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Julian and Lonts watched in stunned disbelief as Sondro retrieved a wind-up gramophone from a cupboard, put on a record, and then proceeded to gyrate to it as though there was something stuck up his backside that he was desperately trying to get out.
"I wonder how much this little exhibition is costing us", said Julian, sourly "I really am getting too old for all this".
"He's not a very good dancer", said Lonts, with indignation "I can dance for you better than him. I'll show you".
He slid off his robe and then pushed Sondro out of the way. Sondro didn't take kindly to this and bit Lonts on the shoulder. Lonts screamed and smashed a gramophone record over Sondro's head. Julian grabbed hold of Lonts and managed to spirit him into the bathroom.
"Wait in here until I give you the all-clear to come out", he said.
"You just want to have him without me seeing!" said Lonts.
"No I do not", said Julian "I want to get him out of here without him murdering you! Now wait in here".
Lonts did as he was told. In fact he waited for an awfully long time. Things had gone very quiet in the office and he couldn't hear Julian's voice, which was worrying. When he felt he couldn't bear it any longer he sheepishly emerged.
The room was empty. Someone had returned their clothes though, and these were lying, washed and ironed, on one of the chairs. Lonts put on his shirt and shorts, and picked up Julian's clothes.
"Julian!" he called out "Where are you? Why have you left me?"
He noticed that one of the panels in the far wall had slid open slightly, revealing a small hatchway. Lonts went across to it and peered through. On the other side of the wall was a small room lined with mirrors. Sitting at a table and chair in the middle of the white-carpeted floor was what appeared to be a blonde woman. She was wearing a fluffy dressing-gown, identical to theirs, and eating a plateful of orange segments and whipped cream. At one point she leaned forward and her dressing-gown fell open to reveal the whole of one breast.
She didn't notice Lonts staring at her, and Lonts couldn't see how she could've got into the room, unless one of the mirrors was really a door. He heard a footfall outside the office door, and hastily pushed the panel shut. He had a very strong instinct that he wasn't meant to have seen what he did.
Sondro entered, looking extremely disgruntled by the fact that Lonts still existed.
"Where's Julian?" Lonts barked.
"Don't mess me around, you know who I mean".
"Oh that Julian", Sondro giggled, hysterically "He left here over a year ago".
"Don't be silly", said Lonts "I've got his clothes here. He wouldn't have left without them. And I haven't been in the bathroom for a whole year!"
"Time flies round here when you're enjoying yourself".
Lonts pushed past him angrily and stepped out into the foyer. The front door was open, and Lonts could see that the first fingers of daylight were showing. He also noticed that their buggy had been pulled out of the ditch, and was now sitting patiently in the driveway.
"Julian!" he called out, shattering the dawn silence "Where are you?"
He ran out into the drive and continued shouting there. The birds were warbling in the trees, and the drive still glistened from last night's heavy rainfall, but Lonts was in no mood for such observations.
A window was flung open from the first floor and Julian leaned out.
"Lonts, what are you doing outside?" he cried "I told you to wait in the bathroom".
"I've been waiting in there for hours", Lonts shouted, angrily "What are you up to? Come down here at once!"
"I know what you've been up to", said Lonts, and he stamped viciously on Julian's foot.
"You little bastard", Julian winced, and hopped up and down "You've got it wrong actually. The Nerd was busy trying to fleece us of what little money we've got left. Claiming we'd run up huge bills for food and drink, which is a laugh considering we've had half-a-cup of coffee and a couple of peaches. And as for what he's charged us for Sondro's abysmal dance routine!"
"Has he taken all our money then?"
"He thinks he has".
"Well at least he got the buggy out of the ditch".
"Yes", said Julian, hurriedly putting on his clothes "Now let's see if it'll get us out of here".
To Julian's surprise the buggy had started and they left the house as quickly as they could, before the Nerd could think of something else to add to the bill. A short way down the road they got out out and took down the canopy.
"There was a woman in that house".
"How can you be certain?" said Julian, looking up sharply "It was probably a eunuch. Some of them can look terribly authentic, particularly when they've got breasts".
"She looked real enough", said Lonts "I've seen loads of pictures of them. The old man I was apprenticed to in Kiskev used to collect them. I didn't say anything back at the house, because I didn't think they'd like us knowing".
"That was very wise", said Julian "Let's keep it between ourselves for the time being".
"You don't believe me do you?"
"Yes I do actually. But I happen to think this information is far too valuable to go bandying about, even amongst our lot. If we hang onto it, you never know when it might come in useful".
A few miles further on they came to a roadside cafe. This was in fact a man selling hot rolls and drinks from a wagon. Julian proposed they stop there for breakfast.
"But I thought the Nerd took all our money?" said Lonts.
"Aha, that's where I've got a little surprise for you", said Julian, leaping out of the driver's door "My Grandfather taught me never to divulge to anyone exactly how much money I have, or to keep it all in one place. Advice I've never forgotten".
