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him walking toward her with John beside him.Blindly she groped for his hand, squeezing it hard. "Thank you," she said, and fled. Chapter NineteenIt was three when she saw the curtains by the balcony doors flutter. Niema was lying in the dark, unable to sleep, waiting for John to appear. She didn't hear anything; there was only that small flutter to signal his arrival, then his black shape silhouetted against the faint light coming through the glass behind him.She sat up and tugged her robe, the most substantial one she had, more tightly around her. The room was dark and he couldn't see her any better than she could see him, but she felt she needed every bit of protection she could muster. He crossed the room with eerie stealth and accuracy, approaching the high four-poster bed. He leaned over and put his mouth against her ear. "Have you swept the room?""I checked it when I got here," she whispered back. "I figured if the place was wired, it was part of the security system rather than a patch job. It's clean.""Mine wasn't.""Permanent or patched?""Permanent. He wants to keep tabs on whomever he puts in that room. Probably other guest rooms in this place are wired, too, and he decides who he wants to stay in them."The mattress dipped as he sat down on the side of the bed. She felt a brief flare of panic and fought it down. After all, there wouldn't be any point in kissing her now, when there wasn't anyone else around to see."Are you okay with what happened this evening?" he asked, an edge of concern in his voice. ""You looked stunned. I thought you understood the plan.""I guess I didn't quite get it," she managed to say and fought to keep her tone even. "Everything's okay, though; I can handle it." His face was a pale blur in the darkness, but still, now that he was this close, she could pick out his features and feel the heat from his leg even through the bed clothes as his thigh pressed against her hip."As it turned out, that was the perfect reaction. You played it just right."Only she hadn't been playing. She had managed to keep her presence of mind, but she hadn't pretended anything. The power of her response to John had been real, and that was what was frightening. As long as he thought her distress was caused only by surprise, though, she didn't feel as exposed."Everything's okay," she repeated, and in quiet desperation changed the subject. "What's the plan for tomorrow?""Ronsard and I will talk business. If I'm lucky, it'll be in his office. If not, then I'll have to find it some other way.""I can give you the general location. It's in the west wing, ground floor. And he has a secretary, Cara Smith, so she may be in the office even if he isn't.""Then we'll have to keep track of both of them. I'll figure out some way to keep them occupied. I'll locate the office tomorrow, check out the security system, then we'll go in tomorrow night. "You plant the bug, I copy the files, and we're out without anyone knowing."If everything went according to plan, that is. Anything could happen, as she had already learned far too well."I brought you a little present." There was a faint rustle of clothing, then metal, warm from his body, was pressed into her hand. Automatically she closed her fingers around the grip of the pistol. "It's a SIG .380 caliber, smaller than the one you practiced with, but that just means it'll be easier to conceal.""I'll tuck it in my bodice," she said dryly, because the thing still weighed over a pound and was at least six and a half inches long. Until the pistol was in her hand, she hadn't been aware of a nagging, low-level sense of alarm, but now she felt something inside her relaxing. She had never carried a weapon in her life, not even in Iran, because that would have given away her disguise; how had she become so rapidly accustomed to being armed?He gave a low laugh. "That's my girl." There was warm approval in his voice. He patted her thigh. "I'll see you in a few hours. What are you doing tomorrow? What time do you get up?""I'm going to sleep as late as I can." Since she hadn't slept any yet that night, she figured she would need all she could get. "I don't have any plans beyond that, though.""Meet me for lunch, then.""Where?""The pool courtyard, one o'clock.""Any reason for that particular place?" There had to be; John never did anything without a reason."See you, get in a swim, let Ronsard see the scar on my shoulder as a little extra reassurance.""You don't have a scar on your shoulder," she said automatically, and wished she hadn't, because it revealed how closely she had looked at him when he took off his shirt that day they had been working out."No, but Joseph Temple does."So he must have a fake scar, as part of his disguise. She remembered that he had looked different, too, when Ronsard introduced him, but she couldn't put her finger on exactly what the differences were. "What else have you done? You're not the same.""I changed my hairline a little, made my brows straighter, put thin rolls of cotton in my jaw to change the shape.""How long have you been building Joseph Temple's cover?""Years. At first he was only a name on a file, but gradually I circulated him more, and added a few details of description, a photo that didn't give away much. But it was enough to let Ronsard compare hairlines, and I imagine he has.""But he'll have a photo of you now," she said. "You know he will. He wouldn't pass up an opportunity like this.""It doesn't matter." He stood up. "Temple won't exist after he leaves here."What was it like, she wondered, to build identities as if they were changes of clothing, putting them on for just a little while and then discarding them? Did he leave pieces of himself behind? Somehow lose just a little bit more of who he really was each time he became someone else?As he moved toward the balcony, she thought of something. "How did you get up here?""I didn't. I got down. I came from the roof." With those words he slipped through the doors and disappeared.Niema got up and locked the balcony doors, then returned to bed. She was so tired she ached, but despite her plans to sleep late she wasn't certain she could sleep at all. The next twenty-four hours were crucial, the reason she had agreed to this elaborate charade. She had to keep her mind on the job, and not on John. After this was over and she was back home, and he was gone from her life again, then she would let herself think about him because then it wouldn't matter-he would be gone.Cara Smith always enjoyed Louis's house parties. She loved dressing up, loved the glitter and sophistication and sheer luxury. It was like something out of a fairy tale, watching men in tuxedos whirl women in jewels around a polished ballroom floor. Because she was so tall she seldom wore high heels, but for these posh occasions she put on three-inch pumps, which lifted her way over most people's heads, and eye-to-eye with Louis himself. Her legs looked as if they were six feet long, an illusion she heightened by wearing dresses that were slit up the side and exposed long, narrow strips of flesh when she walked.But that was for night. During the day she still worked at keeping Louis's correspondence up to date, paying bills-it always surprised her that billionaires had bills, but she guessed some things were impossible to escape. She also had to handle the phones, and notify Louis of any business that cropped up, any problems that needed handling. But her hours were abbreviated, and for the most part she played with the guests. She swam, played tennis and billiards, and listened to gossip. She never failed to be amazed by the intimate details and government secrets people blabbed at parties, especially to tall, leggy blondes, as if she wasn't expected to have a brain in her head- which was, of course, why Louis let her play instead of work. She'd learned a lot of interesting stuff during these house parties.She was fascinated by that Temple man. Few males compared with Louis in terms of