Oct 19 2011 12:45pm
Is November 1 too long to wait for Gina Robinson’s new release, The Spy Who Left Me? Let us help tide you over with her complete short story “Lipstick Spy School.”
Inside every woman there’s an inner Bond girl longing to break free. The Lipstick Spy School had one mission—draw it out and nurture it. For a day, at least.
As Kim entered the luxury hotel on the Fort Lauderdale beach, she actually had two missions—get a decent pedicure, Floridians didn’t seem to believe in closed-toe shoes, and kill Jason Bergman, Lipstick’s special ops spy instructor.
Unlike her fellow day-spies, Kim arrived alone, without the almost mandatory best friend or sidekick. She had a designer overnight bag slung over her shoulder with her gear inside: athletic shoes, yoga pants, sports bra, makeup, lingerie, slinky dress, stiletto sandals, and various weapons of choice. She was particularly handy with her Italian-made automatic leverletto knife, a lethal, lady-sized piece that fit well in her hand. But really, she could kill with practically anything.
The décor of the hotel lobby screamed modern, beachfront chic in a color palette of white, deep blue, and green. The chairs were boxy and square, the tables and bolsters perfectly round in every respect, and the lighting intimately dim with a touch of neon thrown in to promise some excellent nightlife once the sun went down. The message couldn’t be more clear—only affluent, fashionable clients need apply.
How very fantasy spy-like.
Kim spotted her Lipstick Spy School contact immediately. A blind woman couldn’t miss the curvaceous brunette in the tight, logoed Lipstick Spy School tee.
The woman extended her hand as Kim approached her. ‘‘Babette Long. Welcome. And which spy would you be?“ She spoke in warm, sultry tones, as if she were a Bond girl herself.
Kim shook her hand. ‘‘You can call me Tracy.”
‘‘Ah, Tracy, a clever codename. Everyone wants to be Bond’s best babe.”
‘‘True love, his wife,” Kim corrected.
Babette looked her up and down, probably assessing her potential to party and spy with the best of them and wondering how hard it would be to drag her Bond girl potential out of her. If only she knew...
‘‘We’re meeting in the Millionaire’s Room. Third floor.“ Babette pointed up a wide staircase in the middle of the lobby as she gave directions. ‘‘Report in and Vicki will get you squared away.”
The Millionaire’s Room looked like an exclusive executive boardroom with a nod toward nature. Cut loop pile carpeting the color of sand spread across the room like a beach. The far wall was nothing more than a row of windows with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, set at a perspective made to look as if you could open a window and step out onto the water.
A good place to toss a man from a window? Ah, but Jason could swim. Still, if he were unconscious...
Kim’s assassin tendencies never lay dormant.
A boardroom table sat in the middle of the room surrounded by tan chairs and punctuated at regular intervals with vases of magenta lilies. How very Lipstick.
Vicki greeted Kim at the door. She issued her a V-neck camp tee with the distinctive smoking lipstick gun logo and a hot pink cosmetic bag embroidered with the name Tracy. The bag, filled with a high-end lipstick in a pouty pink shade and a compact mirror, came complete with a gold chain shoulder strap. Perfect. Kim needed a place for her poison and the chain looked like it could hold up for a good strangling.
Six women already sat around the table, drinking lattes and tea. You could cut the nervous anticipation in the room with a nail file. Kim seated herself at the far end of the table, away from the other women. She had no need to fraternize. As the room filled, she smiled to herself at the estrogen overload. Jason, testosterone-filled Green Beret that he was, was not going to love this. Poor baby, he had his work cut out for him.
Eventually, twelve women filled in around the table. Babette appeared and camp began with the official welcome.
‘‘Welcome to the premier spy day experience for women. Today’s adventure will feature the fine seductive and survival arts of being a Bond girl. Hand-to-hand combat for the girl who finds herself in a dangerous situation. Master mixology because a seductress should always know how to pour a drink. And a lesson on the ballroom world’s most sensual dance, the tango, because sometimes we want to put ourselves in a compromising situation.” She winked.
‘‘I’ll keep this short. We’ve issued each of you a camp tee. In a moment, Vicki will take you to the fitness center and the locker room where you can change into your camp shirt and exercise gear and prepare for combat.”
In the locker room, Kim changed quickly into her yoga pants and sports bra, mentally going over her battle plan. If she could take Jason out in the first session, that would be a cushy day’s work, wouldn’t it? She’d enjoy a little extra time around the city to shop, maybe take a water taxi, or hang out at the beach. And it would be so easy to get away with murder. Accidents do happen.
With her back to the others, she loaded her pink cosmetic bag with her knife, poison and assassin’s tools before stuffing her overnight bag into her locker. Then, as the other women pulled their hair into bouncy ponytails, Kim twisted her shoulder-length hair into a severe French twist and secured it with a comb. Let the amateurs make a fabulous handhold for an attacker. There was no way she’d give Jason a thing to grab. Bag dangling from her shoulder, she left the changing area and was the first woman into the fitness room.
