In 2032, when Zinnia Sorren graduates from a prison-like reform school at the tender age of sixteen and is thrust back into a prickly techno world without a family, money or anything to her name, she offers up the one thing she knows will sell, especially in a society where joy and morality have decayed. In less than two years, her dedication to excellence and imp-like beauty have rocketed her into the secret circles of the most prestigious men on the East side of the Americas and she becomes the most requested doll of delight. Determined to find out who and why someone elected to have her family rounded up and executed in a cleansing camp eight years ago, she hides behind the masks of false identities in order to thrive and uncover the truth. But when one of her clients is murdered in the middle of a trick, she learns her true identity is not as buried as she thought, and the only way to answers is to return to a torturous past she never wants to touch again and to fight against those who have marked her for death.
Bourbon breath wormed into my nostrils with sulfur’s pungency as sausage-link fingers slithered from my neck to breasts, testing. Could’ve been my elbows for all I cared. Though nearly gagging at the stench, I kept my nose from wrinkling and tipped my head back, eyes closed, lips slightly parted, moaning softly, faking rapture.
Eons ago, gowned ladies and tuxedoed men would present golden statues for deliveries this magnificent. Or maybe that was just myth, whimsical hearsay about a bygone era where things were more dingy, but the people of the Americas more free.
Though my perky B’s curved a bit large for his kiddy penchant, my first fruits must’ve met his satisfaction.
Congressman Haggerty clutched my arm and spun me around, pinning my back against his bubble gut. His hot, rank exhales slimed my ear and oozed down my shoulder. “Nicely done. Do it again. Naked this time. When you’re stripped down, go into the bathroom and select six implements from the bag. Once you’ve made that tushie all nice and rosy, emerge and set the goodies on the credenza. When you’re finished with your perfectly executed cheer, you will get exactly what you deserve for screwing up in the competition, and you will show me how dedicated you are to pleasing me.”
“Uh…yes, Coach.” Disgusted? Hell yeah! Shocked? Definitely not. Chalk this erotic production of mine up to 213…just business…survival really. Though two months separated me from eighteen candles, he believed my fib of fifteen. Sick freak! Before a man even speaks, his desires and kinky bents spill out to me like the truest songs of minstrels, allowing me to morph into a customized fantasy. I’ve played it all: sexy siren, black-leathered spy, shy librarian, school girl, daughter, faerie, babysitter…street walker. That I am not. Oh no. I work on references only.
With Haggerty’s suit and tie clashing shades of grey, this suite a spread of white-on-white and my skin nearly as bright and fair, my backside would be the most colorful thing in the room, long before he finished.
A side ponytail wrinkled me in time from the 1980′s I believe. With historical hash so skewed, who knew. I’d earned an A on my teen culture essay anyway. If true, how simple teens had it then. What I wouldn’t give for my life’s banes to be off-kilter hair knots, the wrong hue of jelly shoes and a ditch by the football captain.
But in glorious 2032, I couldn’t escape my weighty affairs: making sure my clients got the hottest thrills so they’d run back for more and finding those who’d elected to round up my family members and eliminate them in cleansing camps. The top officials and millionaires who stole my nights not only provided the connections I needed to find answers but also spoiled girls who brought their A game. So I brought it. Every time.
I kinda craved the spoils actually…the perfume, the jewelry, the clothes, the fancy dinners, the hush-hush trips to exotic places. It eased the misery of living in roach motels where desk clerks—thank goodness—didn’t care who you were or even glance at you twice, as long as you paid…and tipped the maids. Truthfully, on my savings, living like an heiress would be easy, but I preferred to be low-key, invisible…a doll in shadows.
Haggerty stripped off my megaphone sweater, barely-there pleated skirt and full-bottomed panties with the ease of an arthritic vagabond.
It’s just business, I thought, turning to face him with a demure smile, batting lashes over my huge baby blues. Nothing touched my snowy nakedness except ankle socks and brand new sneakers that fit a bit too snuggly. I shimmied like a belly dancer before his gaze, sashaying past him toward the bathroom.
He seized my arm. “Don’t leave your mess here, slut. Pick it up!”
Acid rose on my tongue. I bit it, considering this part of his game. I was the ultimate service provider. Slut? No way. Not even. Just in case he truly believed such foolery, I’d make him wait…and wait…until he ached with longing for me. He’d learn.
I wiggled back and gathered my belongings in a one-arm swoop, then flashed the apologetic shrug and smile of a naughty girl. As I strolled toward the bathroom, my blond ponytail whipped my cheek with the steady rhythm of a fluff flogger. Tension twisted my nerves, with imminent anguish looming. It’s just business, I reminded myself.
