Jenny Lewis stared at the man in front of her with a frown. She still couldn't believe Lester had kept this information secret.
He should at least have informed her. She had a right to know, hadn't she?
Everything in her was demanding to slap him for his behaviour; the man who now looked nervously at her of course, not Sir James who was watching her from the side.
Although Lester had probably deserved a nice right hook as well for pulling that stunt.
Maybe she should knock them both out and be done with it. After all she had left the job at the ARC and all it entailed.
Why had Lester come to her? She just wanted to forget everything and now he was dragging her back in the worst possible way.
Did James even know how much it hurt her to see this man again?
Jenny clenched her fists as a glimmer of fury shot through her and she realised she actually hated the man for putting her through that hell.
She didn't even blame him for obeying Helen's command and destroying the ARC. The creature had just been a mindless tool, only following orders.
No, her hatred was more personal.
Cutter had been Cutter, he couldn't stop himself playing the hero, even for people who hadn't earned it.
But perhaps if she had known at the time, if she hadn't felt so utterly rejected by the callous words of this cheap copy, she would have had the courage to stop Nick or eventually accompany him.
She could have prevented the Professor from putting his own life above that of his murderous wife.
If it wasn't for that creature maybe Nick Cutter would still be alive.
Jenny walked over to the cupboard bar to fetch a drink whilst Lester started to explain.
The clone hadn't died like everyone had believed. The sweeper team had found him inside the building, unconscious and badly injured.
It seemed he had leapt behind a desk in a flicker of self-preservation at the last moment.
James Lester had found himself unable to give the order to eliminate the man, who looked like Cutter, and had placed him in a secret institution.
By now his cuts, broken ribs and burns had healed and Lester didn't know what to do with the creature.
Tests had shown the clone was of average intelligence, he just wasn't accustomed to using his brain.
Whatever had happened in the ARC between him and the Professor had woken up something slumbering deep inside him.
His first question had been for Cutter and the beautiful long-haired woman in the ARC who had asked him out for a drink.
He had been devastated to hear that Cutter hadn't survived.
Seeing the clone had feelings like a normal human being had made it even harder for Lester to follow the government's order to eliminate the dubious creation.
Now he needed a safe place for him and that had led the bureaucrat to her doorstep in the middle of the night.
She wanted to say "No!" and shove them out of her flat but the pleading, lost look in those blue eyes had made her falter.
Lester was right. The clone was still a human being and didn't deserve to be disposed of like rubbish.
"OK, I will take him in for a few days until you've found a better solution," she declared and, two minutes later, she found herself alone with the clone.
"Come with me," she barked in frustration and the clone started to follow her.
"That's the guest room. You can sleep in there. Bathroom is to the left. Don't try to blow anything up, I'm rather fond of my apartment. Good night."
But she didn't get a wink of sleep for the rest of the night. Why had she been so daft as to let herself get burdened with that responsibility?
In the morning she sat, bleary-eyed, in the kitchen when he tentatively walked in and greeted her shyly.
He eyed the yellow content of the box she had found in the kitchen cupboard. It was one of the few things on which the date hadn't expired yet. She normally didn't eat breakfast at home.
Jenny watched, shaking her head, as he shoveled the cornflakes into his mouth with delight. After he had finished off half of the box of sugared flakes, she finally stopped him.
"Usually you mix it with milk but I forgot to buy some," she told him.
He smiled happily at her, still crunching the last flakes between his teeth. "It tastes good. Better than the healthy stuff I got at the hospital or the tasteless porridge the Mistress gave to us."
"Mrs. Cutter, the lady who created us, me and the other clones."
Jenny grimaced sourly. "How many of you are there?"
"Just me. The others were clones of someone the mistress called Jeffrey Quinn. He was killed by a future predator. All the others died in the explosion in the building."
"And she really cloned Cutter only once?"
He nodded. "She told me I was special. I was the only clone she liked to have around all the time."
Jenny narrowed her eyes. "How did Helen treat you? Did she touch you in any improper way?"
