Strings of Retaliation – 15b – Wall

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He looks livelier than usual, I thought as a ray of sunlight hit Vexx’s face. I immediately knew why: natural lighting instead of artificial.
“Vexx,” I said calmly, “you need to go to the basement.”
“Why? We’re almost done.” He put his undies in a drawer.
“You’re not wearing your Vincent face.” Though I had tried not to alarm him, he paled. “Don’t do anything rash.”
My reputation lacked public drama which made me unattractive to most paparazzi, even since I took over MerriTech. Nevertheless, I spotted a few of them on occasion, trying to snap THE picture that would tarnish my image. They weren’t threatening enough to stop Gabriel from using the front door every now and then.
But Gabriel had a cover.
If MerriTech learned Vexx was alive —and worse, with me— a backwater shack would be our only safe residence.
Fortunately, given the position of the room and the curtains by the windows, paparazzi may not be at the right angle to tell Vexx and Vincent apart. We could escape the circus by getting him out of sight without baiting the rumor-mill.
“Look at your portable computer, give me a nice ‘happy we made up, sorry I gotta go’ kiss, and head downstairs at a normal pace. Pretend you’re reprogramming your schedule on the way.” That would keep his face turned to his left wrist and away from most windows.
Vexx looked at his portable computer. “You want me to kiss you?”
“If there are buzzards out there, they need some kind of sweet finish.” The act wouldn’t salvage the situation if they identified Vexx, but I refused to assume the worse.
I shook my head, hoping this would read as my reaction to ‘Vincent’s’ need to leave right after our argument.
“What if nobody’s there?”
“Better not risk it.” I shrugged.
“Okay…”
Vexx walked up to me and ran his fingers along my jaw line until they reached the back of my head. His lips met mine with a slight hesitation. Then, he froze. This wouldn’t read right even from a distance. I pressed my body against his and ran the tip of my tongue against his lips until they parted. His other arm wrapped around my waist as he gave in to my deeper kiss.
Better.
He breathed a little faster when he released me.
“Now go downstairs,” I murmured. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Vexx dragged his feet out of the room while I resumed folding his clothes. Once everything was back where I thought it belonged, I headed to my office in the next room and went through some of my MerriTech emails. Making sure the rest of the day was as uneventful as possible, I finished my work stuff, trained in the pool for an hour, and ordered dinner to Cook Julia.
Only then did I go downstairs.
Vexx’s head came up from a circuit board as soon as he heard me. “Do you think we’re okay?”
“I honestly don’t know.” The more I thought about the incident, the more I realized that with this many enemies scrutinizing me, I had to strengthen a few strategies.
“I’m sorry. It was a stupid mistake.”
“Yes, but not only yours.” I sat on the corner of Vexx’s workspace. He followed my movements without a word. “It’s in MerriTech’s best interest to keep me ‘scandal free’.”
“But someone in there wants to discredit you.” Vexx rolled his chair closer. “Why didn’t they leak the attempt on your life?”
“Too few people know about it.”
Vexx nodded. “Easier to pinpoint the traitor.”
“But that doesn’t mean they won’t hire a PI or pay a few paparazzi. One snap of a sex scene could ruin me.”
Vexx blushed and I did my best not to burst in laughter. I hadn’t even wanted that kind of fun since I was nanobot-free.
“If someone asks, we’re sleeping in separate bedrooms because we’re independent and want to keep the flame alive.” That would make us a quirky couple, which wasn’t bad in and of itself. “We’ll need to share the same bed a few times a week or they’ll think you’re just eye candy.”
“I’m not Pretty material!” Vexx returned to his circuit, which made his unease that much obvious.
Single tech stars often hired Pretties to accompany them at official events. Sometimes, the technologically-made-breath-taking employee lived with them even if they had no romantic interest. With his artificial face, strong build and tailored clothes that didn’t let any of his scars show, Vexx was closer to Pretty than he gave himself credit for.
“Whether you are or not,” I said, sliding closer to him, “we’re better as a united front.” I pushed a strand of hair behind his ear. “Without that complicity, I wouldn’t be a queen.” Vexx flicked my hand away. I groaned. “You need to get comfortable with this.”
“I’m fine with it,” he muttered.
“Oh please! If I hadn’t pushed you upstairs, that kiss would have made a very awkward front page.”
“I was nervous.” He rolled away to fetch some wires on a shelf. “We aced every public appearance so far.”
“Our situation only gets trickier from here.” I slid off the counter. “We haven’t even started and you’re all flaky.”
“Hey!”
The insult drove Vexx to his feet, but he stopped there.
“If you can’t play my lover, we’ll organize a public break-up and you can stay here with your toys.” I flicked the circuit board.
His eyebrow creased. “Relax!”
“I can face the people who want me dead alone.” I started walking towards the stairs. What would it take for him to stop me? “Or maybe I’ll ask Gabriel to be my new plus one.”
Vexx spun me around, pinned me against the wall and kissed me with ten times more passion than he had earlier. The warmth building up inside me was reassuring in more than one way. After a good shiver-worthy minute, Vexx pulled away.
“I can do this,” he growled in the curve of my neck.
“Well done!” I patted the top of his head. “Hang on to that determination.” I took advantage of his bewilderment to slip out of his grasp with a chuckle. “Now go put on your face. Dinner will be ready soon.”
I got halfway up the stairs before Vexx found his voice. “You tested me.”
“You liked it.”

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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