Authors: Daisy Harris
Book two in the Love-Bots series.
A man built for sex… A woman who wants more…
Freedom fighter Shani Brown is determined to drag the ungrateful Royce back to her team in Seattle. Despite his denial of mistreatment, she wants to give him a chance at a better life. Due to her horrific past as an unlicensed love-bot, Shani never plans to have sex again. But Royce’s makers punish him remotely with crippling pain. His only escape is to orgasm. Never one to turn her back on a job, Shani soon finds herself servicing him—and soon after, caring for him.
Love-bot Royce Harden wasn’t looking to be rescued, especially not from the San Francisco BDSM club where he was having a perfectly good time. But rescued he was—by a hellcat bent on delivering him to her people. As Royce starts to trust Shani, he begins to dream of freedom. But freedom comes with a price. Royce must face his vanity, his makers, and even the loss of his sexual upgrades if he’s going to be the man Shani deserves.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Studenstein Copyright © 2011 Daisy Harris
Edited by Grace Bradley
Cover design by Syneca
Electronic book publication September 2011
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
The publisher and author(s) acknowledge the trademark status and trademark ownership of all trademarks, service marks and word marks mentioned in this book.
The publisher does not have any control over, and does not assume any responsibility for, author or third-party Web sites or their content.
Thanks to my editor Grace Bradley, my agent Saritza Hernandez, my critique partners Del Dryden, Stephanie Ledet and Taylor Lunsford, and all my friends and followers on Twitter who held my hand through Royce’s most outrageous exploits.
“Get in there,
Shani Brown snarled at the voice in her headset. “I told you, you gaming nerd. I’m not using a damn call sign!” She slowed the ancient camper van to a crawl. San Francisco’s SoMa district stretched dark and empty in every direction. A knot of goths loitered around the entrance of the club as if the lighted doorway was a fireplace and they were trying to keep warm.
She craned her neck to see past the bouncer and into the red-lit interior. “He’s gotta come out eventually. Why can’t I just wait?” She pulled over and parked along the sidewalk, mulling over her reluctance to enter. It wasn’t as if
would be expected to have sex inside.
Q-ter, back at the Zombie Underground in Seattle, cleared his throat. “You know doing this on your own means—”
“Yeah, yeah.” Shani stepped one thigh-high boot out of the van. “I know I’m your bitch. But next time I go out on my own, I’m calling the shots.” She hung up and slid the smartphone into the pouch on her steampunk corset. She had no idea where her roommate Kuri had found the get-up. The ribbing and stays forced her cleavage up to her neck—made her ass look even bigger. Shani couldn’t wait to take off the uncomfortable piece of shit and get back in her baggy track pants.
“ID?” The girl at the door looked her over.
Shani dug her wallet out of a pocket. Utility corset her ass. With a scowl and a hand on her hip, she flashed the card in goth-girl’s direction, daring Miss Thang to pluck it from her grip. The hostess waved her through.
The narrow walkway led past a coat check and to an enormous dance floor beyond. Bass shook the walls. In a few cages around the room, half-naked girls and boys writhed in vinyl or latex. Shani fought back a surge of nerves. They didn’t look like steins—reanimated humans built as slaves or lab-rats. But they could have been love-bots wearing makeup to cover their scars and brighten their skin. Back when Shani had been a victim of the undead sex trade, her makers had slathered on foundation, put plasters on her stitches. Mostly though, the clients liked when she looked like a monster.
Shani composed a quick message to the Frank inside her mind, asking him to investigate the whole damn club for “love-bots”. As she uploaded text into the ZU message center, she scoffed at the politically correct term. Back in Shani’s day, there had been no denying she was a sex slave. Sure as shit Shani hadn’t been built for “love”.
She wound her way through the crowd at the edge of the dance floor. The music changed and the black-clad patrons flocked toward the new song, clearing the way for Shani to get to the stairs. She climbed to the second story and went to the bar. “Scotch, neat,” she shouted over a couple heads.
A cry sounded behind her and Shani turned. She spotted the stein she’d been sent to rescue, standing in the middle of a corded-off area. His shoulders spanned beyond the stupid leather vest he wore, but his body narrowed to a slender waist and hips. Skintight pants displayed a bulge so large Shani figured they’d grafted it off a black man.
Even with a few scars, his face was pretty enough to upstage his body. Shaggy black hair fell to his chiseled jaw, giving him an “I may be sensitive inside, if only you can reach me” vibe. A lock fell across his big brown eyes, highlighted cheekbones that could cut glass. His lips—thin and arguably the only non-perfect thing about him—twitched up on one side before he swung his arm in a wide arc and flogged the female strapped to a table.
