Update-Exclusive Excerpt from Virtual

In lieu of a my regularly scheduled blog post this evening, I hope you enjoy this sample from my upcoming novel Virtual. 

Amanda approached the entrance to Virtual Technologies, heart racing, knees weak, thinking about what she was about to do.  She had waited three days, but still had not gotten a call or even a text from her husband.  She needed answers, and she needed them now.  She had a visitor’s pass card she could use to get into the building, but technically she was supposed to be escorted by Pete or another employee if she went anywhere but the lobby or the first floor restrooms, and it was nearly closing time.

She managed to keep her hand from shaking long enough to swipe her card and open the door when it buzzed. She then barely contained a sigh of relief when she saw the guard at the security desk.  She recognized Mr. Stub from past visits with Pete.  He was a short, balding man, with a wide, friendly face, who wore a uniform he’d been issued when he was at least one size smaller.

“Hello, Mrs. Connor.  You’re coming in a bit late, aren’t you?” he asked with a soft smile.

“Yes, Mr. Stub.  Pete forgot some paperwork and he asked me to pick it up for him on my way home.”

Amanda hated lying to the man, but she could hardly tell him she was planning to snoop around in hopes of uncovering what sort of emergency had required her husband’s unplanned and unexplained business trip.  He was a computer programmer, not a secret agent, and she was worried about him.  He’d been working so many extra hours lately, and now he’d apparently disappeared on his bosses’ orders, without even a phone call.

“I suppose it’s alright, between you and me,” Mr. Stub said with a wink.  “You know the way up don’t you?”

Amanda resisted the urge to confess, and reminded herself she was doing this for Pete.  “Oh yes, I’ll be fine.  Thank you.”

She crossed to the elevator bank, punched in the button for the third floor, and waited for a car.  When she made it into the elevator, she had to lean against the wall in order to resist sinking down to the floor.    Ok, he bought it, she thought as she took a deep breath, and then another.  Now I just have to get into Pete’s office without being seen.  This sort of thing is so much more fun with my virtual character.

The elevator chimed and she ducked into the corner, and then peered out into the hallway.  The coast was clear, so she half-ran, half-walked to the end of the hall and unlocked Pete’s office with the spare key she had borrowed from the peg on the kitchen wall at home.

She felt her hands shaking as she turned the knob of the office door.  Stop it, she ordered herself, it’s not like you haven’t been in here before.  She slipped the door open quietly, and tiptoed in.  She closed the door again, being careful not to make a sound.  She rounded the secretary’s desk, taking care not to disturb the piles of paper and knickknacks arranged in neat groups around its perimeter, and made her way into the inner office.

The lights were off in both offices, but Pete’s desk glowed thanks to the glare of a parking lot light beaming through the window.  As Amanda moved behind the desk she was surprised to see Pete’s computer was running.  Maybe he left a schedule up, she thought.

Leaning over, she hit the space bar to wake up the monitor, but instead of the expected planner, she was surprised to find a test version of Virtual World running.  A quick check of the status log showed Pete’s character, Rex Cade, was logged in and active.  He’s playing games!  He can’t call me because he’s on some secret assignment for the boss and he’s playing computer games.

Amanda didn’t take the time to calm down or think logically.  She sat down in his empty seat and placed his goggles which had been sitting on the side of the desk on her head.  She logged her character, Leslie Storm, into the game, with only one thought in mind.  She was going after her husband, and when she found him, he would regret worrying her so much she was starting to act like her game avatar.


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