An excerpt from a short story featuring characters from Eleventh Hour.
Early February and things were pretty much dead on the espionage front. It was bitterly cold and snow was piled in the streets of Belgrade, just the time to steal the march on one's opponents, one would have thought, but the reports that came in from outlying agents were sadly lacking in action. Briers Allerdale could only assume that his various opponents were doing what he was doing – following orders to sit in an office pretending to work and be bored out of their minds. He had even sunk so low as to tackle the filing.
"God, what I wouldn't give for a nice juicy assassination attempt,” he muttered as he slammed the filing cabinet. He shuffled over to the fireplace and made more fuss than necessary over adding a few lumps of coal to the already blazing hearth.
"You'll set the chimney on fire." Basset muttered. He was rocking in his chair, balanced on the two back legs of it, and had given up all pretence of looking busy in favour of making paper aeroplanes. "But then we'd be warm and have something exciting to do, so go ahead." He launched his missile and missed the waste paper basket by inches. Briers picked it up and threw it back.
The phone rang and they both lunged for it, Basset beating Briers by a short head.
"Hello, International Trade and Exchange," Basset said. "Oh - right. Allerdale, it's for you."
"Hah!" Briers grabbed the handset from him. "Yes, what?"
"Politeness doesn't cost anything, you know." The bureau chief sounded harrassed. "We just heard that Carmouche of Fabrique Besson is making another of his little trips, and your name is next on the list to shadow him. We just want him watched. If possible, we’d like to know to whom he’s passing information. In our dreams we’d like to know what he’s passing but appreciate that may not be possible. I'm sending the file down with a runner."
"Fabrique Besson, eh?" On the face of it, a French company providing parts for agricultural machines, but so much more than that behind the scenes. Briers looked at the clock. "Have I got time to go home and pack?"
"No rush. You have a week. He's booked on the Paris express on the 12th February, returning on the 15th. We need you in situ on the 11th to familiarise yourself with his route. A creature of habit, Carmouche. Someone will meet you with his itinerary."
"Time to get up to date with his file, then." Working on the principle that if you don't ask you don't get, Briers added, "Bearing in mind it’s comparatively close to home, and if I feel it might be helpful, could I call in some back up? The right resources could make all the difference.”
There was a short thoughtful silence though Briers would have bet that the section chief wasn't thinking what Biers was thinking. “Depends on what they are. All right, within reason. You’ll be on expenses, but don’t go crazy. Do you have contacts?”
“I certainly do." Briers grinned at Basset. "My kind of assignment. Paris just in time for Valentine's Day!”
The word Basset mouthed at him wasn’t normally one heard in polite company
"I'd remind you, Allerdale, that you are not going there to pick up young ladies in Montmartre."
"Oh I wouldn't dream of it sir! The culture, the art! All those museums!"
"Yes, quite. Send Bassett up, will you? I need a fourth for bridge and I don't trust your luck."
Ignoring the insult—cheating was part of his profession, after all—Briers put the phone down and passed on the message to Basset. He had to raise his voice considerably to be heard over Basset’s complaints that he was the jammiest of jammy bastards.
"Good luck with that," Basset continued as he got out of his chair. "Carmouche’s own people have about given up on him. They know he's passing on intelligence but have no idea how he's doing it. And he goes to the best places. All I can say is—make the most of it."
"Oh, Bassett." Briers grinned and reached for a telegram form. "You have no idea how much I intend to.”
On the evening of February 11th, Briers arrived at the Gare du Nord just in time to watch the Fleche D’Or roll into the station. He hung back a little, hat in hand, as the disembarking passengers milled and called and requisitioned porters, knowing that his ‘resource’ wouldn’t want to risk being buffeted in the crush. Once the platform began to clear, he moved in with a smile and was in exactly the right position to meet an exquisitely dressed young woman stepping down from the carriage. Briers was vaguely aware of her burgundy wool coat lavishly trimmed with black beaver lamb and the neat little matching hat, but his attention was on the way her eyes lit up on seeing him.
“Millie, darling.” He took both neatly gloved hands in his and drew her close before stooping to meet her lips.
Fourteen months ago he had embarked on a dangerous assignment in the depths of London, and had deeply resented being lumbered with an inexperienced partner. But he had learned, fast, that there was more to this “young lady” than met the eye. Not least a very attractive and well-proportioned cock. Since then they had corresponded frequently and met as often as they could, which wasn’t often. Last August they had managed a week together in a chalet not far from Chamonix – a walking holiday Briers had told his masters. When he got back to the office, reeling with exhaustion, they weren’t to know that he hadn’t put a pair of boots on all week. Just the thought of it made Briers groan and tilt his head to get a better taste of her mouth and he smiled as the hands that had slipped inside his overcoat took a possessive but concealed grip on his arse.
