Today's Reading

London, March 1942

Evelyn met Nick at The Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, located at 70 Grosvenor Street, in London. Officially the U.S clandestine organization, it was often a home for those, like Nick, who did not fit in the regular army. Self-taught and brilliant, he made up for his lack of formal education by reading every book he could find. Yet, he was also plagued by demons that came close to getting him court-martialed. His commanding officer, appreciating his fearlessness, and frustrated by his irreverence, sent him to a place where his talents would be put to good use.

When Evelyn first found him, he was in an office, draped over the arm of a couch, so hungover his hair hurt. From the bullpen outside, the sound of typewriters and telephones was cacophonous, and he struggled to keep the morning's dry toast in his belly. Evelyn stood in the open doorway, letting the sound assault his pain-addled brain.

"No," he said without looking up. "Whatever it is, the answer is no."

"So I'm not supposed to report to you?" she asked. Her voice was clear and light. There was a laughing quality about it, as if the sight of his distress was less pathetic and more an understood misery. She shut the door and he noticed her perfume for the first time. The scent of summer roses cut through the musty smell of last night's booze seeping from his pores. He opened his eyes to see a woman looking down at him, one brow cocked as she assessed this mess of a man. He sat up quickly, making his head spin. It took another minute before he found his feet and stood to face her. He smoothed down his wrinkled shirt, stained with sweat, and straightened his tie.

"I don't think that's going to help," she said. "There's lipstick on your collar."

He didn't remember a woman from the night before. Then again, he also had no idea when he last washed his clothes. In contrast, she was impeccable, dressed in a tailored navy suit. Its color set off her bright green eyes. Her dark hair shone in the dim light, and he realized he was standing in front of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

"What can I do for you?" Nick asked.

"General Gibson sent me to find Mr. Gallagher. Said I should look for a hungover puddle of a man. Seems like I found him."

"Sorry, are you a secretary?" Nick asked, his mind struggling to keep up with this conversation.

"Don't type," Evelyn said. "Don't make coffee."

"What do you do?"

"I speak five languages, I'm a crack shot with a rifle, and I excel at jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Also, I make a mean vodka martini."

"You're a spy," Nick said.

"Will be, as soon as you accept me on your team."

The last thing Nick wanted on his team was a woman. In fact, he didn't want a team at all. He was faster at gathering information on his own and he rarely trusted others to be competent. General Henry Gibson, who ran his missions, tried to convince him there were times he needed an extra hand. What Nick could not admit was that he hated the idea of being responsible for someone else's life. He had been alone since he was twelve when his parents abandoned him, and by now, he was good at it. Other people made things complicated. Especially a woman who looked like Evelyn Bishop.

"It's too dangerous," Nick said.

"For me or you?"

"Both of us."

"Are you afraid I'll be a distraction?" Evelyn asked. He was, but damned if he would admit it.

"Why do you want to do this?"

"Women can get into places men can't," Evelyn said. "We're less suspicious and soldiers always try to impress us. Besides, I speak French like a Parisian and spent my summers outside Marseille."

"That's not the real reason," Nick said.

"My reasons are my own," Evelyn insisted.

"Not when they can get me killed."

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