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"Just who I wanted to see."
Kreslan Piers didnâ€™t need to turn around to know who had sneaked up behind him in the hall. Barley Tankisâ€™ voice haunted his dreams. The bastard had made it his mission in life to bother Kres since basic training. Unfortunately, Barleyâ€™s father was an admiral in the fleet, so complaining about Tankisâ€™ behaviour never produced any results. Kres had learnt that lesson the hard way and had a scar on his arm to show for his efforts.
"Hello, Barley." Kres reluctantly turned to meet his nemesis.
"Hello, faggot," Barley sneered. If his usual expression wasnâ€™t so unpleasant, the tall blond could have been considered handsome with his wide shoulders and icy blue eyes. Unfortunately, it didnâ€™t take much digging to find the vast ugliness that lay beneath the surface.
"What do you want?" Kres had just finished sixteen hours of guard duty after one of his co-workers had come down with a cold. He could barely keep his eyes open. He didnâ€™t need to put up with Barleyâ€™s crap on top of everything else. He longed for a few hours of sleep followed by a trip to the bar to grab a willing bedmate for a round of stress-reducing sex. Hell, at this point he was so desperate he might even be willing to consider a woman.
"I talked to Sergeant Wallace, and he agreed with me that you should guard the creatures tonight."
Kresâ€™ stomach churned over Barleyâ€™s smug expression.
Shit. So much for stress reduction.
Even though he knew it was pointless, he offered a token protest. "I canâ€™t guard them tonight. I just got off sixteen hours. Iâ€™m going to get some food, then go to sleep."
Fuck, he needed sleep.
"So I should go back and tell the sergeant youâ€™re ignoring a direct order?" Barleyâ€™s cold eyes glowed with malice.
Anger pulsed through Kres. He knew he was powerless but that didnâ€™t stop him from issuing a threat that would no doubt go unfulfilled. "One of these days youâ€™re going to get whatâ€™s coming to you."
He had to believe that. It was the only thing that kept him from punching Barley in the face and getting court-martialled.
With a final glare at Barley, Kres turned and headed towards the cargo bay.
"Enjoy your shift." Barleyâ€™s mocking laughter followed him down the hall.
Kres wished he could get away with punching the bastard again, but the last time heâ€™d done that, he had been the one who had ended up in the brig for three days while Barley had roamed free. Kres had learnt his lesson. He only did things to Barley when he knew he could get away with them.
Sergeant Wallace gave him a cool look when he arrived. "Took you long enough to get here."
"I came as soon as I heard you wanted me on guard duty, Sergeant. I just got off a double shift." Kres didnâ€™t bother to hide the annoyance in his voice. His feet hurt, his back ached and he longed for his hard cot of a bed with a fierce need. At this point, a trip to the brig would at least allow him to get some sleep.
"Then you shouldnâ€™t have volunteered for this one," the sergeant barked at him.
"I didnâ€™t, Sergeant," Kres replied through gritted teeth.
"Are you saying Barley is a liar?"
How he longed to say yes.
"I would never say that, Sergeant. But then, as I didnâ€™t volunteer and Barley said you insisted I do this watch, Iâ€™ll let you make the judgment call."
The older man gave him a long, considering gaze. "I like Admiral Tankis. Too bad his son is a prick. Unfortunately, because you were volunteered, I let my other guard go. Iâ€™m going to need you to take this shift, soldier, and then Iâ€™ll make sure Barley takes the next three."
The thought of Barley watching animals for one evening much less three drained away most of Kresâ€™ anger. "Iâ€™ll do my duty."
The sergeant slapped Kres on the back, almost knocking the wind out of him. "I knew I could count on you. Youâ€™re a good man, Piers."