I promise, I'm working as fast as I can to get the next book out. In the meantime, here's another excerpt:
With Myshtal promising not to foretell any more of the action, we went back to watching the movie. However, we’d only been watching a few minutes when the phone rang. There was a cordless extension in the theater room, and – knowing that Mom was working and that my grandparents were probably in bed – I teleported the phone into my hand.
I switched the phone on and gave a perfunctory “Hello.”
“Hey, handsome,” said a honeyed feminine voice on the other end of the line.
“Hey,” I replied as I came to my feet, smiling at hearing my girlfriend’s voice. I gestured to Myshtal that I needed to take this call, then began walking towards the door after she nodded in acknowledgement.
“What are you doing?” Electra asked.
“Thinking about you, of course.” I stepped out of the theater room and closed the door behind me.
“Good answer,” Electra said, giggling. As always, her laughter was intoxicating and infectious, making me chuckle along with her. “Seriously though, are you busy?”
“No – just watching a movie.”
“Feel like hanging out?”
“Is that a trick question?” I asked, causing her to laugh again. I had rarely, if ever, turned down a chance to spend time with her. “Should I pop by your house?”
“No, not tonight,” she said, causing me to frown in confusion. Why ask me to hang out if she really didn’t want to? Then she added, “Just buzz me in.”
“Huh?” I muttered, more confused than before.
“Buzz me in,” she repeated. “I’m at the gate.”
Smiling now, I pressed the digits on the phone that would cause the large, wrought-iron gate at the embassy entrance to open.
“Be there in a sec,” I said, barely waiting for Electra to acknowledge my statement before hanging up the phone and setting it on a nearby table. I then teleported outside, to the bottom of a wide stoop which consisted of about a dozen set stone steps that led up the embassy’s front door.
It was a rather dark night; what little illumination there was came mostly from a couple of ornate post lights – one at each end at the foot of the stoop. Looking down the driveway, I saw a pair of headlights headed in my direction. A few moments later, a car pulled to a stop in front of me, the engine turned off, and Electra got out.
She was dressed in jeans, black boots, gloves, and a hooded parka that neatly framed her face. Seeing her bundled up made me mindful of the fact that it was chilly outside and a stiff breeze was blowing. As was typical, Electra wasn’t wearing makeup, but she had an inherent, natural beauty that didn’t need to be enhanced by cosmetics.
We moved towards each other, both of us smiling, and then shared a short kiss as we met. Eyes twinkling, Electra moved closer and wrapped her arms around me as I embraced her as well.
“Well, this is disappointing,” she droned a second later. Rubbing her hands quickly up and down the sides of my torso, she added, “Come on – do your thing.”
I laughed, understanding what she meant. On cold days, when I haven’t dressed appropriately for the weather, I tend to compensate by raising my body temperature. On this particular, I had come outside without grabbing so much as a light jacket. However, I hadn’t been outside long enough for the cold to start to affect me. Nevertheless, I did as requested and raised my core body temperature.
“That’s my guy,” Electra intoned, snuggling in close and placing her head against my chest. She had explained before that being next to me when I was like this was akin to cuddling next to a warm, cozy fire with a blizzard raging outside. “You’re so nice and toasty that I could stay like this forever.”
She then looked up and gave me a kiss – this time longer and more lingering than before. When we separated, breathless, a few moments later, she smiled and then pulled in close to me again.
“You know,” I said, “You didn’t have to drive all the way over here. I would have been happy to come to you.”
“I know,” she admitted, “but I wanted to. You shouldn’t have to come to me all the time.”
I smiled but didn’t say anything, understanding what the meaning was behind her actions. In terms of spending time together, Electra had once equated dating me to having a rich boyfriend: sure, the guy could afford to pay every time they went out, but occasionally the girl wants to – if only to show the guy what he means to her. That’s why she had chosen to drive and see me on a cold, dark night rather than have me come to her (which, frankly speaking would have been much easier). Basically, it was a way of telling me I was worth it, and I loved her for it.
“So, how’d the mission go?” she asked, breaking my chain of thought. She also stepped back slightly as she posed the question, allowing us to see eye-to-eye.
“Uh…” I muttered. “It’s a bit of a mixed report, to be honest.”
I then telepathically shared with her the pertinent mission details. As expected, she groaned in disapproval at certain actions on my part. Upon finishing, I decided not to give her an opportunity to verbalize any criticisms.
“So,” I blurted out, “how was your shopping jaunt?”
“Nice try at changing the subject,” she said, making it understood that she knew what I was trying to do. “But it was fine. I think I found the perfect dress.”
“Oh? What does it look like?”
She laughed. “No, no, no, no. You’re going to have to wait until tomorrow. I want to see the look on your face when you first catch a glimpse of me in it.”
I frowned. “Well, how does telling what it looks like change that? I still won’t see you in it until tomorrow.”
“Because I want your complete reaction. I won’t get that if you have an idea of what to expect.”
I shook my head, nonplussed. “Smokey’s right. I really don’t understand women.”
Electra laughed at that. “Good. That’s the way I like it.”
I raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “You want me confused about women?”
She grinned. “No. I just don’t want you thinking you fully understand me, because the second that happens you’ll–”
Electra stopped abruptly as the sound of hinges creaking drew the attention of us both. Almost in unison, we separated and looked towards the top of the steps – to the front door of the embassy. With light from the interior behind her, we watched in silence as Myshtal stepped out.
