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By Vanessa Mullen
Jenna still hadn't got used to the sensation of teleportation. One moment she was on the planet surface requesting to be brought up, the next, without feeling any sense of motion within herself, the world shifted around her, and she was standing in Liberator's teleport bay.

      Blake flung his arms wide in welcome.

      "Any problems?"

      She smiled, as he hugged her.

      "No, none at all. Darrin agreed to the deal. I've paid him for the weapons and he'll ship them out tomorrow."

      Avon looked at her sourly from behind the teleport controls. "And you trust him not to abscond with the money?"

      "He's an old friend of mine."

      "Ah well, that makes it all perfect."

      Sarcasm seemed to be Avon's strong suit, but Jenna refused to allow it to affect her; she was still riding high on the strength of the deal. Tossing her hair, she walked out of the teleport area, a smile inviting Blake to accompany her. She could sense Avon's eyes following her as she left, so she let her hips sway slightly as she walked, just to annoy him. He might never have made a pass at her, but that was simply because a man with his degree of pride wasn't going to risk rejection.

      "Avon is a pain in the arse," she commented as they walked around the corner.

      Blake muttered, "I'd be so lucky."

      She slipped an arm around his waist. "Is he still getting to you?"

      Blake remained silent as she steered him down the hexagonal corridor to her cabin. He palmed the door control and courteously gestured her in ahead of him. She took a seat on one side of the small plain table and waited for Blake to sit himself down. There was no point in pressuring him; either he was going to tell her or he wasn't.

      Blake stared into empty space and scratched at the back of his neck.

      "That bad?" she asked.


      "You always do that when you're worrying about something."

      Blake snatched his hand back quickly and held it trapped on the edge of the table. "All right. Yes, he is still getting to me. The man's a walking invitation to rape, and I don't think he even realises it."

      Jenna considered that. "I suppose he is good looking in an offbeat sort of way - if you like that sort of thing."

      "But I do, Jenna. I do."

      "Sorry, I didn't mean it like that. I just wondered what you find so attractive about him."

      Blake stared down at his hands. "Do you really want to know?"

      She smiled lightly. "We could always compare notes."

      When Blake smiled, it was as the sun coming out. A well worn cliché, but still true. He smiled now, looking deeply into her eyes, and Jenna felt the warmth that had always drawn her to him. His homosexuality was a thing she'd long accepted - their friendship was based on more fundamental things than sex. In some ways, she was even glad of the situation; affection from Blake was simply that. There were no sexual overtones to his actions: if he hugged her, it was because he was genuinely glad to see her, and not because he wanted to have sex with her. She found it easier to relate to Blake on a personal level, than to men she'd known as lovers in the past.

      "Brown eyes."

      She looked at Blake in surprise for a moment, and then realised that she was expected to contribute to the list.

      "Brown," she agreed, "although I rather like blue as well."

      "But we're discussing Avon."

      "All right, we'll concede that brown eyes are best." She thought for a moment. "He's neat."

      "What's neat got to do with anything?"

      Jenna looked at the epitomy of shaggy disorder and smiled. "It means a lot on board a small ship. I've shared with men who left their things lying all over the place and never washed more than once a week."

      Blake brushed that away with an impatient hand. "We're not discussing easy to live with; we're discussing sex."


      "He's got strength, Jenna." There was a burr to Blake's voice that spoke of a strong inner passion.

      She'd never thought of Avon as strong. Gan obviously. Blake perhaps. But not Avon.

      "Why do you say that?"

      "You can't sway him. He holds to his own course, and doesn't let anyone else's opinion deter him."

      "You mean he's a bloody-minded bastard?"

      "If you prefer."

      Jenna leaned on her elbows across the table to Blake. "Admit it, you just like arguing with him."

      "All right." He accepted the accusation easily.

      "And you find that a turn-on?"

      Blake held his hands in front of him, as though they were trying to describe some amorphous shape. "It's passion, Jenna. He fights, he's involved." His hands redefined their invisible object. "A man with that depth of involvement - with that much intensity..."

      Jenna nodded. "You want him to be that passionate about you."

      Blake stared into empty space for a long moment.

