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had arrived. She hauled herself out of the pool and bent over from the waist to wring the water from her hair. She knew Hossam was watching her, his dark eyes hot with excitement. She ignored him and wrapped a towel around her head and another around her torso.Poor Hossam. All that jealous lust was getting tiresome. Hossam was getting tiresome. Cara was quickly bored with her lovers, because once they got her in bed they all seemed to get possessive and territorial. Why couldn't they just be satisfied with good sex, the way she was? She didn't like hurting them because she cared for them all, just not the way they wanted. On the other hand, she wasn't going to spend her life with a man she didn't want just because she felt sorry for him.Extricating herself from the relationship with Hossam could be tricky. She was well aware of the cultural differences; in the beginning, they had even been exciting. Now she felt stifled whenever she was with him.What she needed, she supposed, was a nice boy toy for her to keep, someone who knew she was the boss, at least of herself. She wasn't into dominance, just independence.The truth was, no man she had ever met, with the exception of Ronsard, was as interesting as her computers-and she was smart enough to know Ronsard wasn't the settling-down type. Not ever. She liked him, but he wasn't for her. Maybe no one was. Maybe she was going to end up one of those eccentric, world-traveling old ladies. She kinda liked the image that brought to mind.Hossam approached and laid his hand on her arm. "You will come to my room tonight?""Not tonight," she said, moving away as casually as possible. "Mr. Ronsard has brought in a computer he wants me to investigate, so I'll be working all night.""Tomorrow, then.""You know I can't promise that when I don't know what my schedule is.""Marry me, and you will not have to work.""I like working," she said. "Good night." She hurried away before he could stop her again. Yes, this situation with Hossam was definitely getting tricky. Perhaps she would ask Ronsard to reassign Hossam, though she hated to do that; after all, Hossam was only being himself. He shouldn't be punished for that.She stopped in her room to get dressed and pin up her hair. In the States she would have hurried to the office in her bathing suit, but Ronsard was very European in his dress standards. She liked that, actually. It was nice to have standards.He was waiting for her, his long dark hair pulled back in its usual style, giving his lean face a more exotic slant. He was dressed in black trousers and a white shirt, which was as informal as he got. "Your gift," he said, nodding to the unit that now occupied her desktop.Quickly she hooked up the machine and sat down in front of it. She turned it on and waited for it to boot.Nothing happened. She tried it again. The screen still remained a blank blue."Uh-oh.""Is something wrong?" Ronsard asked as he approached."It's been wiped.""Erased?""Yeah. Maybe he just used a C-prompt command. If he did, there should still be some information on the hard drive.""And if he didn't?""If he used a government wipe, then there's nothing left."'A government wipe ...""It's just what it sounds like. If there's anything you don't want the government to see, you use a government wipe. It's in Norton Utilities-"He held up a hand. "Details aren't necessary. How long will it take you to find out which type of erasure he used?""Not long."He waited patiently while she got into the hard drive and began searching for bits of data. There was nothing. The drive was as pristine as the day it came off the assembly line."Nothing," she said in disgust.Ronsard put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "That is what I expected, really.""Then why get the computer?""Because I want to know Mr. Temple. If he were careless enough to leave data on the computer, then perhaps I shouldn't deal with him. As it is-" Ronsard hesitated and gave a thin smile. "I've learned that he is almost as careful as I."'Almost.""I'm not going to him," Ronsard said gently. "He is coming to me." Chapter TwelveYour name is Niema Jamieson," Medina said, handing over a passport, driver's license, and social security card.She looked down at them in both interest and disbelief. "Niema?" she questioned."Your name is so unusual you'd probably slip up if you had to answer to anything else. It's always best to stay close to your real name.""Is that so, Mr. Darrell Tucker?" she murmured.He gave a faint smile in acknowledgment of the hit. "I've used so many names, I ran out of similars."She opened the passport. Her photo was there, as well as several pages of stamps. According to her passport, within just the past year she had been to Great Britain twice, once to Italy, once to Switzerland, and once to Australia. Niema Jamieson was certainly well-traveled.The driver's license looked just as authentic. She was a resident of New Hampshire, evidently. Niema Price Jamieson."My middle name is Price?" she asked in disbelief."That's your maiden name. Your family is old friends with the ambassador's wife's family.""So I'm