Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke
After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. Fate is now a calculation.
But loving someone isn’t.
When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.
Shannon’s first instinct was to call for backup. It’s what he should’ve done.
Instead, he slid his hand around the door and pulled it open; his other hand rested on his holstered gun.
The scent of oil paint and clay wafted strong in the stillness. The room was too open, a wide space with nowhere to hide. Shannon took a step, another, and glanced at the desk, where abstract patterns swirled on the screen of a hibernating computer next to a dimmed, decorative lamp.
Movement. Footsteps, heel to toe, slow and quiet, behind him.
Shannon swung around. Someone—the thief—gasped. He grabbed the fabric of a shirt and shoved whoever was wearing it against the wall.
“You’re under arrest,” he growled. The body, a man, squirmed and cursed. The one time he didn’t play it safe and call for backup was the time he might need it. Shannon forced the thief’s hands against the wall. “Spread your fingers.”
The thief complied. “Of fucking course.” Shannon heard him rolling his eyes.
“Breaking and entering is a crime, you understand that? So is taking things that aren’t yours.”
“I didn’t take anything. I didn’t get the chance to.” Whoever he was, he was unapologetically bored with the situation. Shannon spotted a bold tattoo on his side where his shirt was bunched up from their abrupt collision. The man sighed. “Can I have my hands back now?”
“No, you can’t, because—”
Shannon’s entire being screeched to a stop. His spine straightened; his knees locked. He couldn’t breathe. Beneath his glove, warmth spread from his right thumb into his wrist. The Camellia Clock vibrated, gentle but convincing, a purr that alerted him to the 00:00 that now read in glowing numbers under his thumbnail. Saliva pooled in his mouth. Heat coursed through him. Blood rushed—high speed traffic in his veins. His heartbeat, steady and then not, pounded in his ears.
He stared at the hand spread out on the wall. On the thief’s right thumbnail, the same numbers glowed 00:00. Shannon squeezed the man’s wrist a little tighter.
A shaky breath quivered from the chest in front of him. Apparently, Shannon wasn’t the only one surprised.
He swallowed, and his grip tightened again before he let go and ripped his hands away. Eyeing Shannon carefully, the burglar spun. He had a straight nose and a sharp jaw; he was all angles and edges and pale skin. His skittishness reminded Shannon of a deer—maybe not a deer. The stranger’s lips twitched into a straight-toothed grin under hooded dark eyes. Yeah, maybe not a deer. Maybe a wolf.
A breathless chuckle trickled past a clever smile. The thief gave a slow shake of his head, disbelief and curiosity stitching a genuine expression across his face that Shannon hated. “Aiden Maar,” he said, too confidently to be taken lightly.
Shannon’s jaw was set so tight it ached to open his mouth. “Detective Wurther.”
“Pleasure’s all mine, Detective.” The rasp in his voice made Shannon’s stomach jump.
Before Shannon could yell, or grab, or get another word in, the thief—Aiden—was gone, darting past him and out the door. His head swam. Still reeling, he couldn’t have caught Aiden if his life depended on it. But he was going to have to, because, according to the Camellia Clock, Aiden Maar was his future.
According to Shannon Wurther, the Camellia Clock was wrong.
What is ‘The Camellia Clock’? Taylor Brooke is here to tell us!
The Camellia Clock
I’ve had a lot of questions pop up regarding the Camellia Clock from Fortitude Smashed – how it works, how it was created and how it affects people who identify as ace/aro.
The science behind the Camellia Clock is flexible. I left it that way because I didn’t want to strap the lore down with too many rules or consequences, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be further explained.
- The Camellia Clock was found after a group of fringe scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone while studying emotional intimacy. I like to think of it as a ghost in the machine, so to speak. Before the Camellia Clock was created, there was this shapeless version of it, a visual representation of fate present in our chemistry that directed who our energy would respond to.
- It didn’t begin as an automatic implant given to infants at birth. The Camellia Clock started as a trendy accessory for the rich. Celebrities wore them in the form of jewelry, toting them to red carpet events and flashing their numbers to the paparazzi to spur a scandal. So-and-so is about to time out? Who will it be? I imagined the beginning of the Camellia Clock was full of hesitation. People thought they were a fad, that their popularity would simmer out. But once the Camellia Clock made enough matches to be credible, research continued, and it was introduced to more and more people until it inevitably became an international staple.
- The Camellia Clock is fate. The driving force behind its decision making is unknown, but as it was developed, scientists could track patterns and changes influenced by this anomalous human hormone – the soul. Being able to pinpoint exactly when two lines of energy will meet, or when multiple lines of energy will meet, opened up the discussion for sexualities, gender identities and so on. I initially wrote the world of Fortitude Smashed as a bisexual/pansexual world. However, after getting deeper into the characters, exploring the language of the series, I wanted to clarify that although the world is primarily a bi/pan mindset, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ace/aro Rose Roads.
- Because the Camellia Clock is a tether for soulmates, someone who is asexual would be matched with people suited for them depending on where they landed on the spectrum. That goes for aromantic folks as well. After a pair/group reaches 00:00 on their Camellia Clocks, they’re faced with a decision to take their relationship in two directions – Emotionally or Physically. Sometimes it’s a mix of both, sometimes couples/groups lean one direction more than the other, it just depends. There’s room to navigate identities, fluidity, boundaries, trust and so on. That’s really one of the most interesting parts of the story for me – the act of falling in love backward, or forming an intense bond backward. When the characters are presented with their soulmate/soulmates, whether stranger, friend, rival or acquaintance, they’re faced with a future most people would’ve wondered about for a long time. There’s curiosity trying to balance with lust, love trying to balance with friendship. There could also be absence in curiosity, lust, love, friendship, or a significant increase in one or the other. Depending on who is paired with who and how they identify, a Rose Road could be romantic, it could be friendship, it could be companionship.
- Emotional connection means something different to everyone and so does physical connection. The Camellia Clock doesn’t have stipulations placed on souls. Once the pair/group times out, it’s up to them to figure out how they proceed, what’s good for them, what’s necessary, wanted and encouraged.
I wrote the Camellia Clock with as much mystery as I possibly could, because fate is a mystery. We don’t know what drives us to the people we fall in love with or the people we want to stay close to. Sometimes it feels like divine intervention, sometimes it’s awful before it’s good or wonderful before it crumbles. Sometimes we prepare for it for years. Sometimes it happens out of blue. The Camellia Clock gives the characters in my reimagined world a way to prepare for it, but I think the moral of the story is: No matter how much time a person has, no one is ever truly prepared to face their fate – take a detective and an art thief for example… 😉
About the Author
After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup professional, Taylor turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she can be found haunting the local bookstore with a cup of tea, planning her next adventure, and fawning over baby animals.