A The ride in the limousine to the Polish Embassy was quiet. Each operative was lost in thought at the possible ramifications of the upcoming mission. The hotel check-in had been a nightmare of false starts, apologies and generalized discomfiture.
As the ‘married couple,' Michael's and Nikita's luggage had been carried to a luxurious suite. As the ‘body guard,' Tip's bags were deposited in a smaller adjoining room. Nikita had not been able to keep from glaring at Michael, as he touched her elbow while they walked down the hall to their room. Once the bellman had left, she had jerked her arm from Michael's hand and sat on the plush sofa.
Without saying a word, Michael had picked up his luggage and knocked on the door adjoining the two rooms. Tip had opened the door. Again wordlessly, Michael nodded his head in Nikita's direction, and Tip and he had changed rooms.
As soon as the door between the two rooms was closed, Nikita rushed to throw her arms around Tip. "I thought he'd never leave," she had said as she snuggled in Tip's embrace.
Tip had taken a long look at her. "Nikita, I think we've rushed things. It's obvious to me that you're not over Michael. If you want me to stay in this room, okay, but making love with you and having Michael next door is exactly an appealing idea.
Nikita had flushed and pulled away. "It's not very appealing to me
either, if you want to know the truth." She wasn't sure if she could
make it on this mission with the ‘two' of them at her side.
After the door closed, Michael had unpacked his bags in his usual quick and efficient manner. He had checked his weapons and gear that would be needed for the mission, then had lain on the bed, closed his eyes and imagined the scene next door. He remembered every curve and valley of Nikita's body, as well as he remembered the sweetness of her caresses and the mewling sounds she made in passion. He had hoped the construction of the hotel would prevent his hearing anything from the other room. He didn't think he could stand to hear Nikita and Tip making love. To hear her call another's name would be more than he could stand.
Intellectually, he knew he wanted Nikita to have a chance at a healthier
relationship and a better life, but emotionally he wasn't sure he was ready
to relinquish her to another man without a fight. In spite of all
his words to the contrary, he was still in love with her, and he ached
to knock the door down and claim her.
As he rode in the limo, Tip wondered if it were possible to salvage his
burgeoning relationship with Nikita. The sexual tension between Nikita
and Michael was arcing and reverberating between them, although both of
them tried to deny it to themselves and each other. He thought he
had given Nikita enough time before asking her to dinner--enough time to
forget Michael. Apparently their bond was a lot deeper than he had
been led to believe. Somehow the three of them had to make it through
By Michael's expert estimation, Nikita was the most beautiful woman at the embassy party. She wore an elegant royal blue dress that shimmered in the gaily lit ballroom. The color of the dress heightened the deep blue of her eyes, and made Michael want to dive into their clear pools. The shimmering material clung to her curves and left nothing to his or any other man's imagination.
It gave him pleasure to have her at his side, to be able to touch her elbow, to caress her shoulder as any husband would. He surveyed the room, but his eyes kept returning to the blonde at his side, the unhappy, recalcitrant blonde, who had pasted a smile on her face for the duration of the evening.
The orchestra engaged for the gala started playing a waltz. Michael loved to dance with Nikita, and he decided to take advantage of this singular opportunity. "Would you care to dance, mon coeur?" he asked as he looked into her puzzled eyes.
Nikita smiled as she said, "Of course, darling." As Michael led her to the floor, she asked under her breath, "Is this absolutely necessary, Michael?"
"Yes," was Michael's smiling answer. He stopped to take her in his arms and whispered seductively in her ear. "What better way to attract the attention of Teodora Rimski than with a dazzling waltz?"
"I'm sure you're right, Michael. You always are, but I don't think you should enjoy it quite so much," she whispered tersely through clenched teeth.
"Why shouldn't I enjoy having the most beautiful woman here in my arms?" He swung her around in an elegant sweep. They were attracting attention, both for their dramatic waltz and their dynamic good looks.
