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on the blanket and placing the water nearby. "Shhh," he murmured when she stiffened. "Just go to sleep." He curved his body around her, giving her his heat, his strength. Pulling a second blanket over them to keep out the cold, he anchored her to him with his arm around her waist.He could feel the fever inside her; the heat emanating from her body wrapping around them both like a third blanket. Still, she shivered a little, and he pulled her closer. She lay on her uninjured left shoulder and held her right arm very still so as not to jar it."The fever's fighting the infection," he said, keeping his voice low and soothing. "There's aspirin in the first-aid kit, if you get too uncomfortable, but unless the fever gets a lot higher I suggest letting it do its job.""Yes." Her voice was thin with fatigue, listless.He stroked her hair, his touch gentle and tried to think of some way to occupy her mind. Maybe if she could just stop thinking she could sleep. "I saw a solar eclipse once. I was in South America." He didn't get any more specific than that. "The weather was so hot the air felt sticky. Cold showers didn't do any good; I was sweaty again as soon as I got toweled off. Everyone wore as little clothing as possible."He didn't know if she was listening; he didn't much care. He kept that soothing, gently monotonous tone, his voice just barely above a whisper. If he could bore her to sleep, so much the better."It had been on the radio that there would be a solar eclipse that day, but the heat was so miserable no one much cared. It was just a little village, not the type to attract any eclipse chasers. I had forgotten about it myself. It was a sunny day, so bright the light hurt my eyes, and I was wearing sunglasses. The eclipse slipped up on me. The sun was still shining, the sky was blue, but all of a sudden it was as if a cloud had passed overthe sun. The birds all stopped singing, and the village pets hid."One of the villagers looked up and said, 'Look at the sun,' and I remembered about the eclipse. I told them not to stare, that it would blind them if they looked too long. The light was eerie, if you can imagine dark sunshine. The sky turned a really deep shade of blue, and the temperature dropped at least twenty degrees. It kept getting darker and darker, but the sky was still blue. Finally the sun was completely covered, and the solar halo around the moon was . . . spectacular. On the ground we were in a strange, deep twilight, and everything was quiet, but overhead the sky glowed. The twilight lasted for a couple of minutes, and during that time the entire village stood still. Men, women, and children; none of them moved, or spoke."Then the light began to come back, and the birds started singing again. The chickens came off roost, and the dogs barked. The moon moved on, and it was as hot as it had been before, but no one bitched about the weather anymore." Two days later everyone in that little village was dead-massacred-but he kept that to himself.He waited. Her breathing was too shallow for sleep, but at least she wasn't as stiff as she had been before. If she relaxed, her body might take over and let itself sleep.Next he told her about a dog he'd had when he was a kid. There was no dog, but she didn't know that. The dog he made up was a Heinz 57, with a long,skinny body like a dachshund and a curly coat like a poodle. "Ugly little bastard," he said comfortably. "What was his name?"Her voice startled him. It was low, almost hesitant. Something painful grabbed his chest and squeezed. "She," he said. "I named her Fifi, because I thought that was what poodles were named."He told her tale after tale of Fifi's exploits. She'd been an amazing dog. She could climb trees, open most doors by herself, and her favorite meal had been-God, what was some kid's cereal?-Fruit Loops. Fifi slept with the cat, hid shoes under the couch, and once really did eat his homework.Tucker embroidered on the fictional Fifi for half an hour, keeping his voice to a melodic rhythm, pausing every so often to check Niema's breathing. It got slower, deeper, until finally she slept.He let himself sleep, but lightly. A part of him remained alert, listening for Hadi's return, or for any suspicious sound. He woke completely several times, to check on Niema and make certain her fever wasn't getting higher. She was still too warm, but he was satisfied there was nothing critical about the fever, just her body healing itself. Still, to be on the safe side, he roused her enough each time that she could drink a little water. As he had suspected, once she let herself go to sleep nature got the upper hand, and though he woke her easily enough she went right back to sleep the moment she closed her eyes.The hours passed and Hadi didn't return. Tucker was patient. People slept soundest in the hours before dawn, and Hadi would probably wait until then. Still, every time he woke from his doze, Tucker checked his watch and considered his options. The longer he let Niema sleep, the stronger she would be and the faster she would be able to travel. He couldn't, however, afford to wait