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Mala In Se

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O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!
--Walter Scott

Monday, November 20, 2017 11:30 PM PST

The hooded figure jogged through the streets with ease. Coming up to the building, he took the stairs two at a time, quietly easing out of the stairwell and into the vacant hallway, looking for the door he needed.

A blue hue of lights flickered from under the doorway, spilling out into the hall as the man quickly and quietly opened the door and slipped inside. Removing the hood and jacket, he pulled out the office chair and reclined to catch his breath and examine the row of monitors before him.

Twelve little lives played out on the seven screens that currently showed activity. Although, he highly doubted sleeping figures counted as much ‘activity’ in the mind of his employer. Each monitor could easily be switched to a variety of other rooms, different settings where the people in question seemed to spend the majority of their time. Notebook upon notebook lined the shelf below the row of monitors containing detailed descriptions of daily routines, favorite meals, activities, etc.

He scrolled his finger along the row below that. His favorite row. The row of recordings… intimate moments… stolen kisses… secret affairs… the little things that made life really special. The things his employer would really be interested in seeing… all two years worth.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 06:00 AM PST

Richard Raydor stretched out in bed, the first early morning rays of the Los Angeles sun making their way through a gap in the curtains. For a split second he was disoriented. It wasn’t often that he didn’t wake up in his own bed, and usually when that was the case, it was his mother’s condo that he would find himself in. This was different. This was new. And thinking back to last night, this was very, very nice.

He rolled over and moved closer to the body of the woman beside him. His arm snaking its way around her waist while his nose gently parted the mahogany hair cascading over her shoulder to trace the outer shell of her ear, before his lips met the sensitive patch of skin at her throat.

A smile graced her features long before her eyes opened and she inhaled a deep breath, her body arching against his as she stretched.

“Good morning.”

His nose nuzzled her ear again in response. “You,” he punctuated the words with kisses to her neck, “have goose bumps.”

Her eyes fluttered open and she turned her head, her lips grazing his. “Do I now?”

His fingers traced patterns against her night gown, smiling as the gooseflesh seemed to spread across her body. “You definitely do.”

Claire grabbed his hand before rolling over, gently pinning him beneath her. “You know,” she kissed him gently, “a girl could get used to this.”

Rick’s eyebrows rose in mock surprise. “Waking up to goose bumps?”

Claire propped her head in her hand and smiled down at him, “Waking up… going to bed…. All of it really?”

Rick waited until her lips had almost met his again before he interrupted, “You didn’t have goose bumps last night when you went to sleep.”

She stopped, her face turning thoughtful. “I didn’t? You’re right! I didn’t.” A wicked smile that he had come to find endearing breaking out across her features. “That was my toes curling.”

She kissed him again, this time with more intent, before pulling back and squinting at the clock. “What time is it?”

“It’s still early. I’d hate to make you late for work.”

Claire rolled her eyes. “I have apologized for that. Repeatedly.” She rolled off of him but didn’t move far, her hand running over his bare chest as she rested her head against his shoulder. “I know it’s the holidays and you’ll be spending most of it with your family, but any chance I can steal you for a night before you head back to Palo Alto?”

Rick turns to her, smiles, and kisses her gently. “About that…. What are you doing for lunch today?”

Claire blinked, a slightly confused look gracing her features. “If everything goes to plan I should be free,” she hesitates, “but you,” she pokes his chest playfully before kissing him, “are having lunch with your mother.”

Rick leans up and kisses her again, his arms wrapping around her. “I was thinking maybe you could join us.”

She pulls back, her eyes examining him for a minute. “You’re serious?”

“Uh huh….”

“‘Mister Oh, I don’t like my family all up in my business’, wants to introduce me to his mother?”

Rick scowled at her. “I figured it was about time. We have been together almost ten months, ya know.”

Claire’s face softened as she smiled. “I know.”

Mock shock transformed his face as he flipped them again, smiling as Claire laughed. “You’re not afraid of my mother, are you?”

“Afraid? Of Commander ‘Darth’ Raydor? Not at all. She’s a rather formidable woman… if anything, I would say I admire her. From a professional standpoint.” Claire’s arms wrapped loosely around Rick’s neck. “Now, as the woman who has been secretly dating her son for almost ten months without her knowledge… Hell, yes, I’m afraid of your mother.”

Rick snickered, kissing her lightly, his arms supporting his weight as he rested on his forearms. “So, is that a no on lunch?”

“Most definitely not. It is definitely a yes. I will make sure that I am free for lunch this afternoon.”

