Melanie: The plan is simple. Go on vacation and finally relax after five solid years of hard work. How was she supposed to know her well-meaning friends would hijack said vacation to set her up with a drool-worthy photographer -- or that their setup would lead to a whole host of other problems like kidnapping, illegal experimentation, and weirdest of all, psychic abilities? Through it all is Liam, a written-off experiment, and their overwhelming connection.
Liam: Nothing is ever simple when it comes to Liam and the entity that lives inside him. All he knows is the entity is pushing for him to get to know Melanie. Their connection is undeniable, and it’s of interest to the ones who created him in a lab, as well. Liam’s one of the few of their experiments that worked, and the only one to form a bond outside of their scientific creations.
Warning: This book references memories of childhood abuse that may be triggers for some readers.
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Biological Instinct (Aleka Chronicles 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 M.A. Freeman
“I still don’t understand your choice of vacation, Mel. You live at the beach. Granted not on the beach, but close enough. Why’re you going to some random tropical island again?”
Melanie rolled her eyes at the angst-ridden demand as she continued to sort through the freshly washed clothes piled on her bed. She should have known better than to wait until the last minute, but making sure her office could function while she was away had tied up more of her time than expected. The whole situation with Patton Photography was just unfortunate.
“Are you ignoring me?” A ball of socks flew through the air and hit Melanie in the head. “I’m making a valid point about your vacation locale!”
She turned to face her best friend, Lorelei Sapelo, and smirked. “Yes, I am. The beach here and the beach on an island are two different beasts. Besides, I’m more excited about the jungle than the ocean.”
Lorelei sighed as she plopped down on the clothes-covered bed. “You’re usually more organized than this. Why’re you packing so late? Where’s the crazy OCDness I had to deal with all through college?”
Yanking on the sleeve of a T-shirt until Lorelei shifted her fat butt, Melanie pulled out the extra large tee and began to roll it into a tube. “There’s been a lot going on at work I wanted to handle myself. Besides, I don’t want all the hard work I’ve put into getting the editorial staff in shape to implode while I’m gone.”
“I know what you mean.” Lorelei shoved more clothes closer to Melanie.
“One day…” She held up her index finger for emphasis. “… is all it takes for all your hard work to just poof out of existence.”
“At least I have Rose to handle anything serious while I’m away. Your one-man show at your job is just asking for a headache. All those dusty tomes. My allergies would make me pay in so many ways, all of them horrible. Are you going to help me pack or just watch? I can’t be late to the airport in the morning.”
“You’re not going to be late. I’ll have you there in plenty of time.” Lorelei bounced off the bed and pawed through Melanie’s neatly organized closet. “Are you not taking anything but casual clothes? What if you meet a hot guy and you’re wearing grandma shorts?”
“Those are Bermuda shorts, and I’m taking a few maxi dresses and skirts as well, so I’ll try to meet this ‘hot guy’ while I’m wearing one of those.”
Lorelei sniffed, but she stopped messing up her closet. “There’s no need for that snippy tone, Melanie! I’m trying to be a true friend and help you not die an old cat lady.”
Melanie burst out laughing. “You know, I’m thinking of getting a cat when I return. It would be nice to come home to someone even if it is only an animal.”
“I rest my case, budding cat lady. Please don’t become a stereotype because I’ll never forgive you, knowing I’ll probably share the same fate.”
Bras, underwear, and a variety of mix and match bathing suits were added to the suitcase. “You’re not a cat person, so I doubt that will happen to you, Lori.” Melanie glanced around and frowned. “Would you check the bathroom for my toiletry case while I figure out where to put my shoes?”
Lorelei wandered into the bathroom, her voice slightly muffled. “Your less-than-concerned attitude concerns me. Oh my God, you met a guy, didn’t you?!” She returned, clutching the toiletry case. “Who is he? Do I know him? How hot is he? He’s not an idiot or a serial killer, is he?” She paused for breath before shaking her head. “No, you wouldn’t tolerate a moron, no matter how pretty, and a serial killer would already be taken care of.”
“This tendency you have to jump to weird conclusions will get you in serious trouble one day.” Melanie neatly situated her toiletry case in the space she had saved before adding a few other miscellaneous items: outlet adapters, copies of all her travel documents, and backup chargers for her cell phone and tablet. “And I haven’t met anyone. It was at work.”
“Ooooh, you’re lying. Tell me about Mr. Work?”
Knowing nothing would budge Lorelei when she got stubborn, Melanie went into the living room and grabbed her tablet off the coffee table. A few taps and the image of a lush jungle came into view. That was what she showed Lorelei.
Her eyes examined the picture for a moment and widened when she found the hidden jaguar perched in the trees. The incredible, close jaguar that stared from the image with boneless curiosity.
“How did he take this without getting eaten?”
Melanie reached over and tapped the image again to get the byline information to come up. “I’d like to know that, too, because you and I both know there was no zoom involved, and the camera wasn’t perched in the tree. However, Mr. Patton has been out of the country for months, and when he is stateside, he’s basically a recluse.”
Lorelei read the short byline information before handing the tablet back to Melanie. “So, spill. What sort of contact have you had? And where’s a picture?”
A few more taps on the tablet and Melanie answered, “Like I said, it’s been for work. We’ve been communicating through email about an issue with some of the photographs. Nothing personal has been involved, so you can get that gleam out of your eyes. I would like to meet him because there’s something about his photos, and I’m curious about the process he uses to achieve what he does.” She turned the tablet back to Lorelei. “This is the only picture he has for his bio.”
They both looked at the candid photo of a tall, well-muscled man wearing khaki cargo pants, a khaki bush shirt, and a plain baseball cap. His features were shadowed, but they could make out a generous amount of scruff on his face and the displeased line of his mouth, not much else.