"What do you mean by improper?" he asked, confused. "She treated me normally. At the start she controlled my eyes and teeth, let me walk back and forwards and tested my reactions. Just like she did with the other clones after the completation."
Jenny bit her lip. She needed to know. "Did she ever touch you between your legs and check the function there?"
He shook his head. "Why should she have done that? She already knew my digestive system was working."
She gaped at the fantastic dinner he'd prepared out of the few items she had purchased at the grocery store. The table was set for one person and looked very appealing. He had even lit a candle and put some of the flowers growing in the front garden of the house into a vase.
Jenny didn't scold him for leaving the house to get the flowers. It was unlikely someone would recognize him around here.
"That looks fabulous. Where did you learn it?"
"The Mistress showed me. She liked it when I cooked for her. She always grinned when I prepared the meal," he declared proudly.
Then he added a little more soberly, "But I was never allowed to eat any of it myself. I only got porridge like the other clones. It was adequate for us, the Mistress said."
Jenny gritted her teeth. That was the moment her anger with the clone dissolved and she promised herself to treat him better than Helen Cutter used to do.
She didn't want to have anything in common with that heartless cow.
He felt uncomfortable when she insisted they ate together but he got a second place setting from the kitchen and sat down across from her.
Tentatively, he put some of the food on his own plate and shoved a morsel in his mouth.
Jenny smiled faintly as he closed his eyes and chewed with relish.
Two days later Jenny realised she couldn't address him permanently as "you" nor did she want to call him clone or Cutter Two the way Lester had done. He needed a individual name.
After an hour she gave up. She couldn't come up with a name which fitted him better than 'Nick'. He just didn't look like a Thomas, an Andrew, a David or a Ben.
"Nicolas," she tried cautiously and decided it would be sufficient for the time being.
James Lester had brought over most of the clothes Cutter had owned.
With all his relatives deceased and Helen still declared dead, Cutter's property would go to charity anyway.
Jenny had instantly discarded the ugly jackets and striped shirts the Professor had liked and which she would always associate with Nick Cutter. She only kept the casual clothes for Nicolas.
When she came home from a job interview at a Pharmaceutical firm which apparently needed a good public relations manager after a disaster with the undesirable side effects of a new drug, she found Nicolas lounging on the couch with a book in his hand.
She had started to teach him reading and writing and he had grasped the basics quicker than she had expected.
He still had some trouble with writing. His letters were skewed and scrawly but the reading was going rather well by now.
He sprung up instantly and helped her with the grocery bag. His eyes beamed when he found the small carton and he smiled gratefully at her.
Jenny grinned when Nicolas sucked enthusiastically on the ice lolly she had bought for him.
He had such a sweet tooth and liked all forms of surgery things. She had to hide and ration the sweets or he would eat them all at once.
She didn't know what had triggered it.
One moment Nicolas had been sleeping peaceful in his room and the next he was stumbling into her bedroom, babbling nonsense about monsters and killer bees.
Without hesitation, Jenny took him in her arms and tried to calm him down with soothing circles of her palm on his back.
She had often pictured in the past what holding Cutter would be like, but when she enfolded this so similar-looking man in her arms it wasn't anything like she had imagined in her fantasies.
The clone clutched her like a scared child, searching shelter in his parent's bed.
After a while he quieted and settled down beside her.
Jenny wasn't sure how much of his bad dream he had really experienced in his time with Helen.
She didn't dare to ask. What she had heard of his life by now was more than enough to give her nightmares herself.
She smoothed the hair back from his face and gave him a soft kiss on the check. With a sigh Nicolas closed his eyes.
Jenny woke up with Nicolas pressed against her back, his hot breath bathing her neck and his legs intertwined with hers.
"Sorry," he mumbled sheepishly as he came alert because of her movements and rolled away from her.
She still could feel the imprint of his erection on the backside of her thigh after he had left the room.
