Excerpt from Programmed To Please by Jenna Ives
“Turner, I’m sending you undercover as a Beautiful Dolls sex toy.”
Jai Turner stared at her boss, Commander Talis Rainey, convinced she couldn’t possibly have heard him right. She and her partner, Leith Wyatt, had been called into his office at the end of their duty shift. It had been a long day, as they all were on Tau Cetus in this post-apocalyptic era, and she was in no mood for a joke.
She shifted tiredly on her feet in front of his desk. “Sir?” She noticed that even Leith, who was standing beside her, had raised his eyebrow in question.
For an answer, Rainey leaned forward in his chair and pushed a button on the console on his desk. “Send in Mr. Carron.”
A minute later, a short man stood in the doorway. His eyes darted nervously as he checked out the Spartan office before taking an apparently reluctant step into the room. He was such a stereotype that Jai felt herself stiffen. Thick glasses… hair askew… frankly, all he needed was a lab coat with a pocket protector to complete the picture. Savant. Adept. Carbon-copier.
Maybe her boss hadn’t been making a joke.
Rainey cleared his throat. “This is Anson Carron. The creator of Beautiful Dolls.”
If the abrupt and impersonal introduction annoyed their guest, he didn’t show it. His eyes had locked on Jai, and were scanning her up and down in a way that felt decidedly intimate despite the generic, navy blue one-piece uniform that she and everyone else on the Tau Cetus force wore.
“Yes,” he murmured. “I suppose I can work with this.”
“This,” Rainey said hotly, “is Jai Turner, one of my best agents. She’s human.”
The little man seemed lost in his own train of thought. “She meets his prime criteria. Of course, it would be better if I could see her without her clothes on before I make a final assessment.”
What the hell? Jai stiffened even more. “Commander!”
Rainey let out a loud sigh, then glanced at Jai and the two men. “Sit. All of you.”
Instead, Carron took a step closer. “Can I touch her, at least?”
“Lay one finger on me, asshole,” Jai growled, “and it’ll be the last thing your hand ever does.” Wyatt stepped closer to her to drive the point home.
Behind his desk, Rainey blew out a breath. “I said sit!”
The three of them held their adversarial positions for a moment, then took the hard chairs arrayed around Rainey’s desk. Jai crossed her arms and legs defensively, and even Wyatt turned his chair around to straddle it. It was obvious neither one of them anticipated liking whatever the Commander might be about to say.
Rainey ran a hand through his grey-black hair and looked at the partners. “Before I start, I have just one thing to say to you two. Marque Callex.”
Jai gasped. “What?”
That changed everything. The infamous name had both her and Wyatt leaning forward in their chairs, now eagerly waiting for Rainey’s next words.
“You know how long we’ve been trying to get close to this guy. We may now have a chance, albeit by a very unconventional route.” Rainey nodded toward their guest. “A month ago, Mr. Carron here ran afoul of the law. No need to get into the specifics, but in an effort to save his neck – and his very lucrative business – he suggested a unique proposal in return for us not pursuing charges against him.”
“What kind of proposal?” Wyatt asked.
“A clever one, as it turns out.” Rainey smirked. “Mr. Carron agreed to send out an… invitation… to Marque Callex, in the guise of offering ‘a select number of high-powered businessmen’ the chance to sample the latest model of Beautiful Doll for free, in exchange for their feedback on the product. In reality, Callex was the only person to get this invitation.”
Jai’s mouth set in a disgusted line. “And he accepted.”
“He did,” Rainey confirmed. “It was a gamble, but it paid off. In this supposed ‘latest model,’ clients are able to customize their girl. Callex filled out the form specifying the criteria of his ideal Beautiful Doll, and now all we have to do is fulfill his requirements.” The Commander gave Jai a pointed stare. “With you.”
Jai’s eyes went wide. “You want me to impersonate a sexbot?”
“He’s requested certain specifics,” Anson Carron spoke up. “Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Lean, athletic build.”
Jai let out a relieved breath. “Well, that rules me out then. I’m brown-haired and brown-eyed.”
“Easily fixed,” her boss pointed out. “You fit the most important characteristic: athletic build. We can’t fake that, but we can correct the other things with hair dye and contact lenses.”
Uneasy, Jai leaned forward in her chair. “Sir, do you really believe a man who can have any model of girl he wants, would pick a B-cup and not a triple-D? For a sexbot? Come on, Commander. Are you sure Callex is even serious about this?”
