Chapter 1: The Goddess
Her scarlet lips smiled deviously at me, her scarlet nails tapped against the mahogany table reminding me of a cat swishing its tail before it pounced, and her bewitching onyx eyes taunted me as she laughed with the flock of gentlemen that surrounded her.
This woman acted like a goddess amongst mortals but that was not why I watched her. I watched her because around her neck hung a string of stolen diamonds worth $3.8 million.
“You over there” The goddess called, her voice had a soft accent to it maybe German or perhaps Russian.
“Me?” I mouthed.
“Yes you little one” The goddess chuckled and beckoned me over with a long scarlet nail.
I began to walk towards the table unable to resist this creature’s summons, avoiding the curious gazes of her admirers as I approached.
“Charles be a gentleman and vacate your seat so the girl can sit down” The goddess commanded and the man nearest her jumped to his feet. He was a handsome man but he only had eyes for the goddess who rewarded his obedience with a dazzling smile.
“I am not a girl, I am a woman” I said sharply feeling patronized by her comment.
“Of course you are” She retorted her onyx eyes dancing with dark glee.
“Are you belittling me?” I asked and glared at her.
The goddess laughed causing the stolen diamonds to twinkle against her pale throat. Her admirers laughed with her and I could feel my cheeks warm with embarrassment.
“Your fire is amusing little one, come sit” She ordered and patted the empty seat.
Normally I couldn’t stand being the centre of attention and would have run a mile by now, but instead I found myself sitting down. The goddess glanced upwards at Charles and a silent command passed between them.
“What’s your name?” Charles asked me although his eyes were lingering on the goddess’s neckline.
“Why do you want to know?” I snapped.
“Manners little one” The goddess scolded and began to shuffle a set of cards. Her accent gave her voice a subtly seductive quality and I’m sure my cheeks went pink whenever she spoke.
“Josephine” I admitted
“How sweet” The goddess purred and a small smirk played on her scarlet lips.
“So Joe why are you at our little party, you clearly don’t belong here?” Charles asked and he was right, everyone else was dressed up to the nines except me. Whilst the goddess wore a racy black satin gown with a dangerously low neckline and a $3.8 million diamond necklace, I wore a shapeless pale blue sweater and brown skirt.
It wasn’t really my fault I was dressed so inappropriately. I was working undercover trying to solve a string of jewellery thefts and my boss and I had been following a lead, which had brought us here.
And whilst my boss was mingling and drinking too much wine, I was sat next to a woman who was causally dangling one of the stolen necklaces before me.
“I’m with my husband” I declared but even I could hear how feeble it sounded.
“The one wearing that awful cheap brown suit?” The goddess asked glancing in my boss’s direction and her nose wrinkled in disgust.
“Yes” I said a little too defensively
“Then where is your wedding ring?” She questioned, her onyx eyes flickering briefly to my ring less finger.
“Is she daring to lie to us Kristina?” Charles queried and his mouth twisted into a mischievous smile.
“I think she is Charles” The goddess or Kristina as Charles called her answered and stopped shuffling the cards “Gentleman would you leave Josephine and I alone for a moment” Kristina said softly and you could tell it was not a suggestion.
The men grumbled and protested however they in the end they all walked away except for Charles.
“You too Charles” Kristina instructed.
“But-“ Charles began but she silenced him with an icy glare “As you wish Kristina” Charles sighed and dared to place a kiss on her sharp cheekbone before walking away.
“Does everyone do as you say?” I enquired not masking my disgust.
“Yes” Kristina smirked.
“That must be boring” I mocked.
Kristina made no reply instead she tilted her head playfully to one side and her onyx eyes fixed into mine.
“Do you play poker?” She asked abruptly.
“No” I replied.
“Blackjack?” She continued.
“No the only card game I know is snap” I said sarcastically.
“Then we shall play that” Kristina declared.
“I don’t want to play” I stated.
Kristina sighed and lifted her wine glass to her lips, her eyes never leaving mine. Once she drained the glass she simply held it up in the air and Charles rushed back over to collect it.