The workout room had the same “walk on water” view as the Millionaire room and smelled faintly like sweat. As her fellow campers filed in, it smelled more and more like the perfume counter at Nordstrom. The room quickly filled with a hum of feminine voices and the occasional nervous giggle.
Even before spotting him, she knew when Jason walked in. The room went dead silent for a moment, followed by a collective sigh of appreciation.
She turned to see Jason emerging from the men’s locker area with his fellow trainer, a man named Steve. Kim had only a faint sketch of who the other guy was. Since he wasn’t her target, she only cared enough to make sure he wouldn’t be a threat to her plans. Physically fit, but short and stocky with an off-center nose that had been broken too many times, Steve certainly wasn’t the cause of the exhales of appreciation.
On the other hand, the sight of Jason sent an unexpected surge of desire through her. Evidently, wanting to kill him didn’t dim her animal reaction to him by even a milliwatt. It was a pity she’d have to waste such a fine male specimen. Six foot two, buff but lean, short dark hair, broad shoulders and a narrow waist, he was heaven dressed in a black T-shirt and black athletic pants. Unfortunately for him, even heaven sometimes got a little hell.
His gaze locked with hers and travelled the length of her body. Appreciation and lust lit his eyes. Naughty boy. She shook her head at him ever so slightly.
Vicki shepherded the last camper from the locker room, went to the middle of the training mat, and introduced the instructors.
Kim knew all about them. Her mind wandered as Vicki droned on about Steve, but she perked up with pride as Vicki talked about Jason. Not every woman had a target like him.
‘‘You women are so lucky, you don’t even know! We only get Jason when he’s home for one of his infrequent leaves. He’s our most popular instructor.” She winked at him.
Jason just smiled.
‘‘Jason works for the US Army in Special Forces. Counterterrorism, is it?“
Jason shrugged. ‘‘Maybe.”
The sound of his deep, sultry voice brought a look of rapture to the woman standing next to Kim. It was just a good thing women no longer wore corsets or there would have been some good, old fashioned swooning going on.
Obviously charmed, Vicki giggled. ‘‘His work is so secret, I’m not sure he even knows what he does, but he’s an excellent trainer. Very experienced.”
So much innuendo in Vicki’s words. Kim didn’t appreciate it.
Jason grinned. ‘‘I’ve trained a few foreign armies in my day.”
Since the man looked no older than thirty, the boast was doubly impressive.
Introductions complete, Vicki stepped out of the way and the hand-to-hand combat training began. Steve and Jason took turns explaining and demonstrating various moves while the lady spies watched and mimicked, and Kim contemplated her move.
Jason began by teaching about balance and showing the on-guard stance. ‘‘Good balance is the key to winning a fight. Knees bent, rest on the balls of your feet, ready to move. Arms up, ready to attack. Body turned to the side. You want to present the smallest target possible.“ He turned and stared into Kim’s eyes.
Her heart flipped and her pulse raced out of control, but like any trained killer, she held his gaze.
‘‘Stare into the enemy’s eyes,” he continued.
Enemy? Oh my, he’d picked her out already.
‘‘But remain aware of your surroundings.”
Kim smiled to herself. With Jason in the room, it was hard to be aware of anything else. In that pose, with his thigh muscles and biceps bulging, he looked completely delectable, like she could just run into his arms for a squeeze as he fought off a foreign terrorist. Such fanciful thinking. What had gotten into her today?
Steve took a turn teaching the class the vulnerable parts of the body as well as how to properly ball a fist and use it as a weapon. Then the two took turns demonstrating different maneuvers. They taught the rapt women the open-palm ear slap, the heel of the hand chin jab, the knee to the head bang, and the art of biting and kicking effectively.
When Jason cocked his elbow to demonstrate the well-connected elbow blow, his guns rippled.
‘‘I’m having trouble with that one,” a spy named May Day, a plump nearly menopausal woman, said. ‘‘My cocked elbow doesn’t seem quite right.“ She looked at her flabby arm and laughed. ‘‘Do you mind if I feel yours and see what I’ve got wrong?”
Jason walked over to her and held his arm out for her to feel. ‘‘Here. Give it a squeeze.”
May made grabbing motions with her hand before finally taking an actual feel of Jason’s arm. ‘‘Oh my, ladies! That muscle is real, and very hard.”
Kim restrained herself from rolling her eyes. Such blatant behavior. She may have wanted to kill him, but show some respect. Jason wasn’t a male stripper they’d hired for a bachelorette party.
‘‘Let me show you how it’s done.“ Jason came behind May, put his arms around her, and bent her arm into the proper position. ‘‘Flex.” He gave her arm a feel. ‘‘Good. See how simple?”
Kim thought Jason shot a look at her. Hey, after hours at the gym, her muscles were rock hard and ready for action. Go ahead and show off, she thought. Enjoy your last remaining moments on this earth. When I show you my muscles, it will be all over.
Jason walked back to the front of the class. ‘‘All right, it’s time for battle,” he said. ‘‘You’ll each get a turn sparring with either Steve or me. Who’d like to be first?“ His gaze bounced around the group.
