Burning Choice - By Aubrey Parker
(Trevor’s Harem, #3)
Publication date: March 1st 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance
I’ve been in this billionaire’s game for a month — but something changed when half my competition was eliminated.
It feels less like a contest now … and more like an experiment.
I shouldn’t have made it past the first round. I don’t know how I did; I’m not special like the others. When I ask Daniel, he just tells me it’s complicated. Then he talks about brain chemistry, how love and sex are an addiction. He tells me how wild animals claim mates, and how he’s claimed me.
The stakes are higher.
The competition is fiercer.
I should have been kicked out long ago, but Daniel tells me I might be the needle in the haystack the company has been looking for.
Sometimes I’m afraid of them all, even of Daniel.
But It’s like I’m on a tether. I couldn’t leave if I wanted to.
“I want to show you something.” Jessica flops sideways, grabs one of my pillows, and then pulls me down by my wrist so I’m lying beside her. She puts the pillow on the bed and rolls so she’s perched on it. Her head ticks, nodding halfway, as if to beckon me closer. I come, and she doesn’t stop gesturing until I’m close enough to smell the almond in her shampoo.Her mischievous eyes watch me. Then she reaches for the covers, which I’ve piled to one side after rising. I’ve never been a bed maker. Because fuck that.
She drags the covers over us. We’re facedown on the bed, our faces above the pillow. Jessica shoves her face into the pillow and moans.
Or, now that I listen more closely, mumbling.
“Put your face in the pillow.”
“I’ve heard that line before,” I say.
“Just do it, Bridget.”
So I do. And then Bridget mumbles again. This time I clearly hear her say, “They can’t hear sound that doesn’t hit the walls.”
I don’t know what to make of that. I raise back up, so she pulls me back down, her arm draped across my back.
“Do you remember how they said there were blind spots from the cameras? The southwest corner of the kitchen, the front lawn, thirty yards equidistant between the fountains.”
“Between the fountains,” I repeat, nodding into the pillow, feeling stupid.
“Thirty yards equidistant. Not just directly between them. There’s only forty-five yards between the fountains. You have to come away at an angle, to the south. It has to be to the south because the wall is at the same angle to the north.”
“I just remember ‘between the fountains.’” And I’m lucky I remember that. That first night, they listed so many rules and details, I stopped listening. But Jessica apparently didn’t. She lists another eight or ten places, most of which barely sound familiar.
“Were you taking notes?”
Instead of answering, she says, “The mics also have dead spots — too much ground to eavesdrop everywhere. I was out back and spotted one near the peeing fountain thing. You know the peeing fountain?”
“Then I found two more. They’re hard to find without looking like you’re looking, if you know what I mean.”
I don’t. Not really.
“I got the model number. They seem to all be the same. And that model is semi-directional, probably because if they’re not selective, they’ll hear all the birds whistling and pots banging and clocks ticking and stuff. The noise profile is … ” And for a second it’s like I’m back in my studio, studying technical manuals.
“Are you a sound engineer or something?”
“I read a catalog once.”
“What kind of catalog?”
“I was bored,” she answers.
Jessica’s eyes flick toward the ceiling, and she runs her fingers through my hair. “Sorry,” she says about the touch. “But if we don’t do something to justify lying here in bed, they’re going to pay closer attention than we want.” And then her hand goes under the covers, starts disturbing the sheets without actually fondling me — though surely, that’s what it’s supposed to look like from the cameras’ point of view.
My eyes scan what of the room I can still see, ass up and face in the pillow as I am. I know the cameras are there, and microphones with them. And I have to admit Jessica is probably right. They’d have to use mics with a reasonably narrow profile, or there’d be too much noise to make the recordings worthwhile. Talking into a noise dampener like a big lump of foam and fabric will absorb most of what we say, keeping any little echoes from bouncing around and being heard. It’s a risk I wouldn’t take without research into what’s watching and listening to us, but Jess is acting like research isn’t necessary. She saw a model number and somehow already knew everything about that specific model … and, apparently, everything else in the catalog. It’s fucking weird. But what the hell? It’s not like I wanted to be here in the first place, so screwing up and getting booted now doesn’t bug me as much as it bothers the others. I guess it’s no more risk to trust her than anything else.
“So,” Jessica says, speaking into the pillow. “Let’s talk about Daniel for you, Trevor for me, and how the hell you’re still around.”
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