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an airiness that had him chuckling."When will you give in and have dinner with him? With enough time, I can arrange to have some of our people placed around you, the table wired, things like that.""I don't think I will. I'll have lunch with him, but other than that I don't want to encourage him too much.""Just make certain you encourage him enough to be invited to his estate.""I'll be friends with him, but that's all."A pause stretched over the line. "If you're trying to tell me you won't sleep with him, I never intended for you to," he finally said, his tone flattening out."That's good to hear, because sex was never an option. Even though I did go on those damn birth control pills the way you ordered."Silence again. "The pills weren't in case you wanted to have an affair; they're in case something goes wrong."She understood, then. If anything went awry and she was captured, she could be raped. "Got it," she said softly The issue of birth control pills hadn't arisen on the job in Iran, because she had been taking the pills anyway. She and Dallas had wanted to wait a year or so, maybe longer, before starting a family."I'll be in touch," he said, and hung up.Slowly she replaced the receiver and snuggled back in bed, but any chance of sleep was gone. Her brain felt alert, racing along the way it always did when she talked with John. What she needed was a good, long run. The more she thought about it, the better the plan sounded. She would ask Eleanor where the best place to jog was. She hopped out of bed and began digging out her sweats, which she had packed for a just-in-case occasion.Not only did Eleanor know, she arranged for one of the off-duty Marines who was a dedicated jogger to run with her. Niema and the serious young man with the sidewall haircut raced side by side until they were both dripping with sweat. By the time they returned to the embassy, she had teased him out of his stiffness and he had spilled out his life story to her, as well as the details of his wedding, which would take place during his next long leave.Feeling both energized and relaxed by the run, she showered and ate a light breakfast, then decided to get in a bit of shopping before meeting Ronsard for lunch. Eleanor gave her a list of interesting shops, and Niema ventured out into the French capital.When the taxi let her out at Cafe Marly's terrace on Cour Napoleon at two minutes 'til one, she was carrying a large shopping bag. She looked at the cafe and for a moment a strong yearning swept over her. She would like to be meeting John for lunch in a place like this-No, she told herself sternly, cutting off the thought. She couldn't let herself lose focus on the job. She had to concentrate, not think about what John was or wasn't doing, and what it would be like to have lunch dates with him, and dinner dates-"I'm doing it again," she muttered.Pushing all thoughts of him out of her mind, she entered the cafe and was immediately greeted. All she had to say was "Monsieur Ronsard" and she was whisked away to a table.Ronsard was already there, smiling as he rose to his feet. He took her hand and briefly kissed it, then seated her in the chair beside him, rather than in the one across the table. "You're even lovelier today than you were last night.""Thank you." She was wearing a classic red sheath with a single-strand pearl necklace. If he had a discerning eye, and he seemed to, he would recognize the style and quality of Chanel. She looked around, intrigued by the cafe. Glass walls were all that separated the cafe from the stunning works of art in the Louvre."You're glowing. Boosting a nation's economy must agree with you." He nodded meaningfully at the shopping bag."A woman can never have too many pairs of shoes.""Really? How many do you have?""Not enough," she said firmly, and he laughed.Today his hair was gathered at the back of his neck with a simple, round gold clasp. But even though he was dressed in trousers and a linen jacket instead of a tuxedo, and his hair was confined, every woman in the cafe seemed to be staring at him just as they had at the ball last night. He had a natural, exotic flamboyance that drew the eye.Evil should show on the face, she thought. It should twist and mar the features, give some indication of its presence within a person. But if Ronsard was evil, she hadn't seen any sign of it yet. So far he had been unfailingly polite and charming, with a tenderness to his manner that didn't seem at all feigned."So," he said, leaning back, perfectly at ease. "Tell me: Did Madame Theriot warn you about me again?""Of course. Eleanor cares about me.""She thinks I'm a danger to you?""She thinks you're an unsavory character."Taken by surprise by her candor, he blinked, then laughed aloud. "Then why are you here? Do you have a yearning for danger, or do you think you can rescue me from my wicked ways?""Neither." She regarded him with somber, dark eyes. "I think you may be a very nice man, but I can't rescue you from anything. And you're no danger to me at all.""I think I'm insulted," he murmured. "I would like to be a danger to you, in one