Chapter 11: The Parent Trap – part 8
Addison returned to the pool to discover a couple in the water wholly occupied with shagging one another, which meant that they were too involved to notice her arrival. All the better. She gathered her clothes and teleported directly to her bathroom.
Safely ensconced in her quarters, Addison took a shower as quickly as possible. She wanted to wash away the chlorine, but not to hold dinner up any longer.
Dinner. Addison paused in the middle of toweling off, panic rising anew. She and Shane had had dinner together before at Jake’s request. They were painful, awkward events she’d dreaded. Tonight, however…
Addison’s heart sped up. Feeling Shane’s concern, she closed her eyes and took slow, deep breaths. New experiences usually didn’t frighten her, but at the moment she felt like a teenager on her first date.
The last time being around Shane made her feel this way was the brief time before and after Jake’s birth. Somehow everything had gone pear-shaped. You didn’t trust him enough. He didn’t trust you enough, Addison realized. But what had changed? She peered at her reflection in the mirror. Twelve years of raising a son together. Whether they’d admitted it or not, that’s what they had been doing. Twelve years of exposure, of shagging, of familiarity.
Mommy? Lynn’s mental voice interrupting her musings.
Coming, Addison replied. Give me ten minutes.
She could almost see her daughter blowing out an impatient breath. Fine. Whatever. Just remember that you have two growing kids and we’re totally starving to death over here.
Addison chuckled. Oh good, that means my devilish plan is working.
Lynn and Jake didn’t appreciate her wit, but Shane was amused. That was new – a pleasant emotion from him unrelated to sex.
After tossing her towel in the hamper, Addison strode to her closet. She donned a snug green scoop-neck jumper, slid into her black jeans, then set about untangling her hair. She was nearly finished when she blushed; she was preening! Nevertheless, she applied lipstick and eyeliner before teleporting to Shane’s living room. She found him, Jake, and Ashlynn watching TV.
“Thank god!” Lynn sighed with mock annoyance. She leaped to her feet, then stopped to study Addison. A slow, knowing smile spread across the girl’s face, but she said nothing and bounded into the kitchen.
Jake did not have his sister’s restraint. “Wow, Mom, you look nice.” Grinning mischievously, he glanced at Shane. “Doesn’t she look nice, Dad?”
Jake’s question made Shane realize that he was grinning at Addison like a smitten teenager. “She does.” Since their kids were well aware of his and Addison’s mostly hormonal relationship, Shane raked his eyes over her, enjoying how the jeans and sweater clung to her curves.
She did the same to him. Shane had also changed, swapping the bloodstained shirt for a flattering short-sleeved shirt. The damned bracelets carried their mutual arousal, delight, and nervousness. Addison flushed, and Shane was thankful for the control he had over his body.
“Ahem.” Ashlynn stood near the dining table holding a pan of lasagna with potholders and grinning from ear to ear. “Dinner is served. Jake, get the bread, would ya?”
While Jake practically skipped into the kitchen, Shane wondered what to do with himself. Say hello? Give Addison a kiss on the cheek? Hold her chair out for her? Get her something to drink? “Drinks!” Feeling three sets of eyes on him made Shane realize that he’d blurted the word aloud.
“Yes, we have those,” Jake drawled. He set a plate of sliced Italian bread in the center of the table beside the salad bowl.
“Thanks for the confirmation, Jake,” Shane shot back, but without venom. He looked from his son, to Lynn, then to Addison. The latter made his heart skip a beat. “Who wants what to drink? Wine?”
“Yeah!” Jake and Lynn chirped.
Their exclamation almost covered Addison’s nervous laugh. “Good lord, no.” She frowned at their children. “For you? Certainly not.” Then to Shane she replied, “Water will be fine, thanks.”
After the kids grudgingly requested soda, Shane entered the kitchen to fill the orders. He returned with water for him and Addison and Coke for Jake and Lynn. Like they need more caffeine and sugar.
Agreed, Addison said. The affection and amusement of the thought made Shane stop short and grin at her.
Lynn giggled, and Jake, of all things, broke into song. “Dad and Mom sittin’ in a tree–”
Shane telekinetically smacked the back of his head with just enough force to get his attention. The brat actually snickered!
“Jake, stop torturing your father,” Addison chided as they took their seats at the table.
“Yes, Mom.” The kid was anything but penitent.
Shane took a long drink of water, wondering how he’d survive dinner.
Shane’s nervousness helped Addison feel less silly about her own, which calmed her a bit. Thanks to the bracelets, her calm spilled into Shane, so they weren’t basket cases at the dinner table. Which would be ridiculous. It isn’t like we don’t know each other. Except they really didn’t. She knew that Shane was an alien-human hybrid, a premier geneticist, and what he liked in bed. None of that made for appropriate dinner conversation. Especially the latter.
Addison’s face flushed from the feelings and images summoned by the thought. She and Shane reached for their water glasses simultaneously. Their eyes met, and she saw that Shane was flushed as well. She gave him a half-nervous, half-amused smile that he returned.