too long.At five o'clock he turned on the flashlight and drank some of the water himself, then gently roused Niema. She drank the water he held to her mouth, then snuggled against him and sighed drowsily. "Time to get up," he murmured.She kept her eyes closed. "Not yet." She turned to face him, and slipped her arm around his neck. "Mmm." She nestled closer, pressing her face into his chest.She thought he was Dallas. She was still drowsy, her mind dulled by the hard sleep, and perhaps she had been dreaming about him. She was accustomed to waking in her husband's arms, to cuddling even if they didn't make love, and given the short time they had been married Tucker bet there hadn't been many mornings when Dallas hadn't made love to her.He should shake her completely awake, get her fed, check her shoulder, and have her ready to move whether or not Hadi returned. He knew exactly what he should do, but for once in his life Tucker ignored the job. He tightened his arms around her and held her, just for a moment, something in him desperately hungry for the feel of her hugging him in return.No, not him. It was Dallas she was holding, her husband she was dreaming about.It cost him more than he wanted, but he took a deep breath and eased away from her. "Niema, wake up," he said softly. "You're dreaming."Slumberous dark eyes opened, as black as night in the dim glow of the flashlight. He saw the dawning of awareness, the flare of shock in her eyes, followed by horror. She pulled away from him, her lips trembling. "I-" she began, but no other words came.The sob burst out of her as if it tore from her chest. She rolled away from him and lay on the blanket, her entire body heaving. She made a long, low, keening sound, chopped by the convulsive sobs that ripped out of her throat. The dam of her control, once breached, collapsed entirely. She cried until she gagged, until her throat closed and no more sound came out. She cried until he thought surely the spasm of grief had to ease, but it didn't. She was still weeping when he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching in the dark, cold dawn, and he stepped out to meet Hadi. PART TWOChapter Three1999, Atlanta, GeorgiaDelta Flight 183, Atlanta to London, was full. The first-class passengers had already boarded and made themselves comfortable, choice of reading material or drink, or both, in hand. The flight attendants had taken coats and hung them in the closet, chatted with those passengers inclined to be friendly, checked with the cockpit to see if the guys up there needed anything.Congressman Donald Brookes and his wife, Elaine, were taking a vacation, the first in so long Elaine could scarcely believe Donald had agreed to the downtime. He had regularly put in eighteen to twenty hours a day on the job since first being elected fifteen years before. Even after all this time in government, there was a thread of idealism in him that insisted he give the taxpayers their money's worth, and more. She had gotten accustomed to going to bed alone, but she always woke when he came to bed, and they would hold hands and talk In the early days they hadn't been on anyone's A list, so she had spent a lot of evenings alone with the kids.Things had changed somewhat. Donald was chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, and now they were A list; as often as not they were at some function somewhere, but at least they were together.Oh, there had been times when they had gone back home to Illinois, when Congress was in recess, but though the pace slowed then, Donald had used that time to catch up with his constituency. They hadn't been on a real vacation since he was first elected.Elaine looked forward to days of sleeping late, ordering room service, and leisurely exploring London. Five days in London, then a short hop to Paris for another five days, then Rome and Florence. It was her dream vacation.Two rows behind them, Garvin Whittaker was already absorbed in the papers from his briefcase. He was CEO of a cutting-edge software firm that had exploded in value over the past seven years, edging toward fifty billion. Not in Microsoft's league, but then, what was? When his current projects hit the market, Garvin figured the firm would double in value within five years. At least, he hoped it would; he dreamed it would. He was biding his time, building his market and strength, taking care not to tread on any giant toes. But when he judged the time was right, he would unveil the operating system he had developed, a system so streamlined and simplified- and so bug free-it would leave everything else out there in the dust.In the first row was a UN delegate from Germany, holding his icy drink against his head and hoping his headache would abate enough that he would be able to sleep on the long flight. In seat 2F was a World Bank official, her brow puckered as she studied the Wall Street Journal. Growing up, she had always dreamed of being something romantic, like a brain surgeon or a movie star, but she had learned that money was the most powerful kick available, far more potent than any drug. She

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