"If you keep this up, Michael, you are going to seriously piss me off."
Nikita had difficulty keeping her breathing even, as he whirled her around
the ballroom floor. Michael emitted waves of sensuality, and she
was sure that no one had ever waltzed the way he did. His grace and
elegance on the dance floor had women all around the room turning their
heads. How he could turn the simplest waltz into an invitation to
seduction for an entire room of women was beyond her, and she was not immune.
Michael smiled. "Enjoy the dance, Nikita, or at least ‘try' to look like you are. Remember we are a loving married couple. We are here to meet the Undersecretary's wife and seduce her."
"Well, no doubt you've already done the job, Michael. There are about forty women who look as if they're lined up to take their turn with you." Nikita smiled and ran her fingers through the newly styled hair Michael sported for this mission. "Why did you cut your hair?" she asked.
Michael continued to guide Nikita in an ageless glide. "Madeline thought it would better fit the profile," he said. He felt Nikita stiffen in his arms. "Don't you like it?" he asked softly.
"It's all right," she admitted with a grudging smile. "I suppose I can get used to it." Nikita berated herself mentally. What the hell is wrong with me? I'm falling into his trap again. First, he dumps me and tells me I'd be better off with someone else, and now he acts like he's trying to seduce me all over again. She looked into his crystal green eyes--eyes that stared into her soul and knew she was lost. She could see the desire in his eyes. She could feel the heat in his hands as the held her. Yes, she was lost.
Women were not the only ones watching Michael and Nikita on the dance floor. Tip watched, too. He watched as they made love to each other with their eyes and every movement of their bodies. He turned away. He couldn't stand to see the passion they so obviously still shared. He was in hell.
"You're in love with the tall blonde, too, aren't you?" said a soft feminine voice at his side.
Tip turned and saw their ‘target' smiling at him. "What?"
"You're a little green, darling. It shows. Does your employer know you're in love with his wife?" she asked. Teodora Rimski placed a proprietary hand on his forearm. She was tall, at least 5-9 and had voluptuous breasts, with a slender waist and hips. She had brown eyes that sparkled with mischief. Her features were regular and just missed being beautiful, but her animated personality made the difference between ordinary and dramatic. Her command of English was spectacular with almost no trace of accent.
Tip asked, "It shows that much?"
"Oh, but yes, it does. You do not have a chance with her. At least that's how I read the body language between them. Better to give up now. You will never have her heart."
"How do you even know who I am or who they are?" he asked with a bewildered frown on his face. Was she right? Was his love for Nikita so hopeless that a total stranger, target or not, could see it?
"I am Teodora Rimski, wife of the Undersecretary. You are the body
guard of M. Samuelle and his beautiful wife Nikita. I know
a little about everyone who is allowed to come here. It's a hobby
of mine, knowing things, that is." She smiled. "Let's have
some of this Dom Perignon, Darling." Tip followed her willingly,
after all he had apparently been ‘chosen' by their target. He would
leave Michael and Nikita to the dance and to their love.
"Michael," said Birkoff. "Wellesley's made contact with the target."
"Yes," Michael replied as he continued to lead Nikita in the same fluid waltz. Only the change in his eyes and the increased tension of his body were clues that Michael was aware of Birkoff's contact.
Although Nikita had witnessed it dozens of times, the rapidity with which Michael was able to switch into ‘machine mode,' it always amazed her. One moment he was seducing her with every touch and glance, and the next he was focused entirely on the mission. The most amazing thing about the change was that she was the only one aware of it. They continued their waltz without a misstep until the final note was struck. Michael bent his head to Nikita's lips and gave her a soul-searing kiss that took away her breath. The party-goers who witnessed the provocative dance and its passionate ending applauded.
Nikita flushed, as Michael led her through the parting crowd. Michael smiled, as if he had eyes for no one but her. Only ‘she' could hear him responding to Birkoff's instructions through her comm set.