Julian levered up the driver's seat and pulled out a wad of notes he had left stashed underneath. Lonts laughed when he saw it.
"If they didn't have Gorth's face on them, I'd kiss them", said Julian.
He bought rolls and coffee from the vendor and took them back to the buggy to share with Lonts.
"The bod at the wagon reckons we're on the right road at last", said Julian, unfolding a map once he was back in the driver's seat "Somehow we managed to get quite some distance out of our way".
"Will it take long to get back to the boat?" asked Lonts.
"I'm not sure. Probably a few hours in this contraption. Don't worry, I'll have Cinders back with his fairy godmother by nightfall".
Julian ate his breakfast as he drove along, and Lonts took to singing one of his wordless songs. As the morning progressed though the heat and humidity in the hills became steadily more unbearable. Julian began to feel as though there wasn't a spare inch of his flesh that the mozzies hadn't attacked, and he could barely see for the sweat running from his hair into his eyes.
"It feels like we're in the middle of nowhere", said Lonts, at one point.
"We are", said Julian "Death Valley wouldn't be a patch on this place!"
Soon after they came upon the outlying land of a large farm. Sprinklers were going at full-pelt in one of the fields, but nobody else appeared to be in sight.
"It's siesta time", said Julian "They're all snoring in the shade somewhere. Fancy a shower to cool off, Lonts?"
They ran into the fields and danced around under one of the sprinklers. Lonts took off his shirt, drenched it and then rolled it up and hung it like a scarf around his shoulders. Julian got so carried away at one point that he picked him up and twirled him round. Lonts squealed with delight, and held his hands up so that he could feel the water pattering down on his palms.
"Looks as though we'd better get back to the buggy", said Julian, setting him back on his feet.
Lonts put his hand on the back of Julian's neck and pulled him towards him. They kissed frenziedly for some time, their minds and bodies given over completely to their lips and tongues.
"You've asked for it, you little devil", said Julian, when they came up for air.
It was as if the moment had been signposted for him. Here is Lonts, your chance to have him for yourself, perhaps your only chance. Make the most of it.
"Where shall we go for it?" asked Lonts, making it clear that he knew exactly what he wanted as well.
"Over here", said Julian.
He took Lonts by the hand and they ran across the field, getting drenched even more by the sprinklers, until they came to an overgrown hedge on the far side.
"We won't be disturbed here will we?" said Lonts, once they were within its shade.
"If anyone interrupts us now, I'll throttle them with my bare hands", said Julian, tearing off his clothes. He stood naked before Lonts, without a hint of self-consciousness. But then, why should he? When he was in better shape than a lot of men ten years younger than him.
Lonts threw his shirt on the floor. He now wore only his shorts, which had become transparent once more. Julian grabbed them and yanked them to the ground, before pulling Lonts down after them. They both lay together for some time, kissing and feeling their way round each other's bodies. Lonts rubbed his fingers along the surface of Julian's back, making little leaps over the mozzie bites. Julian in return relished the smoothness of Lonts's sun-tanned body. His powerful chest and shoulders, together with his undersized genitals, gave him an enticing combination of boy and man in one body.
When he finally came to roger the boy, he did so with a gusto that Lonts found exhilarating in the extreme. He hammered into him, grunting violently as he did so. By contrast Adam was often too concerned about hurting him, and so held back when Lonts wished he wouldn't. At the same time, although he found Julian raw and exciting, he missed Adam's softly-spoken endearments, and little moans of pleasure when he kissed him.
"I'd better get you back to Adam", said Julian, when they lay together afterwards "Or I might not let him have you back".
"He won't hate me will he, Julian?"
"Leave it to me. I'll break it to him gently. Unless you'd rather we didn't tell him at all?"
"No", said Lonts, sombrely "I'm useless at keeping things from Adam. He always guesses".
"You're comparing us you little scamp, I can tell", Julian reached out and stroked his hair "Come on then, give me the bad news. How do we rate?"
"You make love to me in a very exciting way", said Lonts "It's great fun and really thrilling".
"I can hear an almighty 'but' being lined up".
"Adam's more tender. I like it when it's animal, but I like it when it's cosy too".
"Oh well you see I have to be given time", said Julian "Intimacy is something I have to be given time to build up to. I don't take to it as naturally as he does".
"You were alright", Lonts grinned, mischievously.
Julian sat up, squeezed Lonts's shoulders and kissed his hair.
"You've given me a very special time", said Julian, gently.
Lonts helped him into his clothes, and then Julian helped him into his shorts.
"Of course if Adam turns on me and blames me entirely", said Julian "I'll have to tell him what a little tease you were".
"But you took me up on it", said Lonts, laughingly.
"Yes", said Julian "My woeful lack of iron self-control again. I'm nothing better than a dirty old man".
"You don't look very old to me", said Lonts "And I'm not a baby. I'm only a few years younger than Hillyard, and I bet you don't think you're a dirty old man when you're with him".
"Hillyard can take care of himself that's why. I never feel I've taken advantage of him".
