|Publisher:||Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
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An Original Sin
By Nina Bangs
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 1999 Nina Bangs
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMan-maker conventions were hell.
First, Four-Two-N woke to find that her sleeping pad had drifted to the floor during the night. Scientists could build a floating city on Mars, but they couldn't make a sleeping pad that would stay suspended three feet in the air. Of course, scientists had screwed things up for centuries, so she shouldn't be surprised.
Next, there was the far wall she'd stared at for the last five minutes. Strange. Had she gone to sleep in a museum? An antiquated picture of the galaxy hung above a bureau. A wooden bureau. With the scarcity of trees, no one had used wood for at least a hundred years. A fake? Maybe. People had become masters of imitation. She could attest to that.
Finally, there was the small matter of something sharing her sleeping pad. Something large. She could feel it move against her back, hear it breathe. Which was why she'd stayed frozen for five minutes, staring at the stupid wall.
Added to everything else, she couldn't feel her cross at her neck. Peering over the edge of the sleeping pad as far as she could without moving, she spotted the silver chain, with her Celtic cross still safely attached, lying on the floor.
Four-Two-N heaved a sigh of relief. Grandma Two-Z had given her the antique piece, and she treasured it.
Now what? She could turn over, face what lay at her back, and order it off her sleeping pad. Problem. She had a vivid imagination. She needed imagination in her line of work, but not for facing unidentified sleeping partners.
Maybe she'd wandered into the wrong rest-over room last night after the party. Maybe a large carnitak had followed her in and curled up beside her. Maybe she was a galaxy-size wimp and should just turn over.
Unfortunately, her imagination reminded her the rest-over was close to NASA, and NASA frequently entertained unusual visitors. With her luck, a Saralian poison pig had escaped and chosen her out of all humankind to cozy up to.
Her thoughts scuttled in every direction. What to do? She didn't know where she was, or what horror happily slept at her back. If she screamed, she'd wake it. Scrap that idea.
That left ... Holding her breath, she slowly turned over.
She would've preferred the pig. At least then she'd know she wasn't hallucinating.
A human male. A man. Just like her Dark and Dangerous Dick model, only better. She let her breath out on a puff of disbelief. A fake? She'd never seen one this perfect. Even she couldn't create something so lifelike.
Of course, he had to be a fake. Men had gone the way of the Dexovil rock burrower, extinct for fifty years or more. Another scientific screwup.
Studying the man, she couldn't squelch a small stab of professional jealousy. A master creation.
What kind of a party had she gone to last night, if she didn't remember him? One of her friends, probably Three-Six-H, must've put the man next to her as a joke.
What a joke! Long, dark hair lay in a tangled mass across incredibly broad shoulders that had a perfectly tanned skin tone. Hmm, the hair looked like the real thing. Reaching out, she stroked it. Raw silk. She allowed herself a sensual shiver.
His face was molded perfection-knife-edge cheekbones, straight nose, full lips, long lashes. His eyes? She longed to know their color.
She had to speak with his creator. Never had she been able to make a face look so real, as though warm blood pulsed beneath the skin-soft, touchable. Wonderful! She almost hated the woman responsible for him.
But was he anatomically correct? A lot of cheap models weren't very detailed. She'd check.
Scooting down, she ducked under the cover. Warmth and essence of male surrounded her. She frowned. How did his maker get that scent of desire and dark erotic nights? It left her heart pounding, her mouth dry. She'd never experimented much with aromas. Maybe she should.
Running her fingertips across his chest, she marveled at the textures-smooth flesh over muscle, hair-roughened areas, and nipples that actually pebbled beneath her touch. Amazing.
A shudder ran through the body. Must be a short somewhere.
When her fingers touched his stomach, his muscles contracted and rippled. Unbelievable technology.
She finally reached her destination. This was what separated true artistry from assembly-line cheapies.
Utter brilliance. She couldn't suppress a small coo of admiration. Large, round, firm. Long, thick, hard ... Hard? She didn't remember anything hard down here when she'd first ducked under the cover. Hmm. Must be a clever use of sensors.
Unable to resist, she ran her fingers lightly along his length, then clasped him. Liquid heat flooded her, then settled heavily into a bubbling pool of want in an area that had never experienced any kind of bubbling.
She choked back a surprised gasp and closed her eyes in shocked horror. Impossible! She'd created customized men for years and never once had a sexual reaction to any of them. They were fakes-a mass of Toglor fibers and electrical impulses. She prided herself on never forgetting that.
She teased her friends when they panted after her great-looking Hot and Horny Hal or Stud Muffin Stuart models. Now who'd have the last laugh? Three-Six-H would never let her forget this if she ever found out. Nervously, Four-Two-N searched her memory. Had she seen any sign of a scan-glow? No. She relaxed slightly. Even if her friend had set this up, she wouldn't defy privacy rules by watching. No one would ever know.
She'd know. She had to admit it. Her sex drive was on automatic pilot and begging for permission to land.
So close, so warm, so convenient. She closed her fingers more tightly around him. Sex. She'd seen the disks, knew the basics of the ancient ritual. All she'd have to do was ...
