Chapter 1: Great Expectation
Addison Harris studied her profile in the full-length mirror in her quarters, smoothing her hands over her swollen belly. The gray Triptych Corporation tank top conformed to every curve. A little fashion camouflage—a khaki jacket two sizes larger than her usual size eight—hid 21 weeks of pregnancy.
She frowned at her reflection as she tugged the jacket on. With only the bottom button fastened, the open vee displayed her gestational cleavage while distracting from her belly. Although the easy disguise was a blessing, Addison knew that her oversized bosom would soon be a hindrance. When she’d been pregnant with now three year-old Ashlynn, her lover Ferdinand appreciated her ample cleavage. But this time there was no lover. The only appreciation she’d earn would be ogles from horny Triptych scientists and security. But they knew better than to approach her.
A pain in the arse is what these are, Addison grumbled at her reflection. A few fluffs and tucks and the jacket fell flat. She smiled mirthlessly. Only for another week or two. Then everyone will know that I’ve been “knocked up.” Too bad I didn’t have fun doing it. All the pain without the pleasure.
A Petri dish, catheter, and a thinly veiled order from Triptych VP Daniel Gibson were responsible for Addison’s condition. The fertility drugs had worked their magic, producing nine ova. Addison hadn’t protested since she’d thought that her participation ended there.
“They are your eggs,” Daniel had reminded her. Easy for the uterus-less prick to say in the comfort of his office.
“I gave them to Triptych.”
Daniel had donned a sympathetic smile. “Triptych is a generous employer. They’re being given back to you.”
“I’m not an incubator,” Addison countered.
The wanker leaned back in his leather chair. “You are whatever Triptych wants you to be. And for reasons that we’ve yet to work out, you’re the only woman who can carry your embryos to term.”
Addison shook her head. “You’re basing that theory on one outcome: Ashlynn. That’s not proof. She may well have been a fluke.”
“Let’s hope for another fluke, then.”
Ultimately Addison had agreed, not that she’d had much choice. She took solace in the condition she’d negotiated: she would be the surrogate and nothing more. The child would be Triptych’s responsibility. She refused to form a psychic attachment to one of her employer’s pet projects.
Daniel had a final, peculiar stipulation of his own. “If you get pregnant—”
“When,” Addison corrected.
“When you get pregnant, keep it a secret as long as possible. And stay clear of Dr. Myers. Not that I think that will be a problem for you,” Daniel smirked.
Addison didn’t question either stipulation, particularly the latter. Myers’ ability to learn a person’s physiology by mere touch would certainly reveal her pregnancy.
Avoiding Myers, whom Addison rarely encountered outside of staff meetings, was easier than hiding the pregnancy. Between mood swings and morning sickness that stretched into the evening, Addison was amazed that no one had voiced the suspicion. Or maybe they were too scared. After all, Addison had telekinetically pinned Ramirez to the wall last month. The klutz had inadvertently brushed against her tender breasts.
It was around that time—15 weeks along—that things had changed. Instinct, curiosity, or perhaps temporary insanity prompted Addison to psychically contact the baby. Suddenly it—he—wasn’t Triptych’s pet project anymore. He was her child. Her responsibility. Over the ensuing six weeks Addison had strengthened her bond with the baby. She responded to him empathically and guided her daughter Ashlynn to do the same.
Daniel had imposed himself on Ashlynn, forming a psychic bond with the child early on. Not this time, Addison vowed. Her unborn son would be hers and hers alone. Blocking outside influence would protect her and her children, as well as provide some leverage with Triptych. Daniel wouldn’t be able to do a bleeding thing about it.
One of Daniel’s seemingly casual statements terminated Addison’s gloating.
“Myers?” Addison had shrieked, grateful for the sound-proof walls of Daniel’s suite. “You fertilized one of my eggs with that freak’s sperm?”
“No,” Daniel replied. “We fertilized nine of them with ‘that freak’s’ sperm. Only one resulted in a viable pregnancy. You know as well as I do that you’re not in the clear yet.”
Addison’s mind reeled. Although Myers looked human, Addison had mentally sensed the hybrid’s inhumanness on a few occasions. “I’m having Myers’ child?”
Daniel, for once, had the decency to hide his amusement. “You’re having Triptych’s child. You and Myers happen to have compatible DNA.”
After that conversation three weeks ago Addison had tried to detach from the baby, but it was too late. She was hopelessly attached to the sprog.
