Round Tree

Class Act Books

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 84,147
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Anthropology professor, Jaicee Grant, needs to trade academics for hands on research. When she arrives at Round Tree, she finds more than she bargained for. Not only does the flesh and blood archaeologist, Evan Clark, enamor her but also an ancient love, Sayo, has invaded her mind. They both want her to help them unearth the mysteries of the past, but one of them wants her as a woman as well.

Evan Clark is desperate for money for his dig. When Jaicee Grant makes a large donation, he is stunned. It isn't until she arrives at Round Tree that he realizes she is a very desirable woman and one who could easily hold the key to unlock the secrets of the past. Once she does, it could become the archaeological find of the new century.

Round Tree
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Round Tree

Class Act Books

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 84,147
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Jocelyn Grant hurried across the campus of Havelin College, a flyer announcing Dr. Evan Clark's lecture clutched in her hand. A gust of cold wind whipped under her mid-calf length skirt, but even the chill of the afternoon couldn't cool her anger.

After taking the steps to the administration building two at a time, she embraced the warmth of its interior. While she waited for the elevator, she again read the words on the paper she held in her hand.

Dr. Evan Clark Will Be Lecturing On

The Round Tree Excavations

The Clay Auditorium

Monday At 7:30 P.M.

"Damn," she said aloud. When the elevator doors opened, she stepped into the small cubicle and pressed the button for the fifth floor. Leaning back against the wall, she waited for the doors to again open.

Henry Bennett's office sat across the hall from the elevator. She eyed her objective. The door stood ajar. Without knocking, she marched into the outer office.

The girl at the desk said, looking up to make eye contact. "Dr. Grant? I didn't know you had an appointment."

The girl irritated Jocelyn. "I don't need an appointment. I'm going in to see Henry."

"I'm sorry, but"

Jocelyn didn't listen to what the girl had to say. Instead, she pushed her way into the inner office.

Henry sat at his desk with George Shelby, the chairman of the board of directors seated across from him. The two men were engaged in conversation and she wondered if they even knew she entered the room.

"Just what is the meaning of this?" she demanded, shaking the paper.

Henry looked up at her interruption. "What has you so upset, Jocelyn?"

She took the few steps needed to stand directly in front of him and thrust the handbill in his face. "This. Why didn't I know about Dr. Clark coming here to speak?"

"Calm down, Jocelyn. Let's talk about it."

"Talk about it," she shrieked, her voice several decibels higher than usual. "We should have talked about it before you printed this flyer."

George got to his feet and put his hand on her shoulder while Henry took the paper from her. "How did you get this? These weren't supposed to be distributed until tomorrow."

"One of my students brought it to me. She asked what I knew about Dr. Clark's lecture. It seems I know next to nothing."

"Next to nothing?" George repeated, making her statement into a question. "How long have you been pestering the board to get someone of Clark's caliber to speak here?"

"You know it's been several years. Now you've gone behind my back. I would have thought you'd at least consult me. What good is this lecture going to do my students?"

"What are you talking about?" Henry inquired, a puzzled look on his face.

"Look at the time you have this thing scheduled. It's for next Monday, right at the beginning of the winter break. How many students do you think will be willing to stay on campus to attend it?"

"I'm sorry, it's the only date he could give us," George said.

"Besides," Henry continued, not allowing Jocelyn to speak. "We didn't call him. Why don't you sit down so we can talk about this rationally?"

Jocelyn seated herself in the chair George held for her, not saying anything until the men also seated themselves. "What do you mean you didn't contact him?"

"His people called us. A man by the name of Robert Matelin got in touch with me. It's costing a pretty penny for him to come, especially considering they're calling it a fund raising tour."

Henry's statement softened Jocelyn's mood a bit. "Fund raising? His project has always been supported by the state."

"Not anymore. You know how things are these days. Everything is being cut in an attempt to balance the budget. Unnecessary, that's what the government thinks."

Jocelyn could hardly comprehend what George just said. "Unnecessary? He's unearthing one of the first settlements in this state and they call it unnecessary. It certainly doesn't make sense. I can't believe it."

"Neither could we. We even went so far as to call the capitol and inquire about it. They confirmed everything Matelin told me. When I talked to him again, he implied they're hoping to receive enough private funding to keep the project going for a couple of more years at least."

Jocelyn could feel her temper again begin to build. "Why does the fact Clark's project needs money exclude me from the decision to bring him to speak on campus?"

