It's All Geek to Me (Nerds & Geeks Book 3)

It’s All Geek to Me
Vicki Lewis Thompson

I
T’S
ALL GEEK TO ME © 2016 Vicki Lewis Thompson

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Ocean Dance Press, LLC, PO Box 69901, Oro Valley AZ 85737

V
isit
the author’s website at www.VickiLewisThompson.com

Chapter One

F
razer Krause was in hell
. Blindfolded and holding a donkey tail, he’d been spun in a circle by Dulcie Hilgendorf’s brother-in-law, a guy with a shaved head, tattoos and a dark sense of humor. He’d whipped Frazer around enough times to make him stagger like a drunk. He wasn’t sure he could stay upright, let alone find the damn donkey.

Ah, but he had help. Dulcie’s extended family – twenty-three counting the kids – shouted out
hot
or
cold
as he held the donkey tail in front of him and took a few steps. He’d tried to get out of playing this ridiculous game but apparently there was a rule in the Hilgendorf family. Dulcie’s father had informed him at dinner that at birthday parties
everybody
played.

Because this was the twenty-first century, Frazer had assumed that would mean gathering around the Xbox or the Wii. He’d have been so down with that. Unfortunately the Hilgendorfs believed in good old-fashioned fun, aka Pin the Tail on the effing Donkey.

He didn’t trust the
hot
and
cold
shouts because everyone was giggling like maniacs regardless of which way he turned, especially Dulcie. She was practically busting a gut. He could pick out her laugh from the others because he heard it every weekday in the office.

Usually Dulcie’s bright laughter made him smile. Not tonight, when he’d been trapped into a game he’d hated even at the age of six. Worse yet, he was the genius who’d put himself in this position.

He was the hardware expert for the tech startup BMUS, an acronym for Beam Me Up Scotty, and Dulcie was the company’s receptionist. BMUS was beta testing its first app, a powerhouse of info on fresh produce, and although Dulcie wasn’t particularly tech savvy, she loved her smartphone. She also loved all kinds of food, which made her the perfect candidate to give the app a trial run.

The plan had seemed so simple – he’d follow Dulcie around for the weekend while she used the app to assess the nutritional value of every fruit and veggie she encountered. They’d start with Friday night’s family dinner and birthday party for her seven-year-old niece, Anna. What could go wrong?

The evening had started out innocently enough. She’d introduced him as her coworker who was monitoring her use of the new app. She’d dutifully used it throughout the meal and the various features had made quite a hit.

So had he, apparently. The family assumed he and Dulcie were seriously involved because she didn’t bring a guy to a family event unless he was what Grandma Betsy called
husband material.

“You fit the profile,” Grandma Betsy had told him during dinner. “She digs smart guys.”

Dulcie had known her family for twenty-seven years. She must have anticipated how they’d react to him showing up, so a forewarning would have been nice. She’d worked with him five days a week for more than half a year, which should have been enough time to figure out that he wouldn’t be thrilled about being blindfolded and spun in a circle by a guy who looked like a Kung Fu master.

Yet here he was. When this was all over, he and Dulcie would have a talk. In the meantime, the only way to end his immediate torture was attaching the Velcro end of the donkey tail to something. He was so spatially disoriented that he had no clue where the donkey was, but he could find Dulcie, no problem. And she was wearing a fuzzy red sweater that would bond well with Velcro.

Her laughter gave him the general direction and once he drew nearer he caught the scent of her floral perfume. As she shrieked
cold, cold, cold
he visualized where her shoulder would be given that she was about five-four. He stuck the donkey tail there, but instead of encountering firm muscle he felt extreme pliability.

The guests were in hysterics as he pulled off the blindfold to gaze at a red-faced Dulcie with tears of helpless laughter in her gray eyes and a donkey tail dangling from her left breast.

He gulped. “Sorry. Aimed for your shoulder. Didn’t recalculate for the heels.” He should have. She always wore really high heels on Friday. Called them her TGIF shoes, although she had a different take on the acronym. In her world it stood for Thank God I’m Fabulous.

For some reason his explanation about the donkey tail placement set her off again. As she quivered with uncontrollable laughter, the donkey tail danced a jig. Frazer couldn’t stop staring at it.

“Nice going, Fraze!” The tattooed brother-in-law slapped him on the back. “Okay, who’s next? Grandma Betsy, your turn!”

