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One Breathless Night

By:Jo Leigh



1

“GUESS HOW MANY James Bonds there are in this room right now.” Jenna Delaney tugged up her neckline as she watched the Bonds interact. Some were short, some rotund, some blond; quite a few had the beginnings of beer bellies. But they were all clearly dressed as the one and only Double O Seven.

Jenna and her friend Mindy were stationed perfectly: close enough to the New Year’s Eve buffet table that they could nibble all they wanted, yet still have a great view of the reunion   suite. “Ten? Twelve?” Mindy shook her head. “I give up. How many are there?”

“They’re all Bonds,” Jenna said. “Every single man here. All they had to do for their costume was rent a tux. That’s it. Unless they already owned one, which would have made it even easier. Meanwhile I, silly fool that I am, shelled out big bucks for Mimco bloodred lipstick, OPI blackish-purplish nail polish that’s the perfect shade but hideous, a necklace that looks like a noose, nearly cried putting my hair up in this awful twist and I’m wearing a dress that is far too revealing, just to match the outfit Vesper Lynd wore in Casino Royale.”

“You looked all that stuff up, didn’t you?”

“Of course I did. All the Bond girls have their own wikis.” Jenna took her cosplay as seriously as she did her job teaching middle school English.

“Bless your heart,” Mindy said, lifting a brie-covered cracker to her mouth. “I stole my costume from the men’s playbook. None of it’s new. I put it together using stuff from my own closet.”

Jenna eyed her friend’s black blouse and slacks. “That’s supposed to be a costume?”

Mindy nodded as she chewed.

“So what are you? A background extra?”

“Don’t be silly. I’m Judi Dench’s ‘M.’”

Jenna turned to face her now. “But she wasn’t a redhead.”

Mindy grinned wickedly. “I’m M in disguise.”

Jenna laughed.

“For what it’s worth, you look sensational.” Mindy looked her up and down, and then zeroed in on her neckline. “Well, you would if you’d quit trying to hide your breasts.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ve been tugging on your top all night. You’re not showing off that much, you Victorian prude, you. Look around. There are women here who are barely clothed, for God’s sake. It’s a James Bond–themed party.” Mindy reached over and tugged down Jenna’s top an inch. “It’s called a plunging neckline for a reason. Why didn’t you just come as Miss Moneypenny?”

Jenna clutched her bodice. “I have. Three times, as you well know.”

“Right. Because we come here every freaking year. There are things to do all over Boston. I mean, it’s New Year’s Eve and First Night, yet every year, we get stuck coming to the same old party. It’s criminal, all that we’re missing. It’s not being disloyal to their alma mater if we want to see other things, too.”

They were Jenna’s fiancé and Mindy’s husband, both graduates of Boston University. “You have a very good point.” Jenna picked up what looked to be a salmon puff. “It’s time to expand our repertoire. Just...Payton has the whole routine down—”

“Tough.” Mindy might not look like M, but right now she sure sounded like her. “I like you guys a lot, but I’ve had it. No more parties where we have to play dress-up. If the guys miss our skimpy outfits, they can wear them.”

Jenna laughed until she realized her hand was still covering her décolletage. It wasn’t as if her boobs were big enough to cause a stir. And she never used to be a prude. But then she’d started teaching twelve-year-olds. And dating Payton. Not that he made her a prude, but they did go to a lot of functions for his ultraconservative accounting firm, and she had learned to dress and act the part. She let her hand drop and straightened her back. “Okay, next year, you make the plans. I’m sure Payton will get on board.”

Mindy raised one eyebrow. “And if he doesn’t?”

“He will. Where are they, anyway?”

Mindy made a face. “Probably tucked in a corner somewhere discussing the newest thrilling tax requirements.”

Zane, Mindy’s husband, had not only gone to BU two years ahead of Payton, but he was also an accountant at the same firm. Jenna liked the couple a lot but they really only saw each other at events like these. They lived in a different suburb, and both Mindy and Jenna worked full-time.

“Have you seen him?” Mindy nodded toward a tall, dark-haired man standing at the other end of the buffet.