Henry and George shifted uncomfortably in their chairs as they listened to Jocelyn. She knew that they had done this behind her back and so did they. Their problem now was that she had caught them and they were trying their best to cover up their deceit. Well, it wasn't going to happen. She would see to it that they knew she was mad at them and a few shallow words would pacify her this time. She wasn't going to let the good old boys rule her life. With the amount of years she had spent working for the college, she was a force to be reckoned with and from here on in they were going to know it.

"Under normal circumstances, we would have spoken to you first, but it all happened in a span of less than an hour over the phone. We didn't have time to consult with anyone."

"Why didn't you call me before these handbills were printed?"

Henry shook his head. "I have no answer for you, Jocelyn. I'm sorry. Once the ball got rolling we had to move fast just to get the publicity out."

"So, you left out the head of the Anthropology Department. Why is it you always conveniently leave me out of things? It certainly was different when Dr. Furgeson ran this department. He was in on everything. Of course, he was male.  I'm just as knowledgeable as he was."

George got to his feet, his face beet red. "Calm down, Jocelyn, no one here considers you any less knowledgeable than anyone else on staff. It was an oversight, plain and simple."

"Sure, like everything else around here is an oversight. Whose department is the last to get any funding? Who is the last to get extra help when you have grad students available? I know the games you play and I'm getting tired of being dumped on by you."

"Listen to yourself, Jocelyn." Henry chimed in trying to smooth the situation. We are not playing games and believe me, no one would ever consider dumping on you as you so aptly put it. We were planning to tell you before the flyers were distributed, but someone jumped the gun and got their wires crossed," he explained.

George sat back down and took her hand in his. "We planned to have you on stage with Dr. Clark. We want you to introduce him."

Jocelyn wanted to contain her temper, but was fighting a losing battle. "How magnanimous of you. What did you plan to do? Smooth my ruffled feathers, give me a chance to show you I know what I'm talking about? Well, with or without your approval, I will be on that stage and I do intend to introduce, the man. It may just be the last thing I do around here. Maybe you ought to start looking for a new head for your precious Anthropology Department."

Her statement promoted Henry to get to his feet. Watching the two men bob up and down like jack-in-the-boxes was almost comical. "You can't mean what you just said. I've never heard you talk this way before."

"I've never been this angry before. Besides, up until a few months ago, I needed this position. It gave me the opportunity to take care of my mother."

"How are you doing?" George asked, condescendingly. His tone upset her, brought back unpleasant memories.

"I don't know why you even ask, since it's apparent my feelings don't matter to either of you."

"You'll feel differently once Clark's lecture is over and we get back to normal," Henry said. "We were going to talk to you in the morning, before the flyers were distributed. If things went as planned, we wouldn't even be having this discussion."

"Well, things didn't go as planned," Jocelyn accused. She didn't know why she even tried to reason with these men. They made up their minds without even consulting her. One fit of anger, one outburst from her, would not change things. Just give in. Go along with what they have set up, but make them squirm a little. "The flyers went out today and you didn't talk to me. So where do we go from here?"

"Do some background work on Dr. Clark and write an introduction."

"I see how this is going. Now that I've had my say, I'm useful to you. At least I shouldn't have a problem finding material on him. I already have an extensive file about both Dr. Clark and Round Tree."

Henry's smile conveyed the thought he'd won a minor victory. "Good. When you get your rough draft done, my secretary will type it for you."

"I'll type my own speech, thank you. I don't need you making editorial comments or changing what I intend to say."

"We want some idea of the content of your introduction." Henry's smile quickly turned to a frown.

"Why? So you can shoot it down? I don't think so. You'll just have to trust my judgment on this. Do I make myself clear?"

George and Henry each gave her a look of exasperation. "You've made yourself perfectly clear," George assured her.

Jocelyn nodded, irritated by the tone she detected in George's voice. "If you gentlemen will excuse me, I'm going home. It's been a long and trying day and I still have a speech to write on my computer, by myself."

"Whatever you say, Jocelyn. Just let me assure you, we didn't intentionally leave you out of anything. You know how much we value you here. We always have. With everything going on in your life lately, it's no wonder you're overreacting to this situation."