That was when she noticed it. Although not handsome, Shane was pleasing to look at. She hadn’t noticed the softness of his eyes or the way his smile lit his face. Maybe it was because this was the first smile of his without the veneer of smugness and arrogance she’d seen in years. This was the Shane Myers that Jake saw every day.
Addison felt her lips form a smile. I like it.
Me too. Shane’s response prompted a full-body blush. The bands on their wrists made their attraction almost tangible.
“So,” Ashlynn said, “I think I want to get a contraceptive implant.”
Her daughter’s words hit Addison like a bucket of cold water. Her head whipped around to stare at the girl. “What?”
Smirking, Ashlynn added some salad to her bowl, then handed the dish to her mother. “Just kidding. Tension breaker. Can we all eat now or–”
“Do you two need to make out first?” Lynn and Jake asked the question in stereo.
Addison groaned, burying her face in her hands. “I should have sold you both to gypsies.” Although she underscored the words with affection, she wondered how they’d get through dinner.
Shane had been racking his brains for something intelligent to say and trying to ignore Addison’s racy thoughts when Ashlynn’s off-the-wall comment came to the rescue.
While he laughed with his family — My family? — he noticed something new. Addison had dimples. Somehow Shane had never noticed them before. They were endearing. Only Addison and I could know the location of every mole and birthmark on each other’s body but not notice dimples.
Addison studied him for a moment, then reached for the salad.
What was that? Shane asked, putting his napkin on his lap.
Addison calmly placed greens on her plate as she replied. I wasn’t sure if you have dimples or not. “Here, Jake,” she said, handing the bowl to their son. You don’t.
The salad bowl made its circuit around the table accompanied by an expectant silence. Out of desperation Shane ran through his mental flowchart of How to Behave at a Dinner Party.
1. Determine social rank of dinner guests: higher, equal, or lower? If equal or lower, go to 6.
6. Review personal agenda regarding lower-ranked guests.
Uh… they’re my kids. I don’t have an agenda!
Addison coughed… or hid a laugh behind a cough. Mildly embarrassed, Shane moved on to the next item.
7. Review personal agenda regarding equal-ranked guests.
Shane deliberately didn’t look at Addison. He used to have an agenda when it came to her: work with her to raise Jake, don’t let her get the upper hand in their twisted relationship, and screw her to Australia and back. Thanks to the bracelets the middle part was out the window. He wasn’t about to discuss the multitude of sensual ways to enjoy her body in front of their children, so that left Jake as the topic of conversation.
Ignoring how his face flamed, Shane turned to their son. “So, Jake, what did you learn in school today?”
Jake stared at him, exchanged a look with Ashlynn, and burst into laughter. After pressing her lips together for a moment, so did Addison.
“What?” Shane demanded. His indignation quickly succumbed to the mirth filling the room. Chuckling and shaking his head, he gestured toward the pan of still untouched lasagna. “Ashlynn, hand that to me.”
She batted her eyes innocently. “Where are your P’s and Q’s?”
Shane sighed, rolled his eyes dramatically, and tried again. “Ashlynn, darling, would you please hand the scrumptious-looking lasagna to me, pretty please?”
“That’s more like it,” Jake snickered.
After accepting the lasagna from Lynn, Shane cut a square for himself, then handed the spatula to Jake. “Well?”
“Jake, please,” Shane half-chuckled, “work with me here. What did you learn today?”
Jake’s expression was serious, but mischief twinkled in his eyes. “That you and Mom–”
“Jacob!” Addison’s tone of voice warned the boy not to finish the sentence.
Lynn kicked Jake under the table. “In school, dummy.”
Jack scowled at his sister, then turned back to Shane. “We started infinite series in Calc II.” He looked dubiously around the table. “You really wanna talk about that?”
Addison laughed softly. “Heavens, no.” Her amusement and love rippled through the bracelets. Shane couldn’t help but smile at her.
“I guess not.” He dug into his lasagna, which was quite tasty. Someone else could pick up the conversation baton.
Another silence fell as the lasagna spatula made its way to Addison. The silence was punctuated by less than furtive glances between the kids, and a giggle from Ashlynn.
“What about you, then, Lynn?” Addison asked.
“Hmm?” Ashlynn looked at her, puzzled.
“School, young lady.” Addison placed a slice of lasagna on her plate and handed the serving utensil to her daughter. Recognized the mischievous glint in the girl’s eyes, she added, “What did you learn in school today?”
Ashlynn shrugged. “I learned how to swear in Hindi.”
Addison’s eyebrows rose. “I doubt that you learned that in school. That’s something you would learn from spending too much time in DiBlasio’s lab instead of doing your homework.”
“The lab is more interesting and–”
“You mean that Arjay is more interesting,” Jacob snickered.
“I do not!”