      "I want to kiss him until he begs for mercy. I want to feel his hands frantic on me. I want him to need me. I want to fuck him or be fucked by him, until neither of us has strength to do more."

      It was the intensity that caught at her. Blake was no longer talking to her, but to some invisible demon held between his hands. But, now, she could see the vision too: Avon with his hair wildly disordered, desperately crying out for release. It wasn't just sex, it was more than sex. It was the involvement, the perennial battle between the two men, that in some paradoxical way drew them closer together.

      It pulled at her too, but not in the same way. Avon's smile mocked her for an instant, his eyes laughing. Yes, it might be fun to make love to him once or twice, but what Blake wanted went deeper than that. For herself, Avon was too cynical, too cold. All the things that attracted her to Blake were absent in Avon. She suspected that Avon's pride would make him a good lover - he wouldn't want a woman to be disappointed - but she wanted love and affection, things Blake gave freely, things that counted for more than sex in a relationship.

      Affection warmed her face as she ruffled Blake's hair gently. "You'll find a way somehow."

      "With a straight man?"

      She pulled his head forward and kissed him on the forehead. "You're not a man who gives up easily. We'll think of something."

      Shaggy eyebrows lifted. "We?"






Vila was holding forth while Avon buried himself in Orac's innards. Glass in hand, he gesticulated in Avon's general direction. "You Alphas have no idea of how to have fun. Workaholics all of you, you wouldn't know life if you fell over it."

      "Really?" Avon's voice was icily sardonic. "Perhaps we simply fail to appreciate the charms of low-life bars and brothels.

      "No sense of adventure," Vila continued oblivious, "probably never tried anything new in your entire life."

      "I fail to see the charm of getting blind drunk and indulging in mass orgies."

      Jenna leaned over her flight console, resting her forearms along its edge. "Vila's right, you know. Alpha's are the most puritanical group of people in the entire Federation. One of the reasons I became a free trader was to get away from all that. I can sleep with who I want, when I want, and in any way I want."

      "And then you demonstrate your lack of imagination by sleeping with Blake."

      That amused her. She glanced sideways at Blake who had been checking over the weapons' console and smiled at him. She hadn't actually had sex with him since they'd left the London and even there the euphemism 'sleeping with' had had far more literal truth than was usually associated with the phrase. The arrangment had suited them both: she'd wanted companionship and protection and for Blake, a gay man accused of molesting small boys, the only way of surviving among his fellow-convicts was to hide under the cloak of heterosexuality. He'd been under no illusions as to what was likely to happen if the other prisoners believed him guilty of the charges against him. Gay men were frequent victims of jail rape; child molesters suffered far worse. She believed Blake innocent; she'd seen his advocate's enthusiasm. Besides, there was an innate honesty to Blake that demanded belief.

      "What would you call imaginative?" she inquired sweetly.

      "Three in a bed?" Vila chipped in.

      "No one's ever invited me, so the question doesn't arise."

      Fast as thought, her eyes flicked over Blake, took in his response to her unasked question and focused on Avon.

      "My cabin. One hour after my watch finishes."


      She'd never actually seen Avon nonplussed before. "I'm calling your bluff." She tossed her hair back. "Or are you as puritanical as Vila claims?"

      Avon pulled himself together and smiled wolfishly. "Oh, I'll be there. The question is, will you?"



Blake sat on the edge of the bed playing with the folds of his sleeves. He twisted a mass of fabric up between his fingers, then unballed it and began twisting it the other way.

      "Why not get undressed?" Jenna demanded in exasperation.

      The hand drifted away from the mangled fabric to Blake's mouth. "I don't want to scare him off."

      "This is Avon, remember? The man whose pride will never let him admit he's anything less than perfect at everything. He'll come in and act like Cassanova."

      "You're forgetting one thing."

      "Which is?"

      "He really is a puritanical alpha."

