Inside Pinewood Studios, Harold stepped away from watching Taekwondo and greeted Matthew with open arms. The martial artists were Dan-Ho, his new instructor, and Ji-Jing—replacing Kim-Jo, who was impossible. No body-double looked real let alone threatening. “Besides,” Harold said, “I was tired of her before we wrapped in New York.” Thanks to her lawyers, however, she remained in the Barbados scene.
Matthew remembered. Bond jumps in and out of her convertible before it careens into the sea.
“That’s the one. Kim-Jo’s profile. Bond wresting control over the steering wheel between rock-face and cliff. The studio lectured me about the spine-tingling footage where the giant drowns you—or almost drowns you in New York Harbor. Thrilling, yes, but I must never put you at risk again.”
Matthew glanced sideways at Harold. “Must look as if I’m in serious danger.”
“It’s terrific.” Then Harold said how smooth and jaunty Matthew was—handsomer than ever.
They watched Ji-Jing.
“Beautiful assassin.” Matthew raised an eyebrow, assuming she’d replaced Kim-Jo as Otto’s lover on film and Harold’s in real life.
“Naturally,” he grinned. “Barbara’s assistant rang for you. He didn’t say why. Maybe your black belt.”
“Sung’s inspiration. I sent Barbara an Hermes scarf for Christmas, Caribbean colors.”
“Then she probably wants to thank you.”
He’d enjoy seeing Barbara from Eon again. The rules with Barbara were friendly, flirtatious, and not to be breached. Matthew let her know he completely accepted that anything beyond his appreciation would insult her. But then he double-checked, because—well…Yes, of course. Business being business…Still, she should know—Matthew loved what fun she was!
More or less true, while Ji-Jing surprised him: he disliked her on sight. Her many mannerisms, contrived as alluring, bored him. And Dan-Ho was much heavier than Sung. Maybe Matthew was jetlagged. Or else, Dan-Ho moved with more swagger than precision.
No need to wonder about Ji-Jing. He asked Harold about doing a “chemistry check.”
“She’s so brilliant; I might need to step back, lest James Bond become a distraction.”
“Put like that, I’m certain she’ll do a test. Tomorrow, after you’ve rested?”
Then or now—Matthew was always rested.
So while he found his uniform, Harold called for a camera and video assist. Before they began, he said, “Don’t beat him up, Ji-Jing.”
She didn’t smile. Her techniques were predictable yet hostile. Harold checked the viewfinder. “Marvellous.” And, a few minutes later, the video assist, “Extraordinary.” And he led Ji-Jing away.
When Matthew looked at the footage, he saw how the lens transformed their animosity into urgency; their sparring into an erotic struggle.
If only he could alert Brooke. He’d told her that in the videos coming up, his love for her would color every performance.
“Is that so?” she’d teased him. “If you’re testing my faith, I’m the best believer.”
He’d laughed. But later swore his love for her inspired him, acting or not, working or playing, waking or sleeping, whether they were together or apart. That was as true here as anywhere, even if it didn’t look like it.
Making love to him, Brooke soared into joy. He always felt it. But within intermittent pauses, he also felt the remnants of her tortures. In flickering phases, she ran along the thinnest edges. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You saved my life.”
At dawn, he spent an hour practicing with Dan-Ho before they discussed the art of breaking boards.
“Strike at the exact center,” Dan-Ho said. “Focus and follow-through.”
Matthew chose a stance and kick, and ran through a few patterns before returning to his stance and kick.
The moment arrived. Matthew’s impact was spot-on.
Dan-Ho, however, unaccustomed to Matthew’s long legs, tipped the board upward.
He looked at the master, who was entitled to question a movie star’s ego, and despite howling pain, nodded in respect.
In every X-ray, his big toe bone was chipped—and best left alone. But the doctor cauterized his ripped toenail and prescribed topical antibiotics. Both injuries called for ice and elevation. When he phoned Dex and Ivy during their dinnertime, Connie spoke up: Sung was arriving tomorrow morning, Thursday, not Friday.
He wanted to drive Sung’s Jaguar to Heathrow. But his injury forced him to request a car and driver. The pain was ridiculous—after all, it was just a big toe. But the doctor had warned him it could affect him for years unless he waited for it to heal.
In the terminal, he sat with his thigh raised, keeping his foot up and out of the way. The guy leaving Customs was favoring one leg. His other pant-leg was rolled above a grotesquely swollen ankle. No. Matthew’s mind rejected the fact. Not Sung. Except, yes. Sung was injured too.
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