The Duality Principle
The Portland Rebels, Book 1
Ebook ISBN: B00M3XTPU8
[ New Adult Contemporary Romance, MF ]
Gabriella Evans’s life exists in terms of logic and definitions, until she meets bad boy Connor Starks. The more he tries to bury his past, the more determined Gabriella is to uncover it. And what she finds makes all her trusty logic begin to fail her…
Gabriella Evans’s life existed in terms of definitions.
She studied algebra, geometry and calculus—concepts that were ordered and well defined. Logic was where she felt most comfortable, so she couldn’t understand why she’d abandoned her research for the afternoon and was instead about to go on a blind date. It was the least logical thing she could possibly do. The whole thing had a seventy percent chance of being completely awful. She could have written an entire thesis on the statistical probability of a blind date going well. Still, it was nice to be out in the sunshine, enjoying the town she loved.
Portland, Maine sat amidst the backdrop of the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, still frigid despite the balmy air. Lobster buoys and white sails dotted the coastline, making it a spot of serenity only two hours up I-95 from Cambridge. All around her, the Old Port was filled with the usual invasion of tourists competing for space with the locals. They wandered through the cobblestoned streets, past the art galleries and quaint stores selling kitchen knick-knacks. Children pressed their sweaty palms against ice cream parlor windows while college students played guitar on the sidewalks. Colorful windsocks hung from awnings outside bohemian clothing shops, whispering in a breeze laced with the scent of salt water.
These people, these sights, sounds and smells—they were home to Gabriella, so much more than the rigid life in Boston where she’d grown up. She was sure the sleepy town where she spent the carefree summers of her youth would be the perfect place to evaluate her thesis statement and plan for her last year of study. She was in Portland to do research. Not to go on a blind date.
She never should have let Jamie talk her into this.
Gabriella glanced at her watch, even though she didn’t need to check the time. She was always early. Always on time, always routinized, everything in her life perfectly ordered.
Except for her heart.
“I don’t want to do this,” she complained to her wrist.
The couple to her left turned to stare at her, their eyebrows raised in unison. Gabriella
smiled awkwardly before quickly moving away. Talking out loud was a bad habit she’d developed at M.I.T.—a habit that textbooks and numbers didn’t seem to mind but wasn’t exactly considered normal among the general public.
She stopped at the crosswalk, a safe distance away from her embarrassment. The early summer sun washed brightly over her bare shoulders, and she reached up to twist her hair into a rope at the nape of her neck, hoping for some relief from the heat. Never one for fashion, because who had time to care about that when you’re busy trying to disprove archaic theories, Gabriella didn’t bother to style her hair. She always let the locks dry on their own, relying on the laws of entropy to decide her look for the day.
She knew she didn’t appear like the stereotypical mathematics PhD candidate. While her black-rimmed glasses provided her with the typical nerdy girl image, she had strong legs from years of hiking, a flat belly, and enough cleavage to fill her C-cup bras. There was a lot more to her than math—she’d always thought of herself as a kind of sexpot rebel behind the glasses and numbers. Not that any of her boyfriends had ever noticed that.
Gabriella let go of her hair and brushed her fingers over the piercing on the inner flap of her ear. She’d done it to stand out from her peers, with their ability to become borderline orgasmic after writing a pristine mathematical proof. She’d been tempted to get piercings in her nose and eyebrow too, but that would have meant having to remove them whenever her parents came to visit. Thank God they’d never know about the tattoo.
She’d gotten the ink done in another moment of rebellion. Unzipping her jeans in a seedy shop in Harvard Square, she’d revealed the bare patch of skin where her thigh met her pelvis for the artist’s needle. There she was, the straight-A student, the future Fields Medal hopeful, getting a tattoo inches away from her crotch. It felt like such a triumph to rise up against the idea of who everyone expected her to be. The image drawn onto that illicit spot was like a tiny piece of armor, a secret middle finger held up to the mold she was supposed to fall into.
