Chapter 11: The Parent Trap – part 6
“But you two might want to consider temporary living arrangements,” Dr. Frasier suggested.
The pigheaded doctor’s statement shocked Shane back to reality. His thoughts had strayed due to one of Harris’ thoughts: “But she’ll never have with Daniel what Jake has with Shane.”
She approved of how he was raising Jake and wished the same for Ashlynn. The notion filled him with a ridiculous, relieved pride. Shane knew full well that years with Triptych had warped any paternal notions he may have learned from his adoptive father. He’d read volumes on the subject, but few of the books were useful. Most were touchy-feely bullshit that would result in his son being a groveling peon. Instead Shane had internalized the few bits of good advice from the books, observed how Harris interacted with Lynn, and played it by ear.
Not having a well-defined plan was nerve-racking, but appeared to have worked. The proof was his confident, able son standing beside his bed. That should have been enough, but Harris’ approval meant more than Shane cared to admit.
Living arrangements, he reminded himself. “You’ll stay in my quarters until–” Memories of the few weeks they’d been together before she’d torn his heart out rushed back. He fumbled for his alien side before hormones and bitter nostalgia could get a toehold. “–I’ve removed the bracelets. If someone would get me some clothes I could get started right away.”
Ashlynn stepped forward. “I’ll do it.” Then she was gone in a flash of light. Although her daughter’s initiative pleased Addison, it grated that the girl sometimes sought Myers’ approval.
Addison’s attention shifted to to the man, her eyes narrowing. “How typically presumptuous of you. Just assume that I’ll uproot myself and move in with you.” Memories of when she’d considered that option resurfaced and were suppressed ruthlessly. That had been a long time ago, and she’d learned from the mistake. The intervening years had shown her that their relationship was another facet of Triptych: control, power, and dominance. Once Myers got close to her son–earning her daughter’s trust like a warped consolation prize–there was no room for Addison in that equation. If Myers weren’t an incredible shag, Addison would have nothing to do with him outside of Jacob’s well-being.
Jake turned to face her, his expression plaintive. “But, Mom, it makes sense, sorta. I’m already there a lot of the time.”
“And I suppose that you both think I’ll just leave your sister to her own devices? Allow her to run wild and unsupervised for however long this–” she shook her braceleted wrist at the two men “–takes to resolve?”
“Lynn can come too.” Jake turned his hopeful puppy-dog eyes on his father. “Right, Dad?”
As much as Addison enjoyed seeing Myers squirm, she’d had enough. Tossing off the sheet, she climbed out of the hospital bed. “I don’t have time for this. I need to talk to Crossling and his team. Now’s as good a time as any to find out exactly how long we can be as far apart as possible before–”
“Mom! Jesus!” Jacob squeezed his eyes shut as his face flushed red.
Her son’s embarrassment, coupled with Dr. Frasier’s amusement and Daniel’s appreciation made Addison snap her head around. “What?”
“You’re not the only one who might want to put on some clothes,” Dr. Frasier suggested.
Addison glanced down at the snug-fitting camisole and knickers. She rolled her eyes in frustrated annoyance. Frasier found the siutation humorous, and Daniel openly ogled her. But it was her son’s mortification and Myers’ eyes on her that made her tug the sheet from the bed and wrap it around her. Ashlynn, she sighed, bring me a change of clothes, too, if you would.
Shane was grateful that Harris had the decency to cover herself. For Jake’s sake. Not because Gibson, the power-hungry bastard, was drooling over Addison like a piece of meat. Although the woman was wholly droolable, as most recently illustrated when they’d unintentionally gone to the pool at the same time. Thankfully she’d had the foresight to teleport them to her quarters before he’d torn her bikini off. She’d brought them straight to the shower, where they’d stayed until the hot water ran out. Then–
Shane! Addison’s voice rang in his head. Blinking, Shane realized that he was flushed, hard, and staring intently at his hands folded in his lap. He’d never been so glad to have a bunched-up blanket covering him in his life.
