Authors: Eve Langlais
Than Machines, Book #5)
January 2014, Eve Langlais
Cover Art by Amanda Kelsey ©
Edited by Devin
Copy Edited by Amanda
Produced in Canada
Published by Eve Langlais
1606 Main Street, PO Box 151
Stittsville, Ontario, Canada, K2S1A3
ISBN: 978 – 1 – 927459 – 47 – 8
is a work of fiction and the characters, events and dialogue found within the story are of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, either living or deceased, is completely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or shared in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including but not limited to digital copying, file sharing, audio recording, email and printing without permission in writing from the author.
Blend in with the humans. Save the cyborgs. And seduce the only woman he ever loved, without getting killed.
Cybernetic spy models are different from other humans turned machine. For one thing, they never completely lost touch with their humanity, or their memories. But retaining their identity doesn’t mean the military didn’t mess with their lives. Seth lost the woman he loved because of their web of lies. When the chance arises to make things right, he relies on his superior intellect—and irresistible charm—to prove his innocence, and make Anastasia his again.
Anastasia might possess upgraded parts and programming, but the scientists never could cure her of her biggest weakness, jealousy. The volatile emotion made her walk away from love once. Can she overcome it and recognize the truth? Or will she continue to let the military manipulate her emotional strings?
Seth fell in love while perched atop a climbing wall during a military endurance training exercise. Not exactly the most romantic of spots considering the braced four-by-four hunks of wood towering twelve feet high were gray and weather beaten, a nasty splinter waiting to happen for those with delicate skin. It wasn’t a particularly nice day either with ominous clouds spread across the sky, heavy with moisture, threatening those running the dreaded course with a cold downpour.
, despite it all, this was the place and time the course of his future changed forever.
lender fingers, with short, rounded nails, clawed at the top of the structure where he sat with his legs dangling. For those who wondered, it wasn’t laziness that kept him there or fear nor even fatigue. He could have easily leapt down and continued on his way, but he held himself back to help those who struggled once they reached this part of the race.
His altruistic streak
would cost him the distinction of coming in first, but Seth preferred to fly under the radar. It wasn’t that he couldn’t win—
I so could kick everyone’s ass—
but, life had taught him that excelling and finishing first in everything didn’t ingratiate him with his peers. Heck, he’d gotten into fights because of his achievements. Won those too. But it didn’t earn him any friends, so when he enlisted in the military, he chose to follow a different path than that of superstar. He became a middle-of-the-pack kind of guy. The fellow who sacrificed glory to help out another recruit, which, in an unexpected bonus, resulted in him often scoring a free beer or two later on at the bar.
But back to the love of his life
about to make her appearance. His first glimpse of her was those distinctly feminine fingers. Without asking, he wrapped his hand around her slim wrist and heaved the woman until she could balance herself on the slim peak. Most recruits, while surprised at his chivalry, managed to mutter a “thank you” at his unexpected aid. Not this gal.
lue eyes framed by thick lashes glared at him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she asked.
“Giving you a helping hand.”
“I don’t need help. I am perfectly capable of climbing the wall on my own.”
The acerbic statement was uttered from perfect
Cupid’s bow lips. “I never said you weren’t. I was just being a gentleman.”
A gentleman?” She arched a dark brow. “I see. You helped me because I’m a woman. That’s sexist.”
He laughed. “
Guy, girl, it doesn’t matter. I help everybody. I’m just a
kind of guy.” And he’d love to give to her, preferably somewhere private with a bed.
She chose to ignore his subtle innuendo. “Did I look like I needed help?”
Actually, she’d scrambled up with ease even before he gave her a hand. “No. But it would be rude for me not to offer when I do with everyone else. The wall is hard for some. I see no point in letting my fellow soldiers tire themselves out when I can spot them.”
She regarded him with suspicion. “You
mean to tell me you sit here and haul everyone over?”
“Just about. Except for Charlie.” Because
if Seth attempted to haul that almost seven foot behemoth over the wall, he risked rupturing something vital.
A tiny smile curved her lips.
“I’m pretty sure Charlie can just step over the wall. Anyhow, thanks, I guess.”
Are you new?”
“Just transferred in
from a base down in Texas. But I don’t have time to chat. I’ve got to get moving if I’m going to finish in the top ten.”
