Life Blood: Cora's Choice Book 1 (Chapter Three, page 1 of 4)

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Shadows crowded in the corners of Mr. Thorne's office, spilling toward the center of the room. The marble tile of the rest of the office gave way to elegant parquet here, scattered with rugs that were worth every penny of my student loans and more. Oils of hunting scenes hung on the paneled walls, and the ceiling, at least a dozen feet above my head, was intricately coffered.

No, it didn't seem much like a biotech company at all.

"Ah, Ms. Shaw." The voice came from the shadows at the far end of the room. It was rich, low, and dark with some private humor.

I stepped forward, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks. "Cora," I offered.

"Yes, I know. Please, take a seat."

I could make out the shape of the man behind the enormous, gleaming desk, but the discreet lighting seemed designed to conceal his face. Two massive armless chairs crouched on lion's paw feet in the center of another thick rug. Cautiously, I took one, sitting on the very edge of the brocaded seat. The recessed light above me shone directly into my eyes. I squinted to see beyond it and could only get the impression of wide shoulders and dark hair.

"Mr. Thorne, I'm sorry. I think there must have been some kind of mistake," I began.

"There has been no mistake." That voice again-warm and amber. It was effortlessly intimate while being entirely polite.

I shivered slightly and wished that the door to the reception room was still open.

"I have your medical record here, Ms. Shaw," the man continued. Hands emerged from the shadows-strong and masculine, with long blunt fingers. He flipped open the laptop in front of him with a carelessly graceful gesture, and in the sudden glow, I could make out his features.

I swallowed hard. His black hair swept immaculately to the side, and his long jaw and broad forehead were balanced by an elegant, slightly aquiline nose. His face seemed a little too symmetrical, almost artificially so, like it belonged to the paintings on the walls instead of to a living, breathing man.

I wished suddenly that the lush rug under my feet could swallow me up.

"Cora Ann Shaw. T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia. Terminal. Is that correct?"

The cold summary hit me like a blow. I opened my mouth, and for a moment nothing came out. He raised his gaze to meet mine. His eyes were icy blue, and they seemed to look right through me.

"Yes," I breathed. "That's right. Dr. Robeson said you could help me."

"You must understand that you are first required to pass the initial tests," he said, his brow low and stern.

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