      There wasn't really an answer to that, so she concentrated on her make-up, smoothed her skirt and checked her hair once more. The clock told its own story. Avon was late. Aware of Bake's frustration, she sat down behind him and began to kneed his shoulders. At that moment, the door slid open to reveal Avon. Sleekly groomed, he was wearing an outfit that she had never seen him in before. Black leather encased him snugly from top to toe, concealing everything even as it proclaimed a challenge to the world. Blake's shoulders tensed under her hands. His quick intake of breath told its own story. As one, they rose from the bed and made towards Avon.

      Avon smiled at Jenna, a knowing look that said he knew exactly how he was making her react, knew the excitement that was tingling along her veins and making her mouth suddenly dry. They flowed into a kiss, lips meeting, merging. His arms held her in a casual strength that was greater than she'd expected. Then Blake's arms enveloped them both and she came up for air, gasping at the sensation of being held by both men at once. Blake's broad chest pressed into her back, heartbeat thudding into her spine. His excitement fed her own and she was racing towards flashpoint far too fast, far too soon. She moaned, pressed the ache of her nipples into Avon's jacket, arched her head back to rest it on Blake's shoulder. Lips grazed the skin of her neck; a hand slid over a breast to grasp it firmly and -

      She shuddered, seizing the tatters of her self-control and pulling them together. Grasping Avon's hand firmly, she removed it. His head lifted up and his eyes smiled at her, vampire-bright.

      "Some of us," she said acidly, "are overdressed."

      "Oh, I don't know." Avon's drawl was sardonic to the extreme. He glanced down at Jenna's outfit. The skirt barely covered her hips and the sheer leggings she'd chosen were dusted with diamante powder. The tight velvet of the top clung close and did nothing to conceal the nipples that pushed hard at the fabric.

      She had the sudden urge to slap him. Avon and his damned superiority. Did he have to treat her like a tart?

      "You look beautiful," Blake murmured from behind her, but it wasn't the same. He might mean it, but it was an aesthetic appreciation only. She needed to be wanted as a woman. She needed someone to want her as desperately as she suddenly needed to be wanted herself.

      Eyelets clinked as each one was jerked past the buckle of Blake's belt. A clunk as it fell to the floor. Relief flooded through Jenna. After all her earlier confidence, she could not now have borne being the first to undress. The sound of the zip on his shirt followed and she turned, running a grateful hand over the strength of his chest.

      "Avon?" Blake's gruff voice uttered the name as a challenge and ever one to take up the gauntlet, Avon smiled.

      "Ladies first."

      "You're right," Jenna said with some satisfaction. "He really is a puritanical Alpha."

      That got the reaction she'd been hoping for. Stung, Avon reached up and started undoing the snap fasteners of his jacket. The action was curiously deliberate, as though he were trying to steer a central path between sexual provocation and complete normality. Blake took a step forward, reached out, and snapped another fastener undone. Avon froze, then, as though accepting a challenge, undid another one himself. The tension between the two men was palpable, a strange combination of fear, antagonism, competition and, on Blake's part at least, barely concealed lust.

      For an instant, Jenna felt superfluous. Then, recognising her own role, she stripped. She let the action come close to a dance, drawing each garment off slowly and sensuously, revelling in the feel of the fabric gliding over her skin. She lay back on the bed, legs in the air and rolled up the leggings, laughing at her own wantonness, feeling Avon's eyes on her and not caring any longer what he might think. There was a heat in that gaze. It spoke to her of the things that exist between men and women. It spoke of the tight embrace of bodies and the sharp pleasure of one entering another.

      There was a void within her that demanded fulfilment. Be still, she told it. The longer the wait, the better it feels when it finally comes. She watched with a dreamy pleasure as Avon and Blake finished undressing one another. For all Blake's restraint and Avon's apparant indifference, there was a natural eroticism to it. Blake's hands were almost shaking as he unfastened the tightness of Avon's trousers and peeled the leather downwards. Avon, to Jenna's silent amusement, insisted on removing his own underpants. He was as good-looking as she'd imagined him to be. Side by side and competing for her attention, they were attractive indeed. Blake's muscular bulk contrasted with Avon's slimmer figure. A line of hair darted down Avon's chest to lead the eye straight to his genitals. His penis was swelling, coming to a life of its own as she watched. She stroked her own breast, rubbed a nipple between her fingers and watched the sudden reaction as Avon's cock leapt fully to attention. That was flattering.

