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By Susannah Shepherd
Page 2 of 5

Soolin shivered a little as she made her way towards the storeroom Avon had locked himself into. They didn't heat this little-used part of Xenon base, and the loose gown she wore was thin and the metal floor cold against her bare feet.

She turned into the corridor and saw both Dayna and Tarrant standing nervous but alert, guarding the closed door. Dayna didn't look at all well, but whether it was her injury or her worries over Avon, Soolin couldn't tell.

"Dayna, Tarrant, leave us," she said in a loud voice, then gestured for them to move just around the corner out of sight. Tarrant frowned, but she gestured again and he left reluctantly.

"All right, Avon," she called through the door. "It's just you and me. Let me in, please. I'm unarmed."

"You expect me to believe that? You're all waiting to take me as soon as the door's opened. I know what you want," the expected snarl came back.

"Get Orac to check, Avon. I'm not lying. I'm the only person in this corridor."

There was silence for a moment. "But you are not alone," fired back the wary voice.

"No," she admitted. "But I am unarmed. And you could easily kill me before they were even around the corner."

"Why should I believe you are unarmed? It's not your style, Soolin. It's more likely that you're the chosen assassin. You're the only one who could take me, one on one."

She allowed herself a laugh. "I've got very pressing reasons not to kill you, Avon, like all those back wages. I never kill anybody who owes me money. And if you'll just open the door and let me in, you'll see why I can't be armed."

"Why do you want in?"

Just open the damned door, Avon! Soolin fumed to herself. It was hopeless trying to reason with him like this, in his unbalanced state, and she'd rather not even try.

"Because you can't stay in there forever," she said cautiously, wary of fanning the flames of his paranoia even higher. "Sooner or later, your food and water will run out. I know you don't believe me, but we really do mean you no harm."

"Hah!" he said. "You want Orac. Vila tried to take Orac."

"No, Avon," she soothed, repeating his name once again. She knew instinctively that she had to keep reminding him of himself, to renew his sense of identity. "Orac's yours, Vila was only trying to help. Scorpio's yours, the base is yours. We all know that." She paused for a moment. "I'm yours. We made a deal, remember? My first loyalty is to you. And I won't let anyone harm you, not if I can help it. Let me in, and I can protect you. Look after you."

The silence was long, and Soolin was on the verge of giving up when she heard Avon again, his voice still distrustful but starting to waver. "All right. I'm going to open the door. But if you move in here before I say so, or disobey me, I will kill you outright. Understood?"

"Loud and clear." Soolin slipped the gown from her shoulders, let it drop to the floor, and kicked it out of the way. The old-fashioned hinged door rattled slightly as he unbolted it from the inside, then she watched it inch open slowly. She never saw Avon, but once the door was ajar, she heard his voice, taut with tension.

"Come in. Very slowly."

Soolin stretched out her uncovered arms before her, wrists bent back and fingers splayed to show she was hiding nothing. She moved with small, slow steps, pushing her empty hands past the edge of the door, then sliding in a bare foot. She glided onwards until she stood in the middle of the storeroom, her hands up in an attitude of surrender. Avon stood against the far wall with the gun trained on her. Orac was placed on a nearby shelf, but she was relieved to see that the computer was currently deactivated. She didn't really want an audience for all this, even an inanimate electronic one.

"You can see, Avon, that I'm unarmed," she said in a low voice.

"Perhaps," he said, and stepped close to her. Soolin fought hard not to flinch as he slowly raised the gun and levelled it against her temple. "Towards the door, with me." She obeyed, careful not to give him the slightest excuse to shoot her. She'd seen his eyes, and had no doubt that he would do it. His loss of mental balance was so obvious that she felt a flash of pity for him, but she didn't dwell on it. Getting emotional would do Avon no good, and might get her killed.

"I've got Soolin," he called through the open door. "You make one move, and she's dead." There was no answer from the corridor. He circled around her, the gun never wavering from its target. He pushed the door closed with one hand and slid the heavy bars back into place.

Soolin let out the breath she had been holding as he stepped away from her again. She stared straight ahead as his eyes roved over her body, examining every inch of her. She hadn't worn these ghastly clothes since Dorian died--since Avon had killed him, she reminded herself. She couldn't afford to forget that he could and would kill if he felt threatened.

