The Institute:Daddy Issues(9)By: Evangeline Anderson
“What?” I burst out laughing. “My little gold nugget? Is that a nickname in Russia?”
“Da—of course.” He gave me one of his rare smiles. “What is more precious than gold? You could also call someone dear to you pchelka—my little bee.”
“Little bee?” I frowned. “But bees sting people.”
“Bees also give honey,” he pointed out. “Which is an English term of endearment.”
“I guess so,” I acknowledged. “It does sound weird when you think about it. Though no stranger than a man calling a grown woman ‘Little girl’ or a woman calling a man ‘Daddy,’ I guess.” I shivered. “Ugh—I’m really not looking forward to that.”
Salt frowned. “This bothers you greatly—the terms we are meant to use for each other?”
“Come on, Salt…” I put a hand on my hips. “You meant to tell me it doesn’t bother you?”
He shrugged, his broad shoulders rolling.
“Is just another term of endearment, I suppose. Would you prefer we use other names for each other during this assignment?”
“Can we?” I asked. “I never thought about that.”
“Why not? I am from Russia—I think it would be natural to use terms of affection in my own language.” He frowned thoughtfully. “I will call you mishka—my little mouse.”
“Why mouse?” I bristled at once. “Mice are timid and scared—I’m neither one of those things.”
“You’re little though,” he pointed out. “And you have soft brown fur.”
I laughed and put a hand to my hair. “Okay. If you say so.”
“You also have big brown eyes,” Salt said quietly. He put the plates down and came over to tip my chin up so that our gazes met. “I see your soul in your eyes when I look at you, Andi. Tih kra-sah-vee-tsa.”
“What does that mean? Is it Russian?” I asked uncertainly.
“It is,” he acknowledged softly. “It means, ‘you are beautiful.’”
“Oh…” I didn’t know what to say. Salt was usually all business but every once in a while he would come out with a statement like this that left me floundering. I told myself he was just acting as he had been raised—it was probably just ‘the Russian way’ to compliment a woman, even a coworker, on her looks. But still, sometimes…
“But the question is,” Salt continued after a moment, finally letting me go. “What should you call me? You do not wish to call me ‘Daddy’ I take it?”
“No, that’s what I called my own father. Well, before he left.” I looked down at the soup again, which was simmering nicely. Better not to think about that too much. “It just…creeps me out,” I said. “I mean, calling another man by that name.”
“Why not call me Papa?” Salt asked. “Would that bother you?”
I considered it for a minute. “No, not quite as much, I don’t think.”
“Very well then, you are my little mishka and I am your Papa. Will this do, do you think?”
“I think so.” I sighed. “This is just so weird, Salt. I mean, we’ve had some strange cases before but this…”
“This is just another assignment,” he said calmly.
“Easy for you to say. You get to wear a suit,” I pointed out. “I’m probably going to be wearing Hello Kitty panties and pigtails.”
He frowned. “It should not matter what kind of panties you wear as no one will be seeing them.”
“You’re going to be a strict Papa then?” I fluttered my eyelashes at him jokingly. “You’re going to pull down my Hello Kitty panties and spank me if I’m bad?”
“If I have to,” Salt rumbled and I suddenly realized he wasn’t joking.
“Hey.” I frowned at him. “I thought you told the Captain you wouldn’t beat me because I was too ‘delicate.’”
“I would not beat you with a belt as I was beaten as a child, no of course not,” Salt said. “But a spanking by hand…”
“Is not going to happen,” I said firmly. “And you never told me your dad beat you with a belt.”