“I can’t stay here forever, James.”
James had been staring out of her window, almost hypnotised by the cars crossing back and forth over Blackfriars in the distance. Beyond the bridge, London greyed out into the omnipresent rain. After a warm, lingering summer, autumn seemed determined now to give way to winter as soon as possible. But much as James loved getting away from London to sunny climes, and playing games in sand, sea and snow, there was a secret part of her that craved these moments of peace. For all its problems and temperamental mood swings, London was worth living in and fighting for.
But even in London she often felt lonely, disconnected from the people around her, their passions and their politics. “I think I could.” She looked into the eyes of the woman she held. “If only you were with me.”
Olga laughed. “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“And all the boys too.”
“Decadent Western slut.”
“Evil Commie bitch.”
Neither was able to suppress their smile as they kissed. “Mother Russia is calling me home,” Olga said eventually, her smile turning wistful.
“How long do we have?”
“Then let us live in the moment, Comrade Olga,” James said, shifting to straddle the princess (not so Nordic after all) she had rescued. The bruises had mostly faded during the past few days, and the bullet wound was healing well. She bent to kiss around it for a moment before working lower.
Time stood still as they decrypted their love and decoded their secret passion, as countless forbidden lovers had done before them. With invisible ink they wrote promises on sensitive skin, and –
James’s phone rang with its familiar tune. Sighing with displeasure, but without turning attention away from Olga, she reached over to accept the call.
“James?” It was Moneypenny.
As if on purpose, Olga cried out loudly, “Bozhe!”
“James, stop fraternising with the enemy and get down here. We need you now.”
“I’m coming, Moneypenny.”
“I’m sure you are. Now, James.” The call ended.
Olga laughed. “I’m jealous.”
James grinned. “She told me to get down here, and I know just where to start.”
As James dived down to drink the juices flowing from her, Olga moaned with pleasure. “Fuck me again, my love. Fuck me till I can no longer walk…”
The fedora preceded James into Moneypenny’s office, catching neatly on the hatstand. Only one person still wore a hat in these offices, and she wore it only on occasions such as this. Dressed in an elegantly tailored suit that concealed the bulges of her weapons without in any way detracting from her curves, the taller woman smiled dazzlingly down at Moneypenny. “You wanted me?”
Slightly horrified by the blush she could feel heating her cheeks, not to mention the heat she felt every time she thought of James, the intense desire to strip her and see – and experience – what all the fuss was about, she scowled back. “Not I, James. And you should have been here an hour ago.”
James sighed sadly, though the glitter of amusement never left her eyes. “Oh, Moneypenny. I would never rush a woman.” Leaning over the desk, bringing her lips close enough for Moneypenny to kiss if she dared, James whispered, “I certainly wouldn’t rush you.”
The entreaty – the awful sincerity – in those hazel-blue eyes, was too much to endure. Not for the first time, Moneypenny was saved by the sudden squawk from the intercom. “If you two are quite finished…”
“You can go in now, James,” Moneypenny said, pulling away abruptly and doing her best to ignore both the embarrassment and the aching disappointment.
James stayed as she was, looking mournfully at her. “How cruel the fates!” she whispered. “One day, my love…”
As soon as James had passed through the heavy oak doors, Moneypenny texted her boyfriend. “Advance warning. I’m going to need a good, hard fuck tonight. Several.”
“Ah, James! Come in.” M was with the Minister and the information officer, Kacie Jones, a tall Jamaican whose professional demeanour shook a little at the sight of James. The memory of that rainy night when they had left the building together, James in her fancy car, Kacie to wait for the bus, no raincoat, no umbrella. She had been so grateful to be rescued, as it were, slipping eagerly into the passenger seat, hardly suspecting the wild ride that would follow. James had unleashed a side of her that had shocked her – still shocked her – and she stamped down now on the hunger that woke so quickly now.
James winked at Kacie before turning to examine the Minister. In his fifties, not unhandsome, very much an old Etonian, his eyes tended to drift down to her breasts and crotch whenever he thought James wasn’t looking. There was a rumour that the Minister’s personal secretary was a professional dominatrix – a scandal waiting to happen – and James often wondered how he would enjoy her own brand of domination. “Minister,” she said in cool greeting.
“Double-O Seven,” he said, his expression icy.
Sinking into a chair facing her boss, James said, “I’ll have the Speyside, sir.”