The outfit was the sort of tasteless thing Dorian had liked but she couldn't stand. The fact that it was made of sparkly gold lycra didn't help. The thin strips of fabric which passed as a top barely covered her breasts, and the ultra-tight short shorts left little to the imagination--which was the whole point of the exercise.

"Take off your top," Avon rasped, and her eyes snapped around to look at him. His face was set hard in his familiar mask, and it was only the disordered eyes that showed that it wasn't the normal Avon she was dealing with.

"Take it off!" he shouted. "You could be hiding something down there," he said, staring at her cleavage.

Soolin complied without speaking, slipping the straps off her shoulders then pulling the whole lot up over her breasts. It hurt, the fit was tight, but she didn't want to reach behind her to undo the clasps. It could be too easily misinterpreted. She wriggled free, then tossed the top away to land in the far corner.

"Nothing," she said, holding her arms out from her body so that he could see her entire torso was bare.

"No," he said, his voice pitched low, as he stepped towards her. Soolin saw a new fire in his eyes as he reached out his free hand and cradled one breast. He ran his fingers over it, exploring the contours of her curves, sliding his fingertips beneath and between, searching for anything against her skin. As he groped her, she felt his thumb sweep across her nipple, and she gasped at the sensation. His touch was cold, and her flesh hardened in response.

Avon gave her a chilly, psychotic smile and circled his thumb around and around, occasionally brushing across her taut flesh, teasing and arousing her. Yes, she thought, arousing. She couldn't just blame it on the cold in the room; there was an unmistakeable dampness growing between her legs. She hadn't quite expected this.

She'd always had a thing for armed men, and danger turned her on more than she liked to admit. But it was something of a shock to find that a dangerous armed lunatic was lighting her fires, even one as compelling as Avon. She'd have been lying if she said she hadn't recognised the likeness between them and been drawn to him, even with her misgivings about his stability. Life with Dorian had given her plenty of experience in that regard. But this was hardly the ideal time to act on her attraction.

Still, it would make her job much easier. If he thought for one moment that she was trying to deceive him, she was in big trouble.

"Oh," she breathed, as Avon's hand dropped for a second, and then moved to the other side and began its tantalising work all over again. She threw her head back and closed her eyes, letting the sensations wash over her. He still had control, she had to hand that to him. All the time he stroked and kneaded at her body with one hand, the other held the gun with unwavering stillness.

Soolin opened her eyes as Avon's fondling stopped. He had moved away a little, and the disturbing smile was gone. He looked at her with a slight grimace on his face and a look of uncertainty in his eyes, and she saw that he was breathing fast and raggedly.

"Turn around," he said. She did as he ordered, and wasn't entirely surprised to feel his open palm on her arse, skimming his hand across the tight, smooth fabric.

"You think I could hide anything under these?" she asked with a hint of amusement, but she shut up as the cold metal barrel of the gun thrust briefly into the small of her bare back.

"Quiet!" he growled. His hand moved to the cleft between her cheeks, and she felt one strong finger slide downwards in inspection. She parted her legs for him and the finger slid onwards, pushing between her thighs. He must be able to feel by now that the fabric was hot and moist with her excitement.

She sensed movement behind her, and she could feel his warmth against her shivery skin as he stood nearer. His free hand snaked back upwards over her bottom, then slipped around her waist. The action pulled her close to him and the studs on his jacket, cold and pointed, scraped her bare skin. His solid erection dug into her as well, warmer and less sharp-edged than the gun barrel.

His hand slid down over the front of her shorts, exploring her flat stomach and the creases between body and thighs before slipping between her legs once again. She couldn't hold back her groan of pleasure as his fingers found the most sensitive parts of her under the thin fabric, and she leaned back into his warm, strong body.

Avon tore himself away from her, and she turned carefully to find him levelling the gun at her again. His stare worried her, it was almost fixed and unblinking. She could well believe he'd been drugged, rather than had his sanity collapse suddenly under the weight of repeated disasters.

"Take them off." His voice was starting to tremble, and Soolin started to feel more nervous. She didn't want him to disintegrate on her now, he was unpredictable and erratic enough as it was. "Take them off! You and Dayna, you've been plotting, the two of you. Together," he snarled. "Admit it! You've hidden something, one of her new weapons."

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Susannah Shepherd

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