So over the next couple of days I'll be posting some bits from Access Denied.
Excerpt 1 (General Audience)
“I can’t believe it’s been three months already.” He sat on the edge of the bed staring blankly at his hands. “Time is supposed to be such a constant thing, yet it has moved erratically for us, hasn’t it?”
“Yes,” she pressed the folded tunics down into the trunk then gently smiled at him. “At first you thought it couldn’t move fast enough.”
“Now I want to slow it down a bit. Just for a few more days,” he smiled at her sadly.
“No you don’t,” she closed the lid on the silver, metal chest. “You just hate when things change. You hate not knowing what will happen next.”
His grin turned rueful. “How is it you know me so well?”
She moved over and sat next to him on the bed. “Because you let me.”
He slipped his arm around her shoulder and hugged her tightly. “I’m going to miss you, Leah. I’m going to miss you terribly.”
She nudged at him with her shoulder, “Only until your next assignment. Once you get it you’ll barely remember my name.”
“She won’t be you,” he said sadly.
“Which is a good thing for you,” she laughed. “Imagine that horrific scenario. At least you know whoever they send you will be better than me.”
His face sobered. “Not really. She may be beautiful, Leah but she won’t be better than you.”
“If she’s beautiful she’ll be better in the ways that count,” her voice whispered softly. “It’s only your third assignment, Paul. You’ve plenty of time. You’ll find her. Look how well the committee matched us for personality. Now you just have to wait for them to get it right in the looks department.”
“You make me sound so shallow,” he turned his head away from her.
She reached across him and placed her hand over his, “Not shallow, just human.” She stood, keeping hold of his hand. “We’d better go. We’ll be late for the appointments with our life guides if we don’t get moving.”
“Leah, what if I said I changed my mind…”
She stopped him with a raised hand. “Paul you know you haven’t. You’re just afraid of change, of being alone. You won’t have to be alone for long. Ask to go back into the pool immediately. You could have a new assignment by next week.”
“But I can’t see you again for three months,” he pouted.
“No, you can’t. Those are the rules and you know why they exist. They keep people who can’t accept their rejection from bothering the former assignment when the decision wasn’t mutual.” She patted his cheek. “Once the ban is lifted, however, you owe me a beer.”
He hugged her to him wishing for all he was worth that he felt something more than the brotherly affection for her. But he didn’t and they both knew it. Had both known it would be this way from the moment she stepped into his residence rooms for the first time. No, even before that. He had known the minute he had been given her dossier. The minute he had seen her.
Keeping hold of his hand she led them out of the second bedroom she had occupied during the three month assignment. The metal door to the residence slid open and they stepped out into the corridor.
Sitting in the office of her life guide she smiled at the woman across from her. Karen was a dear but a bit self deluded. “You’re sure you wouldn’t like to beat this one to the punch? Go on record as rejecting him?”
Leah shook her head. “Paul was a darling. A bit high-maintenance but a darling.”
Karen now shook her head and watched her computer screen. The chiming indicated the arrival of a message and she touched the screen. A sad, resigned smile curled her lips. “It’s from Paul’s guide.”
“It’s official then,” Leah looked down at her hands. She was surprised by the sadness that suddenly settled over her. She had known from the first day she met Paul that it would come to this. At the end of their three month assignment, she would be rejected. Just as she had been five times before.
“I’m sorry, Leah,” Karen whispered unhappily.
“I’m not,” she admitted. Despite the sadness and the weight that came with yet another rejection, she wasn’t sorry. Now Paul would have a chance to meet someone who was perfect for him, someone with whom all the pieces fit.
“Was there never a chance with this one?” Karen looked searchingly into her eyes.
“No,” Leah admitted. “No. We were well matched as friends but that’s it. Perhaps if he had been farther into the process, if he had been misassigned more often we might have reached some compromise. But Paul is still looking for his princess and has every right to chase that dream as long as he can.”
“So he rejected you right from the start?” Karen sighed.
Leah nodded. “From the moment he saw my file. From that moment he knew there was no way this was going to work.”
“He didn’t even give it a chance,” bitterness crept into her life guide’s voice.
“Don’t fault him, Karen. He was only ever honest, polite and kind. It’s the system that’s at fault. How could you ever have expected someone like him to accept assignment to someone like me?” Her green eyes looked down at her hands, where they lay in her lap.
“Because appearances aren’t everything,” Karen snapped. “Why can’t these men see that?”
Leah shook her head, “Be fair, it’s not only men. How many women come through here rejecting their assignment because he isn’t attractive to them?”
“More than I’d care to admit,” the other woman admitted grudgingly.
“Building a family unit takes a strong coupling. We all know that. The man and woman must be strong as a couple before they can be strong as a family. That means a relationship that is mutually satisfying on all levels, emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical.”
Karen’s eyes narrowed. “That was low, Leah. Using my own words against me.”
The small, full lipped mouth smiled. “Well, I’ve heard it often enough. Five times now? I just thought I’d save you the trouble of having to say it a sixth time.”
Karen started to chuckle. “So you’ve come away with one more friend.” Leah nodded. “Well, what do you say we get you back into the pool again right away?”
Leah sighed. “I’d rather not. I’d prefer a pass if possible. I’ve never used one and I’d like to sit out this next round if you don’t mind.”
Karen looked at her thoughtfully. “We don’t have any residences available at the moment so you’d have to go back into maidel housing.”
“That’s fine. The North American/European maidel housing is near the education section anyway. It’s convenient.”
“So you want to play the old maid school teacher for a while, eh?” Karen’s voice was not unkind but she definitely did not approve.
“Just one cycle, please Karen. I just need a bit of time to rest from it all. I’ve been a good girl and have been through five assignments in the past fifteen months. I need a bit of time to recharge that positive attitude you keep harping about.” Leah said soberly.
“Right,” the guide conceded. She touched a few more boxes on her screen and then looked back up at the woman before her. “The reception desk will have your paperwork. Three months assignment to the NAE maidel house. Then you come back here and we try again.”
The round face brightened just a bit. “Thank you, Karen. I really thought I was going to have to fight you on this.”
“Just promise me you won’t spend the time moping, getting all negative on me,” the guide said sternly.
“I promise. I’ll be back in three months to get my next assignment, rested and down right perky.”
Karen smiled, “Well don’t go overboard on me.”
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