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M strode quickly down the hall to his office at MI6. He checked his watch, cursing under his breath. The committee meeting ran long, as always. But it was the outcome that frustrated him beyond words. Miss Moneypenny wasn’t at her desk as he burst through the door to his office atrium. Where the bloody hell was his secretary? Then he heard her laughter coming from his office.
“Moneypenny, what are you-“
She looked up, her brilliant smile fading. Her thin eyebrow rose as she took in his tension. “M, you’re late and I was merely entertaining James.” M received a shock to his system for the second time today as the blonde stunner rose from the chair and turned to him with her hand out. This loose cannon 007 agent wasn’t a hot-headed man. It was a woman! No doubt with something to prove. His shock faded quickly into assuming contempt.
“My apologies for my tardiness, Miss Bond.” He shook her hand, noting the grip but thankful that she didn’t try to overcompensate by squeezing.
“Accepted but not needed, M. Moneypenny’s been a delight.” She flashed a flirtatious smile over her shoulder the secretary. M swallowed, catching the way his secretary blushed. Anyone would have missed it underneath her mocha skin, but he knew her well. Apparently not well enough though.
“Forgive my brusqueness, but-“ M settled in his chair, opening the dossier on James Bond, Ms. Not Mr. or Miss.
“You had expected a man?” His head snapped up in frustrated embarrassment. “It’s alright. Most of my superiors and handlers see the name ‘James Bond’ and they very clearly think ‘man’.” She shrugged. "I use it to my full advantage."
“I’m afraid so. Especially combined with your test scores. They are impressive.” She smirked then fought it down, tugging at the jacket. Marked with a man’s name, she dressed as one. M spared a glance to take in the bespoke suit. He’d have to ask her for her tailor. Her ample breasts didn’t ruin the line of the suit. Bloody hell, he was staring at her tits. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath then let it out slowly to focus.
“Something the matter, M?”
“Nothing, Ms. Bond.” He squeezed the bridge of his nose before he opened his eyes. “I’ll just get to the point. I’ve just come from a joint intelligence and enforcement committee meeting. They’re all a bunch of puffed up idiots who have no bloody idea how things run in the field. They’re all corrupt with their hands so deep in pockets and their heads so deep up their own arses.” James blinked then laughed. “What’s so funny, Bond?”
“They’d warned me you were a bit of a strict, stuffed up old shirt. Either they’re wrong or you’re having a helluva day, friend.”
“I think perhaps both of those statements are correct. Would you like a drink?”
“No, thank you.” She plucked a coin from her breast pocket. “Sober.”
“You’re a teetotaler then?”
“’Fraid so, old man. But then you knew that.”
M slowly smiled. “I did.”
He left it open for her to explain. “It’s all in the file. My drinking problem, as well as the accident that nearly cost my career.”
“Right.” M made as if to leaf through the pages. “Drinking problem, reformed. Some anger issues and excessive violence.”
“Again, ‘fraid so. You can thank my father for the temper and the James. The drinking problem was my mother’s.”
“And the excessive violence?”
She grinned, a slow sweeping thing that began joyous then became seductive but ended with frightening. “That’s all my own.”
“I’ll be honest with you, James. I’m not comfortable with your transfer.”
“I’m not either, M.”
M blinked and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned back in the chair. “Explain.”
James unfurled her arms and sat forward. “I don’t like being used as a pawn in a power play.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Your meeting. They want to kill the 00 program. I knew about it before my transfer was forced upon me. They want to make an example of me and use me to kill the program.” She tilted her head. “Or was that not what you were thinking?”
“It was. A hot head with a drinking problem and anger issues known to use excessive violence? You’d be an idiot not to suspect something.”
“I assure you, M. I haven’t touched a drop in over a year. I’m seeing the agency therapist as ordered.”
“Good good.” M changed directions abruptly, waving away the conversation. “Your first assignment in London.” He handed her the file. “Rodney and Richard Steele, twin brothers on the fringe of London society, believed to be trafficking in illegal arms.”
James opened the dossier. “Wait a minute…they’ve never been pictured together?” She flicked the two pictures, noting the identical looks and build but dressed differently.
“Not since they were lads. After a boating accident, their parents grew paranoid that they’d both be killed and they were kept separate.”
James flipped through the file. “Are you sure it was paranoia and not guilt? They divorced a few months after the accident.”
“Who knows.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“The plan is for you to get as close as you can to either or both brothers and find out what you can about their smuggling operation.” James looked down at the file in her hands. The brothers appeared identical. “Moneypenny will give you the details and show you to Q. And James?”
She hummed as she looked up. “I’m counting on you. Good luck.”
“Thank you, sir.” She closed the file, but it didn’t take away the niggling feeling she had about the Steele brothers. James shook M’s hand again then took her leave. “Well, Miss Moneypenny, I believe you are to give me details and show me Q.”
“I am.” James grinned as she detected a slight lisp in the secretary’s accent. She looked at her watch.
“How about we grab a bite while you go over the details then we pop over to Q?”
Moneypenny answered James’s grin with her own. “That sounds delightful.” James tucked the file under her arm and shoved her hands in her trouser pockets as she waited for Moneypenny to take care of her desk and grab her purse. She rocked back on her heels then followed the woman out. She spared a glance at M’s door over her shoulder, her grin falling. She’d have to be careful. Someone had set her and the 00 program up for failure. And she was dying to know who.