And one more piece of news. As little as I want to, we'll have to take a week's hiatus as Anissa has another trip to take and we need to plan the next couple of chapters very closely. Should I let it slip that the next chapter is called 'Playing With Fire'? *grins*
But Kala’s delighted call did reach him, and
The woman herself was walking toward them now, looking at him in wide-eyed disbelief, and the sight of her pierced him. Around the office these days, Lois always had something of an edge about her, a steely aura of competence and drive that kept all but a chosen few from getting too close to her. But now, with her hair down, earrings off, and that predatory news-hawk look replaced by surprise, Lois looked much softer, much more approachable…
“Ah,” the young woman behind the counter said, smiling at
Well, if that isn’t suspicious…
“Are you gettin’ Chinese for dinner too, Mr. Clark?” Jason asked curiously.
Kala rolled her eyes at him from her perch. “Of course,” she said disdainfully. “Don’ ask him if he likes Japanese; he doesn’ wanna be a lizard.”
Jason scowled, but hearing Lois’ heels deliberately tapping toward them, he refrained from calling his sister any names. Instead he looked at
“Yes, I’m having Chinese,”
“Cashew chicken,” Kala said promptly.
“No, Kala, you can’t have nuts,”
The twins chorused approval, and the cashier added their dinners to
He saw her start to reply, saw her expression soften slightly, and thought for a moment that perhaps they could discuss things. And then he heard a voice he’d almost forgotten about.
“Sorry about that,
For a moment, Lois stared at Lana, then turned to
“I’m surprised to see you, too,” Lana replied just as sweetly. “Clark and I were just going to have dinner and catch up.”
That seemed to remind Lois of something, and she turned to
Because I forgot for a minute who I walked in with? Oh, my God. “It’s all right, Lois,” he said, trying to be casual. “I’ll just add it to your tab from all the times I bought you lunch at work. You only owe me about twenty pizzas. And I lost count of hamburgers, hot dogs, salads…”
“All right, all right,” Lois said, dropping it. For now. “Hmm, they have a lot of things I haven’t seen in a while. Make mine a Bang Bang Ji, then, and a Mu Shu Pork, too. Those two and the Beef and Broccoli and the Moo Goo Gai Pan are dinners – white rice, no eggrolls.”
“What about you, Lana?”
“Sweet and sour chicken for me,” she said, glancing at Lois from the corner of her eye.
“Here or to go?” the young woman behind the counter asked.
“Here,” Lana and Clark said, while Lois answered firmly, “To go.” After a moment, the cashier got the two orders rung up separately, and
While the adults did boring adult stuff, Jason looked up at both women with wide eyes, his head swiveling like a spectator at a tennis match. Kala just slithered down out of
The redhead was momentarily nonplussed, looking into those eyes so like Lois’. “I’m an old friend of
“Well, actually,” Lana stalled, glancing up at
He read her look accurately, and covered for her. “Oh, Richard talked about you guys while we were waiting for our luggage at the airport,” he said smoothly. It was technically true, though Richard had mentioned them only in passing. Lana must have seen him since the other day in International to have that guilty expression.
“Oh, okay,” the twins said in unison, turning their minds to other matters. Their mother, however, was not mollified.
“Really?” Lois said, too pleasantly.
Embroidering only slightly,
Lois raised a dark eyebrow as Jason grinned up at
“You’ll be eating in a few minutes, Jason, I promise you won’t starve,” Lois muttered, facing away from Clark and Lana deliberately.
“But Mommy,” Kala started to say, and then the food arrived, blessedly quick.
Taking her bag, Lois smiled thinly at
I don’t think so. As
Seeing that look on her face as he got ready to take the first bite of his Ginger Beef combo,
“You’re in love with her,” she said plainly, and dipped a piece of chicken into her sweet and sour sauce.
The shocked expression on his face was priceless. “What? How – Lana, why on earth would you think something like that?”
Because I’m a lot smarter and more perceptive than most people think pretty girls should be, she thought, but out loud she only said, “
The poor man actually blushed. “Um, Lana, it wasn’t that…”
“And you adore her kids,” Lana pointed out. “They like you a lot, too. But then, so does their mother.” She chuckled, remembering Lois’ quickly concealed look of pure venom, and added, “If looks could kill, she’d have shredded me when I walked up to you two.”
She couldn’t help snickering. “Please,
“Yeah, pretty much,”
Lana pointed at him with her fork. “She’s awfully possessive of you, she obviously cares a lot about you, and you love her. So why is she engaged to another man? What happened there,
“I’d really prefer not to talk about it,”
“I know: Richard,” Lana said. “But even he realizes how much she cares about you, Clark.”
That brought blue eyes up to meet hers sharply. “I don’t recall him saying anything like that at the airport.”
Now it was Lana’s turn to blush. “Well … I was trying to find you today to see if you wanted to catch up, and, um, Richard wound up taking me to lunch.”
Lana sighed heavily and leaned back. “
“I know,” he replied. “And it doesn’t help that they seem to be having problems. But I still don’t think it’s right for us to talk about it.”
The redhead poked at her chicken for a moment. “I guess I just feel better knowing there’s someone else in the same predicament, you know?”
“Yes, but even so, what can we do about it?”
“You’re probably right,” Lana said. “The best for who, though?”
“All of us,” he told her, and turned the conversation to safer topics.
Lois found the traffic leaving the city slower than usual, and her mind churned as she waited for other cars to move. God, I’m such an idiot. What the hell was I doing, letting my guard down like that? And of course, the minute I turn my back, he’s out with the damn cheerleader. Just another in a long series of Incredibly Stupid things I’ve done over that man.