He forced himself to look up. Jake hadn’t moved other than to cover his flaming face with his hands. Gibson and Frasier were pointedly looking over a printout, and Ashlynn had returned with an armful of clothes. She divided her gaze between Shane and her mother, grinning slightly.
Shane would have strangled the girl if not for Harris’ presence. The infuriating woman also hadn’t moved, but stared at him with dilated eyes. Her gaze drifted across his chest and abdomen, paused at his lap, then moved back to his face. He couldn’t resist. Shane tensed the muscles in his arms and torso and smirked.
Harris’ lips formed a thin line as her anger coursed into him. Her eyes–no longer dilated–didn’t leave his as she thrust one hand toward her daughter. Ashlynn wordlessly handed Harris her clothes. I hate you, Addison stated, then spun on her heel and left the curtained-off area.
Shane felt a curious pang of regret even as he grinned. I hate you, too, honey, he shot back. Ashlynn set his clothes at the foot of his bed, gave him a polite nod, then set off after her mother. Jake, however, hadn’t moved except to cross his arms and fix a disapproving look on him. “What?” Shane asked, puzzled.
And you say I’m immature, Jake sighed. He gestured at the folded-up jeans and T-shirt. You’ve got your clothes. Get dressed already. Without waiting for a response the brat left, too.
Frasier and Gibson stopped pretending to read the printout. “If you feel anything other than fine,” the doctor said, “report here or call me right away. Okay?”
Shane was about to protest, but Gibson’s stern look discouraged him. “Okay.”
Gibson nodded. “Keep me apprised of the situation.” He and the doctor ducked through the curtains leaving Shane alone to dress.
Alone except for the knot of Harris in the back of his head. Which he despised, naturally. Naturally, assured himself as he pulled his clothes on. The sooner these damned bands come off, the better.
Crossling and his team turned out to be dead ends. He and his incompetent assistants insisted that no one could have breached security and removed the bands from his possession. They also insisted that no one they knew could duplicate the devices. Addison made sure the scientists were truthful. It only cost each of them a nosebleed and a migraine. Considering her mood, they’d gotten off easy.
Fatigue and lightheadedness forced a temporary stop of her interviews. Addison teleported to Shane’s office while she could still do so. Thankfully he was on the other side of the closed door in his lab, so she didn’t have to deal with his juvenile behavior as she recuperated. Feeling his ice-cold thoughts in the back of her mind was bad enough.
The mystery of the copper bands was no closer to being solved when Addison reported to Shane’s quarters for dinner. The idea of sharing quarters with the man for even 24 hours made her want to inflict bodily harm on someone, and her traitorous children weren’t making it any easier. They whispered and giggled while cooking dinner. It was one thing to see them happy and getting on when they were in her quarters; it was disturbing to see it in Shane’s kitchen. This wasn’t a bloody sleepover!
Addison was attempting to relax by doing yoga on Shane’s living room floor when Jake announced that dinner was ready. She looked up from the balasana position to find him grinning at her. “We could all sit down and do something weird, you know, like eat like a real family that actually likes each other.”
Exasperated, Addison got to her feet. Then she noticed the half-hopeful look in her son’s dark eyes. Addison scowled, and Jake took a step back. “That’s it.” Without a word of explanation she teleported to Shane’s office, where the prat was hunched over his paper-strewn desk. A wire-frame model of a crystalline structure glowed on the computer screen. He looked up an instant after she appeared. “Tell me you’ve found a way to get these sodding things off before I go mad.”
By the second time Harris teleported into his office with no warning, Shane was sick of the emotional roller coaster. Even in the void he couldn’t escape it. The woman’s emotions soared high then dropped low. As if that weren’t enough, Shane was stuck feeling her pain and fatigue as well. How the hell was he supposed to determine how the fucking bracelets worked with constant distractions?
With Addison standing a few feet away and smelling so damned good Shane’s emotionless calm evaporated. He stood up abruptly and paced around the desk, enjoying how he lorded over her as well as the spectacular view of her tits. “You think you’re mad? I don’t know how you function from day to day. You’re up one minute and down the next. If you want these damned things off, get a hold of yourself!”