Rainey stroked his chin thoughtfully, and then shrugged. “Well, we’ll have our answer on Monday, if he shows up at the Beautiful Dolls boudoir. Until then, prepping you for the assignment is the way we’re going to proceed. That is, if you’re agreeable.”
Jai scowled. There was absolutely no way she was going to volunteer for this. Have sex on command? Not a chance. Not even to bring down a man they’d long been after for suspected weapons smuggling. Besides, she could never pass for a sexbot. She had a heartbeat, for Christ’s sake! “Why don’t you send in a real Doll for the job?”
“Because the whole point is to get information out of him,” Rainey answered. “A robot can’t be programmed to be clever. We need someone to coax him into spilling his secrets.”
“With all due respect, Commander,” Wyatt interjected. “Callex is locked up tighter than a penitentiary. Security is everything in his line of work. It’s not realistic to think he’s going to give away top secret information while in the throes of passion.”
“You haven’t met my Dolls,” Carron mumbled.
Rainey ignored the remark. “Maybe not during sex, no. But haven’t you heard of pillow talk? Read your history books. Greater men have been brought down by baring their souls during that post-coital sense of euphoria. I want Jai to build a relationship with him, gain his trust.”
In response, Jai re-crossed her arms and legs. There was no way – absolutely none – that she was going to be anyone’s personal sex toy.
Rainey sighed into the stubborn silence. “Do I really need to play the Joran Breaux card with either of you?”
A spark of anger shot through Jai, even as she heard Wyatt shift uncomfortably on his chair. Joran was the second – and definitely much more personal – reason they were after Marque Callex. Joran had been sent in to infiltrate Callex Industries from the inside, to discover how one of the government’s top weapons contractors was secretly diverting arms to militant countries. Joran’s cover as an employee had seemed secure until two months ago, when the police force had lost contact with him on the very day he’d scheduled a meeting with Marque Callex. Three weeks later, Joran’s body had turned up – in pieces – in a recycling center a hundred clicks away.
Joran had been Wyatt’s partner before Jai.
Jai would relish the chance to avenge the death of a fellow Tau Cetus agent, but was becoming a sex slave really the best way to do it?
“How do we know Jai won’t end up the same way Joran did? Dead?” Wyatt rasped. Raw emotion was clear in his voice.
“Because we’re embedding you as the Beautiful Dolls concierge,” Rainey answered. “You’ll be there secretly taping the sessions, close by to protect her if things get out of control.”
“Good God,” Jai balked. “You plan to record the sex encounters with Callex?”
Rainey scowled. “You know how long we’ve been trying to get to Marque Callex. This may be our best chance. But if you’re not up to it, Turner, I’ll find another female agent with athletic build who’s more committed to her job.”
“I’m committed to my job, Commander,” she protested hotly.
Rainey waved a hand. “I probably shouldn’t have even offered it to you two. Wyatt is too close to this case. I just thought he’d want a crack at the guy who murdered his partner. But you’re right, Turner. Wyatt could very well be a liability.”
“I didn’t say –” Now the Commander was accusing her of letting down the force and her new partner. The guy was a master manipulator.
Silence stretched in the room while Jai considered her options. Her very limited options. As in, none. Shit. “I’ll do it.”
Jai’s mouth set into a mulish line. What real choice did she have? Marque Callex needed to be stopped. “I said I’ll do it. If this is our best – and possibly only – chance to get to him, well, then, I’m in.”
Rainey blew out a breath, as if he hadn’t really believed his attempt to convince her would work. Wyatt, on the other hand, didn’t look half so relieved.
“Are you sure, Jai? I want to nail this bastard as much as everyone else. Maybe more so, since Joran was my partner. But even I think this sex scheme is asking too much of you.” He turned to Rainey, swallowed hard, and threw a quick glance at Carron. “How about sending me?”
Their guest shook his head. “He didn’t choose that option. He doesn’t want a mascbot, he wants a fembot.”
“Besides,” Rainey added, with a meaningful look at Wyatt, “I was serious when I said you’re too close to this situation. We don’t want you killing Callex before we can find out how he’s siphoning arms to rebel countries.”
Jai sighed, and gave Wyatt an attempt at a smile. “It’s all right. Really. You’ll have my back, right partner?”
The worried frown on Wyatt’s brow didn’t ease.
Copyright © 2013 by Jenna Ives