Sample chapter from Smoke and Mirrors

Excerpt from SMOKE AND MIRRORS by Jane Lindskold.

Published by Avon Books in 1996; Copyright © 1996 by Jane Lindskold. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the Publisher. Exceptions are made for downloading this file to a computer for personal use.


sample-smoke


Smokey was with her third client of the afternoon when she realized with panic that the man lying on top of her was not human.
He felt human enough moving against and within her. His skin when she tongued his shoulder tasted of salt and man musk. But the mind she touched was not–not unpresent as with the rare human who had a natural shield against her telepathy–but not human.
Her first impulse was to shove him violently away. Her second was to force herself to continue moving against him, to change the rhythm of her response just so, all the while hoping that the body was as human as the mind was alien.
The client’s breathing quickened and his pace increased to match hers. Shielding her mind against the random thoughts that beat into her along with the body, she lightly clawed his back, feigning a pleasure she did not feel, doing anything she could to force him to climax and to leave her alone.
After an eternity that the discreetly concealed clock insisted was less than a minute more, he began to peak. Sensing that he was trying to hold something back for later, Smokey threw herself into her job with every trick she had ever learned in her years of turning tricks, determined with a passion close to terror that he would have nothing left, would not come back, would be drained, spent, utterly exhausted.
And although she struggled to be aware of nothing but the movement of body on body, the alien thoughts slipped beneath her hasty shield and fed her fear.
When he had finished, she did not let him rest atop her even a moment as was her usual custom with clients who were paying her highest rates. Taking advantage of his momentary pliability, she pushed him free of her, trying to be gentle when all she wanted was to be out of contact with him and the unnerving sensation of his mind. Not being one of her regular clients, he was not aware of the change in routine, but rolled compliantly onto his back and stared at the ceiling, a dreamy smile just curling the comers of his well-formed mouth.
She’d thought him handsome, when Jules had introduced them, with his slightly weathered fair skin, thick, light blond hair just turning to grey, blue eyes framed with laugh lines. Now she would have welcomed a dozen of the overweight, greasy types that Jules usually brought by.
“That was great, honey,” he said, fumbling to pull her back.
She pretended not to see and sat up, swinging her long legs to the floor. The contact of her toes with the fluffy carpet grounded her farther from the alien mind she had touched. Standing, she even managed a smile.
“Would you like a drink, Lee?”
He raised himself on one elbow, running his gaze ossessively over her nude form, from the thick mane of lack into silvery grey hair that most believed was the source of her street name, over the rounded breasts and down the curves of her slender body
“I’d prefer if you came back to bed,” he said, “and alcohol, in any case, depresses sexual response. I’d be a fool to waste myself with you available.”
He gestured arrogantly, and, for the first time in many years, Smokey balked. The client–she could not bring herself to think of him as a man, not after what she had felt–was quite serious, however.
“You’ve been paid for your time, woman,” he said, his smile fading, “and I have no interest in a refund.”
Running the tip of her tongue across her teeth, she smiled, resolution taking form.
“Nor have I,” she said. “Nor have I.”
Crouching alongside him, she teased him with teeth and tongue. The resumed contact was worse, yet infinitely better, for the shock was gone. She ignored his physical contact, keying into his mental touch.
She had two goals–to protect herself from his reading. her and to learn something of what he was.
Longer ago than she cared to admit, Smokey had realized that she could read minds. There were limitations–she was not one of the mythical psionics who could read minds that were half a planet away. She needed physical contact with her subject. Probing after specific information was difficult unless the subject was already thinking about the topic.
But Smokey had been using her gift for a long time and could usually direct her client’s thoughts where she desired, even when he would have sworn that his entire attention was on his groin. Far more of her income came from her talent for gathering information than from what she was paid for spreading her legs, and this despite the fact that she was one of the most expensive whores on Arizona.
