By: M. J. Cogburn and C. E. Krawiec
to say," Gillis chose his words carefully, uttering them even more so.
"But sometimes 'the moment' you come face to face with makes you
forget. Sometimes," he
turned a certain look on Lothos' daughter. "Too many times, people
forget about the one they love, choosing to love the one they're with at
that moment." It was just a
fleeting glimpse of something in Siren Lothoman's blue eyes that told Gillis
he was finished.
he said lightly, smiling at Siren and Allen McAllister in turn. "If
you'll excuse me, I've a matter to attend to that can't be avoided."
Fixing his gaze on Siren's eyes, he said warmly, "It was nice to
see you again, Siren. Please
give your father my best regards."
Turning his head to look at Allen, he nodded, and with a few polite
words, departed their company.
he returned from the direction he'd come, inside Gillis preened as he heard
the voice of his master saying, "Well done, Mr. Woods.
Well done, indeed."
watched as her father's friend moved away from her.
Her mind reviewed over what he had said before his goodbye.
There was something in his tone, something in his words that she
couldn't quite put a finger on that sent a shiver rolling down her back.
His words once more echoed in her mind as Allen put a hand on the
small of her back. "Sad to
say, but sometimes 'the moment' you come face to face with makes you forget.
Sometimes, too many times, people forget about the one that they
love, choosing to love the one they're with at that moment."
glanced over at Allen and met his gaze.
"Allen, I... I need to get back to my quarters.
It's been a long day. I..."
reached out and gently put his hand on her arm.
"Siren, you don't have to make an excuse to get back home.
If you want to go back home, that's all you need to say."
opened her mouth, wanting to stop the words that he was saying, but she
couldn't do it. "Am I that
transparent tonight?" she asked softly as she looked down at her
fingers as she fiddled with them.
grinned then slowly raised her chin to look up at him.
"Tonight, you are. I
heard was he said just as much as you did.
Mr. Woods had enough truth in what he said to make one think long and
hard about things. I understand,
Siren. Could I at least walk you
back to your quarters?"
smiled at the man before her. Leaning
slightly forward, she placed a hand on his chest and lightly kissed his
cheek. "Thank you for
understanding, Allen and yes, you may walk me back to my quarters.
Thank you for being so gallant."
return to Siren's quarters, while pleasant enough, that pleasantness
enhanced by the easy give and take banter between she and Allen, it couldn't
completely drown out that persistent little murmuring at the back of her
at the door of the family quarters she shared with her father, the infamous
Xavier, Allen didn't think twice or hesitate as he moved to stand in front
of her. Taking her hands in his,
he gazed into her eyes and smiled which, of course, Siren returned with a
happy smile of her own.
you for a lovely evening, Allen," she said sincerely.
"I guess I really needed a relaxing evening more than I
realized." Her smile
shifted slightly more into a grin when her companion for dinner shrugged one
shoulder in an offhand manner, replying, "See, I can be good for more
than chasing down some numerical imp in a logistics file folder."
merry laughter at the observation gave Allen McAllister a nice warm little
feeling in his middle. "It's
good to hear you laugh," he said softly.
Seeing how she took, he presumed, the softness of his tone, he
immediately put her mind at ease, saying lightly, "Now I know how to
get you to laugh at the office when things are nuts."
just laughed a bit more then took a step forward again and brushed a second
soft kiss on the same cheek. "Don't
even think about it... Mister McAllister," she warned with mock
Allen, it was clear what he was being told, but then right behind it he
heard his own little voice whispering from the perimeter of his thoughts.
He ignored it. He would not go there...unless specifically
invited. The imp started to
murmur again, but this time, Allen McAllister squashed it ruthlessly.
honor, Ms. Lothoman," he said lightly as he held up his right hand and
folding his fingers into a good semblance of a scouting salute.
that's supposed to convince me of what?" Siren responded in a like tone
and manner. "That you're a good scout?"
grin widened a bit. "Yeah," he said, taking a small step back
before finishing his thought. "And that I'm always prepared."
He laughed, dodging lightly out of reach of the swat Siren aimed at
his arm when he drolly tacked on, "For anything."
you!" Siren gasped as she followed Allen and administered the swat to
the back of his shoulder he turned toward her.
Grinning herself, she followed the swat with a playful shove.
"It's time you were on your way, Mr. McAllister."
ma'am," Allen responded, his eyes dancing as he dared to get close to
her again. "I'll go away and be a good boy."
rolled her eyes at the comment. "I'll
believe that when I see it." Not
for a second did she buy the 'hurt' expression that Allen put on.
"Save it for when you really need it, Allen.
I'm not buying tonight."
continued to chuckle as he acknowledged the end of the banter.
Sighing exaggeratedly he said, "Can't blame a guy for trying to
butter up the boss a little." Seeing how the unexpected banter had
erased the uncertain thoughtfulness from the pretty redhead's eyes gave
Allen a good feeling. Heaven
only knew how much stress she had to deal with and it was good to see her
relaxed if only for a few minutes of tom foolery.
how much more relaxed she would be if it was just the two of you....'
dashed the imp's snide sly suggestion away, pushing away almost all the
bantering. Glancing at his
watch, he sighed as he met her eyes. "It's
approaching the pumpkin hour, and since I don't look good in orange, it's
time for me to get back to the pumpkin patch."
brows arched even as an amused smile curved her lips.
"An unusual way of saying goodnight, but you get points for
originality," she said lightly. Turning
slightly, she placed a hand on the doorknob of her quarters then looked back
at him. "Thanks for a nice
evening, Allen." She liked
his smile as he nodded and took a step back then waited for her to go
inside. Opening the door, Siren
stepped inside and turned to face him. "Good
boss," he said. "We'll
have to do this again sometime."
would be nice," Siren answered then repeated her goodnight and closed
the door. She stood for a moment
in the dimly light living room, a sure sign that her father had gone to bed.
However that thought had barely crossed her mind as she started
toward her bedroom when a familiar voice floated out to her from the small
office at the other end of the hallway.
you have a nice dinner, my dear?"
missing a beat or a step, Siren turned down the hallway, a smile already in
place, as she went to her father's half-open office door and pushed it
lightly open. She didn't venture in, opting to lean against the door frame.
The sight of Xavier sitting at his desk, his reading glasses perched
on his nose; his expression mildly inquisitive as he looked up from the book
he was reading didn't fool her for a second.
Dad," she told him. "I
had a great time." She
paused, watching him nod, a bit of a smile on his face.
Xavier responded, giving her his full attention.
over twenty-one," Siren said lightly.
"So when are you going to stop waiting up for me to come in at
chuckled as he put his book aside and took off his glasses. Putting the
glasses beside the book, he stood up from his chair and went to stand before
his daughter - the daughter Lothos had given him to raise.
Taking her gently by the shoulders he looked into her eyes and said
softly, "When I stop being a father."
response was to give a daughter's long-suffering sigh, then smiled as she
gave him a quick hug. "You're
just an old softie," she whispered in his ear then brushed a kiss on
dropped a subtle wink at her. "Let's keep that our little secret, shall
we, my dear?"
night, Dad," Siren laughed softly then continued to her bedroom.
However, as she went about changing into a nightgown and getting
ready for bed - after all, six in the morning came awfully early - on the
perimeter of her thoughts, just out of direct sight of her mind's eye,
lurked a small yet not so innocent thought about Allen McAllister.
It didn't manage to get fully into her thoughts but it was still
there when she crawled between the sheets a few minutes later and turned out
the light. She wasn't even aware
when, as sleep took her captive that she had murmured under her breath,
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