As the women clustered around Jason, Kim held back. She may as well watch the entertainment for a bit, get her money’s worth from camp. Though she highly doubted it, one of the women might tire Jason out, which would only be to Kim’s advantage.
Two clumsy bouts with Jason playfully pulling ponytails were all Kim could stand to watch. As the other day-spies sat on the sidelines and cheered and laughed, Kim had to fight the urge to roll her eyes. Jason hadn’t even broken a single bead of sweat.
As the round ended, Kim pushed her way to the front of the crowd and stared Jason down. ‘‘I’m next.”
She ignored the death glares the women who’d been waiting in front of her shot at her. Spies weren’t paragons of manners. The sooner they learned that lesson, the better. She wanted to get this over with and onto her other mission—that much-needed pedicure. The thought of her feet in a warm, sudsy footbath spurred her on.
She wondered for just a second if Jason would chastise her and send her to the back of the line. Fortunately, he didn’t disappoint her. He was a soldier at heart. He didn’t give a rip about politeness. Instead, he liked bold women and relished a challenge. She could see it in his eyes.
He swung into the ready position. ‘‘You’re on, Tracy.”
Kim smiled and whipped off her tee, revealing her low-cut black sport bra, a whole lot of cleavage, and the set of abs she’d worked so hard on. The other women gasped. Too bad none of them had been smart enough to think to use their assets to their advantage. Kim saw the sparkle of lust reignite in Jason’s eyes.
Kim snapped into position, calculating her first move.
Jason waved at her to come at him. ‘‘Your move. Give me a big kick.”
‘‘I’ll kick your butt, all right. But I don’t take orders from anyone, let alone the enemy.“ She swept up a fitness magazine that was sitting on a table nearby and rolled it into a baton in a single movement.
The group let out a collective gasp. Someone shouted, ‘‘No fair! She’s got a weapon.”
Kim held the magazine-baton like a spear and charged him, aiming it at his windpipe.
Jason ducked into a crouch at the last second, sending Kim tumbling over his back and flat onto hers. ‘‘All’s fair in love and war.” He sounded exuberant.
The sounds of the women on the sidelines, all cheering Jason on, faded away as Kim concentrated on her goal.
She rolled onto her stomach, put her palms flat on the floor, brought her knee up under her and sprung to a stand, thrusting a well-aimed knee at his crotch.
He caught her knee just before it made contact and tipped her back down on her butt. From the floor, she wrapped one leg around the back of his knee and tugged. As he went down, Kim leaped forward onto her knees. She had to get his head back so she could deliver a death chop to his windpipe.
His military haircut was too short to grab and use as a handle to pull his head back. Instead, she curled the fingers of her left hand in toward her palm, aiming the heel of the hand at his forehead, intent on pushing his head back, as she prepared to chop with her right hand.
She surprised him and got his head back, but he was lightning quick. He deflected her death chop and grabbed her hand, tugging her off balance onto her side. As she fell, her left hand lost contact with his forehead.
Curse his brute strength!
As she cowered on her right side, trying to recover, he pulled the French twist comb from her hair.
She growled and startled him enough to grab it from him. Holding it like a claw and channeling her inner Wolverine, she swiped it at him. She caught his arm with the comb and drew blood. Swearing beneath his breath, he wiped the blood off on his shirt, giving her enough time to get on her feet and lunge for him.
He dodged to her right and then back to her left. As she swung her head around to track him, her loose hair and her rage blinded her. Jason seized the advantage, grabbed her and pounded her into the mat. Next thing Kim knew, the comb flew from her hand and clattered across the room. She lay flat on her back on the mat, hair fanned around her, with her arms pinned to her sides. Jason sat on her crotch.
She wished she could say she hated the feeling, but the man had the goods. Her whole body tingled. For his part, he was smiling and staring at her heaving breasts. Pretending to readjust his weight, he rocked against her ever so slightly and winked.
Two could torment. She squirmed beneath him just to get him going. But actual escape was futile.
‘‘Uncle?” He leaned into her so close that their lips nearly met and her breasts brushed his chest.
Just the tiniest movement would close the gap between them. What would it be like to kiss him here? A woman with less self-restraint would have found out.
Dead silence filled the room.
Kim scowled. ‘‘You win. This time.“ It looked like her pedicure would have to wait.
He grinned. ‘‘The Army could use a girl like you.” He sat up and offered her a hand up. ‘‘Ready?”
She nodded, thinking standing wouldn’t be comfortable for him. Next round would be hers.
In the locker room, the other spies gave Kim the wide berth she’d rightfully earned. That she’d botched the job only made her more standoffish. Her fellow campers took quick spins in the shower to mist off the gentle dew they’d worked up during hand-to-hand combat, before changing into their cocktail dresses for the afternoon.
Kim was a sweaty mess. She took a real shower and washed her hair, which meant she had to start her beauty routine from scratch. As a consequence, she showed up to lunch perfumed, hair flowing, sultry-eyed and late. She wore a plunging, dark pink knee-length dress with a skintight bodice and flowing skirt, gold stiletto heels, and her camp makeup bag over her shoulder. The only seat left was next to Babette.
