French intelligence agent Germaine D'Aubet sat at a large conference table with Guillaume Leroux, her "handler". She was being briefed on the upcoming assignment she would be working on.
"The Americans are sending one of their agents in to work on this," Guillaume informed her.
"Do they think we can't handle it?" she asked with an edge in her voice. "Is it Nash again?"
"I think they just want to have their hands in things," he answered. "Their agent Nash is undercover in Germany so they're sending someone else, a Steven Bloom. Here's his file. Is there a problem with Leo Nash?"
"Not at all," Germaine told him as she quickly scanned through the folder. "Nash and I work well together now that we've gotten used to each other. Leo tends to rush right into things and plan later. I'm assuming Bloom will exercise more caution, especially since he doesn't know me. So you may have to allow an extra day or two."
"Germaine, if there is ever a problem with one of their agents putting you in danger let me know and I'll pull you out immediately. We don't need a repeat of two years ago." Leroux stated firmly. He was fond of Germaine and had personally recommended her for fieldwork. When she developed into one of their top undercover agents he felt a smug satisfaction and bit of personal responsibility for her safety.
"Don't worry. I can handle Nash or Bloom or whomever else they send. As long as you don't expect me to follow their lead arbitrarily, we'll be fine," she replied surely. "I'll leave a note at Steven Bloom's hotel and meet with him tonight. I'll be ready to leave tomorrow morning at nine, if that's okay."
"I'll have a car come by and pick you up," Leroux told her. "Bonne chance."
Germaine was seated at La Cloche d'Or and asked that the gentleman joining her be shown to the table when he arrived. As she waited for Steven Bloom to appear she enjoyed a large cup of tea and indulged in a crème brulee. The café was Germaine's safe haven. She returned there after working undercover to relax in its comfortable familiarity. Until now she had never met anyone at La Cloche d'Or even her colleagues at the Paris office, preferring to keep the café her personal sanctuary. Feeling reckless, Germaine decided to meet Steven Bloom there.
American CIA agent Steven Bloom arrived at the café at the exact time specified in the note waiting for him at his hotel and looked around. He knew he would be working with a French agent but was given no other details. His handler warned him the French weren't always eager to share information. As the waiter led him to a table in the back of the café he tried to see just who his contact was. The note left for him was signed only with a letter G.
"I'm glad you got my message," Germaine said as the waiter stopped at the table. "Please, sit down. I hope your flight was okay."
"The flight was fine. The movie could've been better," Steven replied as the waiter walked away and looked across the table at his contact. Her light brown hair was styled in a sleek bob just above her shoulders with bangs that framed large, expressive blue eyes the color of the Mediterranean. A single blue stone that matched her eyes hung from a glittering chain around her long neck and full lips formed a mischievous half smile as she studied him. She was still angry an American agent was being sent in to work with her on the op, even if he was almost impossibly attractive.
Germaine extended her hand and introduced herself, "Germaine D'Aubet. It's nice to meet you, Agent Bloom. The photo in your file really doesn't do you justice. You may want to think about giving them a new one." She was being totally honest; he was much more handsome than his photo. The headshot also didn't convey the full effect of an athletic six foot three inches and what Germaine estimated to be two hundred pounds give or take. If they had met at the café under different circumstances she would definitely pursue a relationship with him, but she had rules about getting involved with colleagues.
"You saw my file? I didn't get one on you," he said and Germaine could hear a slight bitterness to his words. "The only thing I could get was information on our directives."
From across the table, Germaine watched him with a slight smile; he seemed to be pondering the general unfairness of the file situation and trying to think of a way to remedy it. She could tell Steven Bloom was definitely not Leo Nash. Leo hadn't cared whether or not he had a file or who saw it; her latest partner seemed to be bothered by this small detail. They were silent as the waiter placed down Steven's beer and more tea for Germaine.
"Have you finished figuring out a way to get a file on me?" she asked him after the waiter left, her long fingers holding the large warm cup.
"I'm not figuring …" he responded and then stopped when he saw the way she was looking at him; the 'oh, really' on her face was plain as day.
"If you want to know anything, just ask," she said before beginning to go over a basic strategy and her undercover identity with him. She found his smile captivating and wanted to lose herself in his dark brown eyes. "I'll meet you in Marseilles day after tomorrow."
"We're not travelling together?" he asked.
"No, I leave tomorrow morning. It's less conspicuous if we arrive on different days. I'll find you after you arrive. Don't worry, I'll share any information I get," she told him and tried to focus on the job ahead.
"How are you going to find me?" he asked.
"I'm good; besides I would never misplace a man like you," she stated and winked. "Well, I need to pack. I will see you again soon, Steven Bloom. Enjoy your day in Paris tomorrow. There's a great exhibition going on at D'Orsay. You should go if you get a chance."
Two days later Steven Bloom sat on a lounge chair by the hotel pool. He had not seen or heard from Germaine since the evening at the café and he was beginning to doubt her ability. If there was no sign of her by that evening he planned to call in and see if he should proceed alone. As he relaxed, he thought about his options and Germaine D'Aubet. She and her blue eyes intrigued him. She was intelligent, that was evident from speaking with her. Not many people could switch from discussing undercover operations to suggesting an art exhibition without missing a beat. He wanted to get to know her better and was beginning to work on a list of questions to ask her. After all, she had said ask whatever he wanted to know. While he was lost in thought a waiter came up to his chair.
"A drink, from the lady over there," the waiter said and then looked around startled when he could no longer find the woman who sent the drink. "I'm sorry, sir, I don't know where she went."
"Is this seat taken?" Germaine asked, coming up next to Steven's lounge chair. "I hope the drink's okay. I just picked the first thing that came to mind."
"You mean my drink preference isn't in my file?" he retorted after the waiter left. "I was beginning to think you weren't going to find me."
"Did you expect me to meet you at the reception desk? I prefer the pool; the scenery's better," she said as she sat in the next chair and let her eyes wander over him. His unbuttoned shirt revealed chiseled abs and shorts exposed toned legs. "I have a dinner engagement with our smuggler tonight at Oceane. You should be there too."
"Your accent is Parisian. Have you lived there your whole life?" he asked nodding. He observed she was wearing a sarong skirt and a sleeveless v-neck top that flattered her hourglass figure and a colorful scarf held her hair back.
"Yes and no. I grew up about forty-five minutes outside the city. Close enough to be a suburb but far enough away to be nothing near metropolitan," she answered. "Don't look so surprised, I told you I would answer your questions. Your French is pretty good for an American."
"Thank you, I think," Steven replied. "Do you think our mark will tell you anything tonight?"
"I doubt it," Germaine answered. "He's very wary; interested, but wary. Seems a little rough around the edges and not too worried about being a gentleman, so stay close."
"Not a problem," he told her with a smile. "The exhibit at D'Orsay was terrific. Thanks for recommending it."
"Aww, helikes you. That's sweet," technical agent Jean-Marc teased from his hotel room. Germaine could hear him clearly in the tiny earpiece she was wearing and did her best to keep her face impassive. "Got it bad to spend a day at Musee D'Orsay when he could've done anything else. Seriously Germaine, you might want to reconsider your rules for this one."
"Jean-Marc says hello and says the bar at Oceane is top notch," Germaine said to Steven after listening to Jean-Marc.
"Who's Jean-Marc?" he asked and unconsciously pulled at his shirt as Germaine's eyes ran over him again.
"He'll be running all tech and communications for us," she replied and rose to leave, thinking Jean-Marc could have a point. "Come by room 425 at 6:30 tonight."