(Tuesday, October 24)
The door of the warehouse was open and Liz and Kyle went inside. Liz glanced quickly around but didn’t see anyone and called out, “Hello, Zan, Ava?”
Ava’s pink head popped out of a doorway upstairs and she grinned when she saw them. “Yo,” she said, starting down the stairs. “How’s it going?”
Liz smiled back. She’d liked Ava instantly when they’d met. Unlike Tess, Ava didn’t try to intimidate or act superior, and Liz felt they could be good friends.
“I’m fine,” she said, answering Ava’s question, “no accidents with my powers or anything.”
Ava stopped before them and Liz saw her gaze shift to Kyle. “I guess you two already met.”
“Yeah,” Ava said grinning at Kyle. “You were shopping for underwear.”
Liz couldn’t believe her eyes, but Kyle actually blushed.
“No,” he said quickly, “it was t-shirts. It’s you and Tess that are obsessed with my underwear.”
Ava nudged his arm, smiling wider. “You wish.”
Kyle spluttered, looking for something to say and Liz grinned too.
A noise from above made Liz look up just in time to see Zan emerging, obviously fresh out of the shower. He was bare-chested but wearing black jeans and boots, and as he started toward the stairs he pulled a gray t-shirt over his head.
Liz felt her mouth go dry when she saw the muscles in his chest bulging and straining as he settled the shirt in place. She swallowed hard. She had a weakness for great chests, and like Max’s, Zan’s was incredible.
His hand rose to his wet hair, and with one motion he smoothed through the dark mass, drying it and shaping it into the spikes he always wore.
“Wow,” Liz exclaimed a bit breathlessly, “that would sure come in handy on bad hair days.”
Zan smiled, glad she was watching him. “You’ll be able to do it, no problem. We’ve just got to work on your control a little first.”
Liz nodded. “You mean I’ve got to be able to produce any power first.”
He shrugged. “It might take a little time, but you’ll do it.”
Looking away from her, he met Kyle’s eyes. “I’m Zan,” he said with a dip of his head.
Kyle nodded back. “I’m another one of Max Evans’ human experiments.”
Both Zan and Ava laughed and Liz rolled her eyes. “Kyle,” she groaned.
“Well,” Ava said, turning to Liz, “I’m sure Max couldn’t help himself.” She motioned to Kyle. “He’s such a unique specimen, I’m tempted to probe his brain to see how it works.”
“Hey,” Kyle started to complain.
Zan clapped a hand on Kyle’s back. “Let’s go over here,” he said, motioning to the other side of the room. “We’ll let the girls talk, and you can tell me what Max did to you.”
Kyle glared at the giggling girls as he walked away with Zan, and they laughed harder.
Ava smiled. She liked bantering with him. She hadn’t had so much fun in a while.
The conversation she’d had with Zan the day before came back to her. True, she wasn’t in love with Kyle, but she did feel something for him. She hadn’t been interested in a guy in a long time and it might be fun to get to know him better.
Impulsively she turned to Liz. “Do you know if Kyle’s seeing anyone?” she said in a low voice.
Liz was completely surprised by her question. “But…” she trailed off. Quickly her eyes flicked across the room to where the guys were standing and then back to Ava. “Aren’t you and Zan together?”
Ava’s smile dimmed a little. “From the time when we were little, we were told that we belonged together. And Zan tried,” she said, looking over at him briefly. “He really did, but he never really loved me, and he was never really happy.”
She looked back at Liz. “Even when we were together, I always felt like he was waiting for someone else to walk into his life.”
“I’m sorry,” Liz said.
Ava shook her head. “It’s okay. It wasn’t meant to be, that’s all. And we both deserve someone who loves us back and will make us happy.”
Liz thought of Max and how he had said almost exactly the same thing about Tess. He didn’t love her and he would never be happy with her. So how was he supposed to be with her?
Ava had accepted that Zan didn’t want to be with her, and was trying to move on. Would Tess eventually come to the same conclusion? And if she did, would she leave them to their enemies or just take it as part of life like Ava?