Appropriate muscles spasmed at the thought of him filling her, touching every dark, wet, yearning space. Reflexively, she kneaded him like a cat with eyes half-closed in feline bliss, while she imagined a joining she'd never know. Warm flesh sheathed in satin-smooth skin that slid slickly into-
With a discipline forged from her society's expectations, she ruthlessly clamped down on her useless fantasy. She might as well accept it. Men were gone, so she'd never experience that particular pleasure. And she'd never get so desperate that she'd lose herself in a fake. A make-believe man.
She opened her eyes. Liar. She could with this fake.
Suddenly the body jerked. Oops. Had she broken him?
"God's teeth, woman, I dinna know how much more I can stand. Cease cooing like a mating dove and show yerself."
She froze. Dinna? Cease? What a strange dialect. And his voice-harsh, arrogant. This didn't sound like any programmed response tone she'd ever heard.
Possibility sprouted and grew with the speed of a Pelmar choke-weed. It curled inside her stomach, making her feel the way she did each time she started a new creation. Putting out feelers, it touched her heart. Not satisfied with the mad pounding it left behind, the possibility wound around her lungs and squeezed. She gasped for breath. Her brain tried to fend off the invader, but to no avail.
Real? Could this be a real man?
No way. Nah ... Maybe? She shot from beneath the cover, flinging it aside as she emerged.
"Easy, lass. Dinna look so daft. Have ye ne'er seen a man before?" His deep chuckle made light of the suggestion.
"No." Green. He had eyes the color of jade, spectacular with their frame of thick, sooty lashes. "Not a real one."
His slashing white smile disappeared, but she'd already noticed one slightly crooked tooth. Customers never asked for flawed men. OK, they did want men with oversize-
"Nay, I'll not believe ye were raised in a nunnery." He smiled again. "Not when I wake to find ye rooting beneath the cover like a wee pig."
"Wee pig!" She never programmed anything but polite chitchat and a few orgasmic groans into her creations. But fine, she could fling a few insults of her own. "I don't know who you are, but I've made men better than you." A lie, of course.
"Made men better?" He narrowed his gaze, and she noticed a small scar above one dark brow. "Aye, I can well believe yer touch would cure a man of what ails him. Ye've talented hands, ones I'd lief feel again." His gaze turned hot, aggressive.
Fakes were never aggressive. She felt a trickle of sweat slide between her breasts, a reminder that she wore no clothes. Pulling the cover and her anger around her, she tried to ignore her body's embarrassing demands. Amazing he didn't notice them.
"I was not under the cover rooting around like a 'wee pig.' I was ... checking out the competition. I'll tell you something, too. I've made a lot bigger men." OK, she'd admit they were a tad too big-big enough to double as rocket nose cones. But that was what her customers paid for.
"Ye make men?" The corner of his expressive mouth turned up. "With yer hands? Like a man would fashion a sword?"
A sword? She frowned, trying to ignore the sexual implication in his words. Forget it. Everything about him shouted sex. "Customized models. Very expensive."
"Aye." One dark brow rose to match his mouth. "And I'm King William."
As he nodded, a strand of hair fell forward, and he raised his hand to push it aside. Fascinated, she followed the motion. Male bodies were her business, but this one interested her more than usual. He had broad hands with long, lean fingers. Strong hands used to hard work, yet hands that would be gentle on a woman's body. Where had that thought come from? Only one thing should interest her-real or ultimate imitation?
Mentally, she shook herself. He couldn't be real. Men were extinct, victims of a gene-directed virus gone amok.
He glanced away from her, then suddenly stiffened and drew in a harsh breath. Sitting up, he stared at the room.
"What manner of demon's lair is this?"
"Demon's lair? Sure, the room's a little old-fashioned. I bet the rest-over keeps it as a novelty for travelers who want to get the true feel of living in the past. Cute idea. But 'demon's lair' is over-dramatizing a bit."
"'Tis like naught I've seen before. How came I here?" He fumbled beneath his pillow. "'Tis gone! I canna find my dirk. Who ...?"
Uh-oh. He sounded upset. She never programmed her models for extreme emotional responses. Well, maybe once. Six-Nine-R wanted her man to sing the commercial for Healthy Hot and Spicy Sausages-no fat or caloric content-while she climaxed.
His gaze returned to her-accusing, threatening. "Ye shouldna have done this deed. D'ye think to keep me here, witch?"
"Witch? Like in bad hair and a broomstick? You have to be kidding, right?"
"It doesna matter if ye've ne'er seen a real man before. Ye have no right to conjure one for yerself. Ye and a score of virgin witches canna force me to yer will."
"Virgin witch?" She slid her gaze across his muscled arms and shoulders. So wonderful. So flawed. Maybe if she bashed him over the head with her broomstick it would correct his obviously faulty circuits.
"Yer familiar awaits, but 'twill do ye no good." He pointed toward the bureau.
Shifting her gaze, she met the fixed amber stare of a large black cat, a cat that hadn't been there a few minutes ago. Her thoughts fragmented. She pressed her suddenly clammy palms flat against the base of her throat, feeling the warmth, the steady throb of her pulse, the realness. No, she hadn't been tossed into some sort of virtual world gone mad.
