Aurora was still alone when she awoke, but the door to the bedroom was open. She pulled the sheet off of the bed, wrapped it around herself, then tiptoed out into the main room. CR1515 was sitting in a chair in front of a giant screen, and although his face was completely expressionless, his body language was that of someone who was thoroughly bored of his desk job. Her clothes were still scattered across the floor, so she moved as quietly as she could to gather them up, praying that he wouldn’t notice her.
“You slept for nine hours,” he said, still focused on the screen. “Brain scans indicated that it was prudent to not wake you.”
“Thank you,” she murmured, blushing as she turned away, conscious of the fact that she was still nude underneath the sheet, and the soreness between her legs that attested to the reality of what had happened. “Is there a bathroom?”
“You may attend to all your needs in there.” He pointed back towards the bedroom. “When I am finished I will require sustenance, and you will eat then.”
She hesitated, then asked, “What are you doing?”
Aurora couldn’t stop her curiosity, so she turned to study the screen. “That looks like our underground base.”
“I maintain the security grid,” he replied. “One of the exterior cameras malfunctioned, so I ran a diagnostic and am now programming the instructions for the repair drones. I do this for all of your cities and bases.”
“Really?” Aurora’s fingers touched her lips with surprise. “I thought that was all automated.”
“As I am classified as a machine, it is.” CR1515 turned to look at her. “What are you doing?”
Aurora found herself shrinking back when he stood and approached her, and he took the bundle of clothing out of her arms then pulled the bed sheet away from her. All she could do was wrap her arms around herself and shiver as she looked down at the floor.
“I did not tell you to cover yourself.” He returned to the screen and sat down, then continued typing.
“I can’t always be naked!” Aurora protested. “Do you really intend to keep me as a sex slave?”
“But …” A painful lump formed in her throat. “It’s not fair to do that to someone.”
“Is it fair to enslave someone for your protection then? To mock and ridicule them even as you demand their loyalty?” CR1515 tilted his head to one side and rested it against a fingertip. “From my perspective, taking a single human woman after decades of service is a small price to ask.”
Aurora squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to hold back the tears, and asked weakly, “Why me?”
“Because you sought me.”
She was silent, hugging herself as her mind tried to make sense of it all. Then, vehemently, she demanded, “If it had been Talon at the Gate instead of me, would you have done the same with him? Would he have been standing here naked now, instead of me? Was it really that arbitrary?”
“No.” CR1515 was either finished programming, or had come to the conclusion that she required his full attention, because he stood and approached her again, laying his metal hand against the side of her face. “If a man had come to the Gate, I would not have answered it.”
“Then why me?” Aurora couldn’t stop herself from collapsing against his hard chest, feeling too weak to stand under her own power anymore.
“You may wear clothing when we are not engaged in sexual activity,” he murmured, then as if he was attempting to provide comfort, he retrieved the sheet and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Dress, and we will have our meal.”
Aurora nodded and slowly moved towards the bedroom with her bundle of clothing held tightly against her chest, feeling ready to sleep for another nine hours. She didn’t know how to cope with abruptly losing everything in her life, especially when she had been on the verge of finalizing her engagement with Talon. He was definitely worried about her by then, and she didn’t have a way to send word of what had happened.
CR1515 shut the door to the main room, then walked across the bedroom to open another door. “You inquired about the facilities earlier,” he said, indicating toward the shower and toilet. “This one leads to the kitchen and dining area,” he continued, moving to another door. “As I implied before, all of your needs will be met.”
“Thank you,” Aurora whispered, then slipped into the bathroom and shut the door. It was comfortingly ordinary, down to the roll of paper next to the toilet, and she let out a heavy sigh of relief as she opened the shower door and turned the water on.
At the very least, he wasn’t callous towards her. Painfully blunt and unyielding, but … Aurora shook her head then upturned her face under the water, wondering if it would wash away the thoughts that she didn’t want. Perhaps Talon had been correct in wanting to finalize their relationship contract before engaging in intercourse with her, after how quickly she had thrown away her loyalty to him …
Not that CR1515 had given her a real choice.
