Home > The Turn (The Hollows 0.1)(8)

The Turn (The Hollows 0.1)(8)
Author: Kim Harrison

She smiled back, liking him this happy. “I think it’s ready now,” she said. “There haven’t been any significant mutations in a hundred generations.”

“Not since you helped me strip its redundant DNA out.” Standing, he reached for his suit coat, and she rose, the scent of his aftershave strong as he shoved his arms into his sleeves. She liked the clean, woodsy aroma as she fixed his tie, not caring that his suit was stuck in the fifties.

“Trisk, I can’t thank you enough for your help with the virus’s coat,” he said. “It never occurred to me to modify the protein skin so as to use the host’s own immune response to create those additional, secondary side effects.”

“Just making the value box bigger.” She turned to the door, uncomfortable about everything she hadn’t shared with him. Humans were so far behind, but perhaps that was because the elves and everyone else kept them that way. “It’s what I did my doctoral thesis on,” she said, not wanting to talk about it. “If I hadn’t come up with it, someone else would have.”

“Maybe, but you’re the one who did,” he insisted, and after a last look at Larry heading for the decontamination booth, he followed Trisk into the hall. “It’s an entirely new way to think about viruses.”

The silence stretched as they walked to the glass doors. The quiet was unusual for the chatty man, and his hard-soled shoes sounded loud and obvious. Grimacing, she forced her baby-doll slippers to make some noise, not wanting Daniel to notice she wasn’t making a sound. Through the big glass doors, George read a magazine, oblivious to them approaching.

“How about dinner tonight?” Daniel said suddenly, surprising her. “Just you and me.”

Trisk’s step faltered, and she lengthened her stride to hide it. “Ah . . .” she hedged.

“Aw, come on,” he cajoled, pushing his glasses back up his nose as he got the door for her. “It’s my birthday. Don’t make me spend it alone.”

“Dr. Plank, all you have to do is ask any of the ladies upstairs, and I’m sure they would be more than happy to keep you company,” she blurted, and George chuckled, never looking up from his magazine.

“Is it my breath?” Daniel asked good-naturedly. “Did I forget to zip my pants again?”

She laughed nervously. “No!”

“Then what?” His expression became serious, and she sighed, wishing she’d done something different the last three years. Ignored him, maybe. But striking up a friendship had seemed harmless and made tweaking his virus easier. “Trisk, I’ve known you for three years,” he said as they headed for the big silver elevators. “You don’t have a boyfriend that I’ve ever heard of. You spend all your time here or at home. We have a great friendship, as far as I know. Did I do something wrong?” His eyes pinched. “Did I not do something I should have?”

She hit the elevator call button and turned to him. “Daniel, you’re a great guy—”

“Oh no,” he interrupted, and her eyes flicked up, reading real hurt behind the dramatic façade of being crushed.

“It’s not you,” she fumbled. “It’s me.”

Groaning, he dropped back a step.

“It is,” she insisted as the elevator opened. She hesitated a moment, then taking a deep breath, she got in. Daniel was silent behind her. The doors shut, and she stared at the numbers counting up, wishing it would go faster. A relationship was fraught with more trouble than it was worth, not only endangering her career, but raising issues she wasn’t ready to deal with yet.

“Trisk.” She jumped when he took her hand, not moving as he searched for words. “I’m serious. Tell me what it is, and I’ll change. You are a smart, intelligent woman. I like you, and I want to spend more time with you than ten minutes here, five minutes there in the hall or lunchroom. Just give me one night. One lousy candlelit dinner at Celeste’s. If you don’t have a good time, I’ll walk away and not talk to you again.”

“Daniel,” she pleaded, never having imagined she’d be in this position. She’d never given him any indication of wanting anything other than a professional relationship. “That’s not what I want.”

“Then tell me what you do want,” he said. “Is it because you’ve made it on your own? I’d never take that away from you, though kids would be nice . . . someday.”

The elevator chimed and the silver doors opened. Relieved, Trisk strode out. She could feel Daniel’s tension as he walked beside her, his frustration that she was putting him off. An unexpected pain took her at the mention of children. He wanted kids, lots of them, probably. So did she, eventually. But how could she tell him it would never work? That the biology wouldn’t cooperate without intervention, and even then, her father would never accept him. Marrying Daniel meant the already slim chance that she’d have a healthy elven child would be completely gone, and with that, the possibility she could make something of herself, for when your species was on the brink of extinction, having healthy children equaled power, status. A voice.

She slowed as the doors to the cafeteria loomed close, and Daniel came to a stop before her. Trisk didn’t know what she was going to say, but she couldn’t walk into that room with this between them. Her breath shook as she inhaled. “Daniel . . .”

“There you are!” Barbara called as the door to the lunchroom opened and the woman bounded out, completely missing Daniel’s dark look as she took control of his arm. “We need you in the cafeteria,” she said loudly. “Right now!”

   
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