A plate of salad waited for her.
Babette passed her the salad dressing and a basket of rolls. ‘‘Are you enjoying yourself?”
‘‘I am, yes. Thank you.“ Kim helped herself to a roll and a pat of butter. She’d earned a treat and she’d be working it off later, anyway.
‘‘We’ve never had a camper quite as...um, zealous as you are.” The perplexed look on Babette’s face said she was trying to figure Kim out, and failing miserably.
Being a good spy, Kim put on her innocent routine and decided to act as if Babette were complimenting her.
‘‘Really? Oh, thank you!“ She beamed. ‘‘I like to win. I’m very competitive. And I love physical activity. I’m just sorry I didn’t beat him.”
Babette laughed as if Kim’s statement were a silly thing. ‘‘That would have been a first! No one beats Jason. Ever. Not unless he wants them to.” She sounded ridiculously proud of him.
For some reason, that irritated Kim. She kept smiling and playing along anyway and planning her revenge. She shrugged as if she were conceding the point. ‘‘I really let out my inner Bond girl, didn’t I? I get points for that, at least.”
‘‘Well...yes.“ Babette squirmed, looking as if she didn’t want to encourage any more of Kim’s overzealous behavior.
Kim couldn’t resist egging her on just a bit more. ‘‘Hey! I have a great idea. I could give you a testimonial for your website.” She flashed Babette her most radiant smile. ‘‘All about how the Lipstick Spy School really brought out the Bond girl in me.”
‘‘Oh, um, sure. Next time we update the website, maybe?” Babette cleared her throat. ‘‘After lunch, we have our mixology class. You’re going to love that.“ Her voice was unnaturally cheerful and the bright smile on her face patently fake. Beneath the forced good humor, she looked relieved by the thought of a stiff drink or two.
Kim guessed Babette was thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong during a mixology lesson.
Guess again, Babette, darling.
Jason hated wearing monkey suits, even one in the form of a ridiculously expensive Brioni tuxedo. At least the dress trousers were narrow-cut, giving them a military flair. As Babette had explained to him numerous times before, a tuxedo may be cliché, but it was what the women considered the quintessential spy uniform. So think of it that way, as a uniform. He wore those all the time, didn’t he?
Furthermore, what the female clients wanted, the female clients got. His job was less about teaching valuable self-defense lessons and more about giving the ladies a slice of fantasy, to be a bit of eye candy and flirt a little. He felt like a gigolo. If this job didn’t pay so well and have such excellent perks, he would have ditched it long ago. It was a hell of a way to spend part of his leave time.
As he walked onto the terrace in preparation for mixology 101, he rubbed his arm where a bandage covered the scratch Tracy had given him with the hair comb. He smiled. Deep as it was, he deserved that scratch. He’d worked her hard and he was proud of her.
No demure little thing for him. He had one thing in common with Bond—he liked his women bold and dangerous.
Something about that particular woman turned him on.
A group of Lipstick spies gathered around a portable bar in the shade on the terrace overlooking the pool. They watched the mix master, a bartender named Mark he’d talked with on occasion at the gym, prepare for class. The day-spies, mostly privileged women in their thirties and forties, wore a variety of obviously expensive cocktail dresses. Only Tracy’s turned his head.
She sat at the end of the bar, aloof and confident in a deep pink dress with her camp bag slung over her shoulder. He was no fashion expert, but her dress was hot. As he approached, a pleasant breeze lifted Tracy’s flowing skirt, revealing a smooth, firm, perfectly shaped thigh that made him itch to run his hands down it.
Mark the bartender was speaking. The ladies hung on his every word as if he were Proust. Like Jason, Mark had been hired as much for his looks as for his job qualifications.
Mark’s words drifted to Jason on the breeze. ‘‘The perfect martini recipe is a fantasy. Individual tastes differ. Simply put, the ideal martini is the one that tastes best to you.”
‘‘A martini is nothing more than a mixture of gin and vermouth in proportions that please the recipient’s palette.“ He held up a bottle of French Vermouth. ‘‘For the novices among you, vermouth is a fortified wine flavored with herbs.”
Looking at the women, Jason couldn’t see a novice anywhere from here to the horizon.
Mark set a silver martini shaker and a bucket of ice on the bar counter. ‘‘A dry martini refers to a martini made with much more gin than vermouth. The less vermouth, the drier the martini...”
Jason slid onto a stool beside Tracy, turning so his knees nearly brushed her hips as he leaned on the bar to stare at her. ‘‘How do you prefer your martinis?”
She turned and gave him the sexiest smile he’d ever seen. It reached all the way to her eyes, which were made up to simply smolder. ‘‘A good martini is like a fine sense of humor—dry. The drier, the better.“
He leaned in close to her. ‘‘If I poured you a glass of gin, would you let me whisper ‘vermouth’ in your ear? Would that be dry enough for you?”
