Cassidy Hamilton sighed before shoving a chocolate in her mouth. As cloying sweetness invaded her taste buds, she studied the page displayed on her illuminated reader for the second time.
The book was a dry read, a dissident rant from decades before when Earth's nations had first been gathered under one banner, ending all war on her home world. Peace reigned over the once battle-torn planet for the most part, tended to by armored soldiers and soulless battle drones capable of wiping out entire cities. Revolts had been quashed with quick ruthlessness, barely disturbing the fearful complacency of the general populace.
The author of this particular book had no doubt been executed for his anti-unified government views. The long-ago renegade seethed over the assertion all Earth's outdated nuclear warheads had been detonated in space, an impossibility he warned, given the smallness of the blasts transmitted through the government-controlled media. He then went on with extensive mathematical formulae to prove his point, formulae that went on for five pages.
It wasn't that Cassidy couldn't grasp the weighty data. She played in mathematics the way a child might play with clay. Normally, she'd be scrutinizing the computations, looking for errors or little twists in logical application that would serve the author's needs. Tonight she couldn't concentrate though. The knowledge that more interesting tomes awaited in the illicit book collection stored in her reader kept her from focusing on the outlawed manuscript.
She shifted, searching for a more comfortable position in the cramped ventilation shaft. Stretched out on her belly, her stiff, long-sleeved nightgown bunching around her knees, it wasn't easy to move around. The narrow ductwork, glowing silvery-white in the wash of light from her reader, was the only place she dared to read the illegal materials she'd downloaded from her grandfather's collection before being sequestered in the convent on Europa.
It was still early in the convent's sleeping hours on the eternal night side of the moon. Cassidy read every night in her hiding place, nibbling on sweets and snacks bought with the modest allowance her grandfather sent her. She'd been stuck on Europa for three years now, her days a monotonous drone of praying, tending crops, scrubbing floors, and Bible study. Even creeping through the ventilation system to spy on her fellow aspirants and the nuns had worn out its novelty. Only the stolen collection of banned books kept her mind sharp and sane. Fortunately, the library was vast. She'd barely sampled the many offerings her grandfather had kept hidden deep in secret computer files.
Cassidy didn't have to wonder why her grandfather, so strict and upright with the Church's teachings, possessed the illegal book collection. His oft-quoted direction to the soldiers beneath him was, "Know the enemy better than you know yourself." She could imagine him studying the words that enthralled her, his thin lips pressed in a bitter line of disgust.
She was halfway through the page once more when she realized she had again not digested anything she'd read. The siren call of the book she'd discovered two weeks ago kept her usually thirsty brain from absorbing the current material.
The Church taught women were innately evil, awash in sin. Cassidy's preoccupation with her recent discovery certainly bore that out. She'd had no idea what she'd find when she opened the file labeled The Kama Sutra, and she hadn't been able to get the illustrations out of her head since then.
Just like your mother.
Cassidy shook her head, and her long, platinum blond hair spilled over the reader. No, she'd never offered herself to any man, had never even shown a man any part of her devil flesh. She was not the harlot her mother had proved to be.
But the urges were there. That she could not deny. Right now, there was nothing she wanted to do more than look at those pictures of men and women committing sinful acts. Like Eve, she was seduced by the temptation of the forbidden.
Just looking won't hurt. It's not like you're fornicating.
Cassidy gave up, tapping the screen with a trembling finger to change books. She tried not to think about how much easier it got each night to talk herself into viewing the taboo pictures.