Ximena stood at the foot of the oversized bed in the dimly lit, well-appointed room, smiling as she watched her two newest nymphbots bring her customer, Antonio Torres, to a groaning orgasm. She felt an exquisite tingling all over and a warm, dampening pulse between her legs; she savored the sight of Torres and the two bots for a long, delicious moment before she finally glanced up at the wall clock.
"Senor Torres, I hate to rush you, but my husband will be here any minute."
Still breathing heavily, Torres reclined against the padded headboard and pulled the wrinkled sheets up over his sweat-slicked torso. The nymphbots, a blonde and a brunette, whispered flirtations to him as they ran their hands up and down his large, round belly. Torres was a regular, making the hour-long drive from Valladolid to Ximena's robot brothel every other Friday like clockwork.
Smiling dumbly in his post-orgasmic afterglow, Torres seemed to realize he'd missed something. "I'm sorry, what did you say, my dear?"
"We're closing early today. I'm having dinner with my husband."
Torres flashed her a confused look. "Your husband's coming here?"
"Yes, indeed," she said happily. "And again, thank you so much for helping me test the new models. It looked to me like they performed to your full satisfaction, yes?"
Torres turned his attention to the brunette, its eyes rolling back in programmatic pleasure as he fondled its perfectly round breasts. "Yes, wonderful," he said, smiling. "Just wonderful. What models did you say these were?"
"Ono-Hiroshi Fives. Just arrived yesterday."
Ximena had tested them out herself already, amazed at how much more lifelike this latest generation was, how perfectly they followed instructions, how easily they made her come. The OH4s could be a bit clumsy at times, like a high school kid who hadn't learned much yet. But the fives, what an improvement! Ximena knew her customers would absolutely love them.
Torres reached down and pulled one of the brunette's legs across his wide belly so it could straddle him. He looked at Ximena with a lazy smile and said, "Dear, would you mind terribly if I had seconds? I promise I won't be long."
Ximena agreed and left him alone to his fun. Torres owned the company that provided customer background screens for Ximena's business, an invaluable service in her line of work, so she felt obliged to give him preferential treatment. And she couldn't fault him for wanting another round with the new models. She couldn't wait to jump back in bed with them herself.
As she entered the reception area Ximena paused at the wall-length window and gazed out over her city. Her business occupied the top floor of the five-star Hotel Joya in the heart of Salamanca, Madrid's high-end commercial district. She often thought the view from this window alone justified the steep rent. Ximena quietly watched the streets twelve stories below, bustling with late-afternoon pedestrian traffic, moneyed tourists and locals strolling along the wide, tree-lined avenues filled with fashionable shops and cafes. Javier was out there somewhere, she thought excitedly, making his way here now. She'd been giddy all day, hardly believing he'd finally agreed to meet her for dinner. Meet her here for dinner.
Surely this was the turning point she'd been waiting for.
Ximena's eyes widened in approval as she tasted the noodle soup. "Angela, this is unbelievable. Qué delicia." The tiny kitchen next to her office had just enough room for Ximena, her assistant, Angela, and a couple hotplates to keep the cocido madrileno warm.
A proud smile stretched across Angela's freckled face as she removed her apron and hung it on a wall hook. "My mom's recipe. Glad you like it." Angela pointed to the covered cast iron pot. "Now the rest is in there. After the soup serve the beans and veggies as the second course, then after that the meat. Dessert's down in the kitchen, so just call Felipe when you're ready and he'll bring it right up."
Earlier, they'd converted Ximena's office into a private dining room, dimming the lights to a more romantic level and replacing Ximena's desk with a candlelit table for two draped in white linen. The two women stood with hands on hips and admired their work.
"Quite the man-trap you've got here, boss," Angela joked. "Need anything else before I leave you to your wicked ways?"
Ximena remembered the customer. "Senor Torres is still being attended to in the Red Room. Would you mind staying until he leaves?"
Angela looked surprised. "He's still in there?"
Ximena laughed. "Yes. I asked him to test drive the model fives we just got." She looked at Angela knowingly and said, "Can't say I blame him. I'm dying for another taste myself."
"Really? That good?"
"Better than good. I might even try to talk Javi into giving one a go."
Angela shook her finger playfully. "Careful now, you don't want to scare him off. It's taken long enough just to get him to come here."
Ximena checked herself in the mirror, making small adjustments to her long mane of black curls and the plunging neckline of her silk blouse. "I know, I know," she said, opening one more button. "But a girl can dream, can't she?"
She thanked her assistant again. Angela left the office, bidding Ximena good luck as she closed the door behind her.
Yes, a girl can dream, Ximena thought. She wondered if Javier's view of her business had softened in the two months since he'd moved out of their apartment. And if it hadn't, how difficult would it be to convince him how much she loved her new business, how much she needed it?
