“What’s wrong?” Annmarie asked.
TJ shivered visibly, despite her blue terrycloth bathrobe. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you. I just thought…maybe some tea…” She looked back at her saucepan, her face drawn. “I didn’t use the kettle so it wouldn’t whistle…”
“TJ, what’s wrong?” Annmarie swung her feet over the edge of the mattress. The gray pile carpet wasn’t bad beneath her feet, but the off-white tile of the kitchen floor was decidedly cool. “You’re not making any sense.”
“You’re wearing glasses.”
The water in the pot wasn’t bubbling yet. Annmarie took in the mug and the box of chamomile tea beside it on the counter. “I take my contacts out at night. They last longer.” She wondered if a blanket would stop TJ’s shivering. She set her hands on TJ’s shoulders. “TJ, what happened?”
“He called,” TJ whispered.
Annmarie didn’t have to ask who “he” was. She drew the other woman in, holding her close. “Oh, hon.”
“On my red phone. They must’ve gotten the number when they tossed the union offices. He just…called. Asked how the kids were.” She sounded scared, her voice thin and dull.
Annmarie stroked her back, for once thankful for Dad’s endless lectures on union benefits, back when he still thought he could convince her to become a superhero’s assistant. “None of those phones map to an address. He can’t know where you are.”
“I hung up. It couldn’t have been more than fifteen seconds, maybe twenty. Not long enough for a dowser to get our location even if the building wasn’t shielded. I turned off the phone. I haven’t turned my red phone off except on an airplane since I joined the union when I turned eighteen.”
So it wasn’t just about the threat to the kids and to herself. For TJ, it was an identity thing.
“It’s okay, TJ. Just leave it off for tonight—you aren’t on-call anyway. In the morning, you can talk to whoever handles the phones and get the number changed. Singularity can’t track you from it. Just sit down, I’ll make the tea. It’ll be okay.”
She’d suggest a shot of whisky in it, but having not only tasted but aspirated what TJ had in the house for whisky, she couldn’t help thinking that might result in a hangover on top of the wine.
If anything, TJ clung to her more tightly, resting her forehead on Annmarie’s shoulder. “I checked on the kids. It was stupid, but I had to see that they were okay…”
“It’s not stupid,” Annmarie said firmly. “It’s the middle of the night, and you’re worried, and they’re what you’re worried about. It’s not stupid at all.”
TJ’s gaze fastened on Annmarie’s like she was seeking truth there.
Bending her head, Annmarie kissed TJ’s lips. It was supposed to be reassurance, or that’s what she’d tell herself later, but the way TJ kissed back, fear sublimating itself beneath raw need, that thought didn’t last long.
Neither did any other, as the desire Annmarie had felt for the other woman from the moment TJ had first opened the door flared low in her belly and swept over her in a heated rush. Kiss followed kiss, each deeper and fiercer than the last, punctuated by little nibbles. Eventually Annmarie tore herself away long enough to turn off the stove, and when she looked back TJ was wearing a hesitant expression. Annmarie slipped her hands carefully around the other woman’s waist. “Is this okay?” She kept her voice low, mindful of the kids sleeping in the other room.
TJ’s giggle was almost hysterical. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that? I’m putting you in an awkward position—I’m kind of your boss.”
“I like this position, I started this, and you’re thinking too much.” Annmarie kissed her again, willing TJ to forget for a while. Forget who employed whom, Singularity and anything else beyond lips and touch and lust.
Annmarie wasn’t sure how they made it into the bedroom. She pushed TJ up against the door, getting it closed, and something went thunk. “Oh no, I didn’t hit your head on the door, did I?”
“Less talking, more kissing…”