Okay, I’ve had to skip a couple of scenes in order to get this story where it needs to go by Friday night. So apologies!
* * *
Over the next two days, Miira attended two sumptuous dinners, one in Paris and one in London. Both were hosted by residents based in Europe.
Charles McGrath escorted her to the London dinner and seemed quite at home with the peers of the realm who made up the guest list. For Miira though, the elaborate dinner was one long exercise in endurance. Although she chatted politely with the guests seated next to her at the dinner table, the only high point of the evening occurred when the host took her for a guided tour of the magnificent castle in which he lived. Apparently it was an exact replica of his ancestral home from the 20’s… the 1920’s.
Miira had much more fun at the dinner in Paris. Not only was the dinner hosted in a reproduction of the Moulin Rouge, complete with bottomless Can Can dancers, but the guests were as bohemian as their surroundings. Many of them were artists and seemed to delight in being outrageous. Oddly enough, her escort for the night, Kenneth Wu, seemed to fit right in. Instead of his signature charcoal he wore a Chinese inspired white silk suit that complimented her embroidered black cheongsam to perfection.
The two of them made a very striking looking couple and the guests were clearly delighted with them both. The female residents in particular, were very taken with Kenneth Wu’s exotic good looks and inscrutable manners. When they discovered he spoke fluent French they mobbed him like a flock of brightly coloured birds.
Miira might have felt left out if the male residents had not flirted with her so shamelessly. They complimented her on everything from her shapely legs to her Australian accent. And they competed with each other for the right to whirl her out onto the dance floor. All were excellent dancers and she had a wonderful time. She had always loved dancing and quickly picked up the modern dances. Learning how to fend off the wandering hands was a little harder, especially when she discovered her new body had a libido. Nonetheless she declined the many offers of ‘private tuition’ that came her way. All the men were quite gorgeous and very sexy but she soon realised that much of their interest centred around the challenge of bedding the new Innerscape ‘virgin’.
At the end of the evening, when the couples began to drift off in twos and threes, Miira made it plain to the bevy of gorgeous women draped over Kenneth Wu that she expected him to take her home.
“Sorry to cramp your style,” she said as they climbed into the taxi.
“I think I’ll survive,” he said, closing his eyes with a sigh of relief. “Having sex in an avatar isn’t that great.”
Miira was too surprised to say anything, but she could not resist a quick glance at her companion.
“And yes,” Kenneth said without opening his eyes. “I have had sex with residents.”
Miira must have made some small sound because his lips curled into a grin as he said, “Are you shocked Ms Tahn?”
“No,” she replied, eyes straight ahead. “Should I be?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “but I can feel you blushing from here. I’m rather surprised you didn’t go off yourself. God knows they were all over you like a rash.”
Miira laughed at the tone of gentle teasing in his voice, and began recounting some of the funnier offers she had received, but a part of her remained tense. This was a very different Kenneth Wu and in the enforced intimacy of the taxi she did not know quite how to react to him. She had liked him right from the start, but back in the facility there had been something asexual about him and it had never occurred to her to imagine him having sex with anyone. Which was completely ridiculous, because of course a twenty-five year old would be interested in sex! Nonetheless, knowing he had had sex with residents was different somehow.
Pushing her unease aside, Miira chatted amiably until the taxi landed on the roof of the Ritz. Once out of the taxi however, she hugged her shawl to her body to forestall him offering her his arm. They ascended the elevator in silence.
The whole of the tenth floor was reserved for their party so Kenneth Wu walked her down the long, carpeted hallway to the door of her suite before wishing her goodnight and heading towards his own rooms.
Much to her surprise, Miira found the main room lit by only a few table lamps, and there was no sign of either of the girls. Usually Emily or Jane would be waiting up for her, eager to know how the night had gone, but not tonight.
“They must be out themselves,” Miira thought as she walked through into her bedroom. It, too, was dimly lit, but not for sleep. An ice-bucket rested on the bedside table with an unopened bottle of champagne poking out of the top. Two champagne flutes were arranged invitingly next to the ice-bucket and the scent of roses filled the air. The heavy brocade bedcover had been turned back.
‘What the hell is going on?”
Dropping her shawl over the back of a chair, she put her hands on her hips as she surveyed her boudoir. Someone had gone to great pains to make it look inviting.
And then it hit her. The bedroom was more than just inviting, it was seductive. All that was missing was a gorgeous man. But of course she was supposed to provide that herself.
Did the girls really think she would bring someone back with her from the dinner? The men there had been charming, but if she had wanted to have sex with any of them she would have gone with them rather than-…
Miira’s legs almost collapsed beneath her as she finally realised exactly who was meant to share her bed tonight. Wobbling over to a chair, she kicked off her shoes and sat down without any of her usual grace.
Was sex supposed to be part of her integration? And was Kenneth Wu the one assigned to integrate her?
The thought of his naked body looming over her, conscientiously humping away made her stomach turn over, and she bit her lip to banish the image. Nonetheless, she could not deny that under different circumstances she might find him… attractive. In that way.
Was that what their conversation in the taxi had been all about? Him giving her the opportunity to express an interest?
…having sex in an avatar isn’t that great…
Or had he been trying to put her off by letting her know that he had not enjoyed having sex with residents in the past?
“Bloody hell,” Miira groaned as humiliation made her curl up in a protective ball.
…that must be it…
She had made it plain she was not interested in Charles or young David, so Kenneth was the only logical alternative. They must have mistaken her affection for desire and so he had been ordered to do the deed…
…shit, shit, shit, shit shit!…
But he had not wanted to. Of course he had not wanted to! To him she would always be that bald, sick old woman he had befriended a few weeks before. And that was exactly as it should be because this young body she now wore was not who she really was. Oh she had let herself believe for a while. But not any more.
So why was she crying?