Xandra Gregory

The Passion of a Thousand Burning Suns

Jolly Rogered


On the run from a social crime punishable by imprisonment, Roger Ellison practically washes up on the shores of Isla Algunavez, a small, uncharted Caribbean island whose history is steeped in piracy and whose modernity is The Villa, a sex resort catering to the wealthy, fantastic, and fabulous, headed up by the most notorious sex pirate of the bunch, Nigel Fortescue, who lives life with neither apology nor regret.

Roger’s innocence intrigues Nigel long enough to get into his pants, and Roger’s relationship with Nigel opens not only his pants, but his mind as well. But for Roger, the Villa can only ever be a brief stopover on his journey, and when Roger’s past catches up with him, threatening to attract the attention of the US government, he must choose to leave the man who awakened him, and leave with apologies that can never be enough, and regrets that will always be too much.

ISBN: 978-1-59578-593-0

Liquid Silver Books


“Did you get it?”

Her voice pitched upward in excitement, to Roger Ellison’s ears, too loud. He winced and wrapped shaking fingers more tightly around the disc he’d just spent half a year’s salary on. Under his breath, he chanted an alphanumeric code over and over, until he felt it slide into a niche in his memory. “I got it.” He couldn’t believe it himself.

“What was he like?”

“He’s a Provie, Meg, not a leper.” The dealer who’d just made off with his money in exchange for an illegal VR disc and the code to unlock Adult content seemed surprisingly normal for a Provisional citizen. No festering plague sores, no Deviant Perversions Decaying the Fundamentals of Society, like the health vids claimed.

“I know that. I’ve been in the Sprawls. Was he trustworthy?” she pressed.

Roger shugged. “I hope.” The furtive man in shabby clothes supposedly encompassed all that had brought the country to its knees seventy years ago. The only thing unusual about this Provie was the square patch of pinkish, hairless skin on his scalp, peeking out from under his watch cap. “He didn’t have a tracking implant.” Roger stroked the disc. The guy did have an attitude, though. “I don’t have to tell you to be careful with that. Can’t believe you ain’t a Provie yet yourself.”
Neither can I.
“I can’t believe I got it.”

“Then let’s do it,” she said, her voice rising again with eagerness.

“Right now?”

“Right now!”

“We can’t! This needs more planning–an escape route–”

“Which we’ve had since we turned thirty-three. Just in case. Roger, I know you. I’m your fiancĂ©. If you don’t do this now, you’ll never do it and you’ll end up miserable.” Megan’s teeth flashed in the darkness of the car. “You helped me smuggle in birth control. A little virtual sex with a hunky wrestler is the least I can do for you. Now go on. I’ll wait.”


“Heads up.”

Roger spoke to the pitch-darkness surrounding him. At his command, the blank space lit up with a softly glowing yellow interface. A dial control and a series of checkboxes floated at shoulder height, waiting for the touch of his gloved hand or a spoken command. Without any of the sensory inputs activated, the skin-like suit of the virtual reality booth pressed against his skin and itched just a little. “Wrestling,” he said and the blank blackness resolved into a gymnasium space, lined with springy mats. The skin-suit’s sensory inputs activated and Roger looked down to see his body encased in a wrestling singlet. Even though his mind knew he still wore the VR suit, his vision and his sense of touch told him otherwise.

If there was one thing Roger knew, it was that fantasies were nice places to visit, but dangerous places to live. He would know, since he made them for a living. Yet it didn’t stop him from becoming attached to certain fantasies. If people like his boss could glut themselves on virtual golf rather than clogging up the travel permit offices with requests for real-time golf junkets, then the VR booth was the lesser evil. And if people like him had virtual outlets…

“Confirm. Select Failsafes,” he said. Letters floated in front of him, next to checkboxes. A poke with one of his gloved fingers ticked off the boxes next to “Safety protocol: Mild impacts” and “Verbal commands: Activated.” All completely acceptable settings for an innocent VR experience.

Then he spoke again. “Activate Masking Mode Stonewall, authorization Zeta Gamma five-six-three.”

His field of vision shifted suddenly, and a tiny glow in the corner of his eye began flashing a slow, intermittent rhythm. “Deactivate Adult Content Blocks? Y/N.”

He nodded to accept the suggestion, and an opponent with an appropriately-similar body type appeared before him. He tried not to think of his opponent in terms of sex, but the lean strength in the opponent’s body made him remember being confused and thrilled and hyped up on adrenaline and the smell of sweat.

Roger’s heart began to pound and he bounced experimentally. The floor felt springy, like a high-density mat. Even the smell that reached his nostrils immersed him in the experience–that sweaty gymnasium smell that couldn’t be found anywhere else. The buzzer sounded and his opponent lunged in for a takedown.
He responded to the moves–dodging, grappling, using his body weight to interfere with the balance of his opponent. The takedown was Roger’s, and his opponent’s body beneath his felt one hundred percent real. The other man’s body even generated body heat, and Roger’s hands registered sweat-slicked skin. For someone used to working in wireframe–the stage of VR programming where everything was simply polygons in a three-D grid box–the sensory richness of the experience blew his mind.

Objectionable as it might be to polite society, at least VR kept him from risking his life and his freedom to pursue a real sexual relationship with another man.

His moment of surprise granted his opponent an advantage and he turned the match in his favor, flipping Roger onto his back and shifting his body to place Roger in a hold. Roger struggled against the grip and found himself flat on his back, the opponent’s body sprawled over his. The sound of the other man’s breathing, the warm puffs of air over his face, only discernable through the openings in the headgear, the pressure on his chest, his stomach, his hips–he tried to tell himself it wasn’t real and his body simply wouldn’t buy it. If anything–
Oh Jesus, no. He tried to turn over, to hide it. But the opponent had a legitimate hold and the upper hand, and Roger couldn’t see how he’d fail to notice the sudden, raging hard-on swelling his groin.

Just like in high school.

Any minute now, Diffenbarge would blow the whistle, he’d spring away, mortally embarrassed and unable to look at the other boy, and his dreams would torment him for weeks, leaving him sweaty and erect in the middle of the night, with only the guilty relief of his hand raising more doubts than it released.

In the instant his eyes met the blank eyes of the VR opponent, he both hoped and feared that the booth’s failsafe would kick in and boot him out of the scenario. Health lessons, religious studies, the law said it was wrong. But he didn’t know any other way to be, and he was slowly going insane. Megan’s advice to “just do it” reassured him. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with him, and deep down, neither did he. But it wasn’t the same as tolerated or accepted, so this would have to do.

His opponent’s eyes flickered, and Roger grew aware of a firmness against his thigh. The match took on a heavy, swollen air and his opponent’s hands went from competitive to consensual.

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