Jenny groaned in frustration and tried to forget how good it had felt to be close to him. But ten minutes later her skin still had goosebumps and her nipples were still erect.
Nicolas had been monosyllabic at breakfast and she had left him alone, glad another job interview was waiting for her.
It was late when Jenny came back home. Unexpectedly meeting a room-mate from university had been fun.
She had lost contact with most of her old friends and was happy to hear some news about them.
The flat was quiet and the living room dark. Hopefully Nicolas hadn't kept dinner waiting for her all evening but had eaten alone.
She walked into the bathroom for a quick wash before she hit the pillow.
Nicolas stood in the shower cubicle with his back leaning against the wall.
His head was thrown back, his eyes closed and his mouth opened sensually. His fist was loosely wrapped around his hard cock, stroking leisurely up and down.
He came with a deep groan. When Nicolas opened his eyes he spied Jenny and went rigid in shock, his eyes dilated in fear and consternation.
A deep blush coloured Jenny's face and she felt guilty to have invaded such a private moment.
"Next time lock the bloody door before you have a wank ," She called angrily and hurried out of the room, slamming the bathroom door closed behind her.
Some minutes later he was standing at the entrance to her bedroom, clad in his nightwear, looking miserable and guilty. "I'm sorry. I know I was a bad boy and have to be punished."
Jenny blinked and took a deep breath. She still hadn't recovered from the incident. "Why would you think that, Nicolas?" she managed to ask him with a steady voice.
"The mistress told me after it happened the first time."
"Please, tell me about it."
He shuffled nervously with his feet and bowed his head in resignation before he started to talk.
"One night I had a nice dream. I don't remember the content but when I woke up my boxers were all wet with that white stuff.
I was afraid I'd caught a disease and would die with all that fluid leaking out of me. The mistress was furious and told me I had been bad. I had to scrub my hands with a scrubbing brush and then had to stand with outstretched arms in the cold for the rest of the night."
Hearing that, Jenny Lewis hoped she would some day get the opportunity to repay Helen for all she had done to her husband and the clone. She would make sure the bitch suffered just as much.
"I really tried to be well-behaved but when I was cleaning myself in the shower some weeks later it happened again. I was soaping myself everywhere and it felt nice, especially there and I rubbed harder. Suddenly the white stuff shot out again. I didn't dare to tell the Mistress this time. I don't want to be bad but it feels so good I can't stop myself from doing it from time to time. I'm really sorry."
Nicolas waited, with his head still bowed for the punishment which surely had to follow such misbehaviour.
It had been awkward talking to him about sexuality.
After stuttering through an explanation about erections, orgasms and semen and telling him that masturbation was perfectly normal but something to be done in private she had sent him to bed.
The next day Jenny impulsively ordered several books.
She flipped through "Preparing for Adolescence - Straight talking to teens and parents", blushed at the detailed description of "Growth into Manhood - A Sexual Guide for teenage boys", and read, with curiosity, the first pages of "Raising Boys" before she put the books on the coffee table for Nicolas.
Nicolas watched the film on TV, intrigued, and memorised every kiss and touch the couple shared.
He had already learnt a lot from the books Jenny had given him but the things he was really interested in had only been mentioned very superficially.
Since he had spent that night in Jenny's bed, feeling the heat of her skin through the thin material of their sleepwear he was dreaming of her in a rather disturbing way.
The woman had occupied his thoughts since he had met her in the ARC for the first time.
Nicolas had replayed the moment in his mind many times while he lay injured in the hospital and had pondered what could have happened if he'd disregarded the Mistress' order and have gone with Jenny for a drink.
By now he was head over ears in love with the beautiful woman who had taken him in and he yearned to show her how much she meant to him in the same tender way the man in the film did with his lady love.
Jenny could sense his glances during dinner and her breath hitched. Nicolas was nearly devouring her with his eyes and her skin started to prickle.
The blue teeshirt encompassed his upper body tightly and she could see the contours of his chest muscles flow under the fabric with every move of his arms.