"Michael, Wellesley and the target are entering the private quarters of the embassy. Man, that chick doesn't waste any time, does she?"
"Proceeding," Michael replied as he continued to lead Nikita in the direction
that Tip and the Rimski woman had taken.
Teodora led Tip into an ornate Louis XVI styled suite of rooms. White-painted panels and woodwork with ornate gilt trim. "Quite grand, isn't it?" she stated, not really expecting a reply.
All Tip's senses and reflexes were on overdrive. This was too easy. He didn't trust situations that were too easy. "Isn't this a little risky? What about your husband? Aren't you afraid he might discover me here?"
Teodora gave a deep throated chuckle, "Playing Twenty Questions, are we?
Are you a little nervous? Afraid your employer might miss you?
See, I can play the game, too. My husband will be busy with the party,
and I'm bored with seeing the same people all the time. You are new,
so let's get acquainted, why don't we." Teodora wrapped her arms
around Tip's neck and began to plunder his mouth with her own, while her
hands began divesting him of his cummerbund and trousers.
"Michael and Nikita, hold position. Tip is already in the private quarters, and I think he's going to be very occupied for the next little bit." Birkoff's smarmy chuckle resounded loud and clear through their comm. sets. "Whew! I wish you guys could hear her operate."
Michael watched Nikita flush at Birkoff's inane remarks. Nikita spoke before he could. "Thanks, Birkoff, but a blow by blow commentary is ‘not' necessary."
"I'm sorry, it was supposed to be me she picked," Michael said as they stopped to sit on an ornate settee. Silently, he motioned for her to turn off her out-going transmissions.
"That's a pretty arrogant attitude, Michael. Besides, do you think I would feel any better, if it ‘were' you?" Nikita argued, after she had complied with his instructions.
"I don't know how you would feel ‘now'. It might be easier. I've done it before."
"Whored for Section One, Michael? We've all done it, in one form or another."
"I've always tried to protect you from scenarios like that."
"I know.... I'm grateful, Michael. I always have been."
"Nikita," Michael started, his voice hoarse with emotion, but Nikita interrupted him.
Nikita rose from the settee, "Not now, Michael. I'm too confused. Tonight, it was like you were trying to seduce me all over again. You had a roomful of women drooling as we danced. I don't know if I could ever trust you. I don't know if I could keep your interest," Nikita confessed. "Tip is so open and ...."
"Trustworthy?" Michael asked harshly as he rose to stand in front of her. "He's in there with another woman, whoring for Section, as you phrased it so succinctly. He's the same kind of pawn that we all are. Why is he more trustworthy than I? Tell me, Nikita?" Michael demanded as he backed Nikita against the wall, his face and lips only inches from her own.
Nikita could only shake her head, but Michael captured her lips and claimed them. As he tongue plundered hers, Nikita's felt her bones melt as she responded to the feel of his lips and the touch of his hands on her body.
"Michael, Nikita, are you holding position?" came Birkoff's voice.
Operations could be heard, "What's going on, Birkoff?"
"I think they're holding position, sir."
One second before completely losing control, Michael clicked into mission mode. The sound of Operations' voice in his comm. set had had that effect. "Nikita, we're in play here, on a mission! Get hold of yourself," he demanded hoarsely, as he pulled himself together.
Nikita, whose limbs were weak with passion, was nearly ready to slide down the wall, opened her eyes with a sudden snap. "Get a hold of myself. Oh, my god, what are we doing?"
"We were about to make an error in judgment," he said simply.
Nikita giggled, "Yeah, talk about a ‘lapse.' It's a good thing we don't have on view cams, or Madeline would be raking us over the coals after this mission." Nikita watched as Michael switched his comm set to channel B, thus activating outgoing transmissions. She nodded and quickly followed suit.
"Michael, can you continue to hold position? Wellesley should be able to obtain the letters at some point tonight. Man! That woman is a wild cat," said Birkoff over their comm. set.
