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Authors: Nina Bangs

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BOOK: An Original Sin
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“Dinna take too long, lass.”

She screeched her shock, then caught herself before she could fling aside the curtain to confront the invader. “Get out!”

“Why?”

She could hear him turning the faucets on and off. He flushed the toilet, then opened and closed the cabinet door.

Why
? “You’re invading my privacy. You
do
understand privacy, don’t you?”

“Umm.” He pulled out a drawer, then slammed it shut. “Dinna be embarrassed, lass. Ye have a beautiful body, and ye should be proud of it. So why do ye want me to leave?”

Fine.
Logical hadn’t worked, so she’d try illogical. “Because I said so.”

“Ye say a lot of things, lass. A man doesna know which to listen to.” He opened the cabinet again, rattling things as he moved them around. “I think I’ll just stay here and wait.”

Wait until you take root.
She wasn’t coming out while
he watched even if she turned into a wrinkled prune. Just the memory of his glance skimming over her body this morning raised goose bumps along the remembered path of his heated gaze. “OK, be stubborn, but at least turn your head while I get out.”

She took his silence for assent and quickly flung the curtain open, then stepped out of the tub. She’d almost reached her nightgown when she looked up.

He stood watching her with an expression she’d recognize if men had been extinct for a thousand years. “You promised!”

“I didna,” he murmured softly. “I wouldna make such a stupid promise.”

Lunging for her nightgown, she pulled it over her head with a sense of relief that left her limp. “I should’ve know I couldn’t trust you. Primitives have no sense of—”

“Beauty? Ye shouldna be ashamed of yer body, Fortune.”

“I’m not
ashamed
. I’m…”
Embarrassed.

“Aye?”

She gulped loudly and considered making a break for the door as he slowly peeled his shirt from his impressive chest.
Why
? She
made
men. But she’d certainly never felt this strange discomfort around any of her creations—an aching heaviness that left her craving something.

Sexual awareness? She’d read about it, and some of her friends had talked about achieving it with the men she sold them, but she’d never…Yes, she had. She’d felt it this morning when she’d turned over and found Leith beside her.

“Watch me, Fortune. Our bodies are wondrous, able to give and receive great pleasure.” His voice had lowered to a harsh whisper that sandpapered across sensitive nerve endings.

She had to get out of here!

“Dinna be a coward, lass.” She heard laughter in his
voice. “A woman from yer superior society can surely stand the sight of a man’s body.” He slipped his sneakers off, then worked at the snap on his jeans.

She reluctantly abandoned her plan to flee the room. She wasn’t a coward. Of course, she’d never had anything to fear before today. Fear? Yes, on a level she didn’t understand, she knew this man was dangerous.

He started to slide his jeans down over his lean hips.

She swallowed hard.
Think of him as a duty, a man you have an obligation to bring home with you, a humanity-saving sperm machine.

Sliding the jeans down his muscular legs, he kicked them off, then stood. Naked. Very naked.

Forget duty. Think of him as a prototype for Creature Comfort’s newest, most spectacular line—a man who’s fought to survive life’s battles and has the scars to prove it. Primitive Paul? Nah. Warrior Wayne? Uh-uh. Doesn’t flow.
She’d think of a name later. When she could concentrate.

Concentrate.
She’d just do a quick inventory of his finer points, the ones that made him so extraordinary, ones she could incorporate into her new model.

Head. What drew her attention? The heavy fall of dark hair framing his lean face was startling, and those mocking eyes danced with a life she’d have a tough time imitating. OK, his lips—full, sensuous. But inexorably, her gaze riveted on the faint scar above his right brow. She longed to reach out, trace the thin line, then draw her fingers down his hard, masculine jaw. The scar lent danger to the wicked beauty of his face, a danger that would intrigue women. It made him real.

“Ye’re taking an uncommon long time to decide, lass.”

He rubbed his hand across his chest, and her gaze followed the motion. “Umm, I’m thinking.”

She admitted his chest’s sculpted perfection rivaled her best effort, but that was not what held her attention. A
thin white line ran beneath one pectoral. Too close to his heart. She shuddered at the pain he’d suffered.
Real.

Mesmerized, she watched his chest rise and fall as he took a deep breath. Her models didn’t breathe. She’d work on it.