How she itched to touch him, to slide her hands under the shirt and roam over his body.
All she wanted in this moment was to feel the sensual lips of Nick Cutter on her skin, hearing him groan her name and be held in his strong arms.
Jenny Lewis wasn't able to recall how she had managed to eat all the food on her plate.
She couldn't remember the taste nor the what she actually had eaten and she was relieved when dinner was finally over so that she could retire to her bedroom.
After she had declined the next job offer, Jenny realised her interest in public relations work had waned.
It had always given her self-confidence to be such a suchessful business woman and she was still proud of the things she had achieved.
To be independent of the family money had been her way of rebelling.
But the work which had previously been so important for her had lost all appeal now.
The prospect of telling lies and convincing people to believe something that wasn't true suddenly almost disgusted her.
She wasn't ashamed of the things she had done in the past. It had been part of the job, after all. However it wasn't something she wanted to do again in the near future.
Jenny knew she had changed though her work an the Anomaly project.
At first the changes had been so subtle no one had noticed. Later even her fiance had become aware of it and had tried to issue an ultimatum.
It had been easy for her to to break off the engagement. Her feelings had changed even more.
She had started to wear casual clothes and had stopped the heavy makeup and the extravagant hair styles.
And that had only come about because of a random comment from a blond middle-aged Professor that he preferred natural beauty in a woman.
Of course her new outfit was also helpful when she had to outrun prehistoric creatures on a regular basis but primarily she had done it for Cutter.
Only now, weeks after she had found that photograph in his belongings, she had acknowledged the bitter truth that he had wanted the woman on the picture and not her.
Now she had a copy of Cutter in her flat and she could understand how Nick must have felt.
Her feelings hadn't died with that man. Every time she looked at Nicolas she wanted him.
Perhaps it was time to call Lester...
The dream had started delicate and erotic. Suddenly Helen had appeared and it had turned into a nightmare.
The moment the shot was fired, Jenny woke up with a scream.
Nicolas ran into her room only seconds later, instantly kneeling down beside her bed and looking with worry into her eyes.
The dream with Nick was still vivid in her mind and Nicolas was so close she could smell his scent, earthy and sweet, a mixture which had always reminded her of a tulip field.
Jenny lifted her hand to his cheek and pushed his hair out of his face to study him.
There really wasn't any visible difference between him and Nick Cutter.
He looked like him, he had the same accent as him and he even felt like him, not that she had much to compare him with in that department besides some accidental contact of hands and arms.
Jenny moved closer and tentatively pressed her lips against his, softly nipping on his bottom lip.
She started to tremble when arousal seared through her as he pushed her down onto the bed, his lips devouring her mouth and his body grinding on top of hers.
When he had to come up for air, his breath hot against her face, he searched her eyes for an answer to the question his body was already asking.
Jenny opened her lips and he groaned into her mouth, ready to plunge in with his tongue.
"Slow down a bit," she whispered and combed with her fingers through the silky strands of his hair.
He panted heavily and stopped his movements, trying to calm himself down.
The tip of his tongue slid slowly over her upper lip then slipped inside, sweeping over the edges of her teeth, exploring the surface of her gums before he circled her tongue and sucked it into his mouth.
'Christ, was he good at this,' Jenny thought, before she lost track and became engulfed in the wonderful feelings he was invoking in her.
Some minutes later, she felt a faint cooling draught on her breast and realised he had opened her pyjama jacket and was busy pulling down her pyjama bottoms as well.
She didn't even know how he had managed it so fast. She must have been spaced out completely.
"Nick," she whispered and he smiled at her, stripping his own sleeping wear and settling naked between her legs.
He brushed her nipples, smoothed his palm gently over her hips and trust his tongue in her belly button than drew a slick path down to the shaved triangle between her legs.
Jenny mewled when his rough tongue laved over her labia. "Don't...," she cried.
He stopped and she bunched her fists into the sheets in frustration.