"Dinna try yer devil's spells on me, witch." He made some strange signs as he slid to the edge of the pad. His eyes blazed with fierce anger and behind the anger ... fear.
He wasn't kidding. This could get scary fast. "It's your lucky day. I'm all out of devil's spells." She'd kill Three-Six-H if her friend had put this maniac beside her. Kill? She never had violent thoughts. Breathe deeply. Stay calm.
He nodded. "Since ye canna use me, tell me where ye hid my weapons, then free me."
Fascinated, she watched him swallow hard, lingered on the strong column of his neck. She blinked. Weapons? Plural?
Crossing his arms, he leaned back, obviously waiting for her to fulfill his demand.
He'd have a long wait.
Returning her attention to the cat, she fought to hold on to reality. A dream? Could be. Like a dream, unrelated oddities seemed to float by with no particular pattern.
She had to ground herself in things she recognized or else listen to the whispers of her faceless fears. Four-Two-N gazed up at the galaxy painting. The planets were comforting old friends. Hmm. She peered more closely. The cat was seated right beneath one of Jupiter's moons. "Ganymede. That cat is-"
"'Tis a strange name for a cat." The man's brows drew together in a puzzled frown. "And what be yer name, witch?"
Her heart missed a beat. A fake would never be puzzled. The men she created existed for only one purpose: sexual release. They didn't need extraneous emotions. "Four-Two-N."
His brows almost met. "Fortune?"
She sighed. "No, Four-Two-N."
"'Tis settled. I'll call ye Fortune."
Stubborn. Why would anyone want a stubborn fake? Every word he uttered drove her toward a conclusion she feared, didn't believe-wanted to believe.
Pushing himself erect again, he gazed around the room, then stared at her with an intensity that made her pull the cover higher. Yanking it up to her chin, she did a quick survey of the room. No clothes.
Panic whispered in her ear. Where was she? Who was he? What was he?
"If ye think to keep me here by spiriting awa' my plaid, ye've made a mistake." Climbing from the sleeping pad, he towered above her in all his naked glory.
A jagged scar ran from the top of his thigh to within several inches of humanity's salvation. Staring up at him, she admitted the unthinkable, the truth her instincts had immediately recognized. No fake could have so many imperfections and yet feel so ... perfect.
He was real.
For the moment, it didn't matter who he was or where he'd come from. His untainted sperm could bring males back to a dying human race. She blinked away sudden tears.
Me first. Me first. She shoved aside the selfish thought. "Who are you?" Her whispered question carried all the hushed awe due the most important human on earth.
His dark scowl dismissed her question. "Leith Campbell, as ye must well know." He turned and strode toward the door.
"Wait! Your clothes. Don't go off half-cocked...." Poor phrasing.
His pointed gaze swept the room, then returned to her. "Do ye see my plaid? I grow tired of this playacting, witch."
Cautiously opening the door, he peered left and right, then slipped quietly from the room.
Where did he think he was going? He couldn't just ... "Come back! Millions of women need-"
"Shush, witch." He appeared in the doorway again. "Yer blather will lead our enemies to us." With that cryptic whisper, he silently closed the door on any further arguments she might muster.
Frantic, she leaped from the sleeping pad, then rushed to the bureau. She couldn't let him get away. The future of the human race depended on her.
Pulling open the drawers, she searched for something, anything she could wear. Empty.
Glancing up, she met the cat's stare. He winked. No, she hadn't seen that. It must've been a trick of the lighting.
She slammed the drawer shut, then closed her eyes, breathing deeply. Don't panic. Her eyes opened wide, and she stopped breathing altogether as the telltale squeak of the door announced Leith's return.
She didn't need to turn to verify his identity because she could feel him; his gaze was as potent as a trail of fingertips down her spine. Sudden heat and the urge to clench her thighs tightly made her swallow hard. How could his mere entrance into the room do this to her, make her feel as though her body belonged to someone else, someone filled with fierce, primitive hunger?
"Why ... why did you come back?"
In the sudden stillness, she could hear his breathing-harsh, rapid with an unnamed emotion.
"Where would I go? 'Tis all like this room."
She could almost feel his frustrated gesture.
"Ye've entranced me, witch, and only ye can release me."
She breathed deeply, and wondered who had entranced whom.
"I brought ye clothes. Ye must cover yer body so ye dinna tempt ... a weaker man." His voice was sandpaper rough, deeply thick with something that spun her around to face him. For a moment, his stare burned with the green flame of a Norian cantu pit, then was banked as he looked down at the clothes he held.
Excerpted from An Original Sin by Nina Bangs Copyright © 1999 by Nina Bangs. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As always Ms. Bangs does and outstanding job!
Nina Bangs begs you to turn each page. Fortune and Leith are a most unlikey couple, but with a do-gooder and an evil doer controlling their every day lives, it's guaranteed to keep you interested until the end.
This was my first time reading anything by Nina Bangs, but I hope not the last... this by far was one of the best books I have ever read! It had everything, comedy, drama,love, and even a few tears. Using the cat as the protaganist was a stroke of genius, a must read.