Excerpt – The Duality Principle

© 2014 Rebecca Grace Allen

“Your folks were pretty hard on you?” Connor scooped up another big mouthful of ice cream, and Gabriella tried not to focus on the way his tongue lagged over the edge of the plastic spoon.

“Were?” she asked with a snort. “They still are.” She almost added that their constant distance and propensity to judge were slowly killing her, but she forced the thought away, not wanting her baggage to become a third wheel on the date. “But I guess all parents hard on their kids, right?”

“I wouldn’t know. Mine took off years ago.”

Gabriella stopped walking. “They took off?”

Connor paused as well and frowned at the ground.

“My dad left when I was thirteen. Apparently, his next fix was more important than we were. I found out he died a few years later.”

He looked up, squinted and pinched his lips together, as if the words had a bad taste to them. “Mom tried to manage for a while, but she was using too. She couldn’t make ends meet, so she left me with my grandparents when I was fifteen to go into rehab.”

“Wow. How did that go over?”

“Weird at first, since I’d never met them before, but they took me in right away, no questions asked. Of course that was because Mom said it would only be until she got out of rehab.”

“She didn’t go?”

“She did. She just never came back.”

Gabriella’s mouth fell open. For all her parents made her crazy, she couldn’t imagine being abandoned like that. “I’m so sorry.”

Connor shook his head and let out an abrupt laugh. “Don’t be. She made the right choice. She couldn’t have handled me anymore. I was a real rebel back then. I needed some serious discipline.”

Something inside her flared at the word rebel, but she squashed it down.

“So your grandparents raised you?”

“Yup. They made me clean up my act. Taught me to respect others and to play by the rules.”

Gabriella’s stomach bobbed like a buoy on the tide. She wondered exactly how dirty his act had been and what rules he’d forgotten to play by, but she concentrated on her ice cream instead as they resumed their stroll down the street.

“My grandmother always taught me to just be myself,” she said. “Even when my parents seemed to want the exact opposite.”

“They don’t want you to be a mathematical genius?” He smiled at her, and that damn dip under his nose taunted her again.

“They do, but my mother wants me to find a safe, rich husband and settle down too.”

“And that’s not what you want?”

She halted on the corner and looked up at him. There were so many things she wanted, the least of which was the comfortable parameters of the kinds of relationships she’d known. No, she wanted Connor, wanted those brawny hands of his pushing her up against a wall and showing her all about the rebel he once was.

She flattened her tongue against the shaft of her ice cream and licked. Slowly.

“No. That’s not what I want.”

Connor’s breath rushed out on a tight exhale. He stared hard at her, his towering body looming, leaning in close. Gabriella’s belly tightened in anticipation of his lips finally brushing against hers, but then someone on the street called out his name. They jumped apart as two male voices hollered loudly from the cab of a pickup as it sped by.

“Friends of yours?” she asked.

Connor watched the truck, his body tense and guarded until it was out of sight. Then he let out a slow, deep breath.

“Yeah. Sorry about that. Some people never change, you know?”

She didn’t know. She’d never had anyone yell out of a truck at her, never stared at one as it disappeared from sight the way Connor had, either. He cleared his throat and nodded in the opposite direction from where the pickup had gone.

“So how’s your research going?” he asked, making it clear that talking about whoever had just passed by was off the table. She wished he’d let her in, because having another piece of the mystery that was Connor unsolved was almost as frustrating as how damn good he looked in his jeans from behind.

Gabriella followed him away from the lights of the streets and toward the dimly lit wharf. “Pretty badly, actually. I’m having trouble gathering evidence, which will make it interesting when I meet my thesis advisor in the fall and I have absolutely nothing to show him.”

“Well, disproving duality can’t be easy. I mean, everything is dual to some extent, right? Everything’s opposite is also its equal. North and South. Good and evil.” He grinned at her, lips quirking up again, eyes crinkling. “Autobots and Decepticons.”