“You actually care about that
? You do know so long as we pass the course, we’re good.”
I know; however, the rumor mill says the top runners in today’s endurance contest will get a shot at a special project.”
His interest perked.
“I didn’t hear anything about any special projects.” Which surprised him. Seth prided himself on being a fount of information.
She hopped to the ground
, knees bending to absorb the impact. “Not surprising. It’s pretty hush-hush because apparently finding out about it is another part of the test. Or so I hear,” she threw over her shoulder with a full-lipped grin before jogging off.
The knowledge that there was a secret
assignment looking for recruits shouldn’t have bothered him. Seth wasn’t into being selected for special projects. Those usually meant more work. More responsibility. More shit to rain down if things went to hell. He’d rather be just one of the plain Joe’s, sucking back a brew at the end of the week, keeping his commanding officer happy.
if that was the case, why exactly was he leaping down from the wall and ignoring the newest arrival hunched over at its base, huffing and puffing? Could it be the waggle of a perfect heart-shaped ass? The captivating features of a cutie with long dark hair bound in a ponytail? Or the unspoken taunt that she was better than him?
More like the curiosity that killed the cat. Seth couldn’t stand not knowing a secret. If the military was planning something, he wanted in on it and if it got him closer to a certain hottie … then he was showing officer potential in the form of multi-tasking. Booyah!
As for his teasing wave as he sped by her, determined to finish first? Yeah, that he did just to annoy her.
Years and years later, on the planet cyborgs called home
The mission was a success. The crew of the
returned in triumph with one of the long lost female cyborgs in tow. In a twist that showed the universe’s perverse sense of humor, Bonnie, the rescued female previously known as B785, happened to be Chloe’s sister. For those not in the know, Chloe was the first female cyborg they’d ever found. She was currently partnered with the cyborg leader, Joe. The two made a cute couple, and for someone like Seth, who enjoyed teasing, offered so many opportunities for outspoken comments, which in turn led to some exercise as Joe tried to teach him some manners, usually with his fists.
Good times. But back to Bonnie and the sisterly reunion.
Man, did that cause some chaos and tears, which Aramus of course complained about. That grumpy bastard seemed convinced the happy siblings would cause irreparable rust to their machine parts.
Joe was understandably pleased
’s finding. Every female cyborg they rescued was a point in their favor against the military that abused them. An impromptu celebration was planned, but Seth didn’t stick around to try out the new alcoholic brew his brothers had managed to create during his absence.
A little glum,
Seth left the family reunion behind before anyone saw the moisture glistening in his eyes or heard him sniffle. Sometimes, his human side was all too strong. All too envious.
Where’s a real damned bar when you need one?
A few gallons of whiskey would have proven welcome right about now. However, other than the occasional experimental fermentation, alcoholic beverages weren’t something they had in stock. Nor was it high on the list of priorities when they went raiding and trading.
Darned practical cyborgs with their list of required supplies
that included things like refined metals, fabric, and computer parts. While they might have thrown off the chains enslaving them to humans, his cyborg brethren had yet to remember what it meant to live. What it felt like to embrace fun and joy. To do things for the simple sake of pleasure.
They were a dour bunch at time
s, logical in their reasoning, serious in their interactions, and sometimes maddening as they struggled to not let their machine side overcome the man. Yet, despite their flaws, and perhaps because of their struggles with them, Seth loved them all, even when they proved irrational.
Blame the fact that
, unlike some of the solider models, his cybernetic version, that of undercover operative, got to keep many of his human traits. Lucky, or not, depending on the view, Seth remembered his past life and was in touch with his humanity. He felt all too much. While he might sport the latest technology and software in his BCI—which stood for brain computer interface—in his case, the man never lost control to his machine.
I live. I breathe. I feel …
his celebrating brothers behind, and in search of solitude, Seth headed for the forest, in need of its calming influence. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint the reason for his depression. Their recent mission had proven both satisfying and trying.
