Saturday, January 3, 2009

London for the Holidays by Stella and Audra Price

Double Duce was all the decadence one would expect in a high-class strip club run by Succubi, from the ornate gold columns to the rich burgundy velvets and oxblood leather covering pretty much anything nailed down. It even smelled of decadence, the ghost scents of the dangerously potent opium dens of the East, and the rich cloying sweetness of the sultans’ lairs in the Mediterranean.

It was, beyond a doubt, a haven for the darker things in life, as Leandra not only dealt in skin and sex, but the more creative and perverse desires of the populace. Luckily Thisbe wasn’t part of that scene, not that she would know what to do in it, anyway.

As a featured dancer, Thisbe had three sets a night, all involving a unique act and costume. It wasn’t any different than Pinkys in that respect, except here she didn’t have a well-worn crowd, one used to her charms. London was a whole new animal she had to tame, and the challenge thrilled her.

Behind the thick brocade curtain of gold and silver she waited, rolling her shoulders. Her ice crystals costume, something that changed every time she danced due to her whims of what she felt like making to wear, shined and sparkled in the low light, and she knew she would be dazzling come show time. Marcus, the stage boy, smiled at her and she winked and nodded. The curtain opened and she strolled out, her music growing to a crash before the song actually began.

She danced, melting the ice from her skin as she did by raising her body temperature from the sub zero of the Conglacio to the temperate warmth of humanity, the humans in the club thinking it a trick of the light and smoke machine. She used the pole to her advantage, climbing it, spinning, and wrapping her legs around it as she lay on her back on the floor and arched, moving her body in an undulating motion.

She heard the calls, the deep sighs, and groans as the ice fell away from her breasts, her nipples tight and covered with sliver glitter. She felt the change in the room when the ice thong melted off, revealing the little blue snowflake tattoo just about her perfectly manicured landing strip. She turned and her brand, that proved her status as a Conglacio concubine, glittered with a sheen all its own in the lights, and the men went wild. She enjoyed it, being watched and the calls as she touched herself, closed her eyes, and gave over to the abandon of the moment. Pinching her nipples and slipping her hand between her legs momentarily before taking her fingers into her mouth, she shuddered under her own ministrations. That got the crowd rolling, and as she sauntered off stage, the groans of disappointment not lost on her. She was going to enjoy London, and all it had to offer.

She walked backstage and turned as the lights went up, noticing one pair of eyes as they locked with hers. Piercing, startling blue eyes under a neatly trimmed mop of sandy blondish hair and a pair of lips that made her pant. She nodded, and winked just as the curtain closed, intrigued as all hell as to who the luscious piece of candy was on the main floor.

* * * *

Mal’s jaw would have hung open if he could stop gritting his teeth. Taylor was out of his mind if he truly expected him not to touch that beauty. Stunning wasn’t the word, for once in his life he was at a loss for words. Damn Taylor! Damn him to Hell, no way was Mal going to last the night without pressing himself against her. He could feel his heart pounding and his blood rushing faster, all of it going to a notably engorged part of his body.

She’d already spotted him, giving him a delightful little wink, the cheeky minx. The beer in front of him was untouched, something unheard of. The next act had started but he wasn’t interested, he wanted to keep Thisbe in his sights. After all, that was his job.

A bouncer walked over to him and glared, trying to look threatening. “You’re done here.”

“Am I?” He lifted the beer, tipping it to his lips.

“Yeah, show’s over and your girl just left through the back.”

“Shit,” he cursed. Beer still in hand, he jumped up and moved through to the door, leaving the bouncer at the table.

The thug whose arm he’d broken stepped in his way, trying to take the bottle. The thing had cost him seven quid and there was no chance in hell he was leaving it. He barreled through the man, sending him face first into the door. Hopefully the fuck would have a broken nose for his trouble. Mal severely doubted he’d be allowed back in there again, but that was the boss’s problem, not his. All Mal could think about was catching up with Thisbe.