“Why aren’t you drinking? I’m not sure you’ve noticed but this is a party. Charles could bring you some wine or would you prefer tea, I know how much you English love your tea” Kristina said and I could tell she was mocking me.
“No I’m fine” I replied and Kristina pursed her lips looking unimpressed. “Thank you” I added quickly and she gave me one of her dazzling smiles.
“Would you like another glass of wine Kristina?” Charles asked trying to bring her attention back to him.
“No thank you” She answered and waved her hand dismissively at him, Charles frowned but walked away leaving me alone with her once more.
“I like people to have good manners, my mother always said that manners cost nothing” Kristina informed me which I found ironic considering the way she had just dismissed Charles.
“Whereas that necklace cost $3.8 million” I stated slightly surprised at my boldness.
Kristina said nothing, instead she began to deal the cards and I watched her almost as if in a trance.
“You are a police officer aren’t you” Kristina said but she didn’t look worried, instead she seemed almost amused as if this was one big game.
“Yes, MI5 actually” I answered trying to sound confident but failing miserably.
“I can tell” Kristina informed me and that devious smile crept back onto her scarlet lips.
“How?” I scoffed.
“Because you have no sense of style” Kristina said simply and my cheeks flamed as she finished dealing the cards “Now shall we play?” She asked quietly and my heart hammered harder in my chest.
I looked down at my pile of cards debating what to do, my palms were sweating and shaking simultaneously whereas Kristina seemed unmoved, her beautiful face was a mask betraying nothing as she waited for my answer.
“Yes” I decided.
Kristina smiled triumphantly at me and placed the first card down.
“Ok as I have been honest with you about working for MI5, it’s only fair you’re honest with me” I said my words tumbling out embarrassingly fast.
“What makes you think I play fair little one?” Kristina asked looking genuinely interested.
“I-“ I started honestly not sure how to answer her.
“Snap!” Kristina exclaimed and slammed her hand down on the table startling me “How about we make a deal? Every time you win a point I will answer you truthfully, until then you will have to guess whether I am telling the truth or not” She suggested and her eyes searched my face for my answer.
“What happens if you win?” I asked unsure of her motives.
“If I win you answer my questions” Kristina and raised her eyebrows suggestively at me.
I paused and watched Kristina straighten her pile of cards, her scarlet nail vanish catching the light as she did so making me wonder if she was doing it on purpose.
“Deal” I said determinedly and looked straight into those onyx eyes.
“Wonderful” Kristina purred and seized her first card.
“Are you German?” I enquired as she placed her card down.
“Don’t insult me” Kristina drawled.
“Russian?” I countered and placed my card down.
“Correct” She replied and added another card to the pile.
“Why have you come to England?” I questioned and my hand twitched eager to score a point against the Russian beauty.
“For the delightful English weather” Kristina uttered and her scarlet lips pursed with supressed laughter.
“Snap!” I cried and swiped the cards away.
“Well done now go ahead and ask your question” Kristina encouraged looking practically delighted that I had scored a point which I thought was odd.
“Are you aware there has been several jewellery thefts in the last six months?” I asked instantly regretting it as most people knew about the thefts due to the media.
“Yes I do read the paper” She answered smugly and indicated for me to continue the game.
I set my card down mentally scolding myself for asking such a general question.
“The latest theft was of a diamond necklace belonging to an American heiress, the necklace is worth $3.8 million” I stated watching her closely.
“How interesting I hope she has insurance” Kristina said sounding as if the topic bored her.
“She does” I answered.
“You think I stole my necklace from this American?” Kristina assumed.
“Did you?” I pressed.
“No sorry to disappoint you” Kristina replied and her onyx eyes twinkled with amusement.
I bit my lip unsure what to ask next and Kristina watched me with a provocative smile on her lips.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked shifting uncomfortably in my seat.
“Because I can” Kristina quipped before slamming her hand down over the cards “Snap!” She exclaimed.
“Ok your turn” I sighed slightly worried about what she would ask.
“Are you single?” Kristina questioned without hesitation.
“Are you flirting with me?” I asked completely bemused.
“Answering a question with a question is not an answer” Kristina reprimanded as she collected her cards.
