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5/5 (2 ratings)
148 pages
1 hour
Nov 15, 2014


Launch day for Hearth Global’s smart house system. Techs in place, programs operational, uplinks activated. All systems go. Until one doesn’t. Ryan has a house on his roster without any record of construction, and it’s a hot mess. Actually, calling it that is an insult to hot messes everywhere. They have to inform the owner. It’ll be a PR nightmare, especially on their first official day in business, and even more so when the owner is an attorney itching to bury them in lawsuits, but it has to be done. Right?

Uh, not so much. As it turns out, there’s a lot more at stake than Hearth Global’s reputation—top secret government stuff in which Ryan is now swimming up to his ears. He can’t make this software work by himself without the beautiful owner finding out something isn’t up to snuff. But what other choice does he have? The DOD is keeping tabs on the company, watching Victoria to make sure she doesn’t cause waves, and threatening to step in if anyone jeopardizes their agenda. To keep them all safe, Ryan has to buck up and take on the role of Victoria’s virtual house servant. 24-7. For as long as it takes to get the house up and running on its own. Because nothing could possibly go wrong with that...

Nov 15, 2014

About the author

Alianne Donnelly is an avid lover of stories of all kinds. Raised on a healthy diet of fairy tales in a place where they almost seemed real, she grew into a writer who seeks magic in the modern age and enjoys sharing a little bit of it with the world through every story she writes. Her books span the spectrum from fantasy to science fiction with varying degrees of romance sprinkled throughout. Alianne now lives in California, where she spends her free time reading, writing, and daydreaming. To find out more about her books and works in progress, visit her website at aliannedonnelly.com.

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Virtual - Alianne Donnelly


by Alianne Donnelly

Copyright 2014 Alianne Donnelly

Editor: Kimberly Grenfell

Licensing Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold

or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person,

please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did

not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your

favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard

work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16


About The Author

Other Titles

Connect With Alianne

Sneak Peek: Wolfen

— Chapter 1 —

Feel the rain, bitches! Taylor popped the cork, and three dozen engineers and art designers cheered in a deafening chorus. He shook the bottle, spraying champagne all over the team, ducking nerf darts and footballs. It wasn’t the best idea to open a bottle in central command, but it was the absolute best place to celebrate.

Today was the day Hearth Global launched their groundbreaking virtual home assistants. Hundreds of beta systems were already running, and more orders were pouring in from all over the world for this custom-designed software which monitored everything from room temperature to security and supplies, and was smart enough to learn the residents’ habits and adjust settings accordingly. The breakthrough feature was the interactive holographic concierge as a user interface. Residents could put a face with the system and talk to it, rather than waste time typing commands into a console.

And it was all controlled from this facility. Ryan looked around in satisfaction. Three billion dollars’ worth of cutting-edge technology with a myriad of fail safes and redundancies; the most reliable system known to man. Three dozen people had worked for years to put it together, and all of them felt the way he did: this was their baby.

Everybody, shut up! Taylor whistled to quiet the crowd, and climbed onto the rickety plastic table, raising the empty champagne bottle high. To Lucile, he said. Long may she purr.

Ryan rolled his eyes. Give it a rest, Taylor. No one’s calling her that but you.

Aw, come on!

A volley of paper cups forced him down from the table. Celia took over, hushing them all with a raise of her chin. Ryan would love to know how she did that. She was a tiny little thing at five-foot-three and barely a hundred pounds, but the smallest gesture from her made everyone jump to attention.Happy birthday, everyone, she said. We’ve come this far, but we’re nowhere near finished. Expectations will be astronomical, so let’s not drop the ball, all right?

Short, inspirational, and to the point. No wonder she was the boss.

Okay. Taylor, clean this mess up. Joe, Madi, Steve, I want you front and center at the helm. I wanna know what’s going on every second. Everyone else, back to your stations. Let’s show them what we can do.

As everyone filed out, Taylor punched the air. Booya!

Ryan shook his head and made a quiet exit to his pod. As one of the graphics techs, he had his own mini command room. The only lights here came from the myriad of widescreen monitors and a spotlight from the body-sized scanner. It was like stepping into a spaceship cocoon with flashing lights and fancy machines. He couldn’t see outside, but at his fingertips were windows to fifty places all around the world: the fifty accounts he was overseeing personally—California, Virginia, Canada, France, Norway, Egypt, India, and Australia, all tiny little dots scattered around the world, and Ryan was at the center of it all. His pod was a well-oiled machine. He’d meticulously gone over every detail of each account. He knew the owners by name, knew how many people lived in each house, what they liked to eat, what temperature they preferred, and when they did their grocery shopping. In short, Ryan’s programming was the invisible genie taking care of those little things busy people—or in this case, rich people—didn’t have time for.

Cameras in every room of the house, and several outside, recorded all movement and action. But unless an alarm went off, the techs didn’t have access to those feeds. They were recorded for security purposes on a dedicated server for six months, before capacity was reached and the system wiped itself clean.

The software did most of the work on its own. Techs like Ryan only stepped in when a major problem required an actual person. Otherwise, he just kept an eye on things and tinkered with hologram designs.

Right now, he had an electronic skeleton of a hologram spinning in black on the screen before him; the beginnings of a pet project he hoped to pitch to Celia very soon. If he pulled this off, their hologram concierge would no longer be a motionless image with mouth movements that didn’t match up to the words it spoke. It would be a work of art; a life-like human being distinguishable from reality only by the fact that you could see right through it.