Gabriella laughed loudly. It felt good to abandon their former heaviness.

“That’s the proof I need. I can base my entire thesis statement off The Transformers.” She waved her hand dramatically in front of her. “I can see the title now: ‘Eighties Cartoons Invalidate Central Theory in Projective Geometry and Boolean Algebra’.”

“It could work.”

Connor wolfed down the last spoonful of his dessert and tossed the bowl in the trash before they drifted in the direction of the docks. When they came to a point where a gate locked the pier, a No Trespassing sign guarding it, Gabriella stopped.

“Dead end,” she noted, but Connor typed a code into a keypad by the knob, and the catch in the metal door released. He opened it for her, and Gabriella eyed the pier down at the end of the ramp. Sailboats and yachts floated and rocked in every slip. “Do you have a boat down there?”

“No, but like I said—I know my way around codes.”

“And I’m guessing No Trespassing signs don’t apply to rebels like you, either.”

He laughed and held her gaze. “Something like that.”

His voice was soft and low, his eyes hooded and dangerous again. The Connor she’d seen for a few moments at the café was back, and she wanted more of him. She stepped through the open gate and waited as he closed it behind them. The ramp was steep, and they walked down the length of ropes and wood to the flat of the dock. It was steady, secured in place by tall poles made of timber, moss growing where the water broke around them. The noise from town quieted and was replaced by the softly lapping shore, the creak and groan of idling boats, and the sound of their footsteps. As they neared the edge of the pier, Gabriella was intensely aware of Connor’s presence and the fact that in between the moored boats and sleeping seagulls, they were completely alone.

“I still don’t see how you can disprove duality,” he continued. “Every extreme is a variation of its dual, right? Hot and cold are opposites, but really, they’re just degrees of the same thing.”

Gabriella enjoyed his logic, even if he wasn’t understanding the whole picture. “So you’re saying that light and dark aren’t opposites. They’re just two poles of the same phenomena.”


“Good theorizing. I’m impressed.” She leaned back against one of the poles and slicked her tongue over the pool of melted ice cream in her cone. “Do you have any other examples to share with me?”

“Tons.” Connor braced an arm above her head, his body so muscled and sure and towering over hers. “Love and hate. Repulsion and attraction.”

She felt the pull between them like magnets. Like gravity. She had to know if he felt it too.

“Pleasure and pain.”

“Exactly,” he repeated softly. “I mean, how can you try to disprove something when it’s standing right there in front of you?”

She licked her ice cream again. Connor’s eyes darkened as his gaze dipped down to her mouth, his heavy stare fixed on her tongue. Gabriella broke off a piece of the sugary cone and bit down on it sharply. She heard his breath catch.

“Going for the cone already when you haven’t finished your ice cream?” he asked.

“I guess I’ve had enough.” The truth was that she was nowhere close to full, her body empty and throbbing with the need to be taken and claimed.

“Well, I finished mine, and I’m still hungry.” His mouth was inches away from hers. “Sharing is caring.”

She tilted her half-eaten cone toward his mouth. Connor leaned in, his eyes locked with hers as he slipped his tongue inside it. He probed and licked, achingly slow, his tongue sliding into the wafer funnel the way she imagined it pushing into her body. She shivered and reached back to clutch at the wood behind her with one hand, her knees starting to buckle.

“You sure you don’t want any more?” he asked.

“I might want more.” But she didn’t mean the ice cream.

“You should. It tastes really good.”

He took the cone from her hand and slowly, purposefully gathered some ice cream onto the tip of his tongue. Closing the distance between them, he bent down to brush his lips against hers. For a moment, all she felt was hot breath and cold lips, and then his kiss washed over her. Gabriella melted into the feeling, drinking the ice cream that spilled from his mouth into hers.

Connor pulled back to take a breath and threw the cone to the ground.

“You taste better.” He roughly clasped her neck, cleaving her to him for another dizzying kiss.