He sniffed the air, trying to find her scent. Not an easy task when he’d never smelled the woman before, but he managed to pick up the small, faint scent of ice he’d come to recognize with the Conglacio and followed that. Jogging, he followed it along the street to a small alley where it was joined by another, more masculine scent. That was wrong, she should have been by herself unless Taylor had sent someone else. It was then he picked up the stench of beer. Fuck, he’d messed up already. Growling, he turned the corner, instinct taking over.

Taboo by Scarlett Sanderson

Taking a slow sip of red wine, Cameron looked over the rim of the glass with hooded eyes.

She looked at him.

Vince stood in a dimmed corner, talking and laughing with some slut. Occasionally, he would glance at Cameron, smirk and turn back to the woman. He would touch her. His hand rubbed her arm; his fingertips stroked her cheek.

Every caress sent ribbons of jealousy surging through Cam’s system. Deep down, she knew it was all a game meant to drive her insane, to add spice to their relationship. He played it well and often. Her usual response was to leave, throw some jealous fit and end up starting a heated argument. The make-up sex would be violent and wild. Just the way they both liked it.

Tonight was different. Cameron had a plan of her own.

Shifting her gaze across the room, she stared at Noah. He was talking to Rachal. She and Rae were best friends. She found it highly ironic they’d also ended up dating best friends.

Leaning down, Noah put his ear to Rae’s lips, moving closer to hear her above the music. Cameron watched color rise in her friend’s cheeks at his closeness.

Smirking, Cam turned her attention back to Vince. Oh, yes, she definitely had a plan.

Setting her glass down, she stood and padded over to her lover. The trashy slut scowled at her as she lightly caressed Vince’s arm. He looked down at Cam, his midnight blue eyes sparkling with amusement. His lips curved upwards into a smile.

“Can I get you something, babe?” The coy grin widened to a smirk.

Reaching up, Cam curled her fingers around his bicep. The muscles flexed beneath her hand, and she smiled to herself. Standing on tiptoes, she rimmed the shell of his ear with her tongue. The scent of musk, alcohol and pure man assaulted her senses. His taste lingered on her tongue, tantalizing her taste buds.

“Actually, I’ve got something for you.” She jerked her head in the direction of Rachal and Noah. Noah had entwined his fingers with Rachal’s and was leading her towards the stairs.

Cam was never usually this bold. Truthfully, the nerves danced somersaults in her stomach, but she’d already talked to Rachal. They’d set some ground rules about how the evening would proceed. Group sex was complex, but it was something they wanted to experiment with. Something they wanted to share as friends. Bringing up the idea hadn’t been an easy one, and thinking about that conversation made Cameron chuckle. How do you tell your best friend you want to have sex with her and her man?

Relationships, Vol. 3 by Piers Anthony

As she went to work in the real world next day, she was hyper-conscious of the Caps on people she passed. Some sat on bus station benches with their eyes closed, lost in Alternity. One older man and woman, evidently a married couple, sat holding hands, lost in the Caps. Some people were walking along, eyes open, but vague, also lost in the other realm. So it seemed it was possible to function in both worlds at the same time, though surely it took some practice.

During her lunch break at work, she saw some Caps come out. One male co-worker sat at his desk, breathing hard, his crotch tight with an erection: he was having sex in Alternity. A woman sat with a dreamy smile, perhaps being seduced. But when the lunch break was over, they put away their Caps and got efficiently to work. They had learned to ration their visits to Alternity. So the Cap was not destroying traditional society, merely enhancing it. But she was sure there were hard-core addicts who were headed for trouble.

Early evening was her main time for Alternity. She lay on her bed and put on the Cap. In a moment, she was at the avatar shop, checking the lesser-used models, until she located one that vaguely resembled her natural body. Except that it was better proportioned, and not overweight, and the hair was longer and glossier. It was a more attractive version of herself. That seemed like a fair compromise.

