“So anyway, what I’m saying is that you can stay here, too, and it needn’t mean a court-martial for dereliction of duty.”

“Thank you. Both of you.”

“You’re very welcome, I’m sure. Now, your first job is to apply some more cold compresses to Madam’s sore behind, but for that you’d better go into the next room. I’ve got some work to do on the link.”

“Please, not too hard …” murmured Julie a few minutes later as her bare bottom lay before him on the bed, seeming to invite caresses of a more substantial kind than those provided by tongue and soft, wet towel.

“What I don’t quite understand is what you were sent here for in the first place, if you don’t have any work assignment and no-one’s ever heard of you on the link.”

It was strange to lie in a bed again, holding and being held by a girl. Julie had gone to sleep, and was snoring off to one side, but Ann was still awake and curious, and interested in more than sex, it seemed.

“Neither do I.”

“And the way you speak, too. It’s a bit like a foreigner with a good vocabulary but a lot of gaps in his knowledge. Why did they make you like that?”

Releasing the smooth bare body which he had been caressing with such reminiscent devotion, he rolled on his back and stared at the ceiling. At this the sleeping Julie gave a grunt and pushed herself back against him. On one side, then, her delicate backside pressed against his leg; on the other, Ann’s lithe inner thigh and breast were nestled up against him. It was a kind of paradise, a dream of love and contentment – physical and emotional – perfect in all ways. And yet he could not sleep.

“Ann. Do you mind if I tell you something? It will take time.”

“How much time? I mean, you can go ahead, but I’m so comfortable right now that I can’t really promise to …”

“That is all right. You do not have to stay awake. I will feel you against me, and lie here till morning.”

“God, it’s all so melodramatic in your world, isn’t it?” She stretched up and gave him a smacking kiss on the mouth, followed by one on the ear. He did not react except to continue stroking her like a cat. She purred.

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