Introducing Casey & Jack

My parents named me Katherine Claire Billings, probably in the hope I’d have the life my mom figured a “Katherine Claire” should live–big house on the “right” side of the tracks, rich husband, elegant wardrobe, and maybe a servant or two.

Instead, I blow things up for a living.

If she knew, she’d be very disappointed. She still doesn’t accept the nickname Casey, based on my initials, I started using as soon as I escaped to college.

As an operative for Arachnid, a secret multinational intelligence agency, I spend very little time in elegant clothes unless I’m using a cover identity that involves them. I’m more likely wearing fatigues and crawling around in scrub brush, gathering intel or planting explosives. The closest thing I have to a servant is my Walther PPK, and my friends care more about weaponry than about canapes or golf scores. Since my job is, as noted, secret and I’m based in the London office, my family doesn’t have to deal with this information, all of which would distress them greatly.

However, it all suits me perfectly. At least, it did until the politics of international security–yes, there really is such a thing, however disgusting the thought–stuck me with an overbearing MI5 officer as a partner. Not only does he think he’s in charge and have a brilliant record to bolster his ego, but he’s an earl. Lord Bainbridge. A peer of the realm. And the possessor of a fortune in Seriously Old Money.

Having grown up in a mill town run by a family who regarded their workers as roughly on par with dung beetles, I’m automatically suspicious of anyone with more money than a Third World country.

And he calls me Claire, which he says better fits our cover identities. He has a point, however little I like it, but I suspect he also knows it needles me.

The fact that he’s tall and dark-haired, with the rugged good looks of a pirate, the soul of a knight, and marksmanship scores even better than mine just makes things worse. The last thing I need is a hormonal reaction to a partner I don’t want in the first place. Especially when the partner thinks he’s my boss and equates operational planning with Holy Writ. Seizing the moment, improvising to fit the circumstances, can make the difference between success and failure, but he doesn’t see that.

We just have to deal, though. I may be the queen of winging it, and he may be the king of control freaks, but we can’t afford to kill each other. Yet.

First we have to stop the pandemic spreading across Europe and put away the man who unleashed it.

Then all bets are off.