Anger flared from Addison, then morphed into smug amusement. Did you hear what you just said, and more importantly, how you said it? Scowling, Shane grabbed for his alien side unsuccessfully. She gave him a mock-sympathetic smile. Aww. The hybrid freak can’t run and hide?
Shane saw red. When his vision cleared Addison was shaking her head from where he’d telekinetically slammed her against the wall. The snarl on her face gave him pause. Then she rushed him.
To Shane’s surprise he didn’t try to stop her. Somehow he felt that she deserved to get a few punches in after he’d lost his temper and assaulted her. He half-heartedly tried to block her kicks and jabs. Those that got through connected with surprising force. The physical contact told him that he hadn’t hurt Addison worse than a few bruises. Nevertheless, that minimal bit of harm prompted guilt, which make him resent his own weakness even more.
Shane caught Addison’s wrists with his hands. His longer arms let him stay out of reach of her kicks. She snarled and struggled, but he was physically stronger. Although he should be enjoying this, he wasn’t. He was as miserable as Addison was.
Stop it! Shane cried, worried that she’d take control of him if she stayed this angry. He meant to keep his mouth shut, but words kept pouring out. I wish I’d never met you. You make me lose control, and that’s the last thing I should do around you. But I’m stuck with you because of Jake. So just… stop, and I’ll let go.
Addison froze as Shane’s emotional turmoil spilled onto her. His frustration and misery coupled with his words hit her like a sucker punch, and inflicting more damage than the telekinetic assault had. Jerking against his hold, Addison twisted and tried to back away. Oddly enough, his tight grip on her felt pleasant, which fed her panic. “Let go!”
“Only if you–”
“I’m fine! Let go of me!” But the bastard wouldn’t listen. Glaring, Addison teleported to the doorway on other side of the room. Her knee-jerk reaction showed how off-center she was. I don’t run away. I don’t ever run away. She’d almost done just that. Almost fled from Shane and this horribly bollocksed-up situation.
Addison drew deep, measured breaths as she tried to calm herself. She was stronger than this. Shane’s words didn’t matter. The damn bracelets were responsible for this emotional turmoil. Shane Myers couldn’t touch her. Couldn’t hurt her.
Shane, who looked and felt as confused as she did, hadn’t budged. He wasn’t talking, either, so Addison made herself do so. “Do what you have to do. Once we have these things off of us, you won’t be stuck with me anymore. Jake’s old enough to deal with reality. We can avoid each other once and for all. Thousands of divorced parents do it every day. It shouldn’t be so hard.”
Addison had teleported out of his grasp, leaving Shane lonely and disappointed which made no sense at all. She stood with her back to the wall, eyeing him as if he were a rabid dog. The thoughts tumbling from her mind into his should have had him gloating. He was winning; he’d hurt her first. Yet guilt added to his misery.
Shane didn’t need the damned bracelets to know that Addison wanted to run as fast as she could from him. Her voice was even, but her hand inched toward the doorknob as she proposed what they do after the bands were removed. “Thousands of divorced parents do it every day. It shouldn’t be so hard.”
But it’s already hard. The thought sprang up unbidden.
Addison blinked. “What?”
Shane shook his head in an attempt to clear the confusion. “Nothing. That’s fine. What you said. We’ll do that.”
But I don’t want to. Addison’s thought made Shane do a double take. She gaped, horrified, then glared at the bracelet on her wrist. “These sodding things are fucking with our heads.”
“Yeah,” Shane agreed. They’re not. They don’t work that way.
Although they both gulped, neither commented on Shane’s thought. After taking a deep breath, Addison said, Lynn and Jake are almost done making dinner. They think it’ll be fun to play “happy normal family.” She and Shane sniffed derisively. Humor them, would you?
Shane nodded. Anything for them. For Jake. Addison hadn’t reacted, so maybe she hadn’t overheard the thought. “I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” The steadiness of his voice surprised him. Teleport out of here. Don’t want to add to the rumor mill.
“Of course.” Addison teleported away with a flash of light. Shane stared at the place she’d been in utter turmoil.