21. I Defend my Honour, More's the Pity

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He cocked his head.


"No! Definitely no! Despite what you have been trying to tell yourself, I am still a girl and I am most definitely not going to let you rummage around in my knickers!"

"You would rather end up face-down in the Thames?"

"I would rather that you trusted me!"

"Trust..." The word came slowly over his sculpted lips, as if he hadn't used it in a very long time. "Mister Linton... in Russia they have a saying about that. Do you know it, Mr Linton?"

He took a step closer.

"How the heck should I? I'm not Russian!"

"The saying is: 'trust, but verify'." He took a step closer again. "I do not subscribe to that saying. I never trust. But I always verify."

"You are not getting me out of my dress so you can rummage around in my underwear!" I declared, maybe a bit too forcefully. That was largely due to the fact that a part of my mind was occupied with how it would feel to have him rummage around in my underwear. And another part of my mind was busy being furious at the aforementioned part of my mind for having such thoughts.

"You are not wearing a dress, but trousers," he pointed out in his usual cold, curt manner.

"Whatever! Are you a gentleman, Sir, or a cur?"

"That depends on the necessities of the situation."

"And in this situation?"

"Give me back the file, Mr Linton, and I will not have to search you."

"For the hundredth time, I do not have it!"

"For the fourth time, actually," he corrected. "Do not exaggerate."

Heavy footsteps approached. They needed a few seconds to break through my concentration, and it was the same with Mr Ambrose. We were glaring at each other with such intensity that at first we didn't notice the giant bearded figure who had appeared in the doorway.

Finally, Mr Ambrose wrenched his gaze away from me.

"Yes?" he asked.

Karim shook his weighty turban and beard, as well as the head that was squeezed in between. "Nothing, Sahib."

At which Mr Ambrose's gaze returned to me, with double intensity.

"You know what that means, Mister Linton?"

"What?" I snapped. "And don't call me Mister!"

"It means that I have no choice but to search you."

"No!" I crossed my arms. He wasn't going to touch me! Not ever!

Well, not that I really would have minded so much. But if I would ever let him take a closer look at my underwear, it would not be to search it for some stupid paper, thank you very much! I mean, every girl has to have some self-respect.

Self-respect? my inner feminist screamed at me. Under what circumstances do you think him taking a look at your underwear would be all right with your self-respect? Have you forgotten that you despise men, in whatever form they come?

"Karim?" Mr Ambrose said, darkly. "I'm going to take care of this. Close the safe door and lock us in. Open it only when I call again."

My eyes widened. I rushed towards the door, but before I could reach it the huge Mohammedan had slammed it shut and plunged us into utter darkness.

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