Chapter 12: The Morning After – part 1
Addison opened her eyes, blinking away sleep and trying to focus on the shapes that took form in the bright light. Bright? She wondered what time it was, then as Shane stirred behind her, burying his face in her shoulder, she decided that she didn’t care. Closing her eyes, she indulged the memories of last night and felt a heart-swelling wholeness sweep over her. She pressed back against Shane, delighting in the warmth and firmness and firmness of his body behind her. An elated grin spread across her face, and she nearly burst into gleeful laughter. He loves me.
Now fully awake, she began to take in her surroundings. The sight of the legs of the dresser and the underside of the bed confused her momentarily. We’re on the floor. Ardor and affection joined her good mood as she recalled how they’d ended up at the foot of Shane’s bed with the comforter tangled around them.
Rolling over, she drank in the sight of her– Lover? Boyfriend? Husband? Addison didn’t know what to call their relationship. Lovers was too blasé. They’d been lovers in the physical sense for years. Boyfriend sounded too secondary school, and husband… wasn’t as frightening as it would have been a few days ago.
Addison pushed that confusion aside and focused on Shane. She traced his face with her fingertips, noting how every touch was amplified by the bracelets. Simulated daylight poured in through the faux window and glinted off the metal band, prompting a frown. Although none of this would have been possible without the bracelets, there was still the matter of removing them. And learning who “gifted” them with the items in the first place.
But… later. Addison shuffled close to Shane, wrapping her body around his. She kissed him lightly, sliding her leg up and down his. Come on, then, sleepyhead. It’s time to wake up.
For the first time in a very long time Shane didn’t want to go to work. He still loved his work, but now it had even more competition: the amazing, sensual woman curled around him. They didn’t need the bracelets to feel how much they wanted each other again. Shane was mustering the energy to do so when Addison spoke.
Don’t wanna, Shane replied as his hands began to roam. Addison’s hands followed suit. Sighing and purring, Shane pulled the comforter over them telekinetically. One more round before we have to face the rest of the world. Addison agreed by straddling him and crushing her lips to his.
The digitized chime of the videophone was less than welcome. “Shane, if you’re there, please answer.” Dr. Frasier’s professional tones made him and Addison pause.
The video’s disabled, he assured Addison. Satisfied, she lowered herself on to him. They moved together again, the rest of the world forgotten for a while longer.
Some time later Addison threw the comforter back. Cool, dry air washed over their sweat-slicked, spent bodies raising goose bumps. “Let’s try this again,” Addison said. “It’s time to wake up.”
Although his eyes were closed, Shane could hear the smile in her voice. “Don’t wanna.”
He felt her sense of duty war with hedonism. After a brief battle the former won. “Time,” she commanded the facility’s computer.
“Ten twenty-eight a.m.”
They both bolted upright.
They looked at each other’s panicked expressions and burst into laughter. Jake’s and Lynn’s amusement joined them.
About time you horndogs woke up, Jake quipped.
Lynn chimed in. You’re lucky we’re here to cover for you.
“Good lord,” Addison moaned aloud and telepathically. What did you say?
I’ll tell you once you get back here and make yourself presentable, young lady, Ashlynn retorted.
Same for you, Dad. I’m in the lab.
“The hellions are enjoying this far too much,” Shane half-heartedly grumbled as he stood. He offered Addison a hand up, which she accepted.
“Quite.” They indulged in one last long kiss, then broke apart. Coming, “Mum,” Addison told their daughter. To Shane she said, “Best if we avoid each other in public.”
Shane nodded reluctantly. “When we can’t, know that I’m just keeping up appearances.” Then he grinned. “Unless you’re being a bitch.”
Addison swatted his arm playfully. “Likewise, if you’re being a prat.”
“Fair enough,” Shane chuckled. “See you tonight?”
Addison had more self-control than he, because she backed away a few steps while raking her eyes over his body. “Absolutely.” Until then, love. She disappeared with a flash of light.
Shane grinned like a smitten teenager at the spot she’d occupied, replaying her parting words in his mind. Love. His smile grew wider. She loves me.