She went to the bird bath. Zel was there. He did not greet her, and she realized that he didn’t recognize her. “I’m Mera, in another host.”

“Ah. I thought you might be, but did not care to gamble. I apologize.”

She was touched, somehow. She stepped up and kissed him. “No, I apologize, for confusing you.” Then, seeing his surprise, “And for doing that. I didn’t know I was going to. I’m not normally a forward person.”

“I assumed you were interested in birds.”

“No more than you are. I like what you’re doing, but what I don’t know about birds would fill volumes. I enjoyed our dialogue yesterday. But I think I had better be candid. I have a—a mission, and I’m looking for a man to help me learn what I need to. But it might turn you off.”

“Then now would be the time to broach it.”

“Exactly.” But she felt some regret, because she was afraid it would do precisely that. He was too nice a man to want to be involved in anything like this.

She explained about her virginal embarrassment, and her decision to return the affront in kind. “But I need to be able to emulate a man well enough to fool a man, in a male avatar,” she concluded.

“That might work, and surely he deserves it,” Zel agreed. “It would also gain you points on the sexual scoreboard.”

“I’m not in it for points. Just revenge.”

“I did not figure you for a vengeful person.”

“Neither did I, until this.” Then, unwillingly but unable to stop, she told him of the prior incident, and her resulting humiliation. “I was such a fool!”

“No. You were a normal, trusting, decent human being.”

Mera, surprised by the support, found herself overwhelmed. “Oh, damn! I’m going to cry.”

And somehow, she was in his arms, sobbing against his shoulder. She couldn’t help herself. Damn, damn, damn!

In due course, wrung out, she withdrew. “I’m sorry. I lost control. I didn’t mean to burden you with all this.”

“You’re a real person.”

“Oh, yeah. A real fouled-up, nothing-in-real-life person. I guess I was wound up tighter than I knew. Do you want me to go away now?”

“No. I will help you as well as I can.”

“Oh, thank you!” Yet there was almost an element of disappointment in her gratitude. She had rather expected him to balk.

They worked on the bird feeders, and talked, and Zel acquainted her with the male perspective as well as he could. He also showed her how she could generate illusion in Alternity, to make things seem other than they were. It was possible to make ‘mind’s eye’ projections of visions, dreams, or thoughts, and to record them for playing back later. If a person had sufficient imagination. Bodies, also, could be modified by such spot illusion, masking their real nature.

Under Zel’s guidance, Esmeralda turned out to have excellent imagination. Her frustrated artistic bent now flowered in Alternity, as her mere thoughts animated the things she imagined.

“Oh, look at that!” she exclaimed as she formed a vase of lovely flowers.

“I am unable to,” Zel said. “The important thing is that you are satisfied with your mental creation.”

So it was just in the mind’s eye of the originator. Still, she was thrilled with the accomplishment.

Then one day as she was walking through the forest park to meet Zel, she juggled three imaginary colored balls ahead of her, sharpening her ability to make illusion motion as well as illusion objects. A woman passed her, going the other way. “Nice balls,” she said, and moved on.

She had seen them! No, she must have seen Mera’s hands moving, and fathomed what she was doing.

She reached Zel. “Someone saw my illusion balls,” she said. “Maybe. Is it possible to learn to make such things visible for others?”

Zel considered, not answering directly. “Mera, I am going to ask two things of you. First, give up this quest for vengeance. It does not become you.”

And there was the problem. She had locked onto a plot, but now realized that she didn’t like it. It was true that Tim deserved something like this, but she felt unclean trying to do it. Maybe Zel had seen that. “Done. I am relieved. There’s so much more to have in Alternity than petty revenge.” She truly was satisfied to let it go, a weight was gone.

“Second, if this is some kind of a game for you, you can end it now.”

A game? “I don’t understand.”

“You have already won. You are a consummate actress.”

“Me? Won what?”

“My heart.”