“If ye think about everything this long, lass, ’tis a wonder ye get anything done.”

He was laughing at her, but she didn’t care. Her glance drifted down over his flat stomach, then stopped. She stared, unable to look away, as his erection swelled. No matter how analytical she tried to be, she couldn’t control the heat building, pooling…Frantically, she attempted to push aside her emotions and focus. Her men achieved arousal by touch. Maybe she could implant sound sensors that reacted to a specific voice command. Maybe…“Rise and shine.” Maybe just heavy breathing would do it. She sighed.
But it wouldn’t be real.

“Ye have a powerful gaze, lass.”

Startled, she glanced back to his face. His amusement had disappeared, replaced by something hot, elemental. Real.

It was hopeless. Even if she managed to duplicate how he looked, she’d never be able to achieve the raw masculinity that flowed from him, the intangible “lived-in” feel that made him
real
.

This wasn’t working! She started to shake, but she couldn’t have fled if her life depended on it.

With a fluidness that spoke of a man at ease with his own body, he turned and stepped into the shower, then stared at the gleaming knobs. “Bloody hell.”

Ignoring his expletive, she stared. “A dimple. You have a dimple in your…”

He twisted his head to stare at the object of her intense interest. “Aye. When I was a wee laddie, I fell from my horse onto a sharp rock. The wound healed, but it left the
dent behind.” That explained, he turned his attention back to the knobs. “How do ye make these work?”

“Turn them to the left. The right one is cold; the left is hot.”
The right one is dimpled, the left one is not.
A dimpled bun. She had to put one in her next model.

As in a trance, she watched him follow her directions. Water flowed over him, turning him into a gleaming statue. No, he was too warm and vital to be compared to a statue.

“Yer gaze is bold for a virgin, lass.”

Had she shocked him? She glanced up. His heated stare was many things, but shocked wasn’t one of them. “This isn’t personal. Men’s bodies are my business.”

Her heart pounding, she couldn’t tear her gaze from him as he soaped his body with smooth strokes. She yearned with an intensity that hurt to slide her hands across his body, to—

“Come here, Fortune.” His harsh command belied his outward ease. He’d turned his back to her. “I need ye to soap my back.”

For a moment her old spunkiness tried to assert itself. “Your back looks fine. Squeaky clean.”

“I
want
ye to do this, lass.” His voice lowered to an enticing rumble, promising unspoken delights.

Someone else moved robotlike toward his gleaming back. It couldn’t be she, because no way would she be mesmerized by a hunk of primitive maleness. Someone else took the cloth and ran it tentatively down his warm, waterslicked back. She wouldn’t consider giving in to sexual coercion, not when she knew perfectly well what game he played. Someone else moved the cloth lower. She’d
never
let herself be turned into a mindless robot by firm, wellshaped buns…with a dimple.
Don’t forget the dimple.
She abandoned the cloth and slid her bare palm across his buttocks. Just to prove this was someone else, of course.

Without warning, he turned around. With her gaze still fixed at bun-level, she couldn’t mistake the hard length that proved he was far from casually indifferent. Someone else reached out and stroked him.

She raised her gaze to his eyes. They burned with a million promises—all tempting, all terrifying.

Fortune jerked her hand away, freeing herself from “someone else,” and turned tail. She slammed the door so hard that it bounced off the wall. “I’ve changed my mind. The couch will be great. I’ll…I’ll see you in the morning.”

He watched her flee with a mixture of regret and wry amusement. He hadn’t meant to frighten her.
That’s exactly what you meant.
Honesty demanded he admit that her sometimes arrogant sureness in dealing with everything today had made him feel like the primitive she declared he was.

He took a deep breath. His penance. Her heated gaze had reminded him that he must teach her the joys of love. The thought of his body joined with hers made him groan as he twisted the knobs, then stood stoically as cold water sluiced over him.

Not tonight. He’d frighten her to death. But soon.

The next morning, he sat on the edge of her couch and waited impatiently for her to awaken. He’d slept peacefully despite the previous day’s events. Of course, he’d learned to sleep through the turmoil of battle, and this was not so very different. Now rested, he felt the need to earn his redemption quickly.