This was his secret love child. Happy birthday, he said to the computer, then switched screens to do a scheduled check of all of his accounts. It was only a formality. The first few days of operation would be crucial, now that they were officially in business. Every little detail needed to be logged into the books to establish a base reading.

Ryan knew there were techs in other parts of Hearth who were scrambling right now to finish everything last minute. But he wasn’t one of them. His little paradise was in shipshape, and he knew for a fact that absolutely nothing would be going wrong.

Famous last words…

— Chapter 2 —

Push the power button to boot up your system, Tori read, scowling at the instruction manual. Wait fifteen minutes while the system syncs and updates. Say ‘Admin’ to bring up your personal concierge. To change the call word, blahblahblah… She tossed the three-page pamphlet over her shoulder, crossed her arms, and glared at the little monitor which had been frozen at 59% for the last hour.

Power button off. Nothing happened. She clicked it on. Off. Onoffonoffonoff. Work, you bitch, she snarled. Where the hell was the master switch, a wall plug? Something! But of course, that would have defeated the purpose. Why have an off switch, when it’s supposed to run 24-7, guaranteed? A freaking atomic explosion wouldn’t turn this thing off. Which would be great—brilliant, really.

If. It. Worked.

Her contractors had spent an extra six months on construction to build this house exactly to specs. She’d waited so long, and spent so much money to get it move-in ready, she could have built two whole new houses in the meantime. Wallace Construction had used the best of everything, walked around in white static-free overalls for two months, and assured her everything worked like it was supposed to. Just turn it on, and give it a whirl, she mimicked. "We guarantee one-hun-dred-per-cent up time."

Yeah? Starting when?

Tori didn’t have time for this! The whole reason she’d gotten this system was so she wouldn’t have to waste time on housework. At the end of the day she just wanted to come home to a clean, warm house with the fridge stacked, a meal ready in the slow cooker, and the TV on and cued to the movie she wanted to watch. Glass of wine, feet up on the coffee table, and some much needed me-time.

But no. It couldn’t be that simple. Leave it all to someone else? As if. It was true what they said: if you want something done right, do it yourself.

Tori picked up the pamphlet again, muttering to herself. There were no troubleshooting instructions, but on the very back page, in tiny script at the bottom, it read: For tech support, press and hold Link and speak into the microphone.



Where was Link? She scoured the surface of the tiny console. Half of the screen was black; it hadn’t loaded all the way. That stupid spinning wheel was stuck, and the 59% was flat out mocking her. She should have just gotten a maid. Only Tori didn’t want strangers in the house any more than she wanted to be that person who needed someone waiting on them hand and foot.

There was no Link.

Making irritated growling noises that would have been curses if her teeth weren’t clenched, Tori stomped down to the basement. There was another tiny screen in the breaker box; she’d seen it before.

God, this place was spotless. Just two days ago, it had been overflowing with construction garbage. Now there wasn’t even a speck of dust.

It was creepy. She felt like she was in an abandoned warehouse with a ghost watching her from inside the walls. Well, that wasn’t so far from the truth, now was it? If it weren’t for the three independent, in-depth studies she’d commissioned to assure herself that her privacy would not be invaded, the fact that there were tiny cameras in every room of the house would have turned Tori off this system. Luckily for Hearth Global, and Wallace Construction with whom they contracted here in California, both had passed with flying colors.

She opened the breaker box. Aha! Success. There was the Link button.

Tori smiled grimly. Someone should be feeling sorry for whoever answered this call.

It sure as hell wouldn’t be her.

— Chapter 3 —

Ryan had a techno remix of Für Elise playing on his phone. Messenger bag slung over his shoulder, he took his time strolling through campus to enjoy the morning sun, before he ducked into his pod for the day. He had some ideas on how to improve the hologram code to make the images move more like real people. As soon as he did his morning checks, he’d get working on it.

Ry-Ry! Madi greeted. How’s my favorite snugglebum? She

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What people think about Virtual

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  • (5/5)
    I have a programmable thermostat. They make thermostats that learn your habits and adjust themselves. There are remote home monitoring systems that receive alarms and send response units if something wrong is detected. You can adjust your lights from your smart phone with the proper app and equipment in your house.

    Combining all of this into a Smart House is the brainchild of Hearth Global. Not only does it combine everything normally found in remote or local monitoring, it also checks levels of supplies for food and orders more when supplies run low. The user interface is the real breakthrough. Owners are able to talk to a holographic concierge instead of typing commands into a keyboard or other device. The concierge responds by voice. All of this is possible today, just no one has done it.

    Ms. Donnelly takes us to the day it all happens at Hearth Global. Smart houses come online, the holographic concierges begin taking commands from the house owners and the world will be forever changed. It’s all monitored at the central command point over secure paths of the internet. Each tech monitors fifty accounts and all goes well. Ryan is typical of these and is also working on an advanced hologram that will be more lifelike than the others.

    Then Tori, in house fifty-one tries to boot her system and nothing happens. She finally gets Ryan in tech support and explains the problem. He’s only supposed to have fifty houses and this one has fallen through the cracks. On orders from his superior, he takes over this one client and, unknown to her, operates her house manually, substituting for the concierge.

    The interaction between them, and the relationship that develops between Tori and her “hologram” is the crux of this delightful story that carries us through the creepy government agent gone wrong, near disasters and a lawsuit to its conclusion.

    This is a highly recommended sci-fi romance.

    I’m watching my robot vacuüm with a bit more suspicion now.