His client cried out in her bindings. Her forehead scrunched up in pleasure.
Shani reached past a necking couple to get to her drink.
This is some fucked-up lifer shit.
She raised her glass for a sip and felt ice against her lip. Spinning back to the bar, Shani shouted, “I said neat, not on the rocks.” She slammed her drink down and glowered at the bartender until he tossed out her beverage and replaced it with the one she’d asked for. When she turned around to watch her mark, he’d disappeared. Some human guy had taken up beating the woman’s ass in the play area.
“You’d attract more flies with honey than vinegar.”
She smelled him standing too close, and knew before she turned around who it was. “Ya know, I never understood that.” Shani swiveled to face the other stein, refusing to let her eyes focus on his too-straight teeth or the sparkle in his eyes that said he was having way more fun than a slave-boy should. “Why the fuck would I want flies?” Shani threw back her drink. She growled at the feel of liquor burning her throat.
The guy’s face went slack as if he didn’t know what to think. He blinked once, and Shani wondered if maybe he’d only been programmed with a few phrases. Like, “You’re so fine, baby” and “Suck it, slut”. A lot of steins had sub-human intelligence. The ones built for laboratory studies couldn’t even talk.
Shani tried to catch the bartender’s eye, hoping for another drink before she had to figure out how to get the guy outside. The bartender pointedly ignored her, so she turned back to her mark.
A shit-eating, I-told-you-so grin spread across his face. He held out a hand, lifted an eyebrow in a way that had to have been programmed it was so choreographed, and said, “I’m Royce Harden. What’s your name, gorgeous?”
She refused to touch his outstretched hand. Her lip curled into a smirk that made his dick twitch. “I’m Shani. And if you can get away…” Her gaze flicked to his client still tied to the horse. “Meet me by the exit.” She gestured to the emergency door at the far end of the room.
Royce studied the curves of her face, and then the generous swells of her body. Her light-brown skin glistened under the dim lights. Her eyes were almond shaped, wide and liquid black. They sparkled, darting to the side as if she were nervous—or maybe scared. Her nose flattened at the bridge and turned up at the tip. And her lips?
, a man could get lost in that mouth. Her lips were thick, raspberry colored and too gorgeous to describe.
What’s more, she didn’t lean closer, or bat her eyelashes, or do anything to show she wanted him. In fact, she eased away until her back hit the bar. Women never tried to get farther away from him—it was hot as hell.
“I’ll try to do that.” Royce furtively bent closer. A hint of metal to her scent said she was a stein, and a telltale scar crossed her temple. The service must have sent her to take part in a different scene, though he had never seen her at Synadate headquarters. His company was a subsidiary of Synaviv, the most powerful stein manufacturer in the country. And as far as Royce knew, Synadate was the only service allowed to run love-bots in the area. So if she didn’t work for them, he couldn’t imagine what she was doing at the club.
Royce flashed her his signature smile, playing along. “See you later?” He turned back to his date and walked away.
“Don’t make me come after you! You won’t enjoy it,” she called after him.
“I bet I would,” he murmured under his breath.
When he reached the play area, Royce looked out over the crowd—studying their interested looks and appraising smiles. He wondered whether the crowd knew he was undead. Synadate had never sent a stein into the field to work before. Prior to that evening, he’d only seen clients in private homes or hotels. Royce grinned up at the humans behind the ropes, enjoying the attention.
“Oh no! Please don’t!” his client gasped melodramatically. “Please don’t fuck me here, in front of all these people!”
Five potential scripts rolled side by side in his line of vision. He chose the left-most option—the one that began with a sardonic smile and cruel threat. Then he ran his hands over her scalded-red ass. His client turned her face to the side and switched tactics, begging him to screw her.
Royce bent to her ear. “Um…public sex is prohibited at the club.” A zap of his makers’ correction bit into his upper thigh. He rubbed the spot, cursing himself for going off-script. He hardened his voice. “I’ll make sure you don’t leave wanting.” Royce stroked up the inside of her leg. Then he rolled the thin strap of her thong down to her knees.
She was wet. Not surprising—Royce knew his craft—but he couldn’t seem to care at all this evening. He caught sight of Shani’s face through the crowd. Her eyes were wide and her gaze flickered anywhere but the play area. Nevertheless, her attention always landed back on him. She licked her lips right as Royce sank his fingers into his client.
