Every weekday (Monday through Friday) for the month of December I will spotlight a story here on my blog. Yes, this is 17 days of Christmas book browsing. And on Christmas Eve I will announce the lucky winner (at least two that I know of right now). The person who leaves the most comments throughout the month will receive their choice of any one of the books spotlighted. That's from me. Other prizes are being offered by the individual authors.
Today we have Nickels by Karen Baney, yup, another great story!
Niki Turner has finally arrived. Her career as a Software Engineer is soaring—she has just been offered the company’s most sought after account, Helitronics. Life would be perfect, if she could stop her roommate from playing matchmaker.
Then Kyle Jacobs mysteriously re-enters her life. As painful memories resurface, his presence turns her life upside down and threatens to waylay her career. She must find a way to work with him—after all, he’s the helicopter flight consultant for the new flight control system she’s coding.
Can she forget the past and see him as the new man he has become? Or will her resentment keep her from finding what she has always been searching for?Excerpt:
Coffee, granola bar, purse, phone, laptop. All items accounted for. She set everything in its place in her car then punched the button to lift the garage door.
Her first stop of the morning was Elite‘s office. Brian asked her to meet him there to go over a few things before the meeting with Helitronics at ten. As was his custom, he would personally attend the first meeting before handing over the project to his people.
She pulled into her usual parking space, turned off the car, and loaded her items up to the second floor office. Brian was there waiting. She dropped her items in a nearby cube, before joining him in his office.
"Here‘s the rundown of the project," he said. "We‘re programming the aviation systems for the latest model helicopter for the Air Force Combat Search and Rescue units. You know CSAR?"
Niki held back a sigh. Of course she knew. After four years on a military base and going to school with lifetime military brats, she felt quite comfortable with military lingo.
"Helitronics has hired a former pilot as the flight consultant on the project. That‘s the good news. The bad news is that we are inheriting some pretty terrible code."
Niki nodded as she took notes on her laptop.
"Seems the previous firm, while supplying engineers with the proper clearance, failed to choose qualified ones. They were scheduled to have the code loaded into the simulators by the end of this month. From what Russell tells me, they are not even close. So, Helitronics fired the other firm and set new deadlines, though they are still pretty tight.
"The project manager is from Helitronics. You and the team will be reporting to him. You‘ve got Doug and Jake again. And Scott. I think you worked with him for that medical client."
She nodded again.
Brian looked down at his watch. "This morning‘s the meet-and-greet. Then we jump in with both feet this afternoon. Any questions?"
After she asked several questions about the condition of the code, programming language, and projected deadlines, Brian suggested they head over to Helitronics. She grabbed her things and followed him to his car.
The drive from Elite‘s office only took ten minutes. Unfortunately, going through security took nearly fifteen minutes. They examined her phone, her laptop, her lip gloss—everything. She forgot what a daily ordeal working for DoD clients presented. But it was worth it.
Finally, with two minutes to spare, Brian and Niki were led back to the conference room. Russell handled the introductions since he knew everyone from both Elite and Helitronics.
"Todd Graham," Russell said, "allow me to introduce Niki Turner. She‘s our technical lead. I believe you know Brian Forbes."
Turning to Niki, Russell added, "Todd is the Project Manager."
She extended her hand towards the tall thin man who looked as if a slight breeze might knock him over. Todd shook her hand, but not before scrutinizing her with his dark brown eyes. Something about the look put her on edge.
"So, Niki, is it?" he said with a touch of suspicion. "How old are you?"
If this was her first client, she might have retreated into a corner—at least mentally. But it wasn‘t. By now she was used to being asked her age, no matter how inappropriate. It still irked her. No one ever asked Russell‘s age, and he was only two years older than her.
"Todd, a pleasure to meet you. I‘m sure you will find my skills are ready for any challenge you throw my way."
Brian‘s quick nod told her she performed perfectly.
Russell cleared his throat, drawing everyone‘s attention. "And this is Alan Mitchel. He‘s the business analyst who has worked on the specs for this project from the beginning. I think you‘ll find his experience on the project helpful."
Niki shook Alan‘s hand, noting his light touch. He seemed a bit nervous, or maybe it was his wire framed glasses that gave her that impression. He was the same height as her. She placed his age somewhere in his mid-thirties.
"Alan," she said repeating his name softly. That little trick helped her more times than she cared to admit. She could be good at remembering names when she wanted to.
When they all took their seats, she thought there was one introduction missing—the helicopter pilot. She looked around the room again. Nope. Todd and Alan were the only people from Helitronics. Perhaps, they would meet him later.
As the meeting neared the twenty minute mark, the door opened behind Niki.
"Sorry, I‘m late," a male voice said. "I guess security still hasn‘t figured out how to deal with my shrapnel. I keep hoping one of these days they‘ll figure it out."
Niki, back still towards the door, tensed at the sound of his light laughter. She knew that laugh—heard it far too many times for her own taste. And it brought back some pretty bad memories.
Turning slowly like the end of a merry-go-round ride, her stomach knotted into a rock hard ball. Kyle Jacobs was the pilot.
What a great personification of a lost soul searching for God, but after all she’s lost, Niki’s floundering is totally understandable. That’s what makes this such a wonderful story – she’s so real – but so broken. Ms. Baney does a great job of bringing her characters to life – making them multi dimensional.
Niki certainly has earned her way in a market dominated by men. She knows her own strengths – and weaknesses - and knows the meaning of teamwork, too. What she doesn’t know is how to have a healthy relationship, how to let go of her fear of losing the ones she loves so that she can live a fulfilling life. Her past losses will dominate every moment of her existence unless she opens her heart and learns to live again.
Kyle wants to help her get beyond the past, wants to show her how much he has changed. What a journey this author leads us through as we watch Niki learn some hard lessons about life and love.
Marvelous story! Well done!
You can find more on Karen Baney at: http://www.karenbaney.com/