Closed in the bathroom, I ran cold water in the sink, then doused my face. I gasped and nearly shrieked at the onslaught of this welcomed winter’s chill. Cold streams raced down my hot skin and purified the parts he just tainted. I splashed and splashed until the cold stopped biting. My body adjusted, became immune. That’s me. Queen of adjustment…in a Grecian bathroom, all pillars and marble. The Jacuzzi tub promised total cleansing with the expulsion of fifty-some-odd icicles. Though tempting, I ignored its seductive charm. I’ve been with plenty of princes, plenty of pervs, but this guy’s sweaty prints bored into my body and defiled my soul. So very strange. What intense revulsion. At least I had this intermission to prepare…to dissolve.
The contents of the bag gave me a horrifying peek into his sadistic mind, drawing a shudder and a wave of nausea. I had to pick six things? Six? Most looked brutal. My poor butt. Whipping was not gonna happen. No way. Nor anything else that would leave slashes and gashes.
I turned off the faucet, then supplanted the bag on the toilet with my butt, to rifle through the toys of pain…and choose. A fly swatter didn’t look too vicious. As I tested it on my palm, creating a zingy sting and pixie whispers, loud bangs and male shouts boomed in the Congressman’s room. Throat constricting, body shaking, I seized the bag and my stuff and waddled into the vanity.
Shutting myself in, I cowered like a trapped rabbit and held my breath. For once, I didn’t mind my impish build, impish except for my not-so-flat boobs. Okay, maybe I’m not an imp exactly, but, come on, 5′1″ barely towers toads.
“He’s dead already. Stop shooting him. Where is she now?”
Loud shots never rocked the air. They must have used silencers, laser bullets…or poisoned darts.
One of the men burst into the Grecian bathroom, making my stomach drop and roll.
“So much for offing two birds at once. No one’s here. Damn it!” he said, with the choppiness of a Northern Asian, casting “damn” out like “dim”. Ukrainian, or something, but I seriously had no clue, with territories always changing, maps always being redrawn.
I hadn’t looked at a map since getting thrust out of Jarvis Academy—a dregs’ reform school—promptly at sixteen. Acceleration should’ve brought me countless possibilities. Not even close.
Yeah right. Eight years in the slammer ill-prepared me for a pristine world where people no longer smiled. The joys of yesterday no longer existed. Everyone knew how to be pretty and plastic. So, I became plastic too, a chameleon, a lady of midnight. No matter the economy or political climate, sex is always in demand.
I could see enough of this gun-toting guy through the sliver opening in the small cabinet door to get a basic read. He wore a long, puffy trench coat…all black nylon, disturbing silence with the distant peeper creepers of summer whenever he moved. Trench coat wearers preferred lap dancers and strippers. They could hide the evidence of a really good show in coats of tiny pillows.
He chewed gum so casually, as though searching for a cow to tip. In a scant inhale, spearmint tickled my nose. I pinched it to avoid sneezing. Soft light highlighted a Celtic knot tattooed on his neck and a sculpted beard, all black swirls like in old paintings of some deity blowing the wind. His aquiline nose screamed hawk beak. No forgetting or hiding that monster.
“Maybe he sent Zinnia down for a massage,” an unseen guy said. “I’ll send the sweepers to search the lower facilities.”
What the hell? They’re looking for me? Actually me? Why? And how? No one knew my name. No one. World ID cards multi-tasked as a driver’s license, Americas ID number, bank card and passport. Bedding top officials had earned me six, one for each of my aliases, stashed in various places. The ID on my person, which you HAD to carry at all times if you didn’t have an implant, said Scarlett O’Quinn. Not Zinnia. Not me! Panic pulsed into me like four deep swallows of whiskey, bringing the same kind of head-spinning dizziness. I took soft, gentle breaths to try and ease the snowy pictures tingling my eyes.
“We must kill her!” hawk beak bellowed. “That slutty niece of his cannot get away. If she finds the key—”
“She can’t!” Hawk beak pounded the wall three times and the shooters stormed out of the suite in a current of curses.
I remained in the cabinet, perplexed and terrified. I knew nothing about any key. But whatever it was, whatever it went to, I needed to find it. Their fear and frustration spelled power for me, Zinnia Sorren. I can totally read men. And these men were in the ultimate hunt. Well…so was I. They just didn’t know it yet. But what on earth did he mean by niece? Me? Haggerty’s? Surely not. And I’m not slutty. No way. I’m a service provider…a performance artist…a doll of delight.