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"I’d already had my fair share of disappointments in life. I wasn’t going to let romantic disillusionment be one of them."

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04 – Attraction

I had never been in love.  I used to believe I never would be.  In fact, I made it a point not to be.  My faith in people I loved had been broken for the last time; there was a measure of comfort and peace in that knowledge.

I had led a solitary life until my time at the Central Intelligence Agency brought me into nearly constant contact with colleagues or suspects.  I made the adjustment tolerably, but to say that I was now perfectly comfortable around other people would be a stretch.  My studies had consumed me while I was a student and then my assignments consumed nearly all of my time when I joined the working world.

Until I met Ray, I never had much of a social life.  Ray’s personality was a good fit for me.  Confident, low key, incredibly sharp and observant, he picked up on things about people that never failed to amaze me, especially later when his predictions were proven to be true.  His ability to assess people after minimal acquaintance was a gift, and a valuable skill in the intelligence field.

Of course, I knew I was a good person.  But Ray used his ‘superpowers’ on me to determine that I would make a good partner for him.  I was honored when I found out that he had personally requested to have me join his counter intelligence unit, and we got to know each other very well over several years during our time in Paris and other places in Europe.   He was old enough to be my father, and said on a number of occasions that he viewed me as the son he never had.  Just like a biological son certainly would have, I disagreed with his choice in a bride, but I was still proud to stand up with him as his best man when he married Lidia.

I never saw myself in a romantic relationship.  Some girls had been friendly at school, but I had no time for them.  Any woman in the agency was automatically disqualified by virtue of her employment.  Time spent with Ray had never included hitting the clubs.  When we were off duty we generally sought out opportunities to travel or see the local sights or just relax and catch up on sorely needed sleep.

He had met Lidia by chance while we were on an assignment investigating a TV producer shooting a series in Fiji, of all places.  Everything was perfect about that job, until Ray fell for a very self-absorbed contestant in the show that was being filmed there.

The most unbelievable part was that she returned his affections.  It wasn’t that Ray wasn’t the better of the two of them, or that he wasn’t her equal in good looks, it was that she would have the insight to choose someone whose attractiveness descended below his surface and rooted deeply all the way to his core.  He was good through and through.  I was skeptical about whether the same could be said of her.  But she could do no wrong in his eyes.  And though it felt like his judgment was clouded in this instance, and that perhaps his ability to properly assess this particular woman may have been compromised by sexual attraction, I didn’t voice my opinion, especially since he didn’t ask me for it.  At the very least I was glad that he was so happy.  And he was absolutely that.  In fact I’d never seen someone so altered by happiness.  My life was altered too, but happiness hadn’t been one of the by-products.

I never met anyone I wanted.  I didn’t dwell on it, either.   My parents’ example had left an unpleasant mental impression in my psyche in regard to love and marriage that I had never been able to shake.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop with Lidia hadn’t improved my outlook on matrimony as it related to parental figures.

My parents divorced when I was young, just eight years old.  I blamed my father—for everything—even my mother’s tragic death in an auto accident late one night after her shift at the hospital.  This was the job she’d taken trying to support us when we’d finally escaped from him.  If he had been kind, and trusting with even a trace of humility, everything my mother was, instead of arrogant, illogical, and stubborn, we might all be together right now.

Instead, she was gone and he was just as dead to me.

I would have been shy by nature, but time around my father when I was a teenager constricted my personality further than any young person should be made to tolerate.  My only escape lay in my studies, at which I excelled.  I had a natural talent for language and focused all my effort into learning one tongue after another, like a collector.  My special talent in that endeavor paved the way for offers of scholarships to prestigious schools in my home country and abroad.  When an offer was extended from the Computational Linguistics program of M.I.T., in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States, I accepted it instantly, said a respectful but eager goodbye to my father, and never looked back.  It was the last time we ever spoke.

I tried not to think about the past.  It only upset me.  But occasionally I would dwell on the memory of my mother, so as not to forget her altogether.  She deserved to be remembered.

I focused on happy childhood scenes that consisted of only the two of us.  She was a lovely classic Aussie girl with long blonde hair, clear blue eyes and peaches and cream skin, with a light sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks in the summer.