particular way. You must have loved him very, very much.""More than I can say.""What was he like?"A smile broke across her face. "He was . .. oh, in some ways he was extraordinary, and in others he was like most men. He made faces when he shaved; he left his clothes on the floor when he took them off. He sailed, he flew his own plane, he took CPR courses and regularly donated blood, he voted in every election. We laughed and argued and made plans, like most couples.""He was a lucky man, to be loved so completely.""I was the lucky one. And you? Have you been married?""No, I haven't been so fortunate." He shrugged. "Perhaps one day." But it was obvious from his tone he thought marrying was as likely as the sun rising in the west."I don't think your wicked reputation scares off many women," she teased. "Every female in here has been staring at you."He didn't even glance around, as most men would have done, to see if that were true. "If I'm alone, it's because I choose to be. I was thinking last night that I'd never felt anything like what you obviously felt- still feel-for your husband. Part of me thinks it would be pleasant to love someone that much, but a part of me is very grateful that I don't. But why am I saying this?" he asked ruefully. "Telling you I don't think I'll ever love you is not a good way to convince you to have an affair with me."Niema laughed. "Relax," she advised, patting him on the hand. "An affair wasn't on the books anyway."He gave her a crooked smile. "But I would very much like for it to be."She shook her head, amusement still on her face. "It can't be. All I can offer is friendship.""In that case, I would be honored to be your friend. And I'll keep hoping," he said, his eyes twinkling.Later that afternoon, Ronsard picked up the sheaf of papers Cara had faxed to him. He had quickly read through them when they arrived, but now he studied them more closely. There was nothing suspicious about Niema Jamieson. She was from New Hampshire, had attended an exclusive women's college, married at the age of twenty-four, and was widowed at twenty-eight. Her husband had been killed in a yachting accident. They had been mentioned a few times in society columns, usually with a descriptive tag such as "devoted couple." She was exactly what she seemed to be, a rarity in his world.He liked her. She could be surprisingly blunt, but without malice. In a way, he even liked that she wasn't romantically interested in him. He still wanted to take her to bed, but there was no pressure from her, no expectations to be met. She had simply had lunch with him, and that was that. Afterward she had taken a taxi back to the embassy, without hinting for another invitation-which, of course, made him even more determined to see her again. He had asked her out to dinner again, only to be gently refused. He persisted until she at least agreed to another lunch.The telephone rang, his private line, and he absently answered it. "Ronsard."It was Cara. "Ernst Morrell has been in contact." Ronsard's lips thinned. He neither liked nor trusted Morrell. Though by the nature of his business he dealt on a daily basis with fanatics, madmen, or plain murderers, Morrell was probably the most vicious. He was the head of a small but particularly virulent terrorist organization and had a particular fondness for bombs. He had set explosives in a hospital in Germany, killing six patients in retaliation for Germany's cooperation with the United States on a military action against Iraq."What does he want?""He's heard about RDX-a. He wants it." Ronsard swore a lurid phrase. First Temple, and now Morrell. But Temple was one thing, and Morrell something else entirely; though he had expected information about RDX-a to leak, he hadn't expected it to happen quite so fast. He and the manufacturer had an agreement; he would be the lone conduit of the compound. Such exclusivity would be enormously profitable to both of them, at least until someone else was able to duplicate the compound. He had not told anyone, because the explosive still wasn't perfected; it would be much more in demand if it were reliable, rather than having an unfortunate reputation for early detonation. That meant the manufacturer was logically responsible for, as the Americans would say, everyone and his brother knowing about RDX-a.But it seemed as if his partners had decided to sacrifice large future riches for immediate gain. He sighed. To hell with them. He would collect his percentage and issue a warning to the buyers that the compound wasn't yet reliable. He had to protect his business on that end, since the source had proven so short-sighted."When does he want it?" he asked in resignation, rubbing a sudden ache between his eyes."He didn't say. He wants to talk to you.""Did he leave a number?""Yes, and he said you could reach him there only for another forty-five minutes."That was common, at least among the more efficient organizations: They moved frequently and had only short windows of time during which they could be contacted. Such tactics greatly reduced their chances of being located.

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