She remembered how she used to be able to talk him into almost anything. During their happier days, she relished the occasions when she managed to persuade him to try something he never would have considered on his own. She thought of those moments as the happiest of her life, the moments she lived for.
Ximena smiled as she recalled their trip to Colombia.
It was their first vacation together, and in the low-salary days of their mid-twenties it took them over a year to scrape together enough money for an overseas holiday. Javier wanted to lounge on a beach in the Caribbean; Ximena had her heart set on the South American jungle. After months of debate, Javier finally acquiesced.
The morning after arriving in Colombia they stood on the ridge of a small mountain overlooking the valley of La Cocha Lake, its bright turquoise water surrounded by dense green forest that stretched to the horizon in every direction. Javier's face was a mask of worry as he carefully leaned forward and looked down to the drop-off point. The parasailing guides re-checked the various belts and straps and assured him again that he was completely safe.
"Not cool tricking me like that, Xime," Javier said, clutching the harnesses. "Not cool at all."
Ximena adjusted her helmet's chin strap and laughed. "I wanted it to be a surprise."
"No, you didn't say anything because you knew I wouldn't have come. Next time you tell me you want to go for an early morning walk I'm staying in bed."
"Amor, don't worry, people do this all the time down here. Trust me."
"People die down here all the time." Javier removed his helmet. "I'm sorry, I just can't do this...Hey, wait a minute!"
If his shouts continued, she didn't hear them as she revved the motor, ran a few steps and leaped off the edge of the mountain. Ximena squealed with delight as the sudden drop made her stomach lurch, then as she gained control she turned back and waved, slowly rising higher and higher into the cool morning mist.
Minutes later, as she turned a lazy circle high above the shimmering lake, she saw him, maybe fifty meters directly beneath her feet. She laughed wildly, watching him fly along so slowly and carefully, never straying too far from the landing strip. Her Javi.
Over dinner that night he couldn't stop going on about it. "I've never done anything like that before. And the views, I'll never forget those views. Increible." Javier's face still glowed with excitement. "But that first step off of the edge, Jesus. Weren't you scared, Xime?"
Ximena smiled and truthfully said, "Not at all."
Later under a full moon they made love for hours in the jungle near their lakeside cottage. That night Ximena knew she would be his forever. And he would be hers.
Ximena answered the knock on her office door to find her estranged husband sporting a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of ridiculously oversized sunglasses. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
"My goodness, Javi. Those things cover half of your face."
He removed the hat and glasses and said, a bit sheepishly, "Yes, they're horrid. But you never know who might be watching."
Classic Javier, she thought. "I don't think any of your colleagues at the office would care too much," Ximena said casually. "They're some of my best customers, after all."
Javier's mouth dropped open.
"Just kidding," she laughed with a wink.
Javier smiled and rolled his eyes. "You got me," he said.
Ximena welcomed him with a kiss on the cheek. "So good to see you. Please come in, amor."
He removed his coat. "Smells wonderful in here."
During the first two courses, Javier seemed distracted as they chatted about safe topics like the weather, Madrid's eternal traffic problems, and a costly new public works project. Ximena patiently played the gracious hostess, politely nodding and allowing her guest to steer the conversation. It wasn't easy. From the moment he'd walked through the doorway she'd wanted nothing more than to kiss him full on the lips, to grab his wrists and wrap his hands around her. Javier had lost none of his rugged good looks over the years, and Ximena marveled at how sitting this close to him still made her feel flushed, still made her thoughts wander deliciously to the bed they'd shared for so long.
"So what do you think of the place?" she impulsively asked as she placed the third course plates on the table.
Javier struggled to answer. "It's...well...nicer than I thought it would be, I suppose."
Ximena smiled. "I'll give you a tour after dinner and show you one of the new bots."
Javier shook his head. "I don't know."
"You'll be amazed at the new models. We're the first business in Madrid that has the OH5s. And they didn't come cheap, let me tell you."
"Can we talk about something else?"
Ximena sighed. "Come on, Javi. You can't still be angry with me after two months."
"I'm not angry, Xime."
She reached over and placed her hand on his. "Javi, I know this isn't easy for you, but you have to trust me. I love what I'm doing here, and I know in time you'll come to love it too."
"Ximena, listen to me..."
"And if you can't love it maybe you can just tolerate it. Is that too much to ask?"
He drew his hand away and reached into his jacket pocket.
Ximena said, "Remember our trip to Colombia before we were married? You didn't want to jump off that mountain with me, but when you finally did it was incredible. Remember that?"
"It's not exactly the same thing, Xime," he said, pulling out a sheaf of folded papers and placing them on the table.
"What's that?" Ximena asked.
Javier cleared his throat and shifted in his chair. "It's a no-fault agreement. You don't have to sign it if you don't want to. You can hire your own attorney. I just thought this might be...easier somehow."