Dad! Shane jumped from his son’s interjection. Get your butt to work, then check in with Dr. Frasier. If you wait much longer the rumor mill will start up.
Despite his annoyance with being ordered by his son, Shane knew the boy was right. On my way, he replied as he strode to the bathroom. But watch your tone. I may be acting like a lovesick idiot, but I’m still your father.
Yes, Dad. Shane chose to ignore his son’s unabashed amusement.
Twenty minutes later Shane strode into his lab, nodding a professional hello to his employees. Several, including DiPhillipo, glanced at him curiously after returning the greeting. Shane shrugged it off. He was in too good of a mood to care.
Jake was waiting for Shane in his office, sprawled on the floor with his tablet. Reporting for duty, sir! Shane quipped. Leaving the door open, he deliberately stepped on Jake’s butt on the way to his desk.
That’s ten demerit— Hey! Jake mock scowled at Shane as he pushed himself to a sitting position. Then his face fell. Oh, god.
Shane, poised to enter his password on his desktop computer’s keyboard, froze. What?
Jake jumped to his feet. Pretend I’m one of your assistants. Shane frowned at him, puzzled. Just do it, please Dad?
Shane shrugged. All right. He schooled his expression to the neutral one he adopted at work. Yes, Jacob?
Jake threw his head back and sighed dramatically. That’s the best you can do?
What are you talking about?
His son gestured at the mirror-like surface of the artificial window, which was currently dormant. Look.
Imagining he was about to address DiPhillipo, Shane swiveled his chair to face the darkened window. An obviously happy version of his reflection stared back. Although he wasn’t grinning from ear to ear, the almost upturned corners of his mouth and twinkle in his eyes screamed “Hooray for me!”
A moment later his expression matched Jake’s. “Crap.”
“That’s more—” Shane swiveled to face Jake again. The boy shook his head. It’s back. You’re all lovesick and happy.
Grinning, Shane pointed out, You and Lynn were pretty happy about it last night.
Jake’s expression brightened somewhat. We still are. But like you said, Triptych can’t know, and you may as well have a neon sign over your head saying “I’m in wuv.”
Despite the humorous image Jake painted, Shane sobered. Yeah. Looks like I’ll be in the void a lot. Jake agreed with a nod.
“Dr. Myers?” DiPhillipo called from the open doorway.
Shane dove into his alien side as he turned to face the heavyset, sandy-haired man. “Yes?”
DiPhillipo nodded in the direction of his workstation. “Would you take a look at this?”
Jake’s voice followed Shane into the lab. Don’t forget to check in with Dr. Frasier.
Amusement rippled across the void but didn’t break through. Thank you, Jake. I won’t.
Addison tried very hard not to think about Shane as she showered. The litany of the things waiting for her at the office was a mild distraction at best.
I’ve laid out your clothes already, Ashlynn said. Get your rear in gear.
Watch it, Addison warned. I know you’re enjoying this, but mind your attitude. I’m the adult here and your mother. The words didn’t carry their usual bite.
Yes, Mum. Please hurry and get dressed.
Addison strolled into her bedroom to find one of her more modest work outfits spread out and waiting on the bed. The collar of the blouse needed to be fully buttoned to flatter the navy blazer and tailored, loose pants. The low-heeled, closed-toe pumps were equally modest. Undergarments completed the ensemble: hi cut brief style knickers, a full supportive bra that didn’t quite breach into matron territory, a camisole, and control-top support hose.
“Am I going to the office or a convent?” Addison asked aurally and telepathically as she eyed the outfit. “These stockings could be a chastity belt.”
That’s the idea, Ashlynn snorted.
I thought you were quite satisfied with last night’s results.
I was. I am. We are. Ashlynn’s inclusion of Jacob made Addison smile. Although they bickered something fierce, her children were quite the pair. Eventually you’ll have to see Shane today. You can’t stay apart for a full eight hours before the bracelets start to drain you. If you don’t want Triptych to know about you two, you can’t be dressed all come-hither.