While the game moved on, Dulcie struggled to get a grip. But each time she’d clear her throat and take a breath, she’d glance at Frazer and lose it again.

Stepping back, he fished his glasses out of his shirt pocket and put them on. Sure enough, the donkey tail was still dancing in time to her giggles. His buddies at Caltech had dragged him to a strip joint once and he’d never forgotten the twirling tassels. He didn’t want to be thinking of them now, but he couldn’t help it. “You should probably take that off.”

She gulped for air. “Can’t.” Another giggle escaped.

“Why not?”

“All the tails . . . have to . . . stay put. Now so do I.” She wrapped her arms around her middle. “Damn, my sides hurt.”

“You swore, Aunt Dulcie,” piped up a tow-headed cherub of about five. “I’m gettin’ the jar!” And off he ran, little legs pumping.

“Oops.” She took a shaky breath and grinned at Frazer. “Wouldn’t happen to have fifty cents in your pocket, would you?”

“For what?”

“The Swear Jar. I left my purse back in my mom’s bedroom.”

“Yeah, I think so.” He pulled out two quarters just as the little boy came back with a glass jar full of change.

The kid held it out. “Pay up, Aunt Dulcie.”

“I’ll pay for her.” Frazer started to put the first quarter in the slot cut into the lid.

“Nope.” He pulled the jar away. “
She
has to pay. That’s the rule.”

Frazer crouched next to the boy. “What’s your name?”

“Henry.” The little guy hunkered down, too.

“Right. Henry.” Frazer had been introduced to everyone but he’d lost track of half the names. He also hadn’t been around kids in a while and he’d forgotten they liked to mimic adults. Henry was cute as hell. “How about if I give her the fifty cents and she puts it in the jar? Will that be okay?”

Henry squinted at Frazer. “Are you her boyfriend?”

He started to deny it and changed his mind. “Does it matter?”

“If you are, then you get to pay her fine. That’s how it works.”

“Then I’m her boyfriend.”

“Thought so.” He held out the jar.

Frazer dropped the quarters in and estimated there was at least ten bucks of change in the jar. “What’s the money for?”

“Swearing.”

“I get that, but what happens to the money?”

“When the jar’s full, us kids get to go for
ice cream
!”

“Well, damn.”

Henry’s face lit up. “You swore!”

“So I did.” He rose to his feet, dug in his pocket and came up with the required fine.

“Are you gonna swear some more?” Henry looked up at him with a hopeful expression.

“Nope. Can’t afford it. You cleaned me out.”

He shrugged. “It’s okay. There’s always
lots
of swearing at birthday parties.” And off he went.

“That was adorable.” Dulcie finally had her giggles under control. “I didn’t know you were good with kids.”

“I’m not. I have zero experience in that area.”

“Then you must have natural talent because you were awesome with Henry.”

“The kid has a gift for commerce. He’ll probably be running a Fortune 500 company before he turns thirty.”

She smiled. “Could be. Listen, I –”

“Hey, lovebirds!” Tattoo guy walked toward them. “I can take that donkey tail, Dulce. Game’s over. You two probably didn’t notice since you were gazing dreamily into each other’s eyes.”

Dulcie handed him the donkey tail. “Tug, we’re not dating.”

Tug.
Frazer made a mental note to remember his name.

“Like I said when we arrived,” Dulcie continued. “Frazer’s here to supervise my use of this app.” She pulled the phone out of her pocket and held it up for emphasis. “There’s absolutely nothing going on besides that.”

Her brother-in-law smirked at her. “That’s not the way Henry tells it.”

Frazer groaned. “Look, Tug, I –”

“Hey, you remembered my name, man! That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re not stuck up like the last brainiac Dulce brought home. That dude took one look at my tats and I could tell from his attitude he was thinking
this guy’s so beneath me
. His loss.”

Frazer had thought
this guy could flatten me
. “So what do you do, Tug? Mixed martial arts?”

“I teach English lit at Berkley.”

“No shit.”

Henry was there in a flash with his jar. “You swore.”

“Um, yeah, but I’m out of change.” He glanced at Tug. “Can you break a twenty?”

“No worries.” Tug shoved a beefy hand into his sweatpants pocket and came up with two quarters.

“But you can’t pay for him, Daddy!” Henry seemed genuinely distressed. “He’s not your boyfriend or anything!”

