Bond rolled his swimming trunks into a towel, put on a dark blue sea-island cotton shirt over his slacks, and slung Leiter's Geiger counter over his shoulder. He glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked like any other tourist with a camera. He felt in his trousers pocket to make sure he had the identification bracelet and went out of the room and down in the lift.

The Land Rover had Dunlopillo cushions, but the ripple-edged tarmac and the pitted bends of Nassau's coastal road were tough on the springs and the quivering afternoon sun was a killer. By the time Bond found the sandy track leading off into the casuarinas and had parked the car on the edge of the beach, all he wanted to do was get into the sea and stay in it. The beach hut was a Robinson Crusoe affair of plaited bamboo and screwpine with a palm thatch whose wide eaves threw black shadows. Inside were two changing rooms labeled HIS and HERS. HERS contained a small pile of soft clothes and the white doeskin sandals. Bond changed and walked out again into the sun. The small beach was a dazzling half-moon of white sand enclosed on both sides by rocky points. There was no sign of the girl. The beach shelved quickly through green to blue under the water. Bond took a few steps through the shallows and dived through the blood-warm upper water down into the cool depths. He kept down there as long as possible, feeling the wonderful cold caress on his skin and through his hair. Then he surfaced and crawled lazily out to sea, expecting to see the girl skin-diving around one of the headlands. But there was no sign of her, and after ten minutes Bond turned back to the shore, chose a patch of firm sand, and lay down on his stomach, his face cradled in his arms.

Minutes later, something made Bond open his eyes. Coming toward him across the middle of the quiet bay was a thin trail of bubbles. When it passed over the dark blue into the green Bond could see the yellow single cylinder of the aqualung tank and the glint of a mask with a fan of dark hair streaming out behind. The girl beached herself in the shallows. She raised herself on one elbow and lifted the mask. She said severely, "Don't lie there dreaming. Come and rescue me.''

Bond got to his feet and walked the few steps to where she lay. He said, "You oughtn't to aqualung by yourself. What's happened? Has a shark been lunching off you?''

"Don't make silly jokes. I've got some sea-egg spines in my foot. You'll have to get them out somehow. First of all get this aqualung off me. It hurts too much to stand on my foot with all this weight.''

She reached for the buckle at her stomach and released the catch. "Now just lift it off.''

Bond did as he was told and carried the cylinder up into the shade of the trees. Now she was sitting in the shallow water, inspecting the sole of her right foot. She said, "There are only two of them. They're going to be difficult.''

Bond came and knelt beside her. The two black spots, close together, were almost under the curl of the middle toes. He got up and held out a hand. "Come on. We'll get into the shade. This is going to take time. Don't put your foot down or you'll push them in further. I'll carry you.''

She laughed up at him. "My hero! All right. But don't drop me.'' She held up both arms. Bond reached down and put one arm under her knees and another under her armpits. Her arms closed round his neck. Bond picked her up easily. He stood for a moment in the lapping water and looked down into her upturned face. The bright eyes said yes. He bent his head and kissed her hard on the half-open, waiting mouth.

The soft lips held his and drew slowly away. She said rather breathlessly, "You shouldn't take your reward in advance.''

"That was only on account.'' Bond closed his hand firmly over her right breast and walked out of the water and up the beach into the shade of the casuarinas. He laid her gently down in the soft sand. She put her hands behind her head to keep the sand out of her straggling hair and lay waiting, her eyes half hidden behind the dark mesh of her eyelashes.

The mounded V of the bikini looked up at Bond and the proud breasts in the tight cups were two more eyes. Bond felt his control going. He said roughly, "Turn over.''

She did as she was told. Bond knelt down and picked up her right foot. It felt small and soft, like a captured bird, in his hand. He wiped away the specks of sand and uncurled the toes. The small pink pads were like the buds of some multiple flower. Holding them back, he bent and put his lips to where the broken ends of the black spines showed. He sucked hard for about a minute. A small piece of grit from one of the spines came into his mouth and he spat it out. He said, This is going to be a long business unless I hurt a bit. Otherwise it'll take all day and I can't waste too much time over just one foot. Ready?''

He saw the muscles of her behind clench to take the pain. She said dreamily, "Yes.''

Bond sunk his teeth into the flesh round the spines, bit as softly as he could, and sucked hard. The foot struggled to get away. Bond paused to spit out some fragments. The marks of his teeth showed white and there were pinpoints of blood at the two tiny holes. He licked them away. There was almost no black left under the skin. He said, "This is the first time I've eaten a woman. They're rather good.''

She squirmed impatiently but said nothing.

Bond knew how much it would be hurting. He said, "It's all right, Domino. You're doing fine. Last mouthful.'' He gave the sole of her foot a reassuring kiss and then, as tenderly as he could, put his teeth and lips back to work.

A minute or two later and he spat out the last section of spine. He told her it was over and gently laid the foot down. He said, "Now you mustn't get sand into it. Come on, I'll give you another lift into the hut and you can put your sandals on.''

She rolled over. Her black eyelashes were wet with the tears of small pain. She wiped a hand over them. She said, looking seriously up at him, "Do you know, you're the first man who's ever made me cry.'' She held up her arms and now there was complete surrender.

Bond bent and picked her up. This time he didn't kiss the waiting mouth. He carried her to the door of the hut. His or HERS? He carried her into HIS. He reached out a hand for his shirt and shorts and threw them down to make a scrap of a bed. He put her down softly so that she was standing on his shirt. She kept her arms round his neck while he undid the single button of the brassière and then the tapes of the taut slip. He stepped out of his bathing trunks and kicked them away.