The cars on Commercial Street slowed to a stop, the break in the traffic allowing her to cross. She’d just stepped off the curb when the sharp buzz of a motorcycle’s tires spinning against the asphalt tore through the serene New England quiet. Gabriella stopped short as the bike fired down the road at a speed surely reserved for the Autobahn and screeched to an abrupt halt less than a yard away from her. She should have barked at the reckless asshole in front of her, yelled out something about being careful and who the hell did he think he was, but all she could do was stare. The rider in the black leather jacket, gloves and helmet with the opaque pane was someone she’d seen before.
Someone she’d fantasized about before.
Ever since the first time she heard the roar of that bike, all danger, exhaust and breakneck speed, the man riding it had haunted her thoughts. She couldn’t count how often she imagined the sweaty body underneath all that leather, dressed for the road even in the heat. She’d never had a thing for bikers before, but there was something about him, something that made her sex drive sit up and take notice. There were plenty of weekend warriors that rumbled through the streets of Portland in summer, but they always appeared in bearded swarms, rolling into town like slow-moving locusts.
Her rider always rode fast, and he was always alone.
She hurried across the street, feeling his eyes on her, tracking her like heat. He always did that, whenever they crossed paths. His helmet would turn slightly, just enough to give the impression that he was following her moves. It made her skin come alive somehow, a chill that slid down her spine straight to the apex below her tattoo, slick places where she was empty and aching.
When she’d safely stepped onto the opposite curb, she turned in time to watch his hand twist over the handlebar. The powerful beast beneath him growled, but he held it back. Gabriella wondered if he could tame her into submission too. If one flick of his wrist would make her bow to his every whim, her body following where he led.
After one last pause, he revved the bike’s engine and sped away, turning off Commercial Street and out of her sight. She stared after him and frowned as the sounds of his recklessness faded into the distance. It tugged at her in ways she didn’t like, this curiosity about who he was. Her infatuation had prompted her to ask Jamie, her neighbor and childhood friend, about him. Jamie grew up in Portland, with a popularity and natural social grace Gabriella would have killed for. She knew everyone, and so Gabriella had tried to mimic Jamie’s poise, studying her nails as she asked about her rider’s identity. But when Jamie asked why she was interested with a grin, she thought better of it and dropped the subject. Admitting that she was lusting after some stranger on a bike was not happening, to herself or to Jamie. Which begged the question of why she was still staring in the direction of his disappearance.
She whirled around and faced the other way.
“Get a grip, Gabriella. You’re here to go on a blind date, not stare at men on motorcycles.”
She clamped her lips shut as soon as she spoke, tallying up her bad habits in her head: talking out loud and lusting after a man on a bike. Both of them needed to stop. Particularly the talking. If the cops picked her up for appearing criminally insane, her parents would be humiliated. Then again, she’d actually have to be talking to them for that to happen.
Communication had become something she found completely useless after they told her they were selling Nana’s house. She could have tried to reason with them, to explain that they were selling part of her soul, but what would have been the point? Things had already been strained between them since her breakup with Kevin.
Kevin was an engineering student, a promising husband in the making who also happened to need a detailed topographic map to find her clit. Gabriella chose not to share that particular bit of information with her mother when she gave them the bad news during her last visit home.
“I thought Kevin would last at least a little bit longer than the others,” her mother had complained. “You’re never satisfied. How will you get a husband if you keep breaking up with every single one?”
Gabriella didn’t bother to explain that she wasn’t willing to spare her free time settling for the monotonous conversation and lackluster orgasms Kevin had to offer. Instead, she’d stayed quiet during the lecture, mimicking her father. He sat across the table from her, distant as always, his eyes barely skirting over the edges of his newspaper.
“Your grandmother wanted to see you married before she died, you know.”
It had been a low blow for her mother to bring up Nana like that—the only person who made Gabriella feel like she was enough, without credentials at the end of her name, or a husband changing the prefix before it.
She didn’t reply, but did hazard a glance at her father to see if the mention of his late mother had broken through his implacable exterior. The newspaper had remained a crisp barrier between them, and the rest of the meal had passed in silence.
Gabriella curled her fingers into determined fists and forced herself to walk toward the café. Dating, like her mother’s expectations, was something she’d hoped to avoid this summer, but Jamie’s chastisement from a week ago still echoed in her head: “You’re spending the whole summer alone in your dead grandmother’s house. Come on, live a little!”