She tilted her head and laughed. ‘‘Almost. Maybe.” She picked up a swizzlestick from a dispenser on the counter and twirled it in her fingers.
The other women were staring at them now.
‘‘A martini can be shaken or stirred,” Mark was saying, trying to draw their attention back on him and the lesson. ‘‘There are pros and cons to each method. Both cool the alcohol, which is the main point...“
Jason held Tracy’s gaze. ‘‘Ah, the age-old question—shaken or stirred?”
Her coy smile struck straight at his heart. ‘‘Stirring preserves the clarity of the liquor.”
‘‘But?” he asked.
‘‘I prefer shaken.“ The corners of her mouth curled up as if he amused her as no other man ever had. She looked seductively up at him from beneath her long lashes.
He wished she’d never stop staring at him like that. ‘‘Really?”
‘‘Yes.“ As she adjusted herself on the stool, her hips brushed his knees.
You wouldn’t catch him moving away from her touch. ‘‘Because it’s the Bondian method?”
‘‘Bondian method! You made that word up.“ She laughed again, a beautiful, deep, sultry laugh that made his desire rage. ‘‘No, not because of Bond. I love the little ice flecks that float on a well-made drink.”
‘‘Ah, you like to skate on yours. Hot, are you?“
‘‘I could be.” Her tone held just the right amount of flirt.
If he’d been a caveman or in the one of the many jungles and remote locations he’d fought in over the years, he’d have scooped her up and carried her off right then.
She tilted her head and appraised him. ‘‘You look very handsome in a tuxedo. But I bet all the girls tell you that.”
Before he could answer, she reached over and ran her fingers over his shoulder, sending a pleasant shudder down his back.
‘‘Beautiful fabric.” Then she ran her hand down his arm and squeezed his forearm, right where his bandage sat.
‘‘Your arm.“ She spoke in a seductive coo. ‘‘I’m so sorry.”
‘‘Hey, you two,“ Mark called to them. ‘‘Try your drinks.”
Jason hadn’t noticed that a martini glass had been set before him on the bar. He ignored it, preferring to watch Tracy as she sipped hers.
‘‘And that concludes the basic martini,“ Mark said. ‘‘Now for the variations.”
Tracy sighed. ‘‘Mark looks put out. We’d better pay attention.“ Much to his disappointment, she turned around to follow the lecture.
Mark demonstrated some of the more exotic martinis—a Sour Appletini, a Chocolatini, a Rendezous. Each spy, starting at the far end of the bar from Jason and Tracy, tried her hand at mixing a different drink. Even Steve, who wandered in, pulling at his shirt collar, so late Babette should have canned his butt, mixed one up.
When they got to Jason, Mark asked him, ‘‘What’ll it be for you? A James Bond Martini?”
Jason shook his head. ‘‘I’d like to make up my own recipe.”
‘‘Brave man,” Mark said. ‘‘You going to mix it or shall I?“
‘‘You go ahead. I’ll give you the recipe.” Jason turned to Tracy. ‘‘What do you like? Give me an ingredient.”
‘‘Let me think,” she said as she pulled her bag off her shoulder and set it on the counter. ‘‘Hmmmm.“ She opened her bag and pulled a tin of breath mints from it. ‘‘Like one?” She held them out to him on her open palm.
He declined, watching raptly as she put a mint in her mouth and replaced the tin in her purse. How in the world did she make sucking on a mint look like a seduction? Something in her eyes, the way she held his gaze. The way she ran her tongue around her mouth and puckered her lips. He’d love for her to be sucking on him. He hoped the mint was enjoying itself.
She pursed her lovely, glossy lips as she thought. ‘‘Tonic water. I love a good gin and tonic. In this warm weather, it sounds like heaven.“
‘‘You’re making it too easy on me,” he told her before turning back to Mark. ‘‘Five parts gin, one part Blue Curacao, one part tonic, and a twist of lemon peel. Shaken and served in a highball.”
‘‘Coming at you.” Mark mixed it and poured it with the flair of a class-act bartender before setting the drink in front of Jason.
‘‘Not for me.“ Jason handed the drink to Tracy. ‘‘For the lady.”
The other women let out a collective sigh of envy and appreciation as Tracy lifted the glass to her lips. Yes, he’d calculated the romance of it all. Just because he was a kick-butt action guy didn’t mean he didn’t know how to seduce a woman.
Tracy sighed appreciatively as she pulled the glass from her lips and looked him directly in the eye. He loved the way she stared at him, as if they were the only two people in the room.
‘‘Fabulous!“ Her tone was low, sexy, intimate, just for him. ‘‘My compliments. What will you call it?”
‘‘The Mrs. B.“
She tilted her head as she smiled and studied him. ‘‘Not the Tracy?”
‘‘How about the Mrs. Bond?”
He laughed. She thrilled him to his core. ‘‘Too formal. The Mrs. B.“
She nodded and turned from him to hold the glass up toward the sky and ocean and watch the light shine through it. ‘‘What a gorgeous drink. I love blue.” She sounded almost wistful.