"We're in a hallway in the residential area. I don't think we can stay here much longer without attracting attention. Alternate site?" Michael asked.
"There does appear to be a linen room down the hall to your left about ten meters," Birkoff offered.
Nikita looked at Michael with renewed interest. "A linen room?" she asked with complete innocence. She watched Michael's eyes begin to glaze with desire.
Operations's voice interjected over the comm. link. "Wellesley has the mission in hand. You two are done. Get back to the van. B Team is available for backup, should he need it."
"Shit," Nikita said as she gave an exasperated toss of her head. In response Michael put a warning finger to his mouth to remind her that they could be heard.
"Problem, Nikita?" asked Operations.
"No, just broke the heel on my pumps," she said blithely, as Michael rolled his eyes.
Michael knew it was time to take control of the situation before Nikita said anything else. "Returning to the van to await further instructions." Michael held his hand to Nikita, who promptly placed her hand there.
Michael shook his head furiously as he pantomimed, Give me your shoe. Awareness dawned, and Nikita stopped and removed one of her stiletto pumps. She had a sad look on her face as she handed it to him. She really loved those shoes.
Michael loved those shoes, too. He sighed as he stroked the
royal blue satin, then gave a sharp twist, and it was fait accompli.
Because the earlier heat of the moment had ebbed, Michael and Nikita passed an uncomfortable interval as they waited in the van for Tip's return. Michael watched Nikita as she fidgeted at Birkoff's extraneous comments about Tip's progress. Sometimes Birkoff had no clue about what was appropriate and what was not. "Birkoff, cool it," Michael had warned more than once, but the irrepressible computer genius was having too much fun monitoring Tip's transmissions.
Luckily, Nikita and Michael were party only to Birkoff's comments. Nikita thought she might have to hurt Birkoff, when they returned to Section One. No ‘might' about it, she would ‘have' to hurt him--a little anyway. It's all part of the job, she thought, and after one dance with Michael, there I was ready to ‘relax' in the hall or linen closet with him. Michael has no dibs to the ‘conflicted' title. Nikita rested her head in her hands and looked at the floor.
Michael wished he could do something to alleviate her pain and the obvious
indecision written across her face, but he was not going to let her go
without a fight. He couldn't. She simply meant too much to
him. He knew she loved him, loved him more than he deserved.
Nikita and his son were his two reasons for existing. While he might
never be able to be a father to his son Sean, he could still fight for
Two and a half long hours later, Tip signaled the team. "Letters retrieved, target decommissioned temporarily. Exiting the private quarters now."
Back in Section One headquarters, Operations breathed a huge sigh of relief. Only he knew exactly ‘who' had written those indiscreet letters. Friendly nation, indeed. How about the President of the United States. At least those letters would not come back to haunt the nation or their harried writer.
Ten minutes later Tip knocked on the door of the van and entered with a "Whew!"
"We have closure?" Michael asked, trying to relieve the tension in the
air that had only increased with Tip's entry.
Tip grinned and nodded. "One set of highly provocative, lust-filled letters," he said waving them at Michael and Nikita.
"You read them?" Michael asked.
"Well, I had to make sure they were the genuine article, after all."
"Go," Michael said to the driver, who began to weave his way out of the
Michael was curious, but determined not to show it. Nikita, however, showed no compunction about asking, "Well, dammit, Tip, who wrote them?"
"Need to know only, Nikita." Tip's dimples deepened, as he added. "He's been in the news quite a bit lately."
Nikita's mouth dropped open. "Oh."
Michael gave a silent nod. No wonder the letters were so important, he thought.
Suddenly, the gray van was rammed by two other vehicles, and the machine gun fire that erupted could be heard in Section One. "What's going on, Michael?" a suddenly anxious Operations asked. The mission had been too simple and now....
It was Wellesley who answered, "We're under attack. Michael's down."