Now she let the client’s hands travel freely over her, telegraphing through little sighs and shudders a pleasure she was too frightened to feel. She raised her head from nibbling along the inside of his thigh, noting with abstract approval that his eyes were wide and dilated.
“Don’t stop, Smokey,” he breathed. “That’s too good.”
She smiled and bent her head. Stopping just shy of his skin, she looked up again.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like me to take it slower? You must have been working hard–Jules is such a single-minded creature.”
He growled and not quite playfully pushed her head back down. “I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough, whore.”
But what his mind said in strangely colored images was, “Work? Not yet. Must feed it or it will waken and fight, Feed it until it sleeps forever. Then can work.”
The thought images flowed with such force and contempt that Smokey could barely refrain from flinching away, as if from a blow. She distracted herself by shifting position and straddling Lee. While she rode him, she could feel the pleasure of his body alongside the mind’s detached refrain. As he came there was something else. A sense of betrayal? Sorrow? But the impression vanished too quickly for her to be certain.
Hesitantly immersing herself in the odd rhythms of Lee’s thoughts, Smokey asked, “So, are you in the garment trade like Jules?”
She’d learned that direct questions often made clients guarded, but an indirect query made them both verbally and mentally voluble.
Aloud he said, “Yes, imported silks from Old Terra.”
His mind said, “Trade, yes, after a fashion, trade.”
“Genuine Terran silks?” She wiggled against him in a fashion that most men found very distracting. “Are you from Old Terra?”
“Yes,” he said, fondling her, “descended from Hong Kong British back a hundred years or so back.”
His mind countered, “Old Terra much more desirable than this world of desert and water valley. Someday.”
“I love silks,” she hinted, pulling lightly on his chest hair, “especially Oriental patterns.”
Even as his speaking voice was promising her a present from his wares, his inner response was a whispered antiphony, two voices in conflict.
“Mine! You cannot. . .” “Silk, soft, like the woman’s skin.” “Away from me, from mine!” “Sleep. Be satisfied. Feel. You rise again as a god.”
Bombarded by these impulses, she had little energy to protest when the client smiled, gently shifted her onto her back, and lowered himself onto and then into her.
She had nearly twenty minutes after he left before Jules arrived. Just under six feet tall and superficially muscular with light brown hair and blue eyes, only Smokey knew what lies underlay the man’s handsome exterior. His skin as she undressed him was soft and clammy. The amiable expression his face relaxed into concealed an egocentric version of the universe barely more mature than that of a five-year-old child.
Jules chatted about, inconsequentialities while she rubbed him down with a light, musky oil he favored. After Lee’s disturbing internal dialogue, she found the simple, almost-concentric, rings of Jules’s thoughts familiar and even comforting, although normally he slightly repelled her. After she had established sufficient contact to be certain she could read him, she began asking the important questions.
“You’re so cheap, Jules,” she teased. “All I’m asking you to get me are a couple of flasks of scent. The new guy, Lee, has all but promised me an imported silk robe.”
“After Lee already, are you?” he chuckled, (and his mind said, “Good, if Smokey gets him by the balls, I can use her as a bribe”).
“Maybe,” she purred, nibbling the side of his neck. “He was certainly passionate–almost superhuman.”
“Oh? Try me if you think he was so great.”
Jules buried his face in her breasts but, as they wrestled, Smokey found nothing in his mind that indicated that he was aware of anything odd about his business associate.
After he had left, replete not only with sexual satisfaction but with an almost atavistic satisfaction that he had “bested” the other men by having the woman last and so obliterating their marks, Smokey touched her call pad.
“Kyu? Smokey here. Hold all my calls unless they’re from Gary or Bonny.”
She could hear Kyu’s smile. “Ridden out after that last lot?”
“Something like that.” Smokey rubbed her hands across her face. “Something like that.”


Excerpt from SMOKE AND MIRRORS by Jane Lindskold.

Published by Avon Books in 1996; Copyright © 1996 by Jane Lindskold. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the Publisher. Exceptions are made for downloading this file to a computer for personal use.

Copyright © 1996 by Jane Lindskold. All rights reserved. 

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