Jason could have watched her all day. As it was, it was a good thing he was watching her then. Most people wouldn’t even have seen it, but he’d been trained in observation skills. She’d concealed a small vial of white crystalline powder in her hand. Probably got it when she’d opened her purse to get the mints.
Using magician-quality sleight of hand, she poured the powder into the glass and disposed of the vial. He watched her swirl the highball slowly to dissolve the addition.
‘‘It’s a blue horizon in a glass,” she said. ‘‘Absolutely perfect.”
The whole transaction took mere seconds. When she turned around, the powder had dissolved and the drink sparkled, clear blue again. She held it out to him much as he imagined Eve had held the apple out to Adam, all seduction and harm.
‘‘Have a drink?“ Her words were practically a whisper on the wind.
She was good. She didn’t even falter.
He took the drink from her hand and lifted it halfway to his lips just to watch her reaction. Yeah, she was dying for him to drink. At the last second, he tipped the drink into the tasting spittoon bucket on the bar.
‘‘Sorry, I don’t drink on the job.”
Even though she held her sultry smile in place, anger and disappointment leaped in her striking green eyes.
Why did the beautiful ones always want to kill you?
Two botched attempts in a few hours were almost more than Kim’s pride could handle. Yeah, the man was good, but she was a better assassin than that. She’d blown her two best shots. A kill during hand-to-hand could have been written off as an accident. The poison she’d slipped in the drink was slow-acting and untraceable and the tonic water would have concealed its bitter taste. She could have been the heck and away long before he succumbed. But there was no way she could kill him on the dance floor and get away with it. Simply no way.
She cursed handsome, charming men. There were so few of them, and yet, she had to get rid of a prize one. This one was very rare. He set her pulse going and threw her off balance where many others had failed.
She was known as an unflappable woman, and for good reason. Trying to kill him was her job. But her mark was onto her now, big time. Her job wasn’t going to get any easier.
Fortunately, her intel said that Jason had a room in the hotel for the night. She had his room number and she hadn’t met a lock yet that could keep her out. She’d have to strike him there.
Her automatic leverletto should do the trick quickly and without any unnecessary mess. But she wasn’t going to get any extra sightseeing time. And she was going to have to endure tango lessons, she thought as she walked into the Millionaire Room, which had been transformed into a dance studio complete with a dance floor.
The tango instructors, a handsome Cuban man and a slender, pretty, dark Cuban woman, stood at the head of the dance floor talking to Babette and Vicki. A cluster of young male dancers stood just off from them. Where were Jason and Steve? She’d assumed they’d be here, too.
Kim joined the group of women hovering at the end of the floor nearest the door and did the math.
‘‘There are too many ladies,” she said conversationally to the woman next to her.
The woman glared at her and spoke coldly, ‘‘Someone will just have to sit out.”
Kim shrugged her attitude off. She’d never cared whether other women liked her or not. And as often as not, they didn’t.
Vicki introduced the instructors as Andres and Veta. After being introduced, Andres took over the instruction.
‘‘The tango is a game of seduction,“ he said in his delightfully Spanish-accented English.
Where did Babette and Vicki find their instructors? They certainly knew how to sustain a woman’s fantasy. Kim gave them credit for a job well done. Now if she could only do hers.
‘‘Like any seduction, it all begins in the eyes.” Andres held his arm out to Veta as she came around to stand in front of him.
She looked adoringly, seductively into Andres’s eyes and he into hers. Kim could feel a swoon penetrate the air around her.
‘‘Now it would be helpful if my male dancers will pair with the ladies.” He snapped his fingers and the young dancers partnered up.
They were one beefcake short. As the last available dancer headed for Kim, the snotty lady next to her snagged him by grabbing his arm and pulling him to her. The young man looked startled. The woman flashed Kim a smug look.
‘‘Aye! We are one short.” Frustration shown on Andres’s face as he looked at Kim and shook his head. He turned to Vicki and Babette and frowned. ‘‘I can’t pair you with her. It does no good for ladies to dance with ladies. The man and the woman have different steps. It would ruin you! And I have worked so hard.“
Just then, Steve hurried into the room, adjusting his tie as if he’d had it off in the brief interim between sessions.
‘‘Ah,” Andres said and swung his arm wide to indicate Steve should partner with Kim.
Kim sighed. She was pretty sure Steve had all the grace of a gorilla and she really didn’t want to stare him in the eye. Unfortunately, she had no choice.
‘‘We begin with the posture.” Andres demonstrated. ‘‘Arms at the side. The neck follows the line of the spine. Breathe deeply and quietly.” He looked around the class, studying his students.
‘‘Good! We move on. The man holds the woman in the small of her back with his right hand. Just so.“ He put his arm around Veta. ‘‘He takes the woman’s right hand lightly with his left and they extend their embrace to shoulder height. Women, rest your left hand gently on your partner’s shoulder. Now chests wide, arms bent...”
The lesson continued with Andres and Veta demonstrating the steps and Steve clobbering Kim’s toes, made especially vulnerable in her open-toed stilettos, as they tried the moves.