“Yeah, right.” Jake rolled his eyes then batted them at his sister. He raised his voice to an alto. “Really, Arjay? That’s so interesting. I never knew that. Look at me I’m just a simple little girl who’s probably smarter than you, but you’re so cuuuuuuuuuute–”
Mortification and anger surged from Ashlynn. The table shook with the force of her kick to her brother’s shin. “Shut up, brat!”
“Ow!” Jacob yelled. “Sadist!”
“I’ll show you a sadist–”
“Stop it, both of you!” Addison and Shane scolded in unison. “No fighting at the table!” They glanced at each other in surprise and amusement. For a moment Addison forgot about the quarreling kids. The warmth of Shane’s smile captured her attention.
Well, this is certainly domestic. She could get to like domestic.
Shane felt his smile grow in response to Addison’s and her thoughts. Although he knew that Jake would tease him for months, Shane didn’t try to stop himself. This is what I’ve been fighting against for 12 years?
I think so. Both of us. Addison’s heart was in her eyes. It was crazy. She was wide open and vulnerable. He could crush her, yet he didn’t want to.
Because it would hurt me, too. The realization was frightening, but not as much as it should be. Addison had his back, and he had hers. They’d have to be more vigilant because of their joint weakness, but judging from the past few hours it would so be worth it.
“I think I’m gonna puke,” Jake announced. The brat pantomimed gagging and grinned at Lynn.
Blushing, Shane schooled his expression into something less sappy. “You’d rather have your mom and I at each other’s throats?”
“Almost,” Jake deadpanned. He grinned at Shane and Addison. “You’re worse than Lynn around Arjay.”
Anger rolled off of Ashlynn, but she kept quiet and still. She must have said something telepathically to Jake because he stuck his tongue out at her.
Although Shane wanted to gloss over the topic, he decided to bring it up now. “Jake. Lynn.” The seriousness of his voice got their and Addison’s attention. “No one can know about my and your mother’s new… understanding.”
“It’s not new,” Ashlynn interjected. “You’ve both been too st–” She frowned for a moment. “–too afraid to acknowledge it.” She mock scowled at Jake, earning a smirk from him. “You’re a brat who I constantly have to keep an eye on–”
“Unless you’re with Arj–”
Lynn’s death glare silenced her brother. “But it’s worth it. Brat.”
“That’s quite enough,” Addison sighed. A smile played at her lips, then she sobered. “Shane’s right. Being part of Triptych can be dangerous. Not a word, right?”
Jake broke into a huge grin. “Right.”
“Right,” Lynn agreed.
Relief assuaged a little of the worry in the back of Shane’s mind. He caught Addison’s eye. I guess we did something right, huh?
I think that we did, Addison agreed, looking fondly between her children and then giving Shane a bright smile. This new openness was terrifying, but terrifying like riding an amusement park ride for the first time. Maybe Lynn is right. Maybe it has always been there and we’ve been too stupid to do anything about it. There were certainly plenty of opportunities to hurt one another, and we never did. She glanced down at the bracelet on her wrist and rubbed it idly. Who would have thought that something good could come of this? She met Shane’s eyes again, and the look there made her heart skip. Definitely terrifying in a good and delicious way.
“Do you two need to get a room?” Jake teased.
Addison gave her son a sweet smile. “We have one. I believe that the bed there butts up against the wall of your room.”
Lynn giggled, but Jake’s expression soured. “Mom! Eating here!” He groaned, looking a little green around the gills. “I’m sleeping on the couch tonight. Or hey, maybe I can sleep in your quarters?”
Addison’s eyebrows rose. An automatic denial was on the tip of her tongue. Rather than dismissing the notion outright, she said, “Ask your father. I don’t mind if he doesn’t.”
She caressed Shane’s mind telepathically. I think that might be a very good idea. For both of them.
“Dad, please?” Jake pleaded. “Otherwise I’ll yarf hearing you two go at it!”
Not purring from Addison’s mental touch took deliberate effort. After “showing” her one of the many things he’d dreamed up over the past 12 years, Shane chuckled. “All right. For the carpet’s sake.” Addison’s laughter made him smile even more broadly.
Lynn’s and Jake’s cheers were damped by their mother’s sharp look. “We’re trusting you two to behave. I want you in bed and asleep by 10:00. No teleporting all over creation.” The last was directed at Ashlynn, who pouted.
Shane added, “We’re serious. We don’t have to physically be there to check up on you.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “Okay, we get it. God!”
Grinning over how they were turning into Triptych equivalent of the Cleavers, Shane looked for the lasagna pan. “Addison, would you–” The burst of delight from Jake made Shane pause. It took him a moment to figure out that it was because he’d called Addison by her first name. “–pass the lasagna?” She did, and he helped himself to another slice. “This is really good. Who made it?”
“We both did,” Jake and Lynn replied.
Shane smiled at them, and not just because of their cooking skills. Despite the fact that they were half-siblings, they were quite the team. “Good job.”
Pride surged from both of them as well as Addison. “You’ll have to fix dinner every night, then,” she deadpanned.
Chuckling, Shane turned his attention to his meal. Dessert would come soon enough.