- N. N. Light
A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. by Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a Toasty Reads pick #scifiromance
A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever.
Science Fiction Romance
WHEN NOTHING TURNS OUT TO BE AS EXPECTED…. After Linda Coates gets a job offer from friend Ruby Barkley Martiniere, she sees a means to escape the growing issues created by her ambitious brother-in-law Clyde Newsome, who seemingly wants to control every aspect of Linda's life. Ruby's offer means Linda gets the chance to work closely with her friend in developing high-end agricultural robotics and manage the Martiniere Group's high-end labs around the world. What Linda didn't expect was Armand Martiniere—her counterpart who works for Ruby's husband Gabriel. Or what Armand comes to mean to her. Or the degree to which her brother-in-law Clyde wants to pursue her as part of his political ambitions. Linda needs to find a way to protect her family and remain safe…hopefully, with Armand. Can she make it happen—either alone, or with the help of the Martinieres?
Linda waved at Nan, the agricultural robotics department receptionist, as she headed toward the conference room. A blond man in a dark blue suit of a nicer quality than one might expect to see on someone in the reception area of agricultural college offices glanced up from his tablet as he sat on one of the reception area’s couches.
His direct gaze made Linda’s skin crawl—what was he doing here? Hopefully not bothering Nan.
“Ruby told me to expect you, Linda,” Nan said as Linda blinked at the retina display to open the security gate that separated private offices from the outer area. “Her last interviewee just left.”
“Then I’ll go on back.”
The man relaxed, and turned his attention back to his tablet.
Was he security of some sort? Gabriel Martiniere hadn’t brought anyone like that when he interviewed Linda and Ruby for the Martiniere Grant last year. But Linda would be more than willing to bet this man was security. He looked and acted like the security her parents employed.
Linda rounded the corner and halted. The lights in the hallway were dimmed—normal for a Friday. A couple stood silhouetted against the window at the end. The man had his arms around the woman, leaning his forehead against hers as they spoke, too soft for Linda to hear. He straightened up, sighed, and kissed her—and as she turned away from him, smiling, Linda finally recognized Ruby.
Long red hair pinned in a bun at the back of her neck, instead of the braid that Ruby had worn before. Elegant, flowing sleeveless sea-green tunic over softly-tailored, cream-colored wide-leg slacks, and flats instead of snap-button Western shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. But the biggest change of all—Ruby was significantly thinner than she had been. Not that Ruby was a heavy woman before, but she was almost too damn thin now.
Ruby talked about physical therapy. Has she been sick?
Gabriel Martiniere—also much thinner than when Linda had met him last year—tangled his fingers with Ruby’s and pulled her back for a second kiss, beaming.
This is private.
The creepy-crawlie sensation that she was spying made Linda ease around the corner and lean against the wall, careful to stay out of Nan’s sight. She counted to five, then returned to the hallway. Ruby paused at the door to the conference room.
“Linda!” Her face lit up with a big smile.
“Ruby. It’s good to see you.” Linda fumbled for words, not knowing what else to say.
“Come on in. I need to get my stuff and—" Ruby grimaced and gestured at her knee. “I have to take care of this.”
Linda followed Ruby into the conference room. Ruby sat, propped her left leg up on a chair, and pulled up her pant leg to reveal a brace on that knee.
“Oh, I had a knee replacement that went bad,” Ruby muttered, adjusting her brace. “It’s kind of hard to fix a knee that’s been shot to pieces with expanding bullets meant to wreck tissue. Damn Philip Martiniere. If it were possible, I’d resurrect and kill him all over again.”
Killing? Ruby? No, that can’t be. Ruby isn’t a killer.
How much had her friend changed since she married into the Martinieres?
Ruby sighed. “It’s part of that long story.” She slid the pant leg down and stood up, then gathered her tablet and papers, putting them into a Hermès handbag.
Hermès? Ruby never owned anything that expensive before—wait. She’s married to a billionaire.
Another change, even more surprising. And for Ruby to be so casual about a Hermès bag—Linda’s mother babied and prized the Hermès handbag she had received as a thirtieth anniversary present from Linda’s father ten years ago, and the Coateses were comfortably rich.
This looked like Ruby’s everyday handbag.
“Sounds like quite a tale,” Linda said, reeling from all the changes she already saw in her friend. “So where are we going for lunch?”
“The Belvedere.” Ruby named the most expensive restaurant in Corvallis.
“Ruby—“ Linda calculated. Did she have enough in her account to pay for even a simple lunch at the Belvedere? Not really.
Ruby grabbed the cane leaning against the table. “On me. You bought lunch enough times when I was flat broke and living on ramen noodles. Time for me to start repaying you.” She rolled her eyes. “Beyond what I owe you, it’s a security issue. Our security staff like the Belvedere, and I’d just as soon not cause them a meltdown by going someplace they haven’t already vetted. We won’t be rushed through eating there. They’ll let us stay the whole afternoon into dinner, if we want.”
“If you say so,” Linda said slowly.
Security. She had correctly identified the blond in the reception area.
So what the hell was going on?
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-different-life-joyce-reynolds-ward/1142967311
What makes your featured book a must-read?
It’s a little bit of a romp, a little bit of a reaction to some of the political currents in the US today, and a LOT about two people out of the limelight who manage to discover that they have much more in common than just working for a married couple as executive assistants.
Enter to win a $20 Amazon gift card:
Open Internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs February 3 – February 13, 2023.
Winner will be drawn on February 14, 2023.
Joyce Reynolds-Ward has been called "the best writer I've never heard of" by one reviewer. Her work includes themes of high-stakes family and political conflict, digital sentience, personal agency and control, realistic strong women, and (whenever possible) horses, frequently in Pacific Northwest settings.
She is the author of The Netwalk Sequence series, the Goddess's Honor series, The Martiniere Legacy series, The People of the Martiniere Legacy series, and The Martiniere Multiverse series as well as standalones Beating the Apocalypse, Klone's Stronghold and Alien Savvy.
Samples of her Martiniere short stories/novel in progress and her nonfiction can be found on Substack at either Speculations from the Wide Open Spaces (writing), Speculations on Politics and Political History (politics), or Martiniere Stories (fiction).
Joyce is a Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off Semifinalist, a Writers of the Future SemiFinalist, and an Anthology Builder Finalist. She is the Secretary of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, and a member of Soroptimists International.
Social Media Links: