Haden was beginning to suspect he had a problem. The hasty summons to meet with the owner of the Body House was his first clue. The silent journey to the plush but chilly conference room, another indication. Now that he was looking at the famous Amin Clay and what appeared to be a four-man jury of his fellow Bods, there wasn’t any doubt: Haden had fucked something up.
At his appearance, all his peers leaned forward sympathetically. Amin’s cool expression didn’t change. “Maybe we should just see what we’re dealing with before we start discussions. Why don’t you sit down?”
Haden settled his big body into a black leather chair. Amin hit the scanpad and an infoscreen appeared, frozen on the image of a dark-haired woman with pale skin. “This is Hera Jones.”
“My goddess.” Haden shifted forward, and his chair rocked underneath him like a wagging tail.
“Goddess?” Amin asked.
“The goddess, Hera.” Obviously.
Unusually tall with lovely, large features, a strong frame, and long, sleek limbs, Hera kept the promise of her name in every way.
Amin’s lashes fluttered with exaggerated patience. “You remember her, I take it.”
“Vividly. My memory is generally good where women are concerned, and the goddess was here recently. No more than ten days ago, I think.”
“Correct,” said Amin. “April tenth.”
“Has something happened to her?” It was an ugly thought, and Haden focused on the screen with real concern.
“Well, yes. Apparently she’s undergone a very bad romantic upset. Caused by you.”
“She what?” He didn’t understand. That happened to him frequently; there were a lot of fuzzy edges in his mind. Generally he didn’t let his lack of mental prowess bother him, but in the present circumstances it seemed important to keep up.
“She says she’s in love with you. And suffering because of it.” Amin flipped the top up on his infoscan. With a look of great significance, he started reading.
“After suffering a severe and debilitating heartbreak at the hands of the Bod known as Haden, Hera Jones claims herself a woman wronged and requests redress from the Body House. The alleged victim left the alien sex spa on the evening of the tenth after a night of intense lovemaking. On the morning of the eleventh she arose to an overwhelming feeling of loss and longing that rendered her despondent to the point of near paralysis. Since that time continual invasive thoughts of her assigned lover cause frequent weeping, loss of focus, and severe emotional distress. Both her work and her family responsibilities, as well as her physical health, have suffered from this heartbreak.
There you have it,” he concluded.
“Wait.” Haden could feel the blood drain from his face. “I’m not the best at deciphering this sort of thing. Can you just tell me in a sentence or two what all of that means?”
After brief reflection, Amin said, “You broke the poor girl’s heart and sent her to her bed in tears.” He flipped the infoscan closed, examining the room for answers. None of the Backusians moved. No doubt they all looked as horrified as Haden felt. Tears? Unhappiness? Because of him? It wasn’t possible.
“Cheer up,” said Amin, looking somewhat startled by the deathly silence in the room. “I believe the woman’s faking it.”
“Faking?” Haden frowned. That was a harsh word for a goddess.
“Well.” Amin fell back in his chair and spread his arms out in a reasonable gesture. “It’s not supposed to happen, is it? The sexual encounters you provide are designed to leave women elated, enlightened, affirmed. Not attached. I thought you all were experts at providing sexual bliss without emotional involvement.”
Haden was about to say we are
, but three men at the table beat him to it. “Then again,” said Marc, glancing speculatively at his brethren, “Earth women are still relatively new to us. And this is not our first experience with unexpected outcomes.”
That was true and potentially good news for Haden’s reputation. Two of their fellow Bods had taken mates, something that was never done on Backus. Of course, Raj and Malcolm had fallen for their lifemates. Haden was the first to have a woman fall in love with him. Or claim to anyway.
“So then,” Amin said, addressing him directly. “You were there. What do you think? Is the lady psychologically distressed, or is she merely after money?”
“Well,” said Haden. His intellect had never been his most impressive feature. Were he not known as “the big one” at the Body House, he might well be referred to as “the dumb one.” He therefore gave himself some time before he answered.
“There was a strong affinity between us,” he said finally. “You can’t tell from the picture, but the woman is extremely tall and lush and sexually ravenous. Eager on the outside, wound tight as a fist on the inside--in other words, a treat. Our time together was good. Memorably good, perhaps. But it was hardly what you’d call romantic.” Haden pictured Hera on her knees. He’d taped her hands behind her back. It was a crude technique, and her response had been extremely gratifying. He could picture the whole scene: his fingers tugging at her hair, her makeup smeared, her dress thrown in a corner, his cock moving steadily between her legs. The image made him hard and happy. But he was troubled too. Had there been some warning in the aftermath of sex, or in the way they’d said good-bye? Any other Bod would know. His brethren were all gifted in their observations. Haden was the least perceptive of them. Thank God he had the biggest cock and the most cheerful disposition. “Poor thing,” he said, admiring the picture.
“I don’t know how poor she is,” Amin responded drily. “I know she plans to make herself a little richer after this.”
“How much richer?”
“Fifty thousand. New dollars, of course.”
Haden frowned. Everyone around the table joined him. Fifty thousand ND wasn’t much of a request. Haden had three times that in his private fund, and he was hardly rich.
“I’ll pay,” he offered, knowing he would never really miss it.
“That’s sporting of you, Haden, but I think you’ll recognize that money’s not the issue. I’m sure we’d all happily part with fifty thousand if we were certain that would be the end of this affair. But what if this is just the first of many such complaints? You see my point. What if there are more of these costly infatuations for us to deal with? What if every woman starts experiencing bad romantic side effects?”
“Mmm,” said Haden. The truth was that he didn’t care about some other woman’s crush on someone else. He cared about his goddess and her tears--her sleepless nights and sad imaginings.
“What we need now is to be prepared for what comes next,” Amin persisted. “But what is
coming next? More bogus stories in the service of financial gain or more truly unhappy women?”
No one seemed to know.
“In Hera’s case it could always be both.” Haden’s fellows turned to him, looking intrigued. “She can be sad and tearful and
need money. Those two things are hardly mutually exclusive.” He put his hands on his knees and pushed himself out of his chair. “In any case, I must go to her.”
Everyone looked startled.
“I’m Backusian,” he explained. So were they all, besides Amin of course. Amin was only the billionaire who’d gotten them all to come and start a Body House on Earth. “I could never let a woman suffer for my sake. If she’s pining for me, she must have me. This is duty and tradition. Tell me where she is. I’ll go to her at once. When I get back, I’ll let you know what I’ve discovered about Hera Jones. If it’s all a big hoax and she’s just a would-be thief, I’ll deliver her unto your plague of lawyers without delay.”
“And if she really is in love with you?” Amin asked.
Haden shrugged. It wasn’t all that hard to understand. “Then I suppose I won’t be back.”
* * * *
Hera didn’t ask for much. Whenever possible, she didn’t ask for anything. And still, as she stared at the big orange Jitterjuice sign looming over her, she had to wonder at her lousy luck. The place was absolutely packed, teeming with a buzzing swarm of customers that made no sense: blue collar, white collar, dads and daughters, shoppers, travelers, ladies in athletic gear, all with a juice craving at 4:10 on a workday. This was what she got for giving in to impulse yet again. She should go home. The problem was, now that she’d come, her hardcore juice addiction would not be denied. Shouldering through the crowd, she took her place amid the mayhem while the kids behind the counter met the rush by singing out the orders in their goofy, manic voices.
“One Mega Bunny Hop.”
“An Itty Bitty Brainiac.”
“Two Sweet-Spot Jitteramas.”
This would make her very late. Which meant that Johno would be left in charge at home. He’d have to let the painters in and make sure they got started. That was a lot for her kid brother’s eighteen-year-old shoulders. On the other hand, she could seriously use a little help with the estate.
Hera rolled her eyes. Estate was a nice word, but an increasingly bad reality. The list of what was chipped, dinged, broken, and/or otherwise fucked up at home was growing daily. The price they might get for the house, if
it sold, was slipping with each week that passed. She’d have a good-sized check in two weeks’ time, but otherwise, the stores of cash and energy to try to fix the crumbling house were dwindling. A nightmare. She should definitely scrap her juice and just go home and deal with things.
Instead, she waited, ordered, and moved to one side, salivating like a circus pony, letting her mind wander back to...
The memory of him was like a sting. The first thought hit her like a drug-tipped dart shot from some mega-sex gun.
She’d dared to conjure up his image. Now it had her in a sweat. Her jaw was slack, her eyelids drooping, and the pleasure pulse was beating jungle rhythms hard and fast between her legs.
Had he said that? Had she? Or did she only think it now each time his name was in her head. Somehow she imagined she could feel his cock inside her, pushing her into another blinding climax.
She closed her eyes, imagining soft skin over a hard body and the faint hint of a smile in his shockingly blue eyes. She loved that smile. She really loved those eyes. She also loved his cock--a heavy, handsome brute with a thick zigzag vein about an inch below the head. It was perfection. She fancied she could see it, rising, swaying, beckoning to her. I want you, Hera. Come to me.
The truth was, she should never have gone to the Body House the first time. Impulse much?
Only when she had the chance. Tips were rare for an assistant wedding planner so when she’d seen that fat, juicy envelope, she’d gone a little mad and driven straight to that most famous alien sex spa without once stopping to think it over.
Given her current family circumstances, that wasn’t just impulsive, it was shamefully self-indulgent, but every time she hauled herself in front of her inner judge for sentencing, the jury let her go. Not guilty. She had deserved that night. One night for all the others spent alone.
More than a thousand lonely nights now. Her one and only boyfriend had been gone for years. Tom was a good guy, but finally he’d had enough of ”hanging out” with her while she took care of her sick mom. Degenerative illness wasn’t the best backdrop for a budding romance. She doubted death and grief would have been any better. Being freaked out by the huge responsibilities she’d inherited had hammered the last nail into the lid over her sex life.
One ecstatic night in such a lengthy stretch of family duty didn’t really seem like all that much to ask.
Two nights would be pushing it, however. Jitterjuice would have to be her one and only vice for now.