He had revealed himself to her, then pressed his hands and mouth against her before promising to never take her for granted, after she had uttered a single, “Yes,” when he had asked if she would be his. She liked the simplicity and straightforwardness of it.
But that wasn’t what had really happened, Aurora chastised herself. CR1515 had been more than willing to let the artifacts fail and the mecha return to life if she had refused him. If she ever found herself back with Talon, she would tearfully explain that she had been blackmailed and raped, and he would be rightfully furious. He wouldn’t think that she had deliberately betrayed him.
Even though she was already wondering when she would have sex with CR1515 again.
“I’m such a mess,” Aurora whispered to herself, then turned the shower off.
She dressed after towel drying, then tiptoed out to search for CR1515. He was in the kitchen, once again out of his metal suit, with two meal trays waiting. She blushed and looked away as best she could until she was seated, but she couldn’t stop herself from sneaking in a glance at his golden skin that flawlessly covered his thick muscles, and heat twinged inside her.
They ate in silence, but Aurora’s appetite was small enough to disappear after only a few bites. She put her fork down, then stared intently at the table as she slowly asked, “You fought the mecha, right?”
“Yes,” CR1515 replied.
“Did you see Talon?”
He stared at her, and she couldn’t read his expression.
“I just thought that my betrothed should know that I’m …” her voice faded away.
“I wouldn’t know if I saw him.” CR1515 tilted his head to the side. “Why do you say betrothed instead of fiance?”
“We haven’t reached that point yet. After we agree on a finalized contract, we then set a date for our marriage, and that’s when we’re officially engaged.” Aurora squirmed under the look that CR1515 gave her, so she added, “That’s how it’s done.”
“You know … we work out how many children we want, and when we want to have them. There’s also the financial agreements, how to manage the household, as well as what grounds the marriage may be dissolved …”
“You were planning out how to end your relationship before it even officially began?” CR1515 asked incredulously.
“Things don’t always work out.” Aurora felt small and ridiculous as she tried to explain, “Sometimes you grow to dislike each other and start arguing too much. It’s important to know how to proceed if that happens.”
“Hmph.” CR1515 folded his arms. “If you try to argue with me, I will teach you better.” He studied her for a moment from across the table, then continued, “I would gather that this contract of yours goes much deeper than the possibility of merely not getting along. Your attractiveness, age, and status as a virgin were all bargaining points for you, were they not?”
Aurora’s face began to burn as she nodded, and quietly said, “My mother wanted me to marry well, and the men who can afford to be picky …”
“Had I been satisfied with stripping you of your virginity and sent you back home, it would have hurt negotiations with this betrothed of yours, correct?”
“Talon loves me. He would have …” Aurora faltered. “He probably would have changed some of the terms to be more to his advantage,” she admitted.
“It appears to me that I have rescued you from the undesirable fate of having your every move dictated out beforehand.” CR1515 scowled, then motioned for her to come over and sit on his lap. Aurora obeyed shyly, all too aware of the fact that he didn’t feel the same need for clothing that she did. He pulled her firmly against his chest and touched his lips to her hair as he murmured, “My terms are simple: you belong to me.”
“But I have no grounds to assert myself on; nothing to protect me from your whims,” Aurora began to protest, then stopped when she saw the devilish grin spread across CR1515’s face, and his hand pushed up her skirt to rest against her thigh.
“No, you don’t.”
When they were finished, Aurora stayed slumped against him with her arms around his neck, and she couldn’t help but ask, “Did you really mean it when you said that you wanted to love? As in, love love, and not just …” she trailed off.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Will you love me even if I hate you?”
She didn’t wait for his answer, but instead buried her face in the crook of his neck, and breathed heavily as his hand stroked silently along the length of her back.