This story was originally published in Clarkesworld in May of 2013. You can read it in its entirety off site or preview it here. Additionally you can listen to the audio version, narrated by the fabulous Kate Baker at the Clarkesworld Podcast
After years of planning and scheming, of deals honest and not, of sleepless nights of rage and cool days of calculation, Klary’s moment arrives when xeni-Harvel Asher, the ambassador from the Four Worlds, enters her gallery.
As a concession to local xenophobia, the xeni is embodied as a human male. Of course, he is beautiful. Some liken the xeni to the faeries of Earth legend, their charisma so intoxicating that, at the merest nod, a groom will walk away from his new bride, a mother will abandon her infant. Is it telepathy? Pheromones? The lure of great wealth and power? No matter. Klary has steeled herself against the xeni’s insidious power. Ever since the Ambassador made planetfall, Klary has been on a regimen of emotion suppressants. Not that she really needs them. After xeni-Harvel Asher ruined her life, Klary has had just one emotion. No chemistry can defeat it.
Her hopeless assistant Elloran makes a fool of himself groveling before the xeni. Klary slips behind a display case protecting a cascading sculpture of lace and leather and spun sugar. She is content for now to study her prey. The xeni is slight, almost childlike, but he commands the room with eyes as big as Klary’s fists, a smile brimming with wide teeth. Slender hands emerge from the drooping sleeves of his midnight jacket. His fingers are delicate enough to pluck the strings of a harp—or a woman’s heart.
“Here at Hamashy’s Fine Textiles we have the best collection . . . ” Elloran is talking too fast.
“Yes, this one is sure you do.” Asher cuts him off. “This one would speak with the owner now?”
Which means it’s time. But when Klary steps from her hiding place, she sees that her plan is going hideously awry. Dear, beloved, lost Janary, clone sister of her sibling batch, has followed her abductor into her gallery.
Even though it has been fourteen years since they last saw each other, even though she has lost her name, her face, and her innocence, Janary knows her as her sister. How could she not? Her frightened stare pricks Klary’s shriveled heart. All is lost. Yes, a reunion was part of her plan, but that was for later. After this was over. Will she give Klary up? Can Janary even guess what her sister plans to do? But there is no turning back.