"A crackling thriller brimming with both paranoia and philosophical conundrums."
-KA Bedford on Thomas World
Thomas World Launch Party
September 7, 7:00 PM
Buy Thomas World online
The God Particle: An excerpt
Steve isn't stupid.
He can tell by the way she keeps stealing glances at him, by the way she follows everything he says with squeaky titters, by the gradually shrinking perimeter of his personal space this afternoon, that Serena wants him.
He's known about her crush for months. Frequent visits to his office with no real purpose. Hemlines and necklines drifting inexorably toward each other. Projects stretching into evenings, into weekends, into fuzzy, indeterminate hours that find the two of them alone with the soft rumble of the air conditioner and the laboring hip-hop bass signature of her portable CD player. Serena is familiar with her product offering, after all, and she markets it well.
But Steve isn't stupid. He's withstood her voluptuous body
and subtle signals because sleeping with his administrative assistant would
be more trouble that it's worth, because he's never cheated on a girlfriend
in his life. And if Serena has figured this out by now--tomorrow they'll
be flying back to L.A. after a full week in Switzerland--it hasn't stopped
her from making a last ditch effort this afternoon.
Which is remarkable, considering that he spent his entire morning searching for an engagement ring. Up and down the sidewalks of the Bahnhofstrasse, beneath the overcast Zurich sky, weaving between men and women dressed in outfits that cost more than Serena makes in a month. Around lunchtime he found a winner, a stunning three-carat solitaire set upon a thousand year-old band forged somewhere in the Alps to the east, a uniquely-European item he purchased for just under thirty thousand Swiss francs.
And still Serena casts smoldering glances at him, brushes against his arm a little too often as they walk along the shadowy Limmat River.The ring is for his girlfriend, Janine. She'll be waiting for him at LAX in less than twenty-four hours, one expectant face in a field of them beyond the post-9/11 security checkpoint. A smile and a kiss and a seventy-five-minute drive to Valencia. A dip into the Jacuzzi tub with a Sports Illustrated. And a few minutes later she'll bring him a lime-garnished Corona, join him in the tub, and he'll be waiting with the ring.
Serena knows he plans to propose tomorrow evening. She knows because it's all they've been talking about since he met her at the train station and showed her the ring. He even told her about Lucerne, a beautiful lakeside city here in Switzerland, where he plans to take Janine for their honeymoon next summer.
And still Serena casts smoldering glances at him, brushes
against his arm a little too often as they walk along the shadowy Limmat
River. She takes his hand as they hurry across the rail tracks, just beating
an oncoming commuter train.
During a life spent pursuing women, predicting their behavior well enough to have scored more often than most men, Steve still doesn't understand why women do what they do. Why is Serena so attracted to a man eight years her senior, a man with a serious girlfriend? Why is she more attracted as she listens to him talk about that girlfriend? Perhaps the exotic setting has something to do with it, their visit to this ornate and historic European city. The odd warble of police sirens, the constant rush of intercity trains, the ancient texture of cobblestone streets under their feet. But it's more likely that Serena's aggression is driven by the overpowering attraction a woman feels for something denied to her. This isn't the first time he's met one who suffers from a fixation on unavailable men.
The two of them pass the train station again and make their way toward the Niederdorf, a touristy sliver of Zurich where claustrophobic streets have been closed to all but foot traffic, and multilevel buildings advertise all manner of food and drink and sex. Serena keeps going on about her obsession with Italian food, so Steve is directing them toward Santa Lucia, a busy restaurant with a chef who is a master of masonry-oven pizzas.
Rain begins to splatter the cobblestone street as they push through the Niederdorf crowds. Serena spots Santa Lucia and takes Steve's hand, compelling him to run. With his other hand he pats the side of his overcoat, reassuring himself with the slight and squarish bulk of the ring box, and groans as he notices a clot of wet and hungry folks in the restaurant's entryway. He could locate a cab in sixty seconds, after all, and find shelter in the warm, dry bed of his hotel room thirty minutes after that. Instead, he watches as Serena wriggles her way inside, leaving Steve and an elderly Germanic man to brave the rain.