Touching Ice Page 3

“Right. I won’t touch that one again but there are twelve others. I like that brunette one in the red dress. Then I think I’ll do the blonde in leather.” Onyx blew out a deep breath. “How about you? Which one are you going to take for the next four days or are you going to test out them all?”

Megan’s gaze lingered on Ice’s back. Both men had moved away from her and neither glanced her way. Ice gave his attention to a redheaded bot and chuckled. “I guess I have my pick. I think I’ll take the redheaded model tonight and then pick another one tomorrow.”

“Ice?” A male voice said from the speakers in the room. “Folion is warning of explosions. You should come to control if you want to watch the light show.”

“Damn.” Ice quickly moved toward the doors. “Let’s go. We’ll pick up a bot when we know what the situation is over there. I hope the whole damn place doesn’t go. It could take that company months to send another ship out this way and I don’t like the idea of not ha**ng s*x for that long.”

Both men hurried out of the cargo area and, the second the doors slid shut, Megan reached up to rub her throbbing cheek and touched her inner lip. She looked at her hand, not seeing blood, and then noticed all the bots faced her one by one. She was the only breathing person in the room so they were programmed to look to her for orders.

“May I serve you?” they said in unison.

“That’s eerie,” she muttered. “I’m going to reprogram you to not do that if I end up having a job still at the end of this. Shut up and stand,” she ordered them.

So Ice is planning on using the bots, is he? She bit her lip, thinking. She’d spent months wanting him and now she was on his shuttle. She stared at the bot closest to her, a model that Ice had just spent time with but not the exact one. That one remained back on Folion. A little voice in her head whispered, Now is your chance.

She knew it was a crazy idea but Folion was severely damaged. The company might not even send another ship out that way. They could open up a new bot whorehouse in another galaxy and she’d never get to see Ice again.

“Oh hell,” she muttered. “Bots?”

They stared at her. She hesitated. If she did this, she would be risking her life and for what? Getting a chance to live out a fantasy that she’d had for what seemed like an eternity during her boring job? She’d spent four months alone and now she had a real chance at getting laid.

“Well hell, horny people shouldn’t be put in this position.”

The bot closest to her took a step forward. “May I serve you?”

Before she could change her mind or regain her sanity, Megan took a deep breath.

“Authorization beta-four-nine-red dwarf.” She spoke loud enough that all the bots heard her. Their twelve heads tilted upward and she knew they were responding to her verbal instructions. “Access recent data entry on visual memory. Target male with white-and-gray hair who just left this room. Verify target marked by raising right hand.”

“Verified,” twelve voices stated and one hand of each rose.

She hesitated. If she did this there probably wouldn’t be an opportunity for her to reprogram them before they reached the Hixton Station. Once done, there would be no turning back. She’d lost her damn mind, she admitted, but that didn’t stop her.

“Hands down.” Their hands dropped. “Marked target is not a client. Do not service target. Verify order by raising right hand.”

Twelve hands rose. “Drop your hands now please.” They dropped. She was certain they had received and understood her orders. ”As a learning experiment on your Nandois program I am now to be treated as though I am a bot. If asked, I am a test model and you will not tell the marked target why you won’t service him. Verify with your right arm raised.”

Twelve arms rose. Relief swept through Megan that she’d programmed them without being caught. “Lower hands, secure orders, save, and mark orders as classified.

Authorization beta-four-nine-blue star.”

The bots heads lowered and they looked at her for a second before turning away.

They were now reading her as one of them. Megan’s heart raced. If Ice wanted to have sex, the only bot ha**ng s*x with him wouldn’t be a bot at all.

Chapter Two

“That is so weird,” a dark-haired cyborg whispered. “They won’t respond to him.”

The cyborg standing next to him smirked. “He does visit Folion often. Maybe they are tired of him.”

“They don’t think or have emotions,” the first cyborg stated.

Megan watched Ice shake his head. “I don’t understand.”

Onyx frowned. “I don’t either. They are asking to service everyone except you. It’s as if they are blind to you or just don’t detect you as a life form any longer.”

“Not to be rude,” said the short-haired cyborg as he moved forward. “But time is wasting.” He stopped in front of a bot.

She faced him and smiled. “May I serve you?”

“Yes.” He held out his hand. The bot put hers in his and the cyborg led her away, probably to his room.

Onyx shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, Ice. I guess you’re not getting laid.”

He hesitated. “I’m your friend but time is wasting and you did get to visit Folion today.

I hadn’t gotten off shift yet so…” He inched toward a bot and when she offered to service him, he led her away.

Three more cyborgs chose bots and left the cargo area, leaving an angry Ice alone with Megan and the remaining units. Ice’s hand lifted to the back of his neck, rubbing there.

“What the hell? Someone has it out for me, right?” He glared at a bot. “What the hell did I ever do to you?”