He puzzled over Shani’s nervous expression, wondering if she had her own client to attend, or if she was just there to watch. Sometimes clients requested that—someone to watch while they fucked or played or cried. Royce’s mind ran through possibilities, earning him a stronger bite of correction—this one skimming his cock. He gritted his teeth and ignored it, continuing to study every inch of Shani’s brown skin and wild hair. Even while his client came like a racehorse against his hand, Royce kept sneaking looks Shani’s way. He grew immune to the quick lashes of pain caused by his errant thoughts.
Royce unfastened the bindings on his client’s wrists and ankles and eased her up to standing. “Shhhhh…” His program directed him to nuzzle her ear, though he would have anyway. “Let’s get you a glass of water.” He tugged down her skirt and led her over the ropes toward the bar.
They’d crossed halfway when a middle-aged man in a dress shirt and jeans stepped toward them. Royce curled partway in front of his client, but the human ducked his head around Royce’s side and spoke in the woman’s ear. “Oh God. That was hot!”
She looked up at the man with a wide and loving grin on her face. “You liked?” She tilted her head in a sexy pose, then stepped closer and wrapped herself in his arms as if Royce wasn’t standing right there.
The man—her husband or lover Royce guessed—led her away, and the lines of data and directions disappeared. Royce blinked. Without his maker’s nonstop flow of information, he noticed the men at the bar chuckling and the girls in the corner staring at his ass. A hot flush of embarrassment climbed his neck, and Royce hurried to grab his bag out of the common space and retreated to the bathrooms to escape roving human eyes.
The toilet line snaked around black-painted walls. He dropped his duffel on the ground and leaned against an insulated pipe. Royce concentrated on that part of his consciousness always linked to headquarters. Sending messages through his networked connection, he logged in to their remote server. The automated reply came in response.
You have reached Synadate. If you have reached us during business hours…
Royce mentally deleted the message before it had fully downloaded. Then he opened his eyes to find the beautiful stein from earlier standing right in front of him.
“Come on,” she whispered urgently. She snagged his forearm, dragging him a few feet.
“Where?” Something about the dark stein was…off. Her manner felt harsh, rushed. Royce worried she might be malfunctioning.
“Out of here!” She tugged harder.
He snatched his arm back, losing a few hairs in the process. “I can’t leave!”
She clamped her long-nailed fingers around his wrist. “The hell you can’t.”
Shani bumped the panic bar with her hip and held her breath, wondering if some kind of alarm would go off. It didn’t. Instead the cool night air met her skin. Road noise drowned out the club’s music.
“What are you doing?” Royce dug his heels in, dragging his feet like a kid who didn’t want to leave a party. “Wait. You’re one of them, aren’t you?” His face went slack in cartoonish horror.
She didn’t have time for this. Shani tucked an abandoned soda can into the door jam to hold it open until she could go back for his stuff. “Yes, I’m a free stein. And I’m making you one too.” Shani tried to lead him down the stairs again.
He grabbed the handrail and held on tight. “Are you insane? Free steins are illegal!”
Shani rolled her eyes. “Until a few years ago, all sex-bots were illegal.” She tugged, but he didn’t budge. “And officially, it’s still illegal to program steins with full-human intelligence.”
Royce twisted his arm, trying to break her hold. “Yeah, but Synadate’s patent went through in 2062.” He slipped down a step when she tugged, but didn’t let go of the handrail. “Where else would I go?”
“You can come with me!” She pulled him another few steps, until he practically lay flat on the steps. “The Zombie Underground has satellites all over the world. And in Seattle it’s gray enough you could live as a lifer if you wanted. Everyone’s pale!” She bit her lip, considering whether to share the whole story. “Though we’d expect you to work for us for a while. Y’know…in repayment.”
Royce wrenched his arm out of her hold. “What? Forget it! Even if that was true, I don’t want to go!”
She scowled, deciding to take another approach. “Whatever, hon.” Shani reached into a pouch in her corset. “If you ever change your mind. Here’s my card.” When he bent his head, Shani whipped out a tiny syringe and plunged it into his deltoid. She shot him full of morphine.
“What the—?” Royce stumbled, clutching the concrete half-wall.
Shani gripped his stupid-ass vest to drag him down to the first landing. “You seem to be thinking you have a choice.” She hooked her arms under his shoulders to hold him upright. “You won’t lose feeling in your legs for a minute—so keep walking!” She took the concrete steps one at a time, bearing most of his weight.