He smiled. Red hair tousled in sleep, she looked like an angel. The fact that she probably thought of him as a devil amused him. If he had his way, she’d soon be a fallen angel.

Ganymede had curled himself into a furry black ball
and rested contentedly against her side. Without thinking, Leith pushed the cat off the couch and listened as the animal growled and grumbled his resentment. He watched the even rise and fall of her breasts as she slept. Soon his head would be pillowed between those soft mounds and…

He’d have to put her at ease first. He’d frightened her last night. He suspected she’d frightened herself. If she were to return to her time with the memory of glorious lovemaking, she would have to share equally in their joining. For this, he’d need patience. God’s teeth, but he wanted her.

He’d first lull her fears by getting her to talk about her life. To be honest, he was curious about how females could live, or would even want to live, in a world without males. If the situation were reversed and there were no females…He grinned. There’d be a great increase in the popularity of sheep.

She’d said she made men. Now he understood. He pitied the women of her world who had need of such poor substitutes.

Her sleepy murmur put an end to such depressing thoughts. She opened her eyes and stared at him. “If you want me to wash any other part of your body, forget it.”

Good.
She sounded like the Fortune he knew once again. “Nay. I thought only that we should talk. We should learn more of each other.”

“Hmm. I’m hungry.”

The sudden spurt of joy her words brought died as their meaning sank in. Grumpily, he made his way to the kitchen and rooted through it. The box that kept things cold by some magical means surrendered several apples and a container of milk. He carried them out to Fortune, who still reclined on the couch. She wore an unusual expression of docility, but it didn’t fool Leith. She was still
lazy with sleep. Perhaps now would be the time to put his plan into operation, while she hadn’t yet remembered she had for a companion a primitive savage. He grimaced.

“Tell me of yer life, Fortune. I’d lief know everything. ’Tis time for me to shed my barbaric past and learn all I can about the wonders of yer world.” He glanced away so she wouldn’t see the laughter in his eyes. When he had himself under control, he looked back to meet her suspicious gaze.

“You’re laughing at me. I know you’re laughing at me.” She bit into the apple, and he watched her lick the juice from her lower lip. His body reminded him this was no laughing matter.

He shook his head. “I am verra curious about yer life.”

She impaled him with a searching look; then, apparently satisfied, she nodded. “It’s simple, really. In the twenty-first century humans decided cloning wasn’t such a bad thing.”

“Cloning?”

She smiled. “That’s creating exact copies of living things without…” Small lines of concentration formed between her eyes. She was probably trying to think of an explanation his feeble mind could grasp. “…without having sex. Men could be completely eliminated from the reproductive cycle.”

“ ’Tis witchcraft. And dinna look at me in that superior way. If what ye say is true about men no longer existing, then ye werena as smart as ye thought.”

She closed her eyes for a moment. He was right. They’d been dumb, dumb, dumb. She opened her eyes. “There’s an old saying: ‘Don’t mess with Mother Nature.’ Long before I was born, even before we’d abandoned our old name system, one of our greatest scientists, Jan Kredski, developed what she believed to be a superior cloning technique. She was wrong. She forgot that for every action
there’s a reaction. Over the generations, Jan Kredski’s mass cloning method reduced our biodiversity, and we became more susceptible to annihilation by a single virus. When it finally happened, it took only the males and any males produced from their sperm. With men extinct, we’ve been forced to continue the cloning process. It’s only a matter of time before another virus strikes. That’s why…”

She looked up at him with suddenly widened eyes, and he had the feeling she’d almost said more than she wanted to. But then she lowered her gaze, hiding her expression from him.

He didn’t pretend to understand everything she’d said, but he’d understood enough to be horrified. “Ye have no father?”

She glanced at him from under lowered lids, then shook her head. His question had been soft, sympathetic. How could a man who’d lived as he’d lived, probably killed to survive, zero in on her hurt with such sure instinct? He was supposed to be hard and insensitive, someone she wouldn’t feel guilty about dragging home to play stud to the world’s women.

“I’m not sure I had a mother either.” Had that admission really come from her? “I’m an exact duplicate of my mother, only younger. I think that bothers her.” She shrugged. “Everyone’s expected to have at least one child. I was Mom’s token child. Once she’d done her duty, that was that. I was on my own.”

BOOK: An Original Sin
4.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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