It was the usual dry style of encouragement she’d learned to expect from her friend. Gabriella could only ignore Jamie for so long before she hit critical overload. It didn’t help, of course, that Jamie was right. So she’d agreed to be set up with Connor Starks, a classmate of Jamie’s from South Portland High. He was twenty-four years old, the same age as her, tall with brown hair and blue eyes, and was a programmer of some kind. There was nothing about Jamie’s description that should have given her a sense of foreboding. However, before she even left the house that afternoon, she believed that this date, like all the others she had before, was doomed.
They always started the same way, with pleasant conversation about their majors and plans of study. Just like Gabriella, her dates would be up to their ears in schoolwork and barely had time to breathe, let alone have a relationship. Still, coffee would eventually turn to dinner, dinner to a movie in between their research and lectures, and a movie to tame sex that got the job done but still left her wanting. Time after time, it drove her bat shit crazy.
After a few laps in bed, the lights off and the covers forming an air-tight tent over their bodies, she’d suggest something a bit wilder. Maybe some dirty talk. A little hair pulling. A spanking would have been hot too. If she was feeling particularly bold, she’d bring up wanting to do it in public places on campus. By the research stacks in the library. Or in one of the stairwells at the lab. It was cliché, but it was such a turn-on to think of getting naked in the hallowed halls of the country’s premier school of math and science.
Without fail, her dates would respond with the same disapproving and occasionally even fearful looks that seemed to say, “You’re too much of a freak for me, Gabriella Evans.” She’d cringe inwardly and recant, hiding her embarrassment and frustration by saying it was just a joke. Inevitably, every short relationship would end with her feeding the guy one of the same lines:
I just don’t feel the same way.
I have to focus on my studies.
Or simply, I’m sorry.
She’d used all three with Kevin, and since breaking up with him, Gabriella had given up. It was time for her to box up her wild side. To lock it down and throw away the key. A surefire way to fend off the sting of rejection was to simply stop expressing her desires and, ideally, to stop feeling them altogether. She had to—the things she craved in bed were completely the opposite of how she acted in life, in her studies and in her future career. She should have been above her baser instincts. She was too liberated, too ordered, too logical to yearn for a fist in her hair, to have her ass slapped, to be taken hard and fast in places she could so easily get caught.
No, she couldn’t think that way anymore. That was part of the reason she’d holed herself up in this little town for the summer, in her grandmother’s empty seaside cottage. She needed to get her head on straight. To find the proof that she couldn’t be both a successful mathematician and crave the wanton, dominating, careless bad boy.
But she did.
She couldn’t help it. She didn’t want sweet, intelligent and safe. She wanted more. She wanted a man who would let her lose control—no, who would make her lose control. To have a presence so commanding and use words so filthy that she was too turned on to think or see straight. It was a need she felt at her pulse points, rushing through her blood. She’d tried to fight her cravings with reason, but there were no theorems to help discount the fact that she wanted a man who could make these fantasies a reality.
Pausing as she neared the coffee shop, Gabriella thought about her rider. She couldn’t put her finger on why he intrigued her so much, but whenever he flew down the street, wheels ripping through the quiet, he became the embodiment of everything wild and untamed, the center of all her fantasies without ever showing his face. Every time his visor-hidden eyes tracked her movements, she wished he would follow her down a wharf somewhere, advancing on her like something primal and dangerous, lust in the form of a leather jacket and jeans.
The recurring fantasy she’d had all summer began again. She’d hear the sound of the bike first—that buzz of his engine and the streak of rubber across concrete that made her insides leap and twist. Next he’d pull up in front of her house, disembark from the bike and advance toward her, one slow step up the porch at a time, staring her down with a purpose that would make her tremble. Then he’d back her up against the wall and kiss her hard.
He’d be the one to take her how she’d always wanted. He’d fist her hair and bite her neck, all grit and sweat and dirty words in her ear. He’d fuck her to a violent orgasm, so swift in intensity that it was almost painful, and then do it again and again and again.
Gabriella groaned. These fantasies had to stop. She shook her head free of the daydream, pressed her palm against the cool glass door to the coffee shop where she was supposed to be in approximately eight minutes, and went inside.