The two men stood as she turned to leave the office. When she knew they couldn't see her face, she began to smile. One small victory for me, a few well-chosen words and I've made them squirm. She continued to think about the threat to tender her resignation. She considered it for the past several months. She wondered what prompted her to say something today. Usually, she went along with everything, even accepted the chauvinistic attitudes of her superiors Why now? She knew there was no way she could ever change them.

Entering the outer office, she saw the concern on the face of the girl at the desk. "Don't worry, you won't lose your job for letting me into Henry's office."

After leaving the administration building, she walked the few short blocks to her apartment. She found it sterile and completely without a personality. After spending her entire life in the old Victorian house on Maple Street, she could, in no way call the four small rooms home. The new furnishings carried none of the personality of her mother's antiques, even though she picked them out herself.

Once inside, she put the teakettle on the back burner of the stove. While she waited for it to boil, she rummaged through the freezer compartment of her refrigerator for a frozen dinner. She knew she needed the tea more than the plastic food she would thaw out in the microwave, but she selected one anyway.

She hung her coat in the hall closet. In doing so, her hand brushed against the paper in her pocket. Pulling it out, she again fumed over the situation with George and Henry. She knew she shouldn't let them upset her so, but days like today tried her patience to the limit. Why couldn't they see her for what she was, a damn good professor and an asset to her department? She knew why, they both remembered her as a student who surpassed Dr. Furgeson's expectations and continued to work under him until she was able to take his place.

She should have put out resumes years ago, should have gone elsewhere, but the situation with her mother made doing so impossible.

Was it impossible? Or were you just comfortable here? You could have moved Mom to another town with you. Even if you didn't sell the house, you would have been comfortable. You know that now.

 For some reason she felt she had to answer the irritating voice of reason in her head aloud. "Yes, I know that now, but I didn't know it then. Besides "

The whistling of the teakettle turned her attention back to the kitchen, leaving her thoughts unvoiced. Before going to the stove, she put the paper on the table. The aroma of the herbal tea soothed her nerves. It finished steeping when the bell rang, signaling her to take the dinner from the microwave.

Looking at the nondescript food, she wondered why she chose to defrost it in the first place. She didn't want to eat it. Pushing it aside, she took a sip of tea and opened the folded paper. Carefully, she pressed out the creases. Evan Clark's face stared up at her. Although the picture was in black and white, she knew his hair was red. She wondered if his temper matched it. His strong features excited her. Having admired him ever since he started the Round Tree Project, she wondered how she would react when she met him in person.

You sound like a lovesick schoolgirl.

She shook her head in an attempt to clear her thoughts. Her possible reactions made no difference whatsoever. She knew he would politely acknowledge her, but dismiss any memory of her from his mind once he left town the day after the presentation. Unless she could find some way to make herself unforgettable, he would probably never know she was his biggest supporter at Havelin College, perhaps even in the state.

Before she could dwell on her thoughts further, the phone rang. Picking it up, she greeted the caller. "Jocelyn, it's Henry. About this afternoon"

"You don't have to say anything, Henry," she interrupted. "What do you say we play forgive and forget?"

"I say it won't work. I know you too well. You never forget and you're not in the mood to be forgiving. We don't want to lose you on staff."

Henry's backhanded apology irritated her further. Unable to think of a tart answer, she decided to give in. "You probably won't. What I said came in the heat of the moment. It still irks me to know you don't seem to think I count for anything around here, though. I do have tenure, you know."

"I know you have tenure. I also know you are one of the best professors we have on staff. Furgeson trained you and he did one hell of a job of it. George and I had a long talk after you left. He thought I talked to you about Clark and I thought he did."

"I didn't believe either of you were planning to rush over to my office in the morning."

"It was a misunderstanding. I hope you can accept it."

"Of course, I'll accept it. What other choice do I have?"

"As long as we've cleared the air."

"If that's what you call it, we've cleared the air."

She hung up the phone, her anger over Henry's statements threatening to consume her. The picture of Evan Clark, smiling up at her from the table, caught her attention and caused her to smile in return. In less than a week, she would meet the man she idolized. She didn't care if she acted like a lovesick schoolgirl. She only prayed she could find a way of making herself unforgettable without making a fool of herself.

The phone again rang. Hesitantly she answered it, expecting to find George on the other end of the line, blaming Henry for this afternoon's blow up.

"Hi, Jaicee!" her best friend since grade school, Ellen Dresden, greeted her.

"Ellie, it's good to hear from you. What's up?"

"When is winter break for you?"