A cold shock ran through Ximena's body; she stared in stunned horror at the papers, the divorce papers, not wanting to believe it. Then as it sunk in what it was Javier wanted, or rather what it was he no longer wanted, a wave of emotions washed over her. She knocked the chair over backwards as she sprang up and ran out of the room, tears flooding her eyes.
Ximena burst into the Red Room, stopping suddenly as she realized she wasn't alone. Teary-eyed and reeling, she'd simply wanted a quiet place to collect herself, forgetting entirely Torres was still there.
"Can I help you, my dear?" Torres asked with a relaxed smile and raised eyebrows. He was laying on his back, hands clasped behind his head as the two nymphbots fellated him.
Ximena sniffed and tried to compose herself. "I'm terribly sorry, Senor Torres. I didn't know you were still here."
As she turned to leave Torres asked, "Are you all right? What's wrong?"
"It's nothing. I'm sorry for the interruption."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No, no," she said, managing to pull herself together a bit. She wiped her eyes and forced a smile. "I'm fine."
"It's your husband, isn't it?" Torres asked.
Ximena took a deep breath and said curtly, "Every marriage has its ups and down, Senor Torres." She certainly wasn't going to discuss her problems with this nosy man, a mere business contact, especially while a nymphbot was giving him head.
"I'm sorry to hear it, my dear," Torres said, closing his eyes and moaning softly as the blonde bot took over. "Perhaps he's just working too hard. Politics is a nasty business."
"Please excuse me, Senor Torres," Ximena said. "And feel free to stay as long as you like." She turned to leave, then stopped cold.
Ximena turned back and took a step toward the bed. "How is it that you know my husband works in politics, Senor Torres?"
Torres' face flushed as he quickly sat up and shooed the nymphbots away. "Well...let me try to remember...you must have said something at some point...about Javier...I mean about your husband..."
Ximena took another step toward him. The thought of Torres poking around her private life, now of all times, made her blood rise.
Torres fidgeted and avoided Ximena's stare; he was clearly hiding something about Javier, maybe about her as well. Valued customer or not, Ximena was in no mood for his fumbling non-answer. She'd had enough unpleasant surprises for one day.
Another menacing step toward the bed. "Senor Torres, please answer my question."
Torres cleared his throat and said, "My dear, I must have misspoken. I must have been thinking of someone else. I didn't mean to upset you."
Ximena fumed. "Senor Torres, tell me how you know about my husband."
Torres made a feeble attempt to appear indignant, clearing his throat and saying, "Madam, I'm not going to sit here and be questioned about--"
The command Ximena uttered was almost inaudible. There was a flash of moving limbs and suddenly the brunette nymphbot was clutching Torres' throat and the blonde had him by the balls, both squeezing tightly.
Torres flailed helplessly as they held him in place. "What the hell are you doing?" he managed to choke out.
Ximena towered over Torres and glared into his reddening, contorted face as he struggled in vain. "Today's not the day to fuck with me, Torres," she said flatly. "I have your attention now, yes?"
Wide-eyed and terrified, Torres stopped resisting and slowly nodded.
Ximena muttered another command and the bots released him.
Torres coughed and wheezed, catching his breath and gingerly checking his neck and balls for damage.
Ximena sat down on the edge of the bed. "Now, let me ask you once more..."
It didn't take long for Torres to spill everything he knew. "Your husband hired my company a few weeks ago," he began, still trembling and unnerved from the nymphbots' show of strength. "It's something we do all the time for potential candidates, background screens to check for skeletons in the closet."
As Torres gave up the details, Ximena felt the hope she'd clutched onto for weeks, faithfully and unwaveringly, melt away entirely. She exited the Red Room and numbly walked to the reception area.
"Are you okay?" Angela asked from behind the reception desk as Ximena quietly approached the window and gazed out over her city.
"I'm fine," she said.
"He's still in your office," Angela said. "I think he's waiting for you. Should I ask him to leave?"
"No, thank you, Angela," Ximena answered blankly. She watched her city fade into twilight gray as the sun fell beyond the horizon.
When had she lost him? When she opened the brothel? No, it was before that. Long before that. Ximena remembered the dinner party they'd had four, maybe five, years ago.
"I must have fucked a hundred boys by the time I was fifteen," Ximena said casually with a smile and a shrug; the comment abruptly froze all conversation at the dinner party.
If Ximena had to choose the moment when Javier had started to drift away from her, she would have picked that night years ago when they hosted Javier's colleagues from party headquarters.
She remembered how Javier had laughed nervously at her comment and said, "Xime, I don't think this is the time--"
"Oh, Javi, come now." She looked around the table of a dozen guests, all staring at her with mouths agape; one of the wives scowled and shook her head, the derision clear on her face. "Aren't we all adults here?" Ximena asked to no answer, though a few managed to force polite smiles and return to their bowls of oxtail stew.