      Blake was already erect and weeping at the tip. That wasn't quite so flattering, but it still looked wonderful. He was large and a beautiful deep red colour. She could see the tension in him, the need for Avon that tugged and tugged at him and the fear that didn't dare act. The need might not be for her, but it still drew her. She went to him, kissed him, embraced him, and for a moment felt the full force of that passion sublimated onto her body. His tongue pressed forcefuly into her mouth, hands grasped her buttocks and pulled her close. She pressed uncontrollably against him, almost spitting herself on his manhood. Then the moment was gone and he was simply Blake once more. Senses reeling, she let him support her until they turned in mutual query to Avon.

      He had the look of a man caught out, of someone who felt he was in a a place where he had no right to be.

      "You and Blake..." he said softly.

      "No," she replied, not even sure what she meant by the word. She reached out an arm and drew him into the circle with herself and Blake. They touched Avon, feeeling the smoothness of his skin, the springiness of his hair, the delineation of his muscles. As a pair, in silent unspoken harmony, they made love to him. Slowly, tenderly, they mirrored one another, exploring his beauty, finding the places that drew a reaction. She could feel it now, feel Blake's passion, feel it in every shuddering intake of breath that they forced from Avon, feel it in the reluctant tremor of his hand when she kissed the skin inside his elbow, feel it in the accelerating heartbeat. This was a different Avon. This wasn't the casual cynic who flayed with caustic wit. This was something deeper, more elemental. This creature they were awakening was the true core of the man.

      The ache between her legs was screaming at her now and no one had even touched her there.

      "Please," she whispered, not even sure whom she was speaking to.

      Blake lifted her up in a pair of strong arms, tossed her into the air so that her hair flew around her, caught her, pressed her to the bed. Reflex took over. She arched upwards, blindly seeking a body against her, but she was denied. Blake held her shoulders to the bed and moved round until he had lifted them up to rest upon his knees.

      "Avon," he said.

      Avon looked at the spread-eagled readiness of her, at Blake's hand caressing her hair.

      "I can't," he said. "She's yours."

      "Avon," Blake said again, his voice deep and rough. "Make love to us."

      Avon was a dark-winged bird poised for flight. She didn't dare move for fear of frightening him away. Hesitantly, he took a step forward.

      "Avon," she whispered softly. "Avon."

      He swooped down, sat astride her and came to rest deep within her body. She waited for the movement that her body craved, but it didn't come. Instead Avon leaned forward and touched his lips gently to Blake's. The world hung suspended, as though the three of them were linked in some eternal loop in time.

      Then Avon came down, kissed her violently and began to move within her. Each thrust was hard, demanding and she responded, pressing upwards to meet him. His hands were on her breasts, ravaging, squeezing, drawing ecstasy as the roughness of his thumbs rubbed across her nipples. Then, even that touch was gone as Avon concentrated everything on the hard shaft plundering her body. Faster and faster he came and she cried out helplessly, writhing and twisting beneath him, nothing mattering now but the pleasure that coursed through her.

      She came with a shudder that shook her right through and relaxed in limp abandon even as Avon collapsed to lie exhausted on top of her. With one corner of her mind, she was aware of Blake gently lowering her head to the pillow. She heard his cry as he brought himself to completion and felt the mattress shift under his weight as he came to lie beside her. Rolling slightly onto one side, she unceremoniously dumped Avon to lie between them. Blake's arm curved across Avon's back, imprisoning him in a tender embrace. Jenna met his eyes as they looked into hers, read the roil of emotion and reached out to gently smooth away the sweat-slicked hair from his forehead. Blake smiled the rueful smile of a man who knows himself to be a fool. They lay for minutes or more, still and silent. Then, Avon stirred and sat up. Without speaking, he cleaned himself with a tissue and dressed, drawing on the leather garments, putting a silent black barrier between himself and them.

      "Avon," Jenna began, but Blake hushed her.

      "Avon," his voice was deep and resonant, "find your own freedom."

      Avon paused on the threshold of the door. "I'm not sure that I can." Then he was gone.

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Vanessa Mullen

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