“That’s a fact. But he’s Dulcie’s boyfriend, and I’m Dulcie’s beloved brother-in-law, so we have the Dulcie connection going on. That connection allows me to pay his fine.”

Henry frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Tug leaned down to look the boy in the eye. “Do you want the money or not?”

“I want it.”

“Then accept the fact that Frazer and I are bonded like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.”

“Wow.” Henry held up the jar and Tug deposited both quarters. Then the little boy left quickly.

“Thanks for bailing me out.”

“No problem.” Tug gave him an assessing glance. “You’re okay, Fraze. You could have told Henry to bug off.”

“No, I couldn’t.”

Tug smiled. “See, that’s what I’m talking about. And that app of yours is way cool. Ready for the next game?”

“Not sure.” Frazer told himself it couldn’t be any worse than Pin the Tail on the Donkey. “What is it?”

“Twister.”

Oh, yeah. It would be worse. He thought about pretending he had a bad back, but Grandma Betsy was playing so his pride wouldn’t let him wimp out.

Tug, who seemed to have nominated himself Master of Ceremonies, put Frazer and Dulcie on the same team. She had to take off her five-inch heels to play.

Frazer had never seen her barefoot and certainly never when she was bending over with her cute little ass in the air. As he navigated the colored circles on the Twister mat, he learned two things – Dulcie was extremely flexible, and being up close and personal with her warm body distracted the hell out of him.

Even so, they were triumphant and advanced to the final round. At one point, when they were both upside down and balancing precariously on the vinyl mat, she glanced at him. “Having fun?”

“No.”

“After presents and cake we can leave.”

He almost said
thank God
but wasn’t sure if that was considered swearing or not so he modified his response. “Great.”

“You’ve been a good sport. I’ll make it up to you.”

He wondered what she meant by that. Then Tug called out another move and they were back in the thick of competition. He didn’t mind competition. He’d certainly played his share of video games over the years and his hand/eye coordination was excellent.

He’d always been flexible, too, but that didn’t mean he wanted to demonstrate that ability in public. Not too surprisingly, he and Dulcie ended up winning the Twister competition. He sort of hated to beat Grandma Betsy, though. In the final round she’d successfully straddled two circles and shouted
I’m one hell of an old lady!
Henry had been right there with his Swear Jar and she’d happily paid her fine.

Now seven-year-old Anna, who was Tug’s oldest and Henry’s big sister, was ready to open her presents. After settling a glittering tiara on her long golden curls, she proceeded to unwrap her gifts with the poise of a queen.

Frazer hadn’t wanted to arrive empty-handed so Dulcie had suggested a Disney princess coloring book and a box of crayons. He’d put them in a birthday bag with kittens on it and printed
To Anna from Frazer
on the tag. When she came to his present he realized that he cared whether she liked it or not.

She eagerly pulled out the book and crayons. “Just what I wanted!” Then she dutifully read the tag and looked his way. “Thank you, Mr. Frazer.”

“You’re welcome.” As Anna moved on to the next gift, he glanced at Dulcie and lowered his voice. “Appreciate the tip.”

“When it comes to little girls, it’s hard to go wrong with Disney princess stuff.”

“What about big girls?” The question was out of his mouth before he could censor it. It was the sort of thing he might ask a woman he was dating to find out her likes and dislikes.

But this wasn’t a date. This was business. Between the donkey tail incident, Twister and her family’s assumption about their relationship, he was having trouble remembering.

Dulcie must be having trouble, too, because she answered him with a flirty little smile. “Some big girls like to be treated like a Disney princess.”

“I’d have to research how to do it.”

She muffled a laugh behind her hand.

“What’s so funny?”

“That remark. It’s so you.”

“Well, I would. I grew up with a brother.”

“And I have three sisters. We spent hours playing dress-up and dreaming about Prince Charming.”

“And I spent hours building rockets and dreaming about Mars.” Speaking of Prince Charming, he hadn’t factored in whether Dulcie was seeing someone when he’d suggested a weekend beta testing gig. Because everyone had accepted him as her new boyfriend, apparently she wasn’t. Well, that was good. He wasn’t monopolizing a weekend she would have rather spent with a special guy.

When the time came to sing Happy Birthday, Frazer marveled at how substantial it sounded with twenty-three people instead of three, the number he was used to hearing sing it. Anna’s eyes sparkled with self-confidence and pride. He’d never realized that a large, supportive family could have that effect on a kid.

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