Later when the last guest had left, Javier let her have it.
"If your goal tonight was to make me look bad, you did one hell of a job."
Ximena threw her hands in the air. "I don't know how you put up with those people. They're all so smug, so fashionably progressive, and so completely full of shit. And why do you care what they think?"
"Believe it or not, I work in a profession where image matters. And you just went and gave them a year's worth of office gossip material." Javier shook his head in frustration. "How many times do we have to talk about this? You just can't come out and say stuff like that, Xime."
Ximena had grown to detest his career with the National Action Party. When they'd met, Javier had little interest in politics, but as he became bored with his career as a corporate attorney a friend offered him a job at the party's headquarters. Ximena remembered how he'd accepted the offer mostly out of curiosity, but to his surprise he took an immediate liking to his new work. And thanks in no small part to his good looks and natural charm he excelled, soon moving up the ranks of the local party machine.
But each step up the career ladder drove more discord into their marriage. Ximena knew she simply wasn't made of the stuff to be a politician's wife.
"Javi, I can't be one of those ridiculous, fawning women," she told him as she noisily tossed the silverware into the sink. "Giggling like schoolgirls at their husband's bad jokes, obsessing over whether or not they'll be invited to the right social events, gossiping at the hair salons. They're pathetic, the whole fucking lot of them."
Ximena took a deep breath and calmed herself. "Amor, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm not trying to hurt you. You know that, right?"
Javier nodded. He turned away from her and looked out the kitchen window; his eyes were sad like he was recalling a painful memory. "I know, Xime. And I know you've tried." He sighed and said, "But you are who you are."
Ximena hadn't thought of that dinner party in years, but now she recognized how things changed after that night, how he never looked at her in quite the same way, how they began to fight more often and more bitterly. Why hadn't she been aware of this when it was happening? Why only now, when it was far too late, could she clearly see the slow and steady decay of their marriage?
The bot brothel hadn't been the cause, of course. It had merely been the last straw, the final breaking point that drove him away. Ximena decided she'd been terribly naive, believing that any day Javier would come to his senses and come back. Perhaps it was what she simply wanted to believe.
Ximena entered the office and found Javier still seated at the table. The flickering candles had melted most of the way down, the papers still lying beside them.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked somberly. "Why didn't you tell me you were running for office?"
Javier looked surprised. "How did you--"
"It doesn't matter how I found out," she said. "I never knew you wanted to run for office. You could have told me, you know." There was a time when he'd told her everything, every grandiose dream, every secret desire.
Javier sighed. "Would it have mattered?" he asked, looking deep into her eyes. "Would you have done anything differently?"
Ximena slowly shook her head. "No."
"You are who you are, Xime. I don't want to change you. Maybe at one point I did, but not anymore."
She knew what he could have said but had the decency not to. A robot brothel owner for a wife was, even in the most liberal of societies, an impossibly heavy liability for a career-minded politician. She understood this; she understood everything.
They said nothing for a long while. Ximena finally approached the table and picked up the papers.
"I tell you what," she said, her eyes brightening. "Do me one favor and I'll sign."
Javier looked skeptical. "What?"
Ximena opened the side door of the office to reveal her private suite. She looked at the plush, oversized bed and then back to Javier with the naughty, inviting smile that had won him over countless times. "One last go for old times' sake?"
Javier appeared stunned, momentarily caught off guard by the unexpected offer. Ximena then noticed his eyes narrow as he...what? Considered her offer? Invented a polite excuse to leave? Ximena steeled herself for an abrupt refusal.
After several agonizing seconds, Javier finally returned her smile and a wave of happy relief washed over Ximena.
As they undressed one another it seemed to Ximena that their time apart disappeared. She felt her skin warm under his strong hands as they caressed the curves of her legs, belly and breasts. Her first orgasm came almost immediately, rippling through her body before he was even inside her.
When they began their second round, Ximena discreetly reached over to the nightstand and pressed the signal. Moments later, Javier gasped as he noticed the blonde nymphbot standing naked in the doorway, silently watching them. He started to pull out but Ximena tightened her legs around him and said, "Javi, wait. Please try to relax."
"You can't be serious."
"Amor, just this once, please. Just this once and then I'll sign, I promise."
"I don't know, Xime."
"Javi, please...for me?" she whispered, gazing deeply into his eyes, hoping he understood the finality of it. Never again would she ask him to jump off a mountain with her.
Javier's face softened and Ximena felt his body relax. He gave her a small nod. The nymphbot approached the bed, leaned down and gently kissed him on the back of the neck.
Ximena smiled lovingly at him. Her Javi.
It was one of those moments, the kind she lived for.