THE COMMONER AND THE CORRESPONDENT
A commoner buried in his work.
A correspondent in over her head.
Fiery and furious, they dig deep into the throes of passion.
Reporters need to back off. I’ve got a job to do. Being overworked, overwhelmed, and underappreciated, the last thing this M15 agent needs is a sexy and incredibly persuasive journalist knocking me off my game. But the terror in her eyes tells me she needs me—in more ways than one.
The byline of a lifetime. Every reporter wants to unearth the biggest news story to hit the globe. And I’m close—so close. But when a body is left on my floor with a note, “You’re next!” I know I’m in over my head. Can this correspondent let down her guard and let the commoner take over?
“Bugger me,” I seethed when I heard the pub door open and saw the woman coming in.
“Who’s that?” asked my best mate, Wilder. He and I had grown up together on his family’s estate. Now, we worked together for SIS, Her Majesty’s Secret Service—I was with MI5 and he had recently resigned from MI6.
“Bloody reporter,” I answered, running my hand over my shortly cropped hair.
“Ms. Cartwright works for the Times. She’s also friends with your sister.”
“She’s on her way over here,” Wilder warned.
“If there’s anyone I’d like to walk into this pub less than the devil himself, it’s her.”
“She almost brought down my last investigation. Not to mention, she’s been snooping around about Wren.”
“Bugger me,” muttered Wilder, repeating my earlier words and leaving me to join his wife and her brother at their table.
Wren was a former secret agent for the United States National Security Agency, whose identity had been compromised by a leak at the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service—otherwise known as MI6. To make matters worse, the security breach had happened while Wilder was serving as the international section’s interim chief.
Through the combined efforts of MI6 and MI5, the UK’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, we’d been able to mitigate the threat caused by her exposure. However, the last thing we needed now was someone like Ms. Cartwright poking her nose in it.
Wren and Wilder had both resigned from their respective jobs right after they got married, in order to start a private intelligence consultancy. First, though, they were honeymooning in the Maldives for two weeks. The gathering tonight was to wish the couple a bon voyage.
When I heard someone clear her throat, I turned around to find Ms. Cartwright standing directly in front of me.
“Is that Wren Whittaker, or should I say Kennedy King?” she asked, looking beyond me to the table where Wilder and Wren were seated.
I leaned down and got right in her face. “Who she is or isn’t, is none of your bloody business. You report one word about anyone in the Whittaker family, and I’ll see to it that you’re imprisoned for treason—that’s if I can’t manage to kill you first.”
I backed away, folded my arms, and waited for her response.
“Okay, okay. You don’t have to be so threaten-y. You know I found out through Darrow.”
Darrow. Wilder’s younger sister and my former “girlfriend.” Although with as many times as we’d been on and off and then on again in the last few months, it was hard to keep track of which we were at any given time.
“Have you found her?” Ms. Cartwright asked, bringing up yet another subject I had no intention of discussing with her.
“Off the record, then. You know she and I have been mates since primary school.”
The concern I saw in the woman’s eyes was genuine enough that I shook my head.
“She’s been gone a week’s time now, right?”
To be precise, it had been ten days since Darrow Whittaker disappeared from her residence on the estate that had been in her family for generations, five days since I found her, and three days since she disappeared again, only this time with my help.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about any of it with someone outside of her family, especially not a reporter.
“I know how upsetting this must be for you.”
I looked down where her hand rested on my forearm, growling as I wrenched it away. Having concern was one thing; gumshoeing was another.
“The ice you’re walking on is exceedingly thin. I suggest you turn around and leave of your own volition, unless you’d prefer I toss you over my shoulder and carry you out.”
“Wait, I have another—”
I leaned my shoulder into Ms. Cartwright’s stomach and wrapped my arm around the back of her knees. As threatened, I tossed her over my shoulder and carried her out to the pavement.
“What are you doing?” she screeched, pounding on my back. When she tried to kick her legs, I tightened my hold.
I made eye contact with one of several agents also at the pub to bid farewell to Wilder and Wren, who nodded in acknowledgment as I unceremoniously set her feet-first on the pavement in front of the pub.
“Go home!” I spat, turning to go back in. I heard her shout at me to wait, but I ignored her.
Once inside, I needed a minute before joining the party. I pulled out a stool at the bar, ordered a pint, and took a deep breath. Not the smartest thing I could’ve done, given the beguiling reporter’s scent lingered on my skin.
“I’ll take a whiskey as well,” I said to the barmaid.
“Looks like you need a double,” she responded, setting a glass and the bottle in front of me.
With such close proximity to Vauxhall Cross, otherwise known as SIS headquarters, the pub’s staff were trained not to ask questions of their patrons. They did, however, seem to innately know when one of their regulars needed an extra shot or, in this case, two or three.
It wasn’t this specific run-in with Ms. Cartwright that had me rattled. I could handle the reporter side of her. It was the female beneath the ink slinger’s tough exterior that got under my skin.
I tried my damnedest not to look at her pouty, bee-stung lips or let myself think about how much I wanted to lick off the bright red lipstick she wore.
I raised the glass, inhaling her scent again as I tossed the drink back. The woman smelled like none other I’d ever known—as mysterious and provocative as spicy and floral.
Today her long sandy-blonde hair was pulled back from her face in a tight bun. She wore a dark-colored pencil skirt that skimmed her knees, a loose-fitting white silk blouse that did nothing other than accentuate her mouthwatering curves, and the sexiest damn black heels I’d ever seen.
Having her in my arms, albeit slung over my shoulder, almost did me in. I longed to take her home, strip her bare, and linger over every scrumptious inch of the body that so regularly invaded my dreams.
“Bugger me,” I muttered as I had when she walked through the door earlier. Esland Cartwright wasn’t just an annoying reporter on my beat, she was one of Darrow’s best mates, and that meant hands off.