Karen looked up. The night was clear. The dark sky was spangled with stars like sequins scattered over black velvet.
“Yes, I was waiting for that. It’s a bit later than I thought.”
“I don’t suppose you can schedule meteors, exactly.”
“Not meteors, no,” Alex Wythe said, in a tone that suggested other such things might be under his control.
Karen shot a quick look at him as he gazed at the heavens. “They’re almost impossible to paint, though. Can’t quite capture the quality of that light, and the depth of the darkness. How it goes on forever. I’ve attempted it, but the results always look flat and two-dimensional.”
“Paintings are two-dimensional. Color on canvas. But I suppose you’d argue it’s the artist’s task to make them into something more.”
“Depends on the artist.” Karen relaxed her taut shoulders. Talking about art was something she could do anywhere, with anyone. “Some people revel in the two-dimensionality, like they’re saying ‘what you see is what is.’ Others want to play tricks, fool the eye. Or maybe, capture reality in a way even a photograph can’t … Oh, crap, I’m going off on one of my favorite tangents. Sorry, sorry.”
“No need to apologize. I like people who are passionate about their work.” Alex leaned in, studying her face like an appraiser examining a canvas. “It’s a very attractive trait.”
Was he going to kiss her? No, that was absurd. True, she hadn’t been touched by a man since her breakup with Karl, over six months ago. Her feelings of deprivation were probably coloring her thoughts, but surely she wasn’t so far gone as to turn delusional. Karen flung up her hand to cover her mouth and coughed.
Alex stepped back. In the ensuing silence, Karen toyed with her pencil in her pocket.
After a moment, Alex motioned toward her sketchbook. “Might I see? I don’t mean to pry, but I’m curious.”
“Sure. Don’t expect finished work, though. It’s all quick studies.”
“I promise not to judge too harshly.” He flipped through the pages, pausing to examine a few drawings more closely. “Very impressive.”
Karen was glad the shadows hid her blush. “Thanks. I mostly work in oils and watercolors, but my draftsmanship isn’t bad, or so I’m told.”
Alex didn’t appear to hear her. He was staring at one of the sketches with an odd expression on his face—a focus so intense it seemed his gaze might burn a hole in the paper.
“This one,” he said, his voice cracking, “this one is different. Where’d you get the inspiration for this?” He moved closer, holding out the small notebook.
She’d forgotten that sketch—an extremely detailed drawing of some unknown object, as carefully drafted as the blueprint for a high-tech machine.
“Oh.” Karen’s thoughts raced, but she didn’t know if it was due to the sketch or Alex’s proximity. “That’s something I can’t explain. I have these dreams, you see …”
“Dreams?” Alex’s blue eyes were very large and bright and very close, extremely close.
Karen took two steps back. “Yes. I’ve always had vivid, strange dreams. Decided I might as well make use of them. They’re worthless otherwise.”
“You remember your dreams? In detail?”
“Yes. Sometimes …” Karen hesitated. Strangely, she wanted to tell this man the truth she hid from everyone. The sad reality only her parents, a few doctors, and Thea knew. But years of keeping secrets won out. “Well, sometimes when I wake I remember images and draw things. Things like that.” She pointed at the sketch. “Weird, huh?”
Alex snapped the sketchbook shut and handed it back. “Not as weird as you think.” He studied her face. “Know anything about my research?”
“Psychology? I mean, that’s what you teach.”
“Yes, but I conduct research too. Have you ever heard of the Morpheus Project?”
“No.” Karen concentrated on shoving the sketchpad into her pocket. “But I’m pretty focused on my art courses these days.”
“Never heard of Ian Vance?”
“Well, yes, but only because his family’s rich. Not that I care about people with money, but you can’t live in this town and not hear about the Vance family. They own that big estate outside town, right?”
“Yes, quite a place. Anyway, Ian Vance is my boss. He designed the Morpheus Project.” Alex checked his watch. “Not sure we’re going to see that meteor shower after all.”
His frown was puzzling. Karen understood having an interest in such a phenomenon, but not the concern that colored his words. There would be falling stars—or not. Surely it didn’t matter either way.
“Anyway …” Alex’s smile erased her errant thoughts. “I doubt this catering job is something you enjoy. I assume you just need money?”
“Yes, for art supplies. For my senior show.”
“Then you should consider the Morpheus Project. Could be just the thing, if you need a job.” He laid his fingers back on her arm.
“Job? What kind of job?” Karen fought the urge to pull away. Not because his touch was unpleasant. No, definitely not. And that was precisely the problem.
“We’re looking for student subjects. It involves dream research, so it might suit you.”
“People get paid to dream?”
“Well, to sleep in our facility, with monitoring equipment, then record dreams in the morning, yes.”
“That’s actually research? I mean, funded and everything?” Karen couldn’t keep disbelief from coloring her words.
Alex lifted his hand from her arm. Karen thought she’d insulted him, until she caught a glimpse of his smile. “Believe it or not, it is. And I think you’d make a perfect research subject. It offers decent pay, plus free room and board. Interested?”
“Maybe.” Why she didn’t jump at this opportunity? To be paid to dream seemed like a dream itself, and the ideal way to make money for art supplies. Plus, no rent or paying for meals? Perfect. But a flutter in her stomach made Karen hesitate. It was true she remembered her dreams in great detail and wrote them down in a journal for artistic inspiration. But she hadn’t told Alex Wythe everything. She hadn’t mentioned her sleepwalking. If she joined his research study, surely they’d discover that little habit. And there was one other thing, even more disturbing—something that might expose her most embarrassing secret. The detailed sketch, the one Alex questioned her about, had been drawn in her sleep.
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