"Don't stop!" she gasped and whimpered when he trust his tongue between her folds, sliding in as deep he could.
The stubble of his beard was teasing her clit and his nose was breathing fast and hot against her skin.
A hot wave surged through her body as he started stroking the sensitive area inside her pussy with his tongue.
"Nick," she panted and buried her hands in his hair whilst he ravished her.
He couldn't stand it any longer. This was what he had yearned for before he even knew what his body was demanding.
With a growl, he raised himself up and moved into position.
"Jenny," he moaned and grasped her hips as he shoved inside her. Pleasure shot through his body, making him lightheaded.
"Yes, Nick," Jenny answered, desperately heaving her pelvis up in her longing to feel more of him.
He pressed still deeper and then he started a steady rhythm, making sure she enjoyed it as much as he was doing.
His strokes were slowly growing in intensity as the feeling of imminent release started.
He was biting his lip in an attempt to slow down and concentrate on the woman under him instead of the heat flaring up his spine and the pressure in his balls. He wouldn't let her down.
"Faster!" she demanded and he obeyed. Her face was flushed and her eyes closed as he drove her to the edge.
He had to kiss her. With a groan he sunk down on her, finding her mouth and quenching his thirst on her lips.
His skin was on fire. Every square inch of his body that was in contact with Jenny sent waves of delight to his nerves.
He had to tear himself away from her lips and bury his head in her neck.
Jenny felt his breathing shorten to gasping pants as he fought against his over-whelming desire to come.
She could feel the skin of his fuzzy chest teasing her nipples as he rocked in and out of her with deep strokes.
Small moans of pleasure began to escape from deep in her throat. And suddenly it was too much.
The heat that pounded through her settled between her legs as she felt his sex swell and pump.
Her hands settled on his arse, holding him in place as she came, drowning-dizzy and breathless and hopelessly lost to the sensations of her body.
He felt his cock pulse as he shot his release into her womb. Her contractions milking the last drop from him.
He came hard and it was so intensive that he found himself panting and laughing and moaning her name in an ongoing sensation of bliss.
When he slumped down on her body, his bones suddenly as limp as his cock, he nipped softly at her bottom lip, whispering: "Thank you for letting me make love to you."
Jenny closed her eyes, her illusion collapsing like a house of cards at his words. She was sure Nick Cutter wouldn't have said anything like that.
But the person in bed with her he wasn't Nick. He was just Nicolas, a genetic copy whose mind was not more mature than any adolescent. What she had done had been wrong.
Regardless of that, she let it happen again some hours later and came with Nick's name on her lips.
In the morning, Jenny felt dirty for being too weak to resist him.
"Nicolas, that has to stop. I'm imagining someone else with me, someone you can't replace. And that isn't fair on you," Jenny whispered.
He just looked lovingly at her and swept his hands through his ruffled hair in such an adorable way she wanted to draw him back on top of her and bury her hands in his silky strands.
"I don't mind when you call me his name. I can understand you missing him," he answered, a sad smile playing on his lips.
Jenny swallowed painfully. Grasping her dressing gown she stood up and hurried into the bathroom.
Before she closed the door, she said with damp eyes. "But I do mind."
He sat down at the kitchen table and asked in a subdued voice. "Was it really so terrible to be with me?"
Jenny looked into his desolate eyes and her heart went out to him. Sighing deeply she searched for the right words to reassure him, without raising his hopes that it would happen again.
"No, Nicolas, you were wonderful. It's not your fault, it's mine. I shouldn't have..."
He interrupted her angrily. "You tell me I've been wonderful but in spite of that you think I wasn't as good as him, right? I'll never be. The Mistress was correct after all. I'm just a dumb copy, worthless and a waste of space."
Jenny called after him as he ran out of the flat but he paid no attention to her words.
She stepped outside, ready to follow him, but he had vanished without a trace.
Two hours later he still wasn't back and her anxiety was growing. She hadn't the faintest idea if he had ever been in the city with Helen.