"You haven't taken advantage of me", said Lonts, sounding triumphant "I took advantage of you!"
"Yes you did, didn't you?" said Julian, with mock-outrage.
Lonts squealed with laughter and they both ran back through the sprinklers to the buggy.
"It's the Indigo!" Lonts yelled, excitedly "I can see the Indigo!"
They were both sitting at the top of the road that swept down a steep gradient into the town. The ocean sparkled far below them in the late afternoon sunshine. The Indigo sat at anchor, dwarfed by her neighbouring vessels at harbour, who were either bigger or more swish, even the fishing trawlers. The Indigo looked like the poor country cousin come up to see the bright lights.
"At least they didn't sail off and leave us", Lonts continued.
"I really don't think there was much chance of that", said Julian, with the merest trace of regret in his voice.
Lonts caught it and turned to smile at him.
"I won't forget this afternoon, Julian", he said.
"It's all been rather extraordinary hasn't it?" said Julian "Still, now we'd better go back and face the recriminations".
The crew of the Indigo were sitting outside the bar, including an exhausted-looking Adam, who had spent a sleepless night smoking Julian's cigars and yelling at anyone who tried to take them from him. When he saw Lonts get out of the passenger seat of the buggy he ran towards him, and alternately shook and kissed him.
"The buggy broke down", said Julian.
"Oh that's original", said Joby, who was using Julian's umbrella as a walking-stick.
"And we got lost", Julian added.
"You've been lost for thirty-six fucking hours", said Ransey, in disbelief.
"Well it's wild up in them there hills", said Julian.
"Where did you spend last night?" said Adam.
"In a brothel", Lonts blurted out.
"Tell me he's joking, Jules", said Adam, sternly.
"No he's not", said Julian "And you should be very proud of me that I managed to get him out after several hours with his virtue still intact".
"We've had hardly any sleep at all, and Julian was ripped off by the owner", said Lonts "But they washed our clothes for us, and one of them did a really stupid dance for Julian's benefit. And there were a load of men sat around in the nude eating sticky puddings".
"Sounds a riot", said Hillyard.
"How did the buggy break down?" said Ransey, standing at the front of it "This is all bashed in".
"I know", said Julian "Quite a miracle we got it to go really. That was one good turn the brothel did us. They hauled it out of the ditch for us".
"How the bloody hell did you drive it into a ditch?" Adam exclaimed, looking appalled.
"It was dark and raining", said Lonts "And we were having a fight".
"That doesn't surprise me in the slightest", Adam spat.
"It was really funny", Lonts giggled "It was all muddy, and I threw a load of melons at Julian. One knocked him over".
"Yes, I've got a bloody great bruise on my shoulder", said Julian "But don't worry, you should see the switch-marks on his bottom!"
"Well we certainly needn't have worried about you two really", said Ransey, tartly "Not when you were enjoying yourselves so much!"
It was after sun-down, and they had eaten a fish supper outside the bar. Adam and Julian were now walking along the shore, watching the various boats moored in the small marina nearby.
"You know don't you?" said Julian "I told Lonts I'd break it to you gently, but you already bloody know!"
"I've always been able to tell when you've been up to something, Jules", Adam smiled.
"Why aren't you tearing me limb from limb then?" said Julian, in disbelief "I must've missed your elevation to sainthood. When did Scarlett O'Hara turn into Melanie Wilkes?"
"I'm just relieved to have you both back safely. I must've died a thousand times last night".
"Even so ..."
"I'm also rather jealous that I missed out on all the adventures", said Adam "It didn't happen in the brothel did it? You and Lonts?"
"Certainly not", said Julian "It was this lunchtime actually. We stopped in a field to cool down and ..."
"Got heated up instead".
"He's an astonishing creature", said Julian "And I'm afraid you couldn't really expect self-control from me at that point. He was there, all luscious and sun-tanned. His shorts were wet and clinging to him".
"I'm glad he's known that", said Adam "Pure lust, with someone who cares for him of course. Sometimes I can't always switch off from being the parent, and the trouble with that is ..."
"That at times like that Lonts isn't a child".
"Exactly. He wants me to go further than I do then. You've been right all along. Perhaps I do mither him too much".
"Don't knock it", said Julian "He was telling me how much he enjoys your tenderness".
"Only what he deserves", said Adam, warmly "But he's also quite a little goer at times".
"Yes, he reminds me of you".
"You would say that wouldn't you!"
"It's true", said Julian "He adores it. Can't get enough of it. You're both insatiable. No wonder Joby complains about having to share a cabin with you! I haven't heard him commenting that you're too motherly with Lonts at such times!"
"This is the best thing that could've happened", said Adam "There is a much stronger bond between you and Lo-Lo now".
"Oh don't start all that pseudo-psychological waffle".
"What I mean is if anything happens to me, Lonts will definitely have you".
"Don't talk like that", Julian snapped "I don't know what the hell I'd do if anything happened to you".
"I'm just saying ..."
"Don't! Not another word on the subject or I'll toss you in the drink, understand?"
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