Einstein, a good friend of his,
had not only found a missing cyborg female, he’d fallen for her, hard. By all the nanos in his body, Seth wished his buddy Einstein well, he truly did. It was beyond awesome that his all-too-serious friend had discovered love, an emotion that made life worth living. Yet, it was times like these, times when he saw others moving on with the future, that he wished, weak as it made him sound, that he could also find the same kind of joy, and acceptance. That he too could find someone to share life’s ups and downs with. It didn’t help he’d had it once before, lost it because of circumstances outside his control, and had yearned for it ever since.
Knowing of the possibility
, the nirvana the right person could bring to his life made watching others achieve it so much harder. Had he lost his chance? Or just not found it yet?
Maybe one day my turn will come.
Of course, he didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
There was no warning. No sound to betray their presence. No smell. Nothing. Just the sudden cold touch of a pistol muzzle nudging the back of his head.
Silence reigned except for the chirp of the little creatures that lived in the woods and emitted bird-like noises. They sounded cute until you came across them. Unlike a feathered denizen of earth, the furry buggers who chirped like songbirds resembled more a rat with spiked fur, razor-sharp teeth, and a really bad attitude if they felt threatened. Ankles beware!
They’re not the only ones who get nasty when their lives are in danger.
Although none of his muscles moved, Seth held himself ready to act, letting his internal processor analyze the space around him, seeking a hint, anything to give him an edge. He inhaled deep, testing the air, in an attempt to see if he could identify his attacker. Lo and behold, he got a faint trace.
Of all the things he expected to smell out here in the forest,
vanilla soap wasn’t one of them. The clean fresh scent was familiar, as was the position he found himself in. Strange as it seemed, he’d lived the almost exact scenario once, a long time ago. But he’d thought that person dead. Or at least lost to him.
It can’t be. Not after all this time.
Was it possible?
ime like the present to test his theory.
“Well hello there,
gorgeous. I knew you couldn’t resist me forever.” He couldn’t help but grin when his guess was confirmed by a husky voice that still had the ability to send shivers down his spine.
“I see you’re still just as annoying.
Whirling lightning quick, Seth played the part of surrendering victim and held his hands above his head so the gun pointed at his forehead. Face to face, he couldn’t help but drink in the reality of the lady who haunted his dreams. His ex-partner. The only woman he’d ever loved. The only one who ever spurned him. The woman he’d once called wife.
A wife who
wore a scowl and didn’t shower him with welcoming kisses.
He couldn’t resist goading her.
“Me, annoying? Never. Handsome and dashing, yes. I might even use the term rakish.”
And cocky. You do realize I’m holding a loaded gun to your head. Do you really want to tempt me into pulling the trigger?”
If she’d wanted him dead, his brains would already decorate the bushes around them. Anastasia knew hundreds of ways to kill a man
. However, he’d wager she wouldn’t have returned just to put a bullet in his head. She’d torture him first. Probably painfully. How he’d missed her.
“You won’t kill me,” he stated with utter confidence.
“Don’t be so sure. I’ve pictured your death a thousand times. My favorite was the one where I push you off that cliff we once climbed in the Himalayan Mountains and watch you fall, knowing that you’ll actually have time to reflect on what a jerk you are before you hit the ground.”
Okay, so this wasn’t exactly the reunion he’d once hoped for.
Someone still had anger issues. Question was, did she mean it when she said she wished him dead? Only one way to find out.
“Well, if you’ve returned to kill me, would you mind getting on with it? I’ve got places to go, people to see.”
“You mean irritate.” The muzzle of her gun dropped, and she rolled her expressive blue eyes.
“And here I thought you enjoyed my quirky nature and sense of humor.”
“I blame my previously defective, human brain for that momentary lapse of reasoning.”
He couldn’t help but laugh.
“Oh how I’ve missed your acerbic tongue. My dearest Anastasia, love of my life, I am delighted you’ve returned to brighten my existence. Did you miss me?”
She snorted. “Like a dog misses his fleas.”
No longer in fear for his life, Seth clasped his hands to his chest. “Be still my racing heart. Your romantic words are a balm to this wounded soul. For so long I’ve—”
“Oh would you stop with the theatrics. I’m here on serious business.”
“What could be more serious than saving our marriage and rekindling our love for each other?” He spoke in jest, but inside, despite the illogicalness of it, he couldn’t help but hope that
she’d missed him and that she had indeed returned to give him another chance.
“Love? Ha. I remember your version of love. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t include fidelity.”