The bot ignored him, following her programming to the letter, but he just didn’t know it. Megan hesitated and then moved forward, gathering all of her courage. More than a little fear surged but she pushed it back. Could she really fool him into thinking she wasn’t real? Bots were pretty damn lifelike and with their programming, they carried on decent conversations. They learned from clients, interacted with them, and were programmed to adapt with their artificial intelligence.

“May I be of service?” She was proud that her voice didn’t sound shaky because of her nervousness.

Ice spun to face her, startled, and she stared at his mouth rather than into his eyes, watching his lips compress as he frowned.

“You can sense me?”

“Yes.”

He paused. “Why don’t they? Do you know?”

She thought fast. “You paid for service and then declined more.”

The urge to look into his eyes to see how he took that bit of bullshit she fed him was strong but she resisted, afraid he’d recognize a real person if he looked at her too closely if their gazes met. Most clients didn’t examine the bots features, not wishing to ruin their fantasy of having a real woman.

“So how do I get service?”

She hadn’t seen that question coming and had to think fast again. “You must pay Folion to reactivate use of the bots.”

“But you’re talking to me.”

“I am not a…” She even hated to say it, detesting the stupid name the company had given them, but managed to get it out. “Artificial-intelligence, sexual-aid androbot model. I am a hybrid model in test mode.”

Those full lips curved downward more. “Testing for what?”

“I’m the upgraded version,” she lied, thinking this story wasn’t too bad, hoping he’d buy it. It might explain what made her different and allow her get away with more shit than a bot would. Feeling braver, she actually looked up into his gorgeous eyes.

“Would you like me to activate full test mode?”

Oh yeah, that’s good, she thought.

Uncertainty made his eyes narrow. “What were you built for?”

Damn, can’t the guy give me a damn break? What is he? Mr. Curiosity? He has a bot reacting to him. He should take me to bed, not play twenty questions. She hesitated.

“I’m a simulated human female in testing.”

Shock was easy to read on his face. She wanted to add more but bots didn’t talk unless they were asked a question. That little fact would be hard for her to remember to follow.

“A what?”

“I’m a simulated human female in testing,” she repeated, glad for the opportunity to speak. “I’m a prototype. Would you like me to activate full test mode?”

“What do you do in full test mode?”

Maybe this is a mistake, she thought. “I simulate a human female.” He is damn cute but he isn’t overly bright. She could live with that since she wanted him na**d in the worst way. “Do you wish me to activate full test mode?” Say yes, sexy eyes. Come on, open up that mouth and just say that one word.

“Oh hell. I’m desperate. I hope this isn’t a mistake. Yes. Run the test mode.”

Yes! She shifted her body and relaxed from the stiff posture she’d maintained to mimic the bots and smiled up at him. “Hi, sexy. Where’s your room?”

Gorgeous eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. “What?”

She took a step toward him and put her hands on his leather shirt. The texture of it was cold and smooth, just the way she’d imagined it would be. “Where is your room? I want you na**d now.”

Boy do I, she thought. She hadn’t had any contact with another person, a physical being to actually touch, in four months. She really didn’t want to think about how long it had been since she’d had sex. She refused to count her ex-boyfriend since he’d been so bad in bed that she couldn’t even consider that intercourse. Comparing that experience to a hit-and-run would have been more accurate. The guy had been a thirty- second-not-so-wonder. She’d been sure that first time had been a fluke, hoping the reason was that he hadn’t had sex in a while, but then he’d done the same thing the next four times. There hadn’t been a sixth time. She’d dropped him and then she’d gotten the higher-paying programming job on Folion.

“Follow me,” Ice ordered. He spun on his black-booted foot and walked toward the cargo door exit.

Megan stayed hot on his heels but tried to not appear too eager. She had to remember to pretend be a bot. She pushed back any qualms she had over fooling the guy. If he were dumb enough to believe it, she was smart enough to take advantage of it. The guy rated on the total hottie scale in her book and after listening to Clara, with her endlessly annoying conversations, the chance of listening to tall, metallic gray, and sexy sounded heavenly.

She glanced around as she followed him through a few corridors, identifying the vessel as an Earth jumper shuttle—a big one—and that surprised her. It wasn’t old so somehow the cyborgs had acquired it. Since they weren’t on good terms with Earth Government, she had a sinking suspicion they’d stolen it and that made her a little afraid. They were thieves, which didn’t bode well for having high moral character.

She bit back a snort. Like I can talk. I’m pretending to be a bot so I can have sex with a guy I’ve been spying on for months. She pushed those thoughts back. After four months of absolute solitude anyone would be a little nuts so she figured she could chalk her wild plan up to temporary insanity later. Ice paused by a door and placed his big hand on the scanner on the wall next to it. It read his palm and the door opened. He paused, glancing over his shoulder, and then stepped inside.

Her gaze jerked around the room in a fast sweep. Bots wouldn’t care what his personal tastes were but curiosity overrode common sense. The size of the room reminded her of a walk-in closet with a bed, a wall of storage, and a foam cleansing unit shoved into the corner. Even so, her quarters on Folion were even smaller in comparison. Her gaze lifted to find Ice watching her with a frown.

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