“So,” Ava said again, snapping Liz out of her thoughts, “is Kyle seeing anyone?” She grinned. “I’m not saying that I want to go there, but there is something about him.”
They glanced toward the guys only to see that they were walking back to them. “Quick,” Ava whispered, “they’re coming.”
Liz was stunned from the quick subject changes. “Ummm,” she said, trying to process the question, “no, he’s not seeing anyone.”
“Cool,” Ava said.
Zan called out when they were only a few feet away. “Well, the boy is one-hundred percent human. No powers.”
“Wait,” Liz said, confusion creasing her brow, “how is that possible? Max healed him just like he healed me.”
“Not exactly,” Zan said, focusing on her. “Kyle was shot and would have died, but human medicine could have still saved him.” His face seemed to lose some color. “But Liz, you were beyond help. Max literally pulled you back from death, that’s completely different.”
“How?” Liz asked, fascinated.
“It’s not like mending a bone or a cut,” Zan said, looking for the words to explain. “To bring you back, Max had to change you.”
Liz held up her hands, looking at them and then looked at Kyle.
Kyle smiled weakly. “I don’t know if I’m happy or relieved. Of course the Buddha says, a carpenter bends wood, but a rock is never shaken by the wind.”
Ava’s eyebrows rose. “A Buddhist?” she asked, surprised. She stepped forward, taking his arm. “Why don’t you come upstairs and I’ll make you a sandwich, and you can tell me all about it.”
Liz watched them go, and she heard Kyle say, “It might have been cool to have alien powers though.”
With a smile she looked back at Zan to find him watching her. She swore her heart skipped a beat as she remembered what Maria had said.
It was possible Zan was interested in her, she told herself. The hybrids were made from the same man, and they supposedly had his memories. They could have retained some of his likes and dislikes too.
And Zan wasn’t with Ava.
Liz shook her head to clear her thoughts. This wasn’t the time to be speculating about Zan.
“So,” she started nervously.
Zan smiled. “Yes,” he said, nodding, “I’m sure you have powers.”
Liz held his gaze. Somewhere in the back of her mind she’d been wondering that very thing, and he’d answered her question as if he’d read her mind. “But…”
His smile widened, cutting her off. “I can feel the power in you,” he said stepping closer. “Don’t you feel it?”
“No,” Liz said. “But sometimes I feel Max’s power I think,” she admitted, looking down, “and…” she trailed off, and then continued softly, “and your power.”
“Really?” Zan asked interestedly. He took another step toward her, so there were only inches separating them. “I can understand why you’d feel Max’s power. He saved you so there is bound to be a connection. But how can you feel me?”
“I don’t know,” Liz said breathily, raising her eyes to meet his. “I thought maybe you could explain it.”
Zan held her eyes as he reached out to touch her arm. “Maybe I can,” he said softly. Stroking her silky skin, he slowly closed the distance between them.
Liz’s heart beat in her chest quickly, and she couldn’t look away from him. “But we don’t have a connection,” she protested, her voice practically a whisper. “You’ve never connected with me.”
Taking another step, Zan stopped so that their bodies were barely touching. “I can connect with you right now,” he rumbled.
He watched Liz closely. She was nervous but he could sense the excitement in her too. His eyes flicked to her lips and he started to lower his head. He met her gaze again, watching her reactions carefully.
Slowly, he told himself, don’t scare her.
Liz’s eyes widened, looking at him curiously, but she didn’t move. His heart leapt. She wants this too, he thought.
Reaching up, he cupped her cheek. Their lips were only inches apart when a sudden noise from upstairs made Liz jump back. She recoiled from him like they’d been caught doing something wrong.
Liz looked up at the stairs and then down at her hands that she was wringing.
Following her gaze upstairs, Zan noted that no one was there, before he looked back at her.
“Ummm,” she said nervously. “We should get started,” she said. A blush covered her cheeks, “With the training,” she added quickly. “We should get started with the training.”
Zan wasn’t sure what had just happened. Liz was into him, he was positive, but maybe he was going too fast for her. After all, he reasoned, they didn’t really know each other very well.