Almost immediately, there was tension in the air. More to the point, where there had been lighthearted mirth and amusement a moment before, I now felt a flurry of heated emotions coming from Electra that included resentment, spite, and annoyance (to name a few).
Myshtal wrapped her arms around herself against the cold. At that moment I noticed she appeared to be wearing something short, sheer and form-fitting. She obviously hadn’t dressed for the weather, which suggested she wouldn’t be out here long – something I considered a blessing.
“Hello, Electra,” Myshtal said, giving my girlfriend a congenial wave. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Yeah – you, too,” Electra said flatly, although her tone suggested that it was anything but nice.
It was undoubtedly a cool reception on my girlfriend’s part, but about the best that could be hoped for under the circumstances. Ever since their initial meeting after I returned from Caeles – and had to tell Electra about my contracted nuptials – the relationship between the two had been nothing short of frosty.
“I’m sorry for intruding,” Myshtal said, turning to me, “but I just wanted to ask if you wanted me to pause the movie, Jim?”
I felt, rather than saw, Electra jerk her head in my direction. At the same time, a volcano of emotions erupted within her – mostly bitterness and displeasure, blanketed by layers of anger and frustration.
“Uh, no,” I said, purposely avoiding looking at Electra. “You can just let it play, or watch something else if you want.”
“Okay,” she said with a nod. “Goodnight, Electra.”
My girlfriend grunted something inaudible in response as Myshtal turned and headed back inside. A moment later the door closed.
“Is that what you were doing when I called?” she demanded. “Watching a movie, with her?”
“Yeah, we were watching a movie,” I said defensively.
She gave me a smoldering look. “So the two of you were having a date night?”
“What?!” I asked, flabbergasted. “No! It was just a movie!”
“Really? So who else was there?”
I cut my eyes away in impotent anger. I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t have to.
“That’s what I thought,” Electra said as she indignantly crossed her arms.
“That still doesn’t make it a date,” I stressed.
“And what about what she was wearing?”
“What about it?” I asked.
“It was practically lingerie!”
I frowned in concentration for a moment. I hadn’t really gotten a good look at what Myshtal was wearing when she came to the door. I suppose it could have been a negligee…
“That’s not what she was wearing earlier,” I insisted, and it was true. If memory served me correctly, she had previously been dressed in some kind of skirt-and-blouse combo.
“Oh?” Electra intoned, raising her eyebrows in faux surprise. “So you’re saying that for the movie, she decided to slip into something more comfortable?”
“That’s not what happened at all. You’re twisting the facts into something sordid.”
“Or maybe you’re just being blind to the truth,” she countered. “Can’t you see what’s going on here?”
“Yes, I can. And what I can confirm is that there’s absolutely nothing going on.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “You can’t be that naïve, Jim. She’s prancing around in front of you in a negligee – you think she’s doing that for her health?”
I let out an exasperated breath. “Even if what you’re suggesting is true – and I don’t believe it is, but even if it were – you can’t possibly think I’d be more interested in her than you.”
“In all honesty, I don’t know what to think any more,” she said softly. “You two could be doing anything, and I wouldn’t have a clue.”
I stared at her in dumbfounded amazement for a moment. “You’re kidding, right? Between my mom, Gramps, and my grandmother, we’ve got like a million chaperones – all of them psychic! There’s nothing going on in that house that they don’t know about or condone.”
Electra seemed to mull over my statement, then let out a long sigh and said, “Okay, but why does she even have to stay here, under the same roof as you?”
“Where else is she going to stay? She literally knows no one else on the planet.”
“Just check her into a hotel or something. Plus, I hear they’re fixing up a place for her at League HQ.”
“Come on, Electra. Only a handful of super teens have ever stayed at the League full-time. And with her limited experience with Earth culture, I can’t just stick her in a hotel – even a resort. I promised to look after her.”
“Yeah,” Electra scoffed disdainfully. “Dressed like she was a moment ago, I imagine you’re doing a lot of looking – and not just after.”
I bit my tongue to avoid blurting out my instinctive response, which was to deny what was being implied. Electra’s last statement was bait, and any denial on my part would lead to her asking a question along the lines of, “So you’re saying you’re not attracted to her?” Having already been painfully hooked by that lure several times in the past few weeks, I wasn’t falling for it again.
“Look,” I said calmly, “in addition to everything else, Myshtal is a guest in my family’s home. Even if I was willing, they wouldn’t let me stick her away out of sight, any more than they’d let me do it to you if your positions were reversed. And in case you forgot, her great-great-grandmother rules an interstellar empire, and Myshtal is her favorite. You don’t think the queen’s having her watched? Having me watched?”
“There wouldn’t be any watching if you hadn’t gotten yourself into this mess,” she stated stonily. “Did you even try to say ‘No’ to this shotgun wedding?”
“We’ve been over this before. This was the deal I had to make to get home. Or would you prefer that I be stuck on Caeles for decades like my grandmother?”
“What I would prefer–”
“Shhh!” I hissed, putting a finger to her lips. She immediately went quiet.
I looked around warily. Just as Electra had begun speaking, I had picked up an emotional spike from nearby – a mix of excitement and elation mingled with trepidation. Somebody was watching us. Acting on instinct, I stepped protectively in front of my girlfriend.
“What is it?” she whispered.“We’ve got eyes on us,” I answered over my shoulder.