Addison swelled with pride from her daughter’s foresight. The reminder that avoiding Shane was out of the question made her giddy instead of nervous. She pushed her eager anticipation aside. Shane and I have more self-control than that, don’t you think?
She could practically see Ashlynn’s eyes rolling. You and Shane hardly had any self-control before we knocked some sense into your heads. You’d probably do okay if it wasn’t for the bracelets, but really, Mum, don’t you think that they might impair your judgment a bit?
Something about Ashlynn’s words didn’t sit right with Addison. As she replayed them, her daughter prompted, Today, Mum. The day’s not getting any younger.
Despite her annoyance at being chastised by a sixteen year-old, Addison got dressed. Going with the Headmistress theme, she pinned her hair into a bun. The tube of lipstick she selected, a nice neutral brown, nearly tumbled into the sink when Ashlynn yelled, And no makeup!
When Addison strolled into her office, she gave polite hellos and greetings and received wary half-smiles in return. Her vanity was no secret. Her staff knew that no-nonsense business attire meant that something was afoot. Her employees wouldn’t disturb her unless it were absolutely necessary.
Addison entered her office to find Ashlynn at her desk typing away on her laptop. Good thinking, she told her daughter.
You’re welcome. Beaming with pride, Ashlynn looked up. Then she blinked and her smile vanished. Even the outfit doesn’t help!
Help what? Addison was curious, but had work to do. She crossed the room and nudged Ashlynn with her hip. Up. That’s my desk you’re sitting at.
The door closed seemingly of its own accord. Mum! You’re glowing!
“What?!” Addison’s yelp made her glad of the closed door. She opened her bottom desk drawer and withdrew a hand mirror. Ashlynn was right. Despite the school marm look, a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and her cheeks were rosy. At worst she looked like a newlywed; at best like a newly deflowered virgin. Addison groaned and dropped her face into her hands.
“Pretend that everything’s going wrong and you’re having a bad day,” Ashlynn suggested. Addison looked up and her daughter frowned. “If that’s a bad day, then you must live in the Disney universe.”
Addison glanced into the mirror again, chewing her lip. “What’s your suggestion then?”
Her daughter slipped behind her shields. Addison looked up in surprise, her eyes narrowing. “What is it, Ashlynn?”
“Remember when I was on restriction a few months back and you told me that I couldn’t go anywhere?”
“And then you were off-world for a few days studying the Hinoa tribe–”
“Ashlynn Harris, what did you do?”
“I went out. On one date. Just one, honestly, and–”
The knock at the door prevented Addison from launching into a tirade. Knowing why Ashlynn had chosen this moment to confess didn’t excuse her disobedience. We’ll discuss this later. Aloud she called, “Come.”
Koral peeked inside. “Dr. Harris, we have a problem on the last catalogue.”
“What a surprise,” Addison muttered. She pushed away from the desk and leveled a look at her daughter. “We’re not done yet.” Then she marched out to handle the crisis of the day.
The crisis took the rest of the morning and early afternoon to resolve. Only Koral and Rausch braved Addison’s company, so if her happy disposition had broken through there were only two witnesses. Fortunately one look at her errant daughter prompted her ire, distracting Addison from the mostly pleasant awareness of Shane conveyed by the bracelets.
Addison blinked in confusion, surprised to see Dr. Rausch peering down at her from through his coke bottle glasses. When had she sat down? She glanced down at the folder in her lap, and the room seemed to list. The faint throbbing behind her temples that she’d been ignoring intensified.
Mum! You need to go to Dr. Frasier now!
Her daughter’s words didn’t make any sense, so Addison couldn’t manage a coherent response. Why was everything muddied? Why was she so cold?
Then the world broke apart and coalesced into one of the infirmary’s private rooms. Ashlynn eased Addison on to the bed. Her daughter and Dr. Frasier held a hushed conversation that her mind couldn’t decipher. Instead her muzzy head focused on the one thing that was clear: Shane. He was on his way. That would make everything better.