“Okay,” he agreed, using a swipe of his hand to create a couple of chairs. He sat down next to her, feeling anxious and confused. When he wanted something he was used to taking it, but he had to move slowly with Liz. He didn’t want to risk ruining things between them.
He’d been planning to connect with her today and tell her what her unique power was. But now he was afraid she would think he was rushing her.
Talking a deep, calming breath, he smiled at her. “We’ll start where we did yesterday,” he said, turning his mind to her training. “Focus on feeling the power inside you.”
Liz closed her eyes, and Zan sighed. She trusted him, he assured himself, and he was sure she wanted him. It was only a matter of time before she was his.
All the way up the stairs Ava teased Kyle about his underwear, and as they entered the kitchen she playfully tugged his arm.
Kyle smiled. The way Ava was acting he was sure she was interested in him, and she’d used the excuse of making him a sandwich to get him alone.
He watched her as she entered the kitchen ahead of him, his eyes running over her slim frame. Damn, he thought, she was beautiful.
Ava pulled open the refrigerator door and called over her shoulder to him. “We’ve got ham, turkey, pastrami, oh, and I think there’s some meatloaf left,” she said rummaging through the drawers. “Zan loves it, but I don’t think he ate it all.”
Kyle slumped against the counter suddenly feeling deflated. He’d hoped that Zan and Ava weren’t together but the way she was talking about him made Kyle feel the intimacy between them. “So,” he said grimly, “you and Zan are… together.”
Ava heard the despair in his tone and quickly looked up at him. She was shocked to see that all the playfulness had instantly left him. “No,” she said quickly. “We’re not.”
He met her eyes and she saw a spark of hope. She continued. “We tried, but it didn’t work out.”
Kyle nodded. “So you’re just friends now,” he said.
“More like family,” she said.
He straightened up, crossing to her so only the door of the refrigerator separated them. With a grin he leaned his arm across the top as he held her eyes. “Meatloaf sounds great,” he said softly. “It’s one of my favorites.”
Quickly she gathered everything she needed out of the fridge, laying it on the counter.
Kyle came to stand beside her. “Need any help?”
Ava shook her head, and used a pass of her hand to construct two perfect sandwiches.
“Wow!” Kyle exclaimed. “That comes in handy!”
She handed him one of the sandwiches, and he took a big bite. His eyes almost rolled back into his head it was so good. “This is great,” he said, talking around the food he was still chewing. “The best I’ve ever had.”
Ava smiled. “I made it,” she said proudly, “special alien recipe.”
Kyle swallowed hard. They were only inches away and he suddenly couldn’t contain himself anymore. “You want to go out with me,” he blurted out, “tonight?”
Ava’s smile widened. “Yeah.”
Liz had been pacing in her room for what seemed like hours.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, she repeated in her mind over and over. What had she been thinking?
She had been sure Zan was going to kiss her and she hadn’t done a thing to stop it. She’d even wanted him to. She’d felt this overwhelming attraction to him, this need to be closer to him.
But I’m in love with Max, she reminded herself. I’d be with Max right now if it wasn’t for what Future Max had said.
It was just because Zan was Max’s double, she reassured herself. She’d only had those kinds of feelings for Max, and now for Zan because she couldn’t be with Max. She was lonely, confused, and Zan was attracted to her. His feelings had just overwhelmed her. It wasn’t like she really wanted him.
That’s it, she told herself again. She didn’t really want Zan, she was just confusing him with Max.
She didn’t want Zan to cup her cheek, like he had done today, and press his lips to hers. She didn’t want him to wrap his arms around her and slide his tongue into her mouth. She didn’t want to feel his sculpted body pressed to hers.
A shiver of pure desire ripped through her and she violently shoved the thoughts away. Those feelings weren’t real. She was just using Zan as a substitute for Max, and it wasn’t fair to any of them.
She’d have to be careful around Zan in the future, and not give him any encouragement. She didn’t want him to think he had a chance with her.
Of course she’d be nice and polite, but she’d be all business when they were together, and she wouldn’t let things get out of control like they almost did earlier.
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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