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Chapter 28:- The Massage


She had nothing on under the robe. The thought nagged at her as she poured her drink. She should excuse herself and put on something decent. 

“How is you wound?” Rook’s voice spoke from behind her—just behind her.

“Fine.” The ice in her tumbler rattled and threatened to spill. She poured too much gin to allow for tonic, drained the glass in one swallow. “It’s fine. Much better.”

“You seem nervous.”

“Really?” Murray poured herself a second drink before turning around. This one, she held in a steely grip.

“Yes.” He laughed, exactly the way androids never laughed. The corner of his metal mouth twitched in a deceptively organic gesture.

“That amuses you?” Murray prickled. It didn’t matter that the amusement had programming behind it; the rules stopped applying to Rook ages ago.

“A little.” He stood less than two steps in front of her. “Only because I’m the one who should feel nervous.”

That one shocked her. It also sent a terrified spasm through her brain. What if he confessed something she wasn’t ready to hear? What if they went one step too far? Why did she feel a little tickle of excitement at the thought? If she asked him, would there be any way to go back to normal?

“Doctor Murray?”

“I can’t imagine why you’d be nervous.” It didn’t quite count as asking.

He stepped away and paced across the apartment before answering. Like that, with a little distance between them, Murray managed to breathe, to sip at her glow gin and wait for him to drop the bomb.

“I believe it is imperative that I share some information with you, Doctor Murray. There are things about me and about my past, however, that I fear may dramatically alter your opinion of me.”

“Huh?” She frowned. He was worried about his past? Murray felt heat steal across her cheeks. She’d thought—she’d assumed---he meant to talk about something quite different.

“I fear I’ve misled you.”

“No!” She waved off the thought. “Of course you haven’t.”

She’d believed Zora. How stupid was that? Murray knew better, and now she’d come very close to embarrassing herself beyond imagining.

“When you first found me,” Rook’s voice continued in the background. “I allowed you to assume a great many things.”

The ice in her glass set to rattling again. She thought about how close she’d come to doing something rash and gulped down the second drink. If she’d gone down to the ship earlier, if she’d caught him by surprise—she needed to sit down.

 “Doctor Murray, are you well?”

He seemed to be standing closer and at a very odd angle. Murray frowned. Had she sat down or fallen?

“I believe I should examine your injury.”

“No!” Painfully aware of her state of undress, Murray snapped back to present. She sat in the padded chair beside the room’s counter, just a pace from the bar and about a second away from passing out. “I’m fine, Rook.” She could handle this. She was a scientist. “I’m simply suffering from a little post traumatic tension.”

“It’s been a very long journey.”

“Yes, it has.” Murray nodded and looked down at her hands. Her glass was empty. She reached out and set it on the bar.

“And you’ve dealt with more than your share of stress.” He circled around to the back of the chair and placed firm hands on her shoulders.

He had a point. She had been through a lot lately. Her field training hadn’t included anything on fleeing from reptilian overlords. His fingers pressed against the knots under her skin. She’d never learned anything at school about illegal cloning operations, seedy pseudo-zoos, or covert rescue missions. “Hmmm.” He massaged across the base of her neck, and she let her head fall forward. “That was really sore.”

“I can imagine.” He brushed her hair aside and ran one hand up the back of her neck. “Relax.”

Murray let her shoulders fall. She sighed and closed her eyes. His fingers—cool, but not cold—pulled the stress down out of her neck. They circled over her shoulders, leaving tingling trails in their wake. They invoked little waves of heat to either side of her spine. The tingles spread.

“I care for you a great deal,” he said.

“mmmm.” What? A jolt of reality sent her spine rigid again. Her robe had slipped, or been slipped, off her shoulders. It still covered her, but only by the grace of low gravity and the pressure of the chair against her back. She pressed the front together with her hands and tried to shake off the little shivers his touch sparked all along her spine. Had he just said that, or had she drifted off?

“Doctor Murray?”

“Hmm?” She sat up straight, and his hands stopped. They didn’t lift away from her skin, however, and the soft contact seemed worse, or better. She couldn’t say which. She was having a rough time just breathing properly.

“I believe that I’m--.”

The door chime screeched through the moment. For a second, she didn’t recognize it. Rook’s hands abandoned her back, however, and her head cleared enough to remind her about her robe. She slid it back up toward decent. When the door went off again, she stood up.

“That must be Zora.” She took a step away from the chair.

“I don’t think so.”

She kept moving, crossed to the door without looking back. Murray didn’t care who it was, she’d fallen in over her head. A distraction, any distraction, might give her enough time to catch her breath at least. She pressed the controls and the panel slid aside.

The giant on the other side grinned at her. He nodded, put one grayish hand up between them and used the other to pat meaningfully at the blaster strapped to his hairy waist. “Doctor Livingston?” His mouth parted, revealing pointed canines. Murray took a step back.

She shook her head, taking in the shoulders that stretched beyond the width of her room’s entrance. He had to stand at least seven feet tall, had hunched over to peer in at her. She shook her head again.

“You are Doctor, Murray Livingston,” he said. The white vest pointed at the bottom, flagging the belt where his gun waited.

“Yes.” She swallowed a lump of nothing and tried to stop shaking. “Is there a problem?”

“No problem.” The teeth appeared again. “You have a fugitive in your possession, and I’m here to relieve you of him.”


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