19.

When the Kissing Stopped

Bond leaned on one elbow and looked down at the beautiful drowned face. There was a dew of sweat below the eyes and at the temples. A pulse beat fast at the base of the neck. The lines of authority had been sponged away by the love-making and the face had a soft, sweet, bruised look. The wet eyelashes parted and the tawny eyes, big and faraway, looked up with remote curiosity into Bond's. They focused lazily and examined him as if they were seeing him for the first time.

Bond said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that.''

The words amused her. The dimples at each side of the mouth deepened into clefts. She said, "You talk like a girl who has had it for the first time. Now you are frightened that you will have a baby. You will have to tell your mother.''

Bond leaned down and kissed her. He kissed the two corners of her mouth and then the parted lips. He said, “Come and swim. Then I must talk to you.'' He got to his feet and held out his hands. Reluctantly she took them. He pulled her up and against him. Her body flirted with his, knowing it was safe. She smiled impishly up at him and became more wanton. Bond crushed her fiercely to him, to stop her and because he knew they had only a few more minutes of happiness. He said, ”Stop it, Domino. And come on. We don't need any clothes. The sand won't hurt your foot. I was only pretending.''

She said, "So was I when I came out of the sea. The spines didn't hurt all that much. And I could have cured them if I'd wanted to. Like the fishermen do. You know how?''

Bond laughed. "Yes I do. Now, into the sea.'' He kissed her once and stood back and looked at her body to remember how it had been. Then he turned abruptly and ran to the sea and dived deeply down.

When he got back to shore she was already out and dressing. Bond dried himself. He answered her laughing remarks through the partition with monosyllables. Finally she accepted the change in him. She said, "What is the matter with you, James? Is anything wrong?''

“Yes, darling.'' Pulling on his trousers, Bond heard the rattle of the little gold chain against the coins in his pocket. He said, ”Come outside. I've got to talk to you.''

Sentimentally, Bond chose a patch of sand on the other side of the nut from where they had been before. She came out and stood in front of him. She examined his face carefully, trying to read it. Bond avoided her eyes. He sat with his arms around his knees and looked out to sea. She sat down beside him, but not close. She said, "You are going to hurt me. Is it that you too are going away? Be quick. Do it cleanly and I will not cry.''

Bond said, "I'm afraid it's worse than that, Domino. It's not about me. It's about your brother.''

Bond sensed the stiffening of her body. She said in a low, tense voice, "Go on. Tell me.''

Bond took the bracelet out of his pocket and silently handed it to her.

She took it. She hardly gave it a glance. She turned a little away from Bond. "So he is dead. What happened to him?''

"It is a bad story, and a very big one. It involves your friend Largo. It is a very great conspiracy. I am here to find out things for my government. I am really a kind of policeman. I am telling you this and I will tell you the rest because hundreds and perhaps thousands of people will die unless you help to prevent it. That is why I had to show you that bracelet and hurt you so that you would believe me. I am breaking my oath in doing this. Whatever happens, whatever you decide to do, I trust you not to tell what I am going to say.''

“So that is why you made love to me---to make me do what you want. And now you blackmail me with the death of my brother.'' The words came out between her teeth. Now in a soft, deadly whisper, she said, ”I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.''

Bond said coldly, in a matter-of-fact voice, “Your brother was killed by Largo, or on his orders. I came here to tell you that. But then''---he hesitated---”you were there and I love you and want you. When what happened began to happen I should have had strength to stop it. I hadn't. I knew it was then or perhaps never. Knowing what I knew, it was a dreadful thing to have done. But you looked so beautiful and happy. I wanted to put off hurting you. That is my only excuse.'' Bond paused. “Now listen to what I have to tell you. Try and forget about your hate for me. In a moment you will realize that we are nothing in all this. This is a thing by itself.'' Bond didn't wait for her to comment. He began from the beginning and went slowly, minutely, through the whole case, omitting only the advent of the Manta , the one factor that could now be of help to Largo and perhaps alter his plans. He ended, ”So you see, there is nothing we can do until those weapons are actually on board the Disco . Until that moment comes, Largo has a perfect alibi with his treasure-hunt story. There is nothing to link him with the crashed plane or with SPECTRE. If we interfere with him now, this moment, arrest the ship on some excuse, put a watch on her, prevent her sailing, there will only be a delay in the SPECTRE plan. Only Largo and his men know where the bombs are hidden. If the plane has gone for them, it will be keeping contact with the Disco by radio. If there's any hitch, the plane can leave the bombs at the hiding place or at another, dump them in shallow water anywhere, and return for them when the trouble has blown over. Even the Disco could be taken off the job and some other ship or plane used any time in the future. SPECTRE headquarters, wherever they are, will inform the Prime Minister that there has been a change of plan, or they can say nothing at all. Then, perhaps weeks from now, they will send another communication. And this time there will perhaps be only twenty-four hours' notice for the money to be dropped. The terms will be tougher. And we shall have to accept them. So long as those bombs are still lost to us, the threat is there. You see that?'' "Yes. So what is to be done?'' The voice was harsh. The girl's eyes glittered fiercely as they looked at and through Bond toward some distant target---not, he thought, at Largo the great conspirator, but at Largo who had had her brother killed.




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