However, with four boxed dinners sitting in a bag beside her and slowly perfuming the Audi with the smell of delicious Chinese food, Lois knew she had to distract the twins or they would start pleading to break the no-eating-in-Mommy’s-car rule. Just this once. Wrenching her train of thought away from Clark and Lana, she glanced in the rearview mirror and asked, “When we get home, let’s learn how to use chopsticks while we eat dinner. How would that be?”
The twins glanced at each other and broke into identical grins. “Swell!” they chorused, and broke into giggles.
Swell. Swell? Swell?! Lois gripped the steering wheel and gritted her teeth. Only one person she knew used that word… “Hey, did you guys learn that from Mr. Clark?” she asked lightly.
“Uh-huh,” Jason said cheerfully. “He’s really nice, Mommy. He even brought us special no-wheat cookies!”
“Wow,” Lois said, still keeping her tone deliberately light. “How did you guys get to know him so well?” In the backseat, Kala had cocked her head and furrowed her brow.
“Daddy brings us up to work on Wednes… Ow! Kala, stop that!”
“Shut up!” the little girl snarled, hitting him in the shoulder again, hazel eyes blazing. “Shut up, Jason, you dummy! That was supposed to be a secret!”
The leather steering wheel cover creaked under Lois’ hands. Richard, you sonofabitch. You’ve got my kids keeping secrets from me! From me, you bastard! How dare you! Not to mention, I’ve been scared to death of
And that’s another thing! I started going to the weekly meetings to have a reason for not bringing the kids up to work anymore, and Richard’s been doing it behind my back anyway. That’s two hours of each week spent bored to tears for no damn reason! Oh, I’m gonna kill him…
“Ow! Mommy! Make her stop! Kala, quit it!”
“Dummy! Boogerhead! Igg-nor-ay-mouse!” Kala punctuated each word with another punch to the shoulder.
It didn’t hurt Jason’s shoulder as much as his pride. “Mommy asked!”
“Daddy said not to tell, stupid-face!”
Lois took a deep breath and got ready to verbally break up the fight in the backseat. Thank God they generally listened…
Just as she glanced into the rearview mirror again, her lips forming the word enough, a red blur flashed in front of her car. Lois whipped her head forward and felt every hair on her body stand straight up as the low-riding sportscar from the next lane cut in with only feet to spare. Smashing the brake to the floor, she just barely managed to avoid clipping the idiot’s bumper. A credit card might’ve been able to slip between the two vehicles, but nothing larger.
That was too much stress for the reporter after the last half-hour. Her window was already down; Lois leaned out and soundly cursed the driver and his entire family tree, unto the seventh generation. The young man unfortunately had his convertible top down and heard every word, turning to look with amazement at the pretty, delicate-featured source of that profane fury. His girlfriend in the passenger side was equally shocked, but seemed to be in support of Lois’ assessment.
“Get that fancy-ass wanna-be racecar piece of shit off my road, or else learn to fuckin’ drive!” Lois roared, and sat back down in her seat, still incensed. Traffic opened up in the lane beside them, and she gave the jerk an example of how it should be done, neatly shifting over into the available space without causing anyone to jam on their brakes.
In the long, fuming silence after that encounter, Jason finally whispered, “Oooh, Mommy said a bad word. Mommy said the really bad word.”
“Mommy said a lot of bad words,” Kala replied in hushed tones, slumped down in her seat and peering over the back of the chair with wide eyes.
Shit. If she hadn’t been driving, Lois would’ve smacked her own forehead. Nice going, Lane. So much for not cussing in front of the kids. Get your mind together before that man and everything connected to him drives you totally insane.
Aloud, she told the twins, “It’s okay, you two. Mommy just got freaked out. That guy almost made me hit his car, and somebody could’ve gotten hurt.” Like him. Jackass. Well, at least it made the twins stop fighting. “It’s all right, I’m not mad at you.”
“You’re sure?” Kala asked, and Lois’ heart broke at her tone.
“Of course I’m not, sweetheart,” she replied. “Jason, Kala, Mommy never talks to you like that. Mostly because you’re a lot smarter than that guy in the convertible.” They seemed to perk up, and Lois added, “Of course, Captain Jack would probably be a better driver than him.”
“He’d need Gazeera to reach the pedals though,” Kala said instantly.
“Nuh-uh. Ignatius can drive, your weasel can push the pedals,” Jason shot back.
Lois wished she could close her eyes and rub her temples to forestall the huge headache she felt building. Is it too late to take back wishing to be rescued from that helicopter? God. My life, ladies and gentlemen. “No more fighting, you two. I mean it.”
The pair hushed up, still in awe of their mother’s vocabulary.
Later that evening, Lois and Richard sat on opposite sides of the couch with the television on and the sleepy twins between them. They had barely spoken ten words to each other; Lois was striving valiantly to keep the tentative truce, not wanting a repeat of last night. The kids didn’t need to hear another argument.
Both of their minds were elsewhere. Richard was wondering about everything he’d learned and suspected, but given how tense and unhappy Lois had seemed since she got home, now was not the time to discuss it. He was also thinking about Lana, and thinking that he really shouldn’t be thinking of her. Lois was still worried over how much
When Jason and Kala started yawning, Lois and Richard carried them upstairs and started to tuck them in bed. Almost immediately, the kids whined that they wanted Mommy. “You’re not gonna leave again, are you?” Kala whimpered.
Richard touched Lois’ shoulder gently, feeling the tension rise sharply as he did. “Go on, hon. Take them to our bed. I’ll bed down on the couch.”
She looked at him briefly, her eyes unreadable, and then nodded as if she didn’t trust herself to speak.
Half an hour later, Lois and the twins were sleeping, exhausted. Richard was lying awake on the couch. Staring across the room.
Staring at Lois’ laptop in her office.