“Yes I am” I answered noticing she now had more cards than me.
“Excellent” Kristina smirked and put her next card down.
Before I could respond a rather pale Charles reappeared at Kristina’s side.
“Sorry to interrupt but Demetri is here to see you Kristina” He informed her and a flicker of fear crossed her exquisite face.
“Thank you Charles” Kristina said and gave him a reassuring smile.
“Is Demetri your boyfriend?” I asked as Charles walked off.
“No he is my employer and he doesn’t like to be kept waiting therefore our game is over” Kristina declared and stood up.
“But-“ I began but Kristina placed a finger on my lips.
“Hush little one” She breathed and leaned down to whisper in my ear “Demetri is a dangerous man therefore I suggest you and your ‘husband’ leave now while you still can. Thank you for playing I had fun” She added and placed a kiss on my cheek, her lips brushing against my skin as gentle as a feather.
“But you still haven’t told me why you’re wearing a stolen necklace” I protested but Kristina merely walked away without a backward glance.
2 weeks later
I was sat in one of MI6’s interviewing rooms shaking with nerves, I’d never dealt with MI6 before but my boss was ill therefore it had fallen to me. The case file for the jewellery thefts sat on the table in front of me as MI6 had requested, and now all I had to do was wait for someone to collect it.
As if on cue the door swung open and the confident click of high heels informed me that the MI6 agent had arrived. I spun in my chair to greet them and I swear my jaw dropped open.
“Well, well if it isn’t little Josephine” Kristina smirked and seated herself opposite me.
“But I thought…“ I started but completely lost my train of thought and instead I just gawped at her.
Kristina wore an emerald green pencil dress and her raven hair tumbled around her in perfect soft curls. This time she wasn’t wearing scarlet lipstick or nail vanish, instead her lips were an irresistible pale pink and her nails were the same shade of green as her dress.
I instantly felt self-conscious about my own outfit which was a grey sweater over a white shirt, with matching grey trousers. Kristina obviously noticed because that now familiar devious smile appeared on her lips.
“I see the ugly blue sweater has an even uglier grey friend” She teased and my cheeks instantly went red with embarrassment.
“You work with MI6?” I asked pretending to ignore her jibe.
“Obviously” Kristina sighed and rolled her eyes at me “I’ve been working with MI6 as the jewellery thefts originally began in Russia, you are aware of this yes?” She questioned.
“Yes there were also similar thefts in Germany and France” I stated.
Kristina gave me an approving smile and removed a photo from her dress pocket and placed it in front of me.
“Demetri Balashov, do you remember him from the party?” She questioned watching me as I examined the photo.
“I only glimpsed him but yes” I answered.
“He’s the one behind the thefts and with the evidence we have gathered he will be going to prison for a long time” Kristina informed me and put the photo back in her pocket.
“Wait a second you said he was your employer” I stated and frowned at her.
“Did I really?” Kristina asked feigning surprise.
“Yes” I replied proud of how sure I sounded.
“How strange I can’t remember saying that” She said smoothly and her eyes twinkled playfully.
I narrowed my eyes at Kristina who watched me with a calculated smile on her lips, she began to tap her emerald nails on the table before arching an eyebrow at me as if daring me to argue with her.
“What happened to your necklace?” I asked still convinced she was involved in the thefts somehow.
“It was bait little one, Demetri possess it for now but once we arrest him it shall be returned to the American” Kristina informed me and she began to play with her ring. The ring was clearly worth a small fortune, in its centre sat a square cut emerald surrounded by diamonds.
“Now sadly little one I have a meeting to attend therefore I must bid you farewell” Kristina declared and stood up taking my file with her.
“But wait a minute something doesn’t add up here” I stated and jumped to my feet.
“Well when you work it out give me a call, we could have English tea together or I could take you shopping” Kristina suggested and placed her business card on the table.
“I won’t call you” I said firmly as Kristina began to walk away.
“Oh you will darling” She laughed not even turning around as she headed out of the door.
Kristina was right I did call her, but only because that night the news presenter announced the latest stolen item was an emerald ring surrounded by diamonds.