‘‘One, two, three, four, five—ladies remember to cross over—“
Kim crossed. Steve moved the wrong way and stomped her foot.
‘‘Ouch!” Kim bent and grabbed her throbbing toes.
‘‘Sorry! Sorry!” Steve bent to have a look.
She tried putting her weight on her foot and winced, backing off. It was as good an excuse as any to end this disaster.
‘‘I don’t think I can dance anymore.” She glanced at him. He really did look apologetic, though with the force he’d pranced on her foot, she wondered if it had been intentional. She got the feeling Steve didn’t like dancing.
‘‘Let’s get you to a chair.“ He offered his arm and she hobbled with his help to the nearest seat.
She sighed as she examined the damage. Her big toe glowed red, the dark edges of a bruise already beginning to form. She’d be lucky if she didn’t lose her big toenail. Even a great pedicure couldn’t cover up a lost nail and she didn’t relish the thought of an acrylic.
She was still lamenting and rubbing her foot when Jason walked into the room. Without a word, he grabbed her by the hand and pulled her to her feet and the dance floor before she could protest.
He snapped her around in front of him and stared into her eyes with an intensity that took her breath away. She couldn’t look away. She could only stare back into his as if he held her there by sheer will. His put his hand at the small of her back where she was keenly aware of its heat through the thin fabric of her dress.
She rested her trembling hand on his shoulder and kept her chin up. He took her hand in his and squeezed it. She thought she’d never be able to breathe again.
‘‘Ready?” he asked in a deep, steady voice that made her tingle all the way to her toes.
‘‘When you are.”
He smiled. Their gazes never wavering, they flowed into the music and onto the floor as one.
‘‘One, two, three, four, five with the crossover, six, seven, eight.” Andres kept time.
Kim could have kept it with her heartbeat.
Staring into the depths of Jason’s eyes, seeing seduction and desire there, feeling his heat and a rush of desire wash over her, she hoped her knees didn’t buckle.
The world faded away. They became one, the two of them engaged in a tango that was both seduction and competition.
She broke the silence, but not their gaze. She refused to blink first. ‘‘You’re very sure of yourself, aren’t you?“
‘‘A good spy always is.”
‘‘Bastard,“ she said, but she kept her tone light. ‘‘Suppose I were to kill you for a thrill for dragging me out here?”
He laughed. ‘‘Quoting Bond movies now, Countess?“
He smiled. ‘‘I think we’ve mastered the basic step. How about a challenge—can you sandwich?”
At the thought of his thigh between her legs, she flushed. But she never backed down from a challenge. ‘‘Can I sandwich!” She beat him to the punch and slid her leg between his, rubbing her thigh against his crotch, and smiling at the reaction she got.
He merely grinned and whispered in her ear, ‘‘Gotta love the tango.“
One, two, three, her leg between his. Four, five, six, his between hers. Her heart raced as he grew bolder with each step.
A whisper of desire grew until it shouted within her. She lost herself to him. A very dangerous game, that. She wanted nothing more than to tango all the way to the bedroom and beyond. Oh so far beyond, to tangled satin sheets and satisfied moans.
When the music stopped and the dance ended, Kim had to force herself back to reality from the ravenous dance.
Andres was clapping for them. ‘‘Excellent. Excellent! We see why couples love the tango.” He winked. ‘‘Such fluid motion.”
Kim’s breath came hard. While she danced, she hadn’t even felt the physical exertion. Now she wasn’t certain the dancing had anything to do with it. Jason continued to stare into her eyes and hold her in his arms for the few extra seconds necessary to indicate intimacy.
Then he released her, nodded to her, and left her standing alone and stunned without a word.
She’d been so engrossed, she hadn’t even noticed her toe. But now it began to throb. Along with her heart.
Camp ended a half hour after Jason left. Although she went through the motions, it ended for Kim with his departure. The moment Babette dismissed them, Kim rushed for the locker room and retrieved her overnight bag.
Room 1010. Jason’s.
She hoped he’d gone straight to it. She didn’t relish the thought of lying in wait. On the surface, waiting to pounce sounded exciting, but waiting was waiting no matter how you sliced it, and dead boring.
Kim took the elevator up alone and found the hallway deserted. This time of day, the cleaning staff had finished their job. She located Jason’s room with ease.
She cased the situation and studied the door. Lucky her, he was in. He’d locked the deadbolt and now the indicator on the door showed that the room was occupied. She pulled her tools from her bag. Seconds later, she’d picked the electronic lock and jimmied the deadbolt.
She stashed her tools in her bag with the stealth of trailing shadow. As she palmed the little leverletto, her heartbeat roared in her ears.
Be still my heart, the excitement!
She listened at the door before she pushed it open. Running water! Delicious. She not only had the element of surprise on her side, but the Psycho element as well.
As she peered inside, her breath caught. The white and tan room had a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that slid back and opened onto a wide balcony and a panoramic ocean view. Bolsters, shams, and pillows scattered with red rose petals and embroidered with words of love filled the mile-high bed.
