Chapter 10: Comfort and Joy – part 2
Even Triptych worked to keep up employee morale. Addison supposed it made sense. Happy employees were productive employees, even if Triptych all but owned them outright. The chosen worked and played at the Alpha Facility, a city all its own. As with any community, celebration kept people healthy and balanced. One such celebration was the annual non-denominational holiday party, which all were strongly encouraged to attend.
Addison gave herself one last once over in the full length mirror and smiled with approval. She’d pinned up her hair to show off her bare shoulders and neck. Her burgundy floor-length dress hugged tight in all the right places. The back dipped low, and slits up each side of the skirt allowed for ease of movement. Addison batted her eyes at her reflection. Eat your hearts out.
Addison strode into the living room with her burgundy pumps dangling from one hand. She captured the attention of an audience of three sitting in front of the TV: Ashlynn, Daniel, and Jake. The latter looked up from his tablet computer and broke into a grin. “Mommy! You look so pretty!”
”Thank you, love.” Addison focused on her son as Daniel’s eyes raked over her. Playing nice and tolerating the git was part of her role for the evening.
“I was going to go with ravishing,” Daniel said with an appreciative smile. “But pretty will do as well.” The statement earned him scowls from the children.
Ashlynn crossed her arms and slouched further into the pillows at one end of the couch. “Why do we have to stay home with Svetlana? Why can’t we come to the party?”
”We’ve been over this,” Addison said, moving to her daughter’s side. “It’s an adult party.” She kissed the top of her head. “I’m sure that the three of you will have lots of fun, too.”
I still think you should be Daddy’s date, Jake sulked.
Addison sighed. Enough, Jacob. We’ve been over this. The circular argument was tiring. Addison knew that it was partially her doing. She’d inadvertently planted seeds of hope in her son’s mind by shagging Myers two years earlier. She’d worked hard to avoid him since that comedy of errors–easier said than done due to joint custody of their son. Her bloody traitorous body still craved the man. Thankfully she had Teague to fall back on.
Although Jacob’s glower darkened, he kept quiet, crossing his arms like his sister had. Then Ashlynn glared at Jake, he glared back, and Addison intercepted her daughter before she could pinch her brother. “When I said no arguing, I meant no telepathic arguing as well. Be good to Svetlana or both of you will be on restriction. Is that understood?”
“Ashlynn,” Addison warned.
By the time she and Daniel left, neither child was speaking to her. But they also weren’t speaking to each other, so Addison considered it a win.
They were already turning heads as they walked from Addison’s quarters to the closest tram stop. She didn’t have to tell Daniel that she wasn’t walking the half-mile to the ballroom in two-inch heels. Keeping his voice down, Daniel remarked, “The older Jake gets, the more I get the feeling that he doesn’t like me.”
His hand slid across her bare back as he spoke, as if she were his mistress. Truly playing the part was tempting at times. “He has romantic notions.”
Daniel chuckled. “Of you and Myers getting together? That didn’t work out so well for you the last time, as I recall.”
Addison managed to not flinch. She didn’t want to know how he’d learned about the last time she’d been with Myers, and how it had ended badly again. “Jacob’s too young to understand.”
Daniel pulled her closer and nuzzled her hair. “I suppose it’s good that we do.”
Addison let herself enjoy the attention. Daniel may have been a manipulative, controlling bastard, but he was an attractive one. There was nothing wrong with a little attention from an attractive man, especially when he expected nothing in return. By the time they arrived at the grand ballroom with the two story Christmas tree, Addison was sure that everyone in the glittering crowd believed she was Daniel’s mistress.
“Bah humbug” summed up Shane’s mood as he left his quarters to pick up his date. Although logically he understood the need for the festivities, he wished that people with as much responsibility as he had would be exempt. Shane didn’t need nor want the social interaction. The entire affair was a dog and pony show for the attendees to see who wore what and brought whom.
Ludicrous, he grumbled as he stepped up to one of the visitors suites. Before ringing the bell Shane wrapped himself in his alien side. Being numb was preferable to dragging Ingrid down with him.
The door opened to reveal the leggy blonde in a snug-fitting, dark blue velvet gown. She looked fantastic. Few would guess that she was approaching 50. Shane was already seeing to it that he aged as gracefully, but he had no idea how Ingrid did it.
Ingrid’s blue eyes swept over him. Her smile said that she approved of his charcoal gray Italian suit. Not surprising, since she’d picked it out for him years ago. “Shane, come in,” she purred.
“You’re not ready?”
“Almost,” she replied, tugging him in by the arm. After closing the door she peered into his eyes– easily done, since she matched his height with her high-heeled shoes. “Here but not here,” she sighed. She walked over to an end table bearing her matching beaded purse. “What are you hiding from now?”
Anger flared, but was quickly doused by the void. “Nothing.”
Ingrid fixed an impatient look on him before turning her attention to the contents of her purse. “Honey, I was your teacher and your first. I know you better than you know yourself.”
Shane concentrated hard to maintain his alien calm. “Oh? Then what am I hiding from?”
Satisfied, Ingrid snapped the purse shut, then drew a gauzy wrap around her pale shoulders. She stepped up to Shane, draping her arms around his neck. “Do you really want me to answer that?”
Shane shook his head.
Ingrid smiled sympathetically, then pressed her lips to his. Her affection and familiarity chipped at the void and broke through. The woman was smart, sexy, and above all, safe. After the past few years Shane was desperate for safe. He felt himself slip back into their old relationship. “Thank you for this,” he said after they broke apart. “I should have kept in touch–”
Ingrid tsked with a flirtatious grin. “This,” she stated, straightening his jacket, “is my pleasure. I’m busy, you’re busy, and you’ve got Jack to look after.”
“Jake,” she repeated. “I’d like to meet the boy sometime.”
“Of course. Anytime.” They both knew that was a lie. Ingrid had as much interest in children as Shane had in holiday parties. To change the subject Shane offered his arm. “Shall we?”
Ingrid flashed her brilliant smile as she looped her arm through his. “Let’s. And let me help you have fun.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Shane replied with more levity than he felt. He let Ingrid lead him into what would be at best tedium and at worst torture.