Used to such antics, M merely poured a measure into a crystal tumbler and passed it across. M was one of the very few people who seemed immune to her charm, something that both intrigued and frustrated her. It was perhaps also why she respected him so much. She had a secret fantasy where M, fed up with her constant cheek, bent her over his table and spanked her till all her cheeks were rosy. No one else inspired such a fantasy. Usually she was the one doing the spanking.
“Have you seen the papers?”
James turned serious instantly. “Yes, sir.”
“‘British Spy Crucified’!” The Minister held up the copy of The Times he had chosen to quote. Beneath the headline on the front page was a photo, slightly censored, of a naked woman tied to a cross in a church. “‘Italian authorities, furious at the desecration of Venice’s San Martino, have positively identified the young woman as Elizabeth Green, a British spy known to operate under the number 005. The British Government continues to deny the existence of the notorious Double-O branch, and insists that Ms Green was merely an MI6 researcher who was in Venice on annual leave.
“‘Circumstances of Ms Green’s death suggest otherwise, and the Italian authorities are demanding an explanation.’” The Minister glared at James as if this were somehow her fault. “They are not the only ones demanding an explanation. The PM is furious.”
“With respect, sir, the PM may be furious, but Elizabeth was my friend.” Turning to M, she asked, “Why was she in Venice?”
M looked at Kacie, who stepped forward. “We’re still working on the hard drives you recovered, James, but we were able to recover fragments of unencrypted data, including the transport of a container from Constanța to Venice, due to arrive four days ago. The contents of the container are listed as construction materials, but what’s really interesting is that this was in a folder called ‘Red Queen’.”
James leapt to her feet. “The Red Queen’s in Venice? And you sent Elizabeth?”
“We don’t know if the Red Queen’s there, James,” M interrupted. “Elizabeth was on holiday in Florence. Her Italian is fluent. Of course we sent her.”
“And now she’s dead.”
“Don’t make this personal, James. This is not about her. This was an attack on British Military Intelligence. On Britain. Something is going on in Venice – maybe the Red Queen is there – and someone very dangerous doesn’t want the British messing up their game.”
James grinned fiercely. Opening shots had been fired, by both sides. It was time for the battle to commence. “It would be a shame to let terrorists dictate policy, sir.”
M sighed. “The only reason I’m sending you is that I don’t trust the Agenzia. I have a dark suspicion that Elizabeth trusted someone there too much. You be careful, James.”
“Just for God’s sake keep it low-key,” the Minister said. “If the Italian authorities learn we sent another spy to Venice, any hope of Britain getting a peaceful exit from Europe will be gone forever.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” James said, smirking. “I’ve no more wish for a whipping than you.” She stood and walked out, leaving a very red-faced Minister to glare at her back.
“Your boarding pass, James,” Moneypenny said. “And your hotel booking.”
James raised an eyebrow as she glanced at the reservations. “The Honeymoon Suite? You’re coming with me?”
“No no! It’s all they had at short notice. But I’m sure you won’t be lonely, James. Venice is, after all, the city of courtesans.”
James grinned as she donned her hat once more. “The perfect excuse to shop for a new dress and heels.”
Moneypenny grinned back for a moment. “About that. See Q on the way out. Oh, and James?”
“Yes, my love?”
“Bring me Baci.”
James laughed. “I’m always willing to bring you kisses, Moneypenny.”
The new quartermaster was a young fellow that James found very attractive. There had been occasions when she had managed to get him all to herself, but this was not to be one. She found him in the heart of the workshop arguing with one of the explosives experts. The old guy took one look at her and fled, in the middle of a sentence too. Q turned round wearily. “Hello, James.”
“Is that any way to greet a loved one?”
“Don’t you have a flight to be on?”
“Don’t you have something for me? I know I have something for you.”
“Actually, yes.” He picked up a box from a nearby table and opened it to reveal black patent leather platform stilettos.
“Yves Saint Laurent – how thoughtful!” James kicked her flats off and eased into the designer heels. She was naturally tall, but the extra height always felt good. Before Q could react, she leaned forward and kissed him. “Thank you, my love.”
Q returned the kiss briefly before pushing her firmly away. “Modified with trackers, comms, flash drive, all the usual.”
“Wonderful. Come with me, Q! There’s nowhere more romantic than Venice. I even have the Honeymoon Suite.”
“Go enjoy yourself, James. Bring me Baci.”
James frowned. “You’re the second person to say that.”
She glared at him suspiciously, then swivelled on her new heels and marched out.
Q texted his girlfriend. “I think she’s onto us.”