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By Vanessa Mullen
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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?"



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