“Who? Oh. I hadn’t, no. But I... He’s...good-looking.”

Mindy nabbed a chocolate-dipped strawberry, now that they’d moved the few steps over to the dessert section. “Good-looking? That’s like saying the Mona Lisa is a nice painting.”

“Okay, fine. He’s gorgeous,” Jenna said. “Honestly, I stopped listening to you the moment I saw him.”

“You’re forgiven. I mean, he actually looks like James Bond. Better than Daniel Craig, if you ask me.”

Jenna nodded, even though she knew Mindy wasn’t looking. “He must be a swimmer. Right? That’s a swimmer’s body.”

“I don’t know. I think runner. No. Martial arts,” she said, her voice lowering an octave.

“Hmm. Quite possibly,” Jenna said in a British accent.

Mindy laughed. “I’m sending him a telepathic message to take off his jacket.”

“While you’re at it, you might as well ask him to take everything else off, too.”

“That seems greedy.”

Jenna was giggling now. “Oh, damn, he’s with someone.”

“So are we.”

“Of course we are. I’m just window-shopping. Ah, his girlfriend’s beautiful.”

“I never did like blondes.” Mindy eyed Jenna for a second. “You’d look good with him,” she said. Then she started loading a plate with petits fours.

Jenna laughed. She scooped up a bite-size brownie, while scoping out the rest of the goodies, ignoring everything that wasn’t chocolate.

‘He looks...dangerous,” Mindy said. “If only he’d take off that damn jacket. Let us see what he’s got under the hood.”

Jenna looked up from the buffet table and stared at her friend, who was unashamedly checking out the guy.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was hiding a Walther PPK.”

Almost choking on the brownie, Jenna cleared her throat and said, “I thought that sentence would end in a completely different way.”

Mindy’s eyes lit up as she turned to Jenna. “I take back the Victorian comment. And give you extra points for the classiest way of subverting the ‘is that a gun in your pocket’ joke I’ve ever heard.”

“That’s me. Classy as—oh, crap, he’s coming closer.”

Mindy bumped her shoulder. “Don’t look him straight in the eye.”

Jenna nodded absently at Mindy, more interested in the gorgeous dress the guy’s date was wearing than in him. A few seconds later, she realized what her friend had said. Her gaze flew back to Danger Bond. “Damn it, I just looked him in the eye. He caught me. Stop saying things.”

“Jenna?” Mindy poked her in the shoulder. “Jenna.”

“Yes, what? Hello?”

“Payton,” Mindy said, a little too brightly. “Zane. Thank goodness you guys are back. We were beginning to think you’d asked some Bond girls if you could do their taxes.”

“Ha,” Mindy’s husband said, without the least bit of humor. “I never get tired of accountant jokes.”

Mindy waved dismissively before she accepted her double Scotch from him. Jenna’s gaze caught on her wedding ring set. The rings were Vera Wang. Diamond and sapphires on white gold. God knew how expensive they’d been.

Then she looked down at her own engagement ring. She and Payton had picked it out together. The lovely three-quarter-carat princess cut on platinum had been a perfect choice. The money they’d saved by being careful was socked away in their new-house account. The wedding was set for the following June—if they didn’t postpone it yet again.

Regardless, by then she’d have paid off the balance of her student loans and they’d have a significant amount for a down payment in Easton, a very nice suburb equidistant to both their jobs. There was a reason they’d decided to have the wedding in his parents’ gorgeous backyard. It was very important to both of them to enter the next phase of their lives debt-free.

She took her White Russian from Payton, and gave him a kiss. “You should eat. Everything’s very good.”

“I’m grateful you went to the trouble of tasting it for us. In this place, it’s impossible to tell the villains from the heroes.”

“You’re welcome.”

Payton pressed a quick kiss to her forehead, and then went to get a plate. But he didn’t make it that far. The beautiful blonde with Danger Bond gasped when she caught sight of him. “Payton?”

“Oh, for God’s sake... Faith! You never come to these.”

She was even more beautiful when she smiled. “I didn’t know you did,” she said, putting her plate down and giving him a really big hug. Jenna and Mindy raised their eyebrows at each other.

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