“So the only reason you’re not trying to kill me right now is because that rogue woman stopped you less than fifty feet from my bedroom and installed another program?”
“Then what if you get reconnected to the network? Suddenly you want to kill me again?”
“Or what if she installed a program that executes on a delay?” She heard her voice rising, but the cold seeping into her bones caused such a trembling she felt like she was under the overpass all over again, staring at the sudden shock of metal just after she had thought he was safe. “You’re like a grenade that could go off at any time! How can you sit here like nothing is wrong?”
“Are you going to run?” he asked quietly.
She realized that she’d already taken several steps away. She wavered, the historical instinct to run fighting the impulse to trust, just a little longer, that it was all a mistake. That there was something more. She retraced her steps until she was standing before him. “No.”
His jaw clenched. “I’m sorry.”
“Just explain so I can feel safe again,” she said. “Are you not a grenade?”
He scratched his head, a rueful smile curving his lips. “Honestly? I don’t know.”
She hugged herself. “That doesn’t make me feel better.”
He flashed to her and sobered. “I don’t know who installed the other program, so I don’t know her intentions. I don’t even know if she’s human. The Faction will deconstruct the code when they disassemble me completely.”
She swallowed. “Disassemble?”
“That is the usual consequence for an android that goes off assignment.”
She knelt at his feet. “But it wasn’t your fault.”
His brows drew together. “What does fault have to do with anything?”
She sat back on her heels.
“I don’t really care either way.” He cupped the back of his neck. “It’s not like I have a biological imperative forcing me to stay alive and transmit my genes. Up until a day ago, I, like all of my brethren, had only one imperative: to enact the will of the Faction. And now…”
He released his hold and filled his eyes with her. His expression changed to awe, almost pleading, and his voice turned raw, as if she could answer his questions.
“What is it about you that makes me so fucking compelled to hold you?”
His question stole her breath.
He shook his head. “Even now, when you distrust and fear me, I just want to yank you into my arms and squeeze you until your eyes glaze with pleasure and your breath comes in gasps. It’s not an assignment. It’s not the will of the Faction. I just want you. I want to memorize every single molecule, from the inside to the outside, from the chemical bond to the neuro-physical configuration, so that I could be your resurrect if you needed it.” He smacked his arms. “It feels like burning under my skin, but when I query my dermal receptors, they report nothing but ambient temperature. I don’t understand these sensations. I need you.”
The words set her on fire. He was as lost and confused by these feelings as she was, and he would suffer just as greatly if the Robotics Faction caught them. Android and human, they were the same.
And he wanted her. Just like she wanted him.
Her body throbbed.
He stared at his hands. Then, he opened them wide, as though he were attempting to release his feelings for her. He frowned at the open palms and closed his hands again.
She shifted closer. “So, even now, you want to touch me?”
He focused on her. “Even now.”
She licked her lips. “And you can’t control it?”
“It’s pulsing in my hands, under my skin, in my cock. But”—he took a deep breath—“I promise to keep my distance. More than any desire of mine, I want only to give you pleasure.”
She was having trouble thinking. Her body pulsed on its own rhythm. “Physical pleasure?”
His fingers whispered across her cheekbones. “Every kind.”