Not that old argument again. “How many times must I tell you? Nothing happened.” The truth. A pity she never believed it.
“I found you both naked in bed.”
“I was set up.”
Not that again. Are you still trying to pull that bullshit? I would have thought you’d have come up with a better excuse, or at least an apology for being a two-timing jerk.”
“For the last time, I did nothing wrong.”
Stubbornness had nothing to do with it. He wouldn’t ask forgiveness for something he was not guilty of. In his mind, she was the one who owed him an apology for not trusting in him or his word.
Anastasia let out a disparaging sound.
“Not according to Natasha.”
Natasha. Just the mention of her name was enough to have Seth seeing red. The Russian spy had disappeared after her frame job, the one that saw Anastasia leav
ing him for good. Nothing he could say would change her mind. Hell, she’d almost killed him for his supposed treachery. Was it any wonder he accepted the deep space mission the military sent him on? That he pretended their new programming had wiped his memories. He’d wanted to forget how the love of his life preferred to believe a lie instead of him.
It seemed some things hadn’t changed. Some of his elation at her appearance faded
, and a weariness entered his tone when he asked, “Why are you here, Anastasia?”
Face scrunched in an expression of distaste, she spat out the words he’d waited forever to hear. “I need you.”
Despite her recent adamant stance that there was nothing left between them, he couldn’t help but taunt her. “I’m yours. I guess the next question is, with foreplay or without? Naked or dressed? I’ve got a bed back at the compound, but if you’d prefer to remain unseen, I’m not averse to a little backwoods nookie.”
Her lips tightened
into a thin line of annoyance. It did nothing to detract from her attractiveness, their fullness envied by those who relied on Botox for the same look. “I don’t need you for sex, you idiot. I need you for a mission.”
Of course she did. Anastasia
always did make work her first priority. Known by the military as Unit S100, she was the first female cyborg spy model–and a secret he’d long held, even from his brothers.
Separated years ago,
after that bloody misunderstanding, he’d just about given up hope on ever seeing her again. He’d even wondered if she still lived, given the war humans had declared on cyborgs.
He should have known better. Anastasia was
a tough cookie. If anyone could emerge intact from the cyborg fiasco and land on her feet, it was her. He wondered how she’d survived. What she’d had to do. In his quest for freedom and to aide his fellow cyborg brothers, Seth had to kill more than he liked.
hile his human side lamented the blood he’d shed, his machine side, that analytical part of him that could separate emotion from cold hard facts, recognized that what the human military did and continued to do was wrong. It helped keep the nightmares at bay when he was forced to get rough and blood flowed like a river. Not his of course.
But the military didn’t give him any other option. It was kill or be killed. Unfortunately for them, he was good at the latter. And the humans had
only themselves to blame.
hadn’t become machines by choice. They hadn’t volunteered to give up their freedom or humanity. They had their choices and free will taken away by force. Or at least the majority of them had. A few, like Seth and Anastasia, chose their fate and went into it eyes wide open, thinking they did the world a favor and that they were on the side of the greater good. Once he’d learned differently, Seth sided with those he felt most closely attuned to. The underdogs. The downtrodden and abused. His cyborg brothers.
It seemed Anastasia had finally bucked the military machine too, a
nd now, here she was, in the flesh. Her lovely, curvy flesh.
A part of him
wanted to hate her for not believing him all those years ago. He wanted to say he no longer gave a damn about what had happened during that time or if she missed him. He should tell her screw what she needed and send her on her jealous way. He didn’t.
All it took was s
eeing her again and all the feelings he’d hidden and tried to overcome came rushing back. It was more than just her looks, which had remained virtually unchanged. Sure she sported a slightly shorter hairstyle, the dark tresses traded in for blonde ones. But while hair color was changeable, the essence of her, the fine bone structure, the eyes, remained the same. Her face might have acquired a hardness that she’d lacked in her youth, but at her core, she was still Anastasia, the woman he’d loved and touched and worshipped. The one he’d spoon fed chunky chocolate ice cream to in bed. The one he’d learned ballroom dancing for. The one he’d sprinted to catch after their chance meeting on a wall. The reason he’d become who he was today. The only woman he’d ever given a damn about. The only woman to make even his mechanical heart race and his cock go wild.