A porter cleared his throat and they both laughed and, still in each other’s arms, they stepped out of the man’s way so he could lift the luggage down.
“And just in time for dinner too,” Briers said by way of greeting. “But the restaurant booking I made probably isn’t nearly good enough for that hat. May I say you look stunning?”
“Of course you may,” Miles Siward replied, rouged lips parting in a merry grin. “So do you. I read a copy of the file on Carmouche. Do you plan to fill me in on the rest over dinner?”
“Given the opportunity, I’d fill you in right now over that luggage trolley,” Briers said, sincerely, “but I think it had better wait until we’re back at the hotel."
Despite the advice not to go crazy with expenses, Briers had opted for something a bit special in the accommodation line. Something central, something close to Carmouche’s known hangouts, something very classy indeed with the luxury of a private bathroom.
The furniture was top notch too, both attractive and robust. The bed, for instance, was a wonder of Louis Quinze gilded woodwork yet it was vastly improved by the slender body arched across it. Miles’ teeth dented his lower lip and he threw his arms wide, fists clenching in the sheets. As was Miles’ habit, he had discarded Millie the moment they had locked the door. Briers had contained his impatience while Miles put aside the lovely clothing, wiped the makeup from his face and returned to himself, because he knew how much it meant to Miles to meet him man to man. But that hadn’t meant it was easy and he didn’t give Miles a chance to say a single word before flipping him onto the mattress and swallowing his cock. Miles had let out a delighted whoop and had buried his hands in Briers hair, but since then had been reduced to almost incoherent babbling. Briers had brought him to the brink twice and planned to see if he could do it again.
He pressed a kiss to Miles' belly and said, "Come on, lad. You need to keep your wits under all circumstances. What next?"
"You bastard." Miles' whimper sounded more ecstatic than annoyed. "Carmouche – um, OH mmmm – where was I? Oh yes, he's nearly 50, thick set, dark hair, ba – ah – balding, bit of a bon vivant. Oh, I'm going to get my own back later. You'll be sorry."
"That's the way." Briers grinned, hand moving lazily. "You saw photos?"
"Poorly framed, blurry photos, yes. I'll recognise him. Briers – please. I've missed you so much and now you’re …” Miles voice quivered into silence. He sniffed and was that a tear? Briers moved further up the bed to get a better look. It was. The pretty blue eyes were awash, the plump pink lower lip quivering, forming a picture of utter anguish that struck Briers right in the heart.
Briers grinned. “You manipulative little sod.”
Miles bit his lip again and peeped at Briers through wet lashes. Another tear gathered, rolled and dripped off his earlobe.
“Oh that’s nice.” Briers nodded. “Very nice. Can you do that whenever you want?”
“Yes, I can. I’ve been practising. Pritchard was so worried the first time I tried it that he called his friend Ron over. He was completely fooled but Ron says my sniffs are insincere and need more work.”
“I approve. Another big gun in Millie’s arsenal.” Briers kissed the tears away then settled firmly in the cradle of Miles’ arms and legs. “Back to Carmouche.”
“You’re a hard taskmaster, Allerdale.” Miles raised his head to demand a kiss, which Briers happily provided, then flopped back down with a thoughtful frown. “Should I try to vamp him? I could pick him up and that would give me a cast iron reason to be at his side all the time.”
“No.” The word popped out with more force than Briers intended and he scowled at Miles’ knowing grin.
“All right I won’t. Incidentally, you do know that I love it when you get all possessive and bossy, don’t you?”
“I know.” Briers nodded to his trousers, discarded and picking up fluff on the carpet. “I’ve got his itinerary in my pocket. We can lay in wait at one of his usual haunts, have a nice dinner, apparently he enjoys his food, and casually tag along from there.”
“I see. You’ve got it all planned, then.” Miles ran his hands down Briers spine. “So what, exactly, has the past twenty minutes been all about?”
“On the job training?” Briers suggested. The hands had reached his arse and gave him a sharp squeeze, which was a hint if Briers had ever felt one. As his hips jerked down, Miles hooked a heel round the back of Briers’ thigh to keep him in place. “But I think we’ve done for now.”
To be continued
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Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, Water Board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.
Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?
The clock is ticking.
Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and works in a museum in a castle built on the edge of a Roman fort! She reckons that’s a pretty cool job.
Elin usually writes on historical subjects, and enjoys weaving the weird and wonderful facts she comes across in her research into her plots. She likes her heroes hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Often they are in danger, frequently they have to make hard choices, but happy endings are always assured.
Current works in progress include one set during the Great War, another in WW2, one set in the Dark Ages and a series of contemporary romances set in a small town on the Welsh border.
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