married?""Widowed." He gave her a steady, unyielding look, as if expecting her to object to a cover line so close to her own life. "Your husband, Craig, was killed in a boating accident two years ago. The ambassador's wife-her name is Eleanor, by the way-persuaded you to join them in Paris for a vacation."She was silent. Of course so many of the details paralleled her own life; that way the story was easy to remember."And if Ronsard does invite me to his home and does a background check on me, he'll find. . . what?""He'll find that you're exactly who you say you are. He'll find society page articles mentioning you. He'll find an article on Craig Jamieson's death that mentions his grief-stricken widow, Niema. Don't worry; your cover will stand up to any scrutiny.""But what about the ambassador and his wife? They obviously know I'm not an old family friend.""Yes, but they're accustomed to covers. You know how many Agency personnel are in our embassies. It's standard.""Then why won't Ronsard suspect me?""Because you aren't staff. Believe me, they know, or have a good idea, who is Agency and who isn't."She took a deep breath. "When do I leave?"He pulled a ticket folder from the inside pocket of his jacket. "Tomorrow, on the Concord.""Cool." Her eyes lit. She had always wanted to fly on the supersonic jet. "When will you get there?""You won't see me until we're both at Ronsard's villa. If he doesn't invite you-" He broke off and shrugged."Then I won't see you again." She tried to keep her tone matter-of-fact, but inside she didn't feel that way. In just a few days he seemed to have become the central element of the excitement she felt. But she had known from the beginning how things would be, known that he would leave as abruptly as he had appeared."I didn't say that.""No, but I've worked with you before, remember? When the job's finished, you disappear. And now that I know who you are, I know why.""Niema ..." He put his hands in his pockets, looking oddly ill at ease. Medina was always in such control of himself that his expression diverted her. "I'll be back. That's all I can say now."She was immediately intrigued, and alarmed. Did he mean he wanted to use her on another job? Part of her wanted to shout "Hell, no!" but deep inside was a yearning, a craving for more.Common sense took the upper hand. "This is a one-time deal, Medina; don't bank on sucking me into another job. I don't get hazardous-duty pay, you know.""Of course you do."Taken aback, she warily eyed him. "What do you mean?""I mean you get a hefty bonus for this.""Oh, great! That means anyone in payroll-""Nope. This is black ops, remember? Everything comes out of an off-books account. And try to call me John, instead of Medina. John's a fairly common name, but there are a lot of people in this town who would perk up their ears if they heard you call me Medina."Reluctantly she said, "John." She preferred thinking of him and referring to him as Medina; that kept him at a certain distance, at least in her mind. She was having a difficult enough time battling her attraction to him as it was. "Back to my original statement: This is a one-time deal. It has to be."Hands still in his pockets, he wandered over to the kitchen window and absently fingered the hook and eye latches she had installed. For the past two mornings he had been reduced to wriggling through a damn small bathroom window, and the fit was so tight he had to do some major contortions to get in. She was so pleased with those little latches that he didn't tell her he'd figured out a way to unlatch them. The average burglar wouldn't have the means of doing it, and anyone who really, really wanted to get into the house would simply break a window anyway. The ordinary citizen usually couldn't afford the safety measures that would make a house truly burglar-proof, but then the ordinary citizen didn't need to go to that effort and expense. "Don't think you can ignore me," she warned. He gave her a brief, warm smile as he turned away from the window. "I've never thought that."Both the smile and the statement rattled her. Deciding to change the subject, she took a deep breath. "Let's get back to the plan. What happens when-if- I wrangle an invitation to Ronsard's home? What if you aren't invited for the same time?""I've already received an invitation. Ronsard is hosting a formal party in ten days. He does it annually, as sort of a repayment to all the people who look the other way when delicate situations arise concerning his occupation. The security is extremely tight, even tighter than normal, because of so many people in the house. He would consider the meeting with me more controlled. If Ronsard invites you to the party, accept. If he merely invites you to his house for a visit, decline. That will only whet his interest.""What I know about whetting interest would rattle around in a peanut shell," she muttered.He grinned. "Don't worry, Mother Nature took care of that. We men are easy. We don't require much more than that a woman be breathing, and we're interested."She tried to take umbrage, but instead found herself

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