She was good.  She never lost her temper.  She was patient and hard working, generous and sweet.  She loved life and she loved me.  She had loved my father too, before he had driven her away with jealous, illogical, abusive behavior.

Every year that rolled by since her passing brought her nearer to sainthood as my memories began to blur but glow ever brighter in happy intensity as they crossed over from actual recollection into legend in my own mind.

When I first saw Ellery, I tried to ignore the similarities in her physical appearance to that of my late mother.  I did not want to be attracted to a girl simply because of coincidental resemblance.  That would surely lead to the disappointment which comes with unfulfilled expectations.

I’d already had my fair share of disappointments in life.  I wasn’t going to let romantic disillusionment be one of them.

I had observed that exceptionally pretty girls tended to be hyperaware of their looks, and the influence it gave them.  Though I had no objection to such a thing—it’s natural to capitalize on one’s gifts—I held my own mother’s example out as the true pinnacle of feminine attraction:  unconscious beauty.  This was a type of physical attractiveness that complemented inner traits such as kindness, selflessness and modesty, making a girl charming and lovely from the inside out.  I felt certain that encountering such a female was a once in a lifetime event, and that I had already been there, never to return.

The way she unknowingly got around my emotional blockade was that Ellery never disappointed me.  Her similarities to my mother didn’t end with her slight frame and beautiful long blonde hair.  The resemblance had more to do with her personality, or at least what I could make of it.  As I tried to piece together the puzzle of her identity, (we were not told why we were watching her), various aspects of her character would come to light, like portions of a jigsaw game.  With every new facet I added to the picture, I had to admit there were more similarities to my mother than I had initially let myself hope.

I didn’t want to believe that I’d found that pinnacle twice in one lifetime.  Especially since this one was a minor and the source of my livelihood.   But while I watched her life and witnessed the changes and growth she was experiencing as a person, I couldn’t deny that something was blossoming in the desert of my heart:  faith in Ellery Mayne.

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Chapter Index | 10 Comments

10 Comments (Leave a comment »)

  1. Wow!! to realize that he saw her and thought of her mother, however he took his time and wanted to make sure that his feelings for her were not because of the resemblance to his mom. He looked at her personality and realized it is what he loved about his mom and treasures most. Very amazing writing. I want to read this like right now.

    Comment by rebeckah — February 23, 2013 at 11:35 pm

  2. It’s so refreshing to read a book were patience and kindness are involved in the romance. The insights to the characters are brilliant. Great writing. 5*****

    Comment by Margaret — June 30, 2012 at 6:15 am

  3. I love that he is taking his time with her and does not push her for more. Love your book.

    Comment by cindy addleman — April 8, 2012 at 12:59 am

  4. Love at first site is a complicated twist on words. Ellery takes Ash’s heart from “first site” and then the love is constantly reaffirmed.

    Comment by JKS — February 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm

  5. I like the idea that Ash knows that Ellery is his job and a “minor” I was wondering that they don’t know what her illness is and that she was kidnapped?

    Comment by Ginny Alward — September 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm

  6. In response to Ally’s comment, my mother died 5 years ago, and already my memories are starting to blur and fade. 18 years is more than enough time for reminiscing on a person’s positive qualities until you idealize them and, in your mind, make them flawless.

    Comment by reader — June 16, 2011 at 1:32 am

  7. I think it was love at first sight- this chapter just seems to be explaining how his attraction fits into his life experience.

    Comment by Amy — June 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

  8. I think we tend to idealize people we lose tragically especially if that person is a parent. The chapter is a good look in to his character.

    Comment by Brandi — May 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  9. I love how he’s basically like, “Yea, okay, but she’s a minor and she’s earning me a living.” I think it’s smart of him not to lose sight of the appropriate thing (:)), but I think that the sainthood of his mother is a little far-fetched, even if he has lived 18 years without her.

    Comment by Ally — April 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm

  10. Okay I knowfor a fact that Ash said in In The Spotlight that it was love at first sight. How come it seems that it took more than one look to fall in love with Ellery? He had to grow into that love so he kind of lied to Ellery, right?

    Comment by Enjoli — February 24, 2011 at 9:41 pm

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