More rose petals lay scattered on the floor, making a path to bed and the bathroom beyond. Perfumed candles flickered on the nightstand and on a table on the balcony in the waning evening light, giving off a seductive scent. An ice bucket on the table held a bottle of deep-red wine. Two crystal wineglasses and a box of high-end chocolates sat beside it.
The man lived like Bond. And he was expecting company.
She smiled and silently let herself in, setting her bag by the door. She cocked her knife, ready to strike as she sneaked toward the bathroom door and the hypnotic sound of running water. No one would hear a thing.
She paused for just a second by the slightly ajar bathroom door and peeked in. Steam obscured her view. She didn’t dare venture a better look for fear he’d see or hear her. She took a deep breath. It was now or never.
She stepped in, ready to strike. Before her, gently steaming water streamed into a half-filled, two-person Jacuzzi bathtub. But there was no one in it. Where was—
Warm, bare arms, moist from a shower, grabbed her from behind, pinned her arms against her side, and her body against a naked man and his package.
She bit back a scream and kicked wildly as he lifted her off the floor. She should have known! The man had ice in his veins and moved as silently as falling snow.
‘‘Drop it!” he growled in her ear.
His freshly shaved cheek brushed her own cheek, distracting her. She did love a smooth face. ‘‘Make me.“
Wrong thing to say. He pressed her more tightly against his aroused body with one arm and grabbed her knife wrist with the other so tightly he cut off her circulation. She’d fight him until the end. She had to.
She flailed against him, but it was useless and a waste of precious energy. She tried the child’s trick of going limp, hoping he’d drop her or that she’d be able to slip through his arms. But the steam stuck her dress to both her skin and his, gluing them together and giving him the advantage. And he was too strong and too well-trained for the limp trick to work. He acted as if he could hold her deadweight all-night long.
He held and squeezed her with muscles as firm and taut as a cobra’s until her body tingled all over, and she wanted nothing more than to coil herself around him.
Her hand lost all feeling. Her hair felt damp against face. He shook her wrist, trying to snap the knife free. Her wrist cramped up and she lost her grip. The leverletto clattered to the floor. Rotten commando moves!
Jason kicked her knife away.
He released her. Unable to resist him any longer, she spun around into his arms. He pulled her against him and into the deep, openmouthed kiss she’d been longing for all day. She melted into him and kissed him back, running her hands through his short hair and over his shoulders.
He pulled away and stared deep into her eyes. ‘‘I missed you. I love you, Mrs. Bergman.”
‘‘I love you, too, Mr. B.”
He nuzzled her neck, at the same time pulling the spaghetti straps of her dress off her shoulders. ‘‘I win. Again.”
‘‘Ummm.“ She could barely think. ‘‘Yes, yes, oh yes.” She ran her hands over his bare chest, savoring every rock hard ripple of muscle. How she missed him when he was away. ‘‘Never wrestle with a naked man. He’ll always win.”
Happiness bubbled up within her. He’d bested her! His skills were as sharp and honed as ever. Her job keeping him on his toes done, she could relax. A bit.
‘‘You almost beat me. I nearly missed the powder in the drink.” He kissed her shoulder.
‘‘Quinine. Just enough in the whole dose to make you uncomfortable. Now if it had been something truly lethal...“
‘‘You’re a hell of an agent. The CIA’s lucky to have you.” He kissed her neck. ‘‘And so am I.”
He pulled back just far enough so he could look her in the eye. He swept her hair back from her face with a gentle touch that made her love for him well up. ‘‘I’ve proven myself? You won’t worry when I’m on active duty now?”
She cupped his face in her hands. ‘‘I love you. I’ll always worry.“ She sighed, sensing he wanted reassurance. He hated when she worried. ‘‘But I’ll concede that you’re in top form.” She smiled and traced a pattern on his chest with her fingertip.
He shuddered beneath her gentle touch.
She looked up at him again and pleaded with him. “Just come back to me. Come back to me whole and yourself.”
‘‘Yeah.” He unzipped her dress and slipped it off her. “If you’ll come with me now.” He scooped her into his arms.
She leaned her head on his shoulder as he shut off the water and carried her to that big, wonderful bed.
Copyright © 2011 by Gina Robinson
Want more? Be sure to check out a sneak peek of the first two chapters of The Spy Who Left Me!
Gina Robinson has always been a storyteller—just ask her parents. An avid book lover, she grew up reading romance, mysteries, and suspense novels but, somehow, ended up majoring in Electrical Engineering at school. After marrying her college sweetheart, she began to write—software—for several large defense contractors. Eventually Gina gave up the glamorous engineering life for the equally glamorous life of a stay-at-home mom, somehow finding time to write a novel about villains with guns, handsome strangers, and mail-order brides. The book won several awards for unpublished manuscripts but, so far, remains unpublished. Her first published novels, Spy Candy and Spy Games, received rave reviews, establishing Gina Robinson as one of today’s most exciting new authors of romantic suspense.