The Shifter's Kiss, Book 1

The Shifter's Kiss, Book 1 by Lucky Simms

Book: The Shifter's Kiss, Book 1 by Lucky Simms Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lucky Simms
Chapter 1 - The Pleasure Girl

    Sunshi’s legs quaked beneath the diaphanous silver gown the elder women had given her. Maren rubbed the back of the girl’s neck and stared out the small window to the courtyard, past the makeshift gate, to the gathering dust cloud on the horizon. They were coming for her, finally.
    Maren ran her thumb gently over the small implant at the base of Sunshi’s skull, trying to trigger her Placid programming. It didn’t seem to be connecting. She kept her thumb on the raised ridges and tapped several times. No immediate response.
    She massaged the girl’s shoulders. Even through the gown, she could smell alarm pheromones beginning to condense on the girl’s skin. She would have to remember to strip that from the uplink, next time.
    The cloud grew larger. Sunshi’s breath started to catch in her throat and her eyes widened in fright. Maren stepped behind her and stroked the ridges of the girls hips. It should have worked - every girl she had grown had throttling implants situated conveniently over the hip bones. But even as she gripped the girl’s hips and pressed against her back, she could hear her respiration increasing ominously. At this rate, Sunshi would melt down before they got here.
    She squinted and thought about trying to jack in and re-route whatever was overwhelming the program, but there was probably no time. There was a notebook pad by the door and enough battery and cabling, and she figured she could probably write a subroutine in about four minutes, if she could figure out what was jamming the Placid.
    But it could be anything - there were at least two dozen other normal function subroutines that could be at red levels right now. Maybe she was overwhelmed in a dozen ways. Re-writing everything to compensate for stressors was… Well, at this point it was probably impossible.
    “Sunshi,” she cooed calmly, “I need you to engage the Placid.”
    No dice. She was starting to tremor. Maren grabbed one hand and dug her thumb into the palm. No response.
    “Sunshi!” She stepped to the girl’s front. “Look at me!”
    The girl tore her eyes away from the horizon. She angled her gaze to meet Maren’s. Her eyes were wide with fright, and a mist of sweat covered her freckled nose, her unlined brow.
    Despite herself, Maren wanted to take her in her arms and sweep her out of the room, back to the small outbuilding where she lived, and hide her under the bed. But no matter how much she looked like Kasey, she reminded herself, this girl was not Kasey. She wasn’t even really a girl - she was just a very convincing facsimile. A very convincing facsimile that would get us all fed for another year , Maren reminded herself.
    Sunshi blinked, and tiny drops of water leaked from around the silver jacks at the corners of her eyes.
    “Oh please stop that,” Maren said softly, and reached up to smooth Sunshi’s ginger hair - the most expensive hair on the planet right now. It looked so much like her own, but better. Shinier. Younger. “Really, it’s all right.”
    She sighed heavily through her nose. Something must have gone wrong during the uplink. If Sunshi’s Placid programming wouldn’t kick in, what else was going to go awry? Would she even make it out of the courtyard in one piece?
    “Can you soothe yourself?” she asked the girl. Sunshi nodded but her hands kept their tremor. Maren shook her head in frustration. Of all the possible errors, this was the one she just couldn’t fix. A physical shortcoming, she could repair on the fly. A hormonal imbalance, she could tweak with a series of cleverly hidden buttons, dials, and sensory inputs all over the girl’s body. But a programming error, a possible series of sub-routine conflicts… she just didn’t know where to begin.
    By all measures, she should just begin again. But there was no way she could ask for an extension. They needed food now.
    “You look beautiful,” she whispered encouragingly. “You were made for just

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