There was so much danger outside. Did he even know how to behave in road traffic?
He could have had an accident or be dead by now and she wouldn't hear about it.
Calling the hospitals was useless. Nicolas didn't have any identification with him, or anything what tied him to Jenny Lewis.
Jenny was worried sick when she called the secret number in the afternoon and informed Sir James about Nicolas' disappearance.
Lester had ranted and cursed and finally promised to do what he could to find him.
Later that night, the sound of tapping on the door startled her. Jenny hurried to the front door and ripped it open.
Nicolas was standing there, dishevelled with ruffled hair.
"I didn't know where else to go," he declared quietly and walked in the apartment, looking utterly defeated.
Jenny brewed tea and prepared some sandwiches for him. Adding a chocolate bar to the tray she took the food into the living room to Nicolas.
"Please sit down and eat something. We'll talk afterwards."
Jenny Lewis told him everything from the start. She held nothing back. Nicolas just listened.
"So you see we never were together. We were just colleagues."
"But you wanted to be more than that. I destroyed your hopes with my brusque answers that day when I posed as Cutter, didn't I? I'm so sorry about that. I didn't intend to hurt you."
"I'm not sure I ever had a real chance with Cutter. He longed for a woman he had lost and who had looked like me," she answered with a sad smile.
"I know only too well how much it hurt to be just an inferior copy. I won't do the same to you, Nicolas. I will not use you. Otherwise I'd be no better than Helen and Nick Cutter. Lester has to find another place for you to stay."
"It's too late, Jenny. I've been in love with you since the first day we met. I'll go along with everything you want. I'll try to become the person you have lost. Just don't send me away," he pleaded.
Jenny had tears in her eyes when she drew him into her arms.
Their lips met in a tender kiss, her tongue stroking tentatively against his.
He deepened the kiss and tangled a hand in her hair, seeking to bring her closer. His other hand slid down her spine, his fingers exploring her soft skin.
Nicolas sighed when she broke the kiss and stood up.
They went to bed together that night but not to make love or to seek comfort in each other arms. They slept separately on either side of the bed, just feeling reassured by the presence of the other person nearby.
The next morning, Nicolas and Jenny woke up spooned together in the middle of the bed.
On a cold August day she called the secret number Sir James had given her for the last time.
Within days she had the required documents, in the name of a Nicolas Johnson, husband of Jenny Lewis.
Lester had asked her where she planned to go with Nicolas but she couldn't answer his question. She didn't know the answer yet.
She only knew they had to leave behind the place where everything reminded her of recent events.
Jenny had to break away from her past life and that included London, Lester and the ARC.
Sir James had spoken to her in the same placating tone her parents had always used when they believed she was too young to understand, a tone Jenny had loathed throughout her whole childhood.
"He isn't Cutter, Jenny. He can never be."
Of course she already knew that. She wasn't daft. After all Nicolas lacked the experience of a whole life. But she could still try to change that, couldn't she?
First, they traveled to Herefordshire. The Wenlock Series lagerst tte provided a brief glimpse into the macrofauna of the Silurian. They stayed there for a whole week.
The next stop was Rhynie chert in Scotland with the fossils from the Devonian.
Nicolas first experience with French wine came in La Voulte-sur-Rhone where they inspected the late mid-Jurassic find.
In Karatau they nearly got arrested.
Jenny had tried to buy some Triassic dinosaurs bones from the curator in an underhand deal and only the fact that she was British and the young Republic of Kazakhstan didn't want any diplomatic difficulties with the United Kingdom had saved them.
When Nicolas asked her in Auca Mahuevo in Patagonia, where she showed him the variety of macrofauna of the Cretaceous, if they were visiting all these places because she was interested in Palenteology she cancelled their next trip and stopped dragging him around the world.
In a nice little house somewhere in Scotland, Jenny Lewis finally gave up and found peace in his arms.
He would never be the brilliant Professor Nick Cutter, but just being Nicolas, a nice caring man, who loved her, was enough to make her happy.