“Good.” He kissed her quickly before pushing himself up to sit in the bed. “Then we need to shower and get a move on so you’re not late.”

Claire hopped out of bed, grabbing him by the hand as she made her way to the en suite bathroom. “I might need help washing my back….”

~*~*~*~*~*~

07:30 AM PST

Sharon Raydor sat in front of her vanity and examined herself in the mirror. So much had changed in her life over the last year and she was sure that it was starting to show. Now things would be changing even more in the coming months… with both families, the two coasts, never mind her own sense of occasion… a holiday wedding had just seemed like the perfect set up. Especially, once the annulments were finalized.

Ricky was coming home for Thanksgiving and assisting with final preparations, Rusty & Gus would be back from Napa this afternoon and everyone would be together at Nicole's on Thursday. Emily and Drew would be the only two missing this holiday gathering and a small part of Sharon felt that as much as their families had merged, they wouldn’t be truly complete until they could get all of the children together.

She dabbed the last touch of her lipgloss on and smoothed her lips together before the low vibration of her phone caught her attention. Glancing at the display she smiled as she saw the caller ID.

“Ricky! Please tell me your flight is on time and all is good.”

“Everything’s fine, Mom. No need to worry. I actually had a question about lunch, first wanting to make sure everything was still on track….”

Sharon nodded her head, knowing there was no way for him to see it. “So far, so good. As Andy would say, no one’s dead, yet.”

A soft laugh came from Ricky and Sharon could make out other noises in the background. “Well, that’s a good thing. So, is there any chance I might be able to add one more to the table?”

“That shouldn’t be an issue. Finding a spot for your sister to stay if you haven’t already arranged something with Rusty behind my back, might be an issue though.” Sharon responded.

“Good one, Mom. But I told you I wasn’t able to pull her away from her dancing until next month. No, this is… uh, someone else.”

Sharon’s curiosity was piqued. “Ricky, is this something serious? You haven’t brought anyone home for me to meet since... what... College?”

Ricky paused for a moment and the background noise coming over the line lowered in volume. “Yeah, Mom. I think it is. I was going to wait, but I figured I wasn’t going to just spring it on everyone by bringing her to the wedding… so I figured now was as good a time as ever.”

She was so happy, but then the logistics started to fall into place and she bit her lip. “Ricky… where will we put her? I am not having you bring home a young woman and flop her on the couch or in your brother’s room. It is already going to be cramped with everyone here.”

Ricky’s laugh was light, easy, and Sharon was trying to think of the last time he hadn’t been stressed over the latest developments with his company or the takeover were. “She doesn’t need a place to stay. In fact, if it’s easier and less stressful, I can always crash at her place while I’m in town.”

Sharon sat up a little straighter and smiled as Andy walked out of the bathroom, adjusting his tie as he went. “She lives in LA?”

“Yup.”

From his tone she could tell that there would be no further answers coming from him right now. “How long has this been going on?”

“Mom…”

“Well, you don’t want me asking all these questions in front of her, do you?”

Ricky’s light laugh again filtered through the phone. “No, I guess not. Emily and Rusty will be bad enough. About ten months or so…”

Sharon thought things over and it made sense. It certainly explained his frequent weekend visits to see how wedding arrangements and house hunting were going.

“Mom…”

Sharon smiled. “Of course, bring her to lunch. I’ll inform Andy, though I’ll leave it up to you to tell Rusty that Gus will not be the only ‘plus one’ in attendance. The rest, we’ll discuss later.”

“Excellent. We’ll see you later, then. Love you.”

“Love you, too, dear.”

She disconnected the call and stared at her screen for a moment. Not immediately noticing that Andy had walked up behind her.

“That sounded like an interesting half of a conversation….”

She smiled at him in the mirror, her hand immediately covering the one that he brought up to rest on her shoulder. “Ricky is bringing a young lady to lunch today.”

“Ah…”

“Don’t worry, we don’t have to rearrange everything. She lives here in the city, so Ricky might not be here as often as we thought, either.”

Andy nodded. “So he’s picking her up before meeting up with us?”

Sharon frowned a little and stared at her phone again. “Actually, I think they’re already together.”

“Oh?” Andy handed her her purse and flicked off the bedside lamp as they made their way up the hallway. “What makes you say that?”

Sharon’s smirk surprised him a little. “Last I knew, Ricky would never have a hairdryer going the entire time he was on the phone with me.”

Andy pressed his lips together and Sharon could tell that he didn’t want to laugh at her for fear of her reaction, but she didn’t miss the quiet and not so subtle ‘Way to go, Ricky’ that he mumbled as they headed out of the condo.