"Next week. What do you have on your mind?"

"Vern came home tonight and told me he has to go to Germany for a week. He's leaving on Sunday. He thought you might want to come up and keep me company. If you can pull yourself away, that is."

Jocelyn sank down into the easy chair beside the phone. She wondered if Ellie could sense the smile filling her face.

"I can get away, but not until Tuesday."

"Any particular reason?"

"Dr. Clark is giving a lecture here on Monday night. I have to introduce him."

"Your Dr. Clark? Evan Clark? Congratulations on finally getting the board to engage him."

"Don't congratulate me. I had nothing to do with it. Henry made all the arrangements. If one of my students hadn't brought in a flyer about it, I'd still be in the dark."

"Why in the world would he do something like that?"

"Because it came as his idea and not mine. Of course, Henry and George tried to smooth things over by asking me to introduce Clark."

"I'm glad Vern suggested you come here. I think you need to get away for a while, you sound like an engine wrapped tight."

Jocelyn silently applauded her friend's suggestion. Just talking to Ellie, and having her use Jocelyn's childhood nickname of Jaicee, relaxed her. Here no one called her Jaicee. Here she was Jocelyn or Dr. Grant. Only the directory listed her as Dr. J.C. Grant. It certainly didn't look or sound like Jaicee the way Ellie used it.

"I guess I do. I was so angry this afternoon, I threatened to quit."

"Quit? Do you have anything else lined up?"

"Not a thing. It was only a threat, but it's one I've been considering for months."

"Can you afford to quit with nowhere to go?"

"As a matter of fact, I can. You surely remember how I scrimped and saved to be able to afford the best day care for Mom. After her death, I found her estate was in excess of three million dollars."

"Three million dollars?" Ellie interrupted. "I had no idea your mother had that much money."

"Neither did I, but that's my fault.  I don't know why I never looked into her assets before. I guess I figured she only had the house and the furnishings, along with her social security. You know how she and Dad were always crying hard times. With the estate settled that was what my third came to, I invested seven hundred and fifty thousand of it and by summer, I should be receiving some interest every month. It might not be what I'm used to, but I could change my spending habits to match my income until I can find something else. If I don't need it, I won't touch it. I kept the rest of the money liquid to do a few things I want to do."

"Do those few things include pampering yourself a little?"

"What are you getting at?"

"While you're here, let me make you over. I help people revamp themselves all the time at the shop. We can go shopping, get you a new hairstyle and throw out those horrible glasses you wear."

Jocelyn couldn't help but giggle at the thought of letting Ellie assist her in a transformation. Over the past several months, she often considered changing her image, but always dismissed the idea as foolish. Who would notice, or even care, if she did anything different with her appearance?

"I don't know, Ellie. The thought of becoming someone other than Jocelyn Grant frightens me."

"That's what I mean, Jaicee. I remember when we were in school and you weren't half as serious as you are now. With your mother's illness, I didn't think the timing was right before. Now there's nothing standing in your way. Do something crazy for a change, like when we were kids."

The line grew silent as she pondered Ellie's suggestion. With a rush of breath she answered, "Okay, something crazy, but I'm only doing it for you. It might be fun at that. I can't imagine getting rid of my glasses, though. How do you expect me to see anything?"

"Contact lenses, silly."

"I could never wear those things. Glasses are so much easier."

"Nonsense. Get into the twenty-first century, Jaicee. Leave all the plans to me. Call me as soon as you get your flight information. I can hardly wait to see how you turn out."

When Jocelyn hung up the phone, she picked up the now cold dinner and tossed it in the trash.

After turning out the lights in the kitchen, she started down the hall and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror.

For years, she wore her hair pinned haphazardly to the top of her head, a style that made getting ready for work easy. She called it her wash and go look. For the first time, it shouted old maid schoolteacher.

Ellie's right, I am dowdy. For the time being, this will have to do. I just wonder what Ellie will come up with when I get to New York next week.

She removed the pins from her hair and allowed the golden brown strands to fall, past her shoulders.

"What is Ellie thinking of? Does she expect to make me into a glamorous person overnight? I'm definitely not glamorous or adventurous. I gave all that up when I made the decision to put my life on hold for Mom's sake. Anyway, it will be fun to pretend I'm Jaicee again, at least for a few days."

Of course it will. Take a good look at yourself for a change. Jaicee is still in here. It's time you let her out.

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