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Three Times Daily

By Julia Stamford
Page 2 of 12

Blake had remained on watch while the others amused themselves for a few hours. They'd brought back a fascinating haul between them. The returning shoppers had evidently had a good time, judging by the quantity of parcels littering the teleport room. Pride of place was given to one very large and two smaller insulated hampers. These were the result of Blake giving one of the Liberator's resident gourmands money and instructions to stop whining about the food on board, and bring something back that he approved of. Apparently Vila had found something to approve of.

      First back were the two men, who had paid for their fun by giving a small casino an afternoon the casino would remember for some time to come. They'd been very lucky in their betting. Well, that was their story - it might be different after Vila had put away enough wine to start boasting about what he'd really done. Or maybe Avon had been chatting up the casino's computers. Served the place right if it ran a rigged game. Whatever stunt they'd pulled off must have been spectacular, as Vila had pressed the money for the hampers back into Blake's hand with a cheery "No, our treat, honest". Honest wasn't a word he normally used in connection with either man, but if it made them happy...

      And they did seem to be happy. Even Avon had been so mellowed by his day off that there was no protest over the return of the money, merely a comment to the effect that they could always go back for more if necessary.

      The women called for teleport a minute or two later. Jenna and Cally had an interesting selection of packages, most of which were horribly practical. There were, however, a few more frivolous items, and one or two which could only be described as "girlie stuff". Well, that was the politest term Vila used when he recognised the name on one of the bags.

      "My word, Jenna, that could be a little distracting on the flight deck. Were you planning to share it with all of us, or is it only for Blake's benefit?"

      His attitude flustered her, and she wasn't terribly convincing with her "What are you talking about?"

      "The collection of girlie stuff that I presume is in the bag from one of the most expensive lingerie shops in town. Well, I hope it's girlie stuff. They have some very interesting things in there, although they wouldn't be to my taste". He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, and went on, "I think you could raise the dead with some of the cock-pleasers they keep in the back room."

      The rest of the crew were only too familiar with Vila's dirty mind, but he usually expressed himself more elegantly. The uncharacteristic crudeness had evidently penetrated Jenna's normal ability to ignore him, for she flushed bright red. "And how would you know? Were you just fingering the merchandise, or did you intend to steal something so that you'd be prepared in the unlikely event that you got to try it out?"

      Usually that would have quelled him, but today her victim's ego was made of sterner stuff. Vila just laughed, then said, "Come on, let's see what Blake's getting then," as he made a dive for the bag in question. He tipped it over just enough to reveal part of a frothy confection that clearly had no place outside a bedroom, and certainly didn't fit with the crew's usual image of its owner. "You lucky man, Blake," he said with a lascivious grin.

      The object's mortified owner hastily removed both it and herself from the room. Cally followed her, obviously torn between being scandalised by Vila's behaviour and collapsing in hysterics. Blake was left with the two men. He carefully ignored Vila's grin and Avon's knowing smile until the women were out of sight, and hopefully earshot.

      "All right, you can stop your lurid speculation. She's not getting a chance to use that thing tonight, not unless one of you two was planning on stepping into the breach."

      "No, Blake," Vila insisted, "She's all yours. Although if she wears you out..." His leer grew even broader, then he spoilt the effect by collapsing in hysterical laughter.

      There wasn't any point in trying to get Vila to behave when he was in this mood, so Blake settled for getting rid of him.

      "Ah yes, the meal. I suggest we move the meal down to the flight deck while it's still edible. Then we can move the rest of this junk while someone lays a table. Take that hamper, Vila. No, not the one with the wine in it, I want some left when we start eating."

      Vila must have recognised the ploy for what it was, but predictably was happy to comply with an order that brought him closer to food. He picked up the indicated hamper and strolled out into the corridor, chuckling as he went. Blake glared after him. Then he turned to face Avon, who hadn't moved.

      "And I suppose you think it's hysterically funny as well?"

      "Well now, it did have a certain comic appeal. Although I agree with Vila - Jenna does seem to be very well prepared for the evening."

      This had gone far enough. Blake decided he was going to make the situation quite clear.

      "I have no intention of falling in with Jenna's plans for the evening. My plans for the evening are a good meal, some pleasant conversation that doesn't include the word 'Federation', then twelve hours sleep. I need the rest, if nothing else. Not that it's any of your business."

      "You are perfectly correct, it is none of my business. However, I would not bet on you avoiding Jenna's attentions tonight - even though I have been very successful in betting today." Avon's gently mocking tone suddenly became serious. "Blake, I think Jenna is determined to have her own way in this. That highly desirable piece of lace we all saw is not the only weapon in her arsenal. I happened to overhear when she was buying something elsewhere, although she was not aware of my presence. You may find it difficult to refuse her."

      "Whatever piece of frilly nonsense she's bought, she's not getting me into bed if I don't want to go. And if I do want to go, then I'm hardly going to discuss it with you!"

      "Very well, have it your own way." Blake was favoured with a particularly splendid example of the Avon enigmatic stare before its owner turned to collect the wine hamper, then walked away towards the flight deck.

      Blake looked after him, puzzled. Now, what the devil was that about? Did Avon really think he was so controlled by his sex drive that his will could be bent by the application of some admittedly desirable underwear? There was little point in wondering. Avon was not a normal human being, and someone with his degree of emotional control might not be able to judge the capabilities of the person he frequently criticised for lack of such control.

      This wasn't getting the mess shifted, and there was still a hamper to go. He'd been left with the biggest hamper, but then he was the strongest, so couldn't really complain. Picking it up made him grunt with the effort, and he too hurried in the direction of the flight deck.



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