Once Addison had resigned herself to the fact, she spent quiet nights and mid-day naps bonding with and sensing the life growing within her. The baby truly was Myers’. Her son wasn’t fully human. It was something she’d sensed but dismissed early on because the feeling hadn’t made sense. Now she recognized the bits that weren’t human or Homo superior like her. The part that was Myers.
Addison idly wondered how Myers would take the news. Ever since their initial introduction—the memory made Addison grin—he trusted her as a snake would a mongoose. Like most of the men and some of the women at the Triptych alpha facility, Myers wanted to shag her but was too damn scared to act on it. Her reputation as Daniel’s pet psychic who implanted suggestions and performed psychic lobotomies was well-deserved. The irony of Addison carrying Myers’ child amused her greatly.
Triptych’s head physician Frasier diligently monitored Addison’s progress with weekly exams, tests, and fetal monitors. Addison could have told the woman she was wasting her time. The pregnancy would go to term. Precognition had already assured Addison so. But the tests kept Daniel and Triptych happy, so Addison played along.
After her week 21 appointment with Dr. Frasier, Addison headed toward the commissary. With morning sickness behind her, Addison’s appetite had returned with a vengeance. Once again her body had skipped hunger and went straight to ravenous. Little could stand between her and whatever she was craving.
Addison’s route through the sprawling complex took her past Genetics—Myers’ department. The doors to the various labs and offices were closed, as usual. Myers ran a tight ship.
The door ahead and to Addison’s left opened, and a balding, middle-aged white man in a lab coat strode through. The printout in the man’s hand had his complete attention. His unshielded thoughts washed over Addison. …don’t know how the hell he thinks we’ll resequence…
Addison’s eyes found the nameplate beside the slowly closing door: Dr. Shane Myers. On impulse she ducked inside.
Even if the freak hadn’t been sitting at his glass-topped desk, Addison would have guessed this was Myers’ office. The decor was cold, modern, and minimal. The only exception was a black leather sofa against one wall. Rumor had it that Myers was a workaholic. He may have slept on the sofa more often than a bed.
Myers himself was oblivious to her presence. Like his underling, he was too busy frowning at papers to notice a buxom woman a few feet away.
Addison fought to keep her amusement from her voice. “Dr. Myers.” Her tones were cool and polite.
Myers’ head snapped up. Surprise flitted across his clean-shaven face, then was replaced with a scowl. “What are you doing here, Harris?” he demanded.
Addison perched on the sofa arm closest to Myers, careful to stay out of reach. She leaned forward to hide her bump and display her generous cleavage. “Can’t I visit a colleague?”
Myers’ scowl didn’t waver. “No.” Nevertheless, his brown eyes briefly darted to her breasts.
Addison allowed herself a smug smile. “Shane.” She propped her elbow on one knee, resting her chin on her upturned palm. “You don’t mind if I call you Shane, do you? ‘Dr. Myers’ sounds so formal, considering that we’re practically family now.”
Silence stretched as Myers studied her. Addison studied him back. He wasn’t bad looking. Lanky, and possibly fit under his dress shirt and slacks. The fact that Addison couldn’t sense his emotions—her mental fingers slid off of his eerily slick mental shields—reminded her that the average-looking man was part alien.
Myers hadn’t ordered her out, so Addison continued. “I suppose I should start with congratulations.” She stood and drifted toward him, unbuttoning her jacket. “Or didn’t Daniel tell you that your donation worked out? One of those sperm is the little engine that could.”
For an instant confusion, curiosity, and a hint of lust radiated from Myers. Addison laughed as her jacket fell open. “Don’t flatter yourself, Myers. I don’t want to shag you.” She ran her hand over her rounded belly. “Congratulations. Twenty-one weeks and still growing strong.”
Myers gaped as his shields slipped again. Taking advantage of his distraction, Addison grabbed his hand, lifted the hem of her shirt, and pressed his palm to her bared abdomen. “For confirmation.” The man’s mute shock made the precariousness of the situation worthwhile.
Chuckling, Addison backed off, heading for the door while buttoning her jacket. She tossed over her shoulder, “If you’re going to buy those chocolate cigars, you want the ones with the blue wrappers. It’s a boy, Dad.”
Addison felt Myers’ eyes on her back she strode out of his office into the hall. Daniel will be pissed, Addison mused. She dismissed the thought with a shrug. She really didn’t care.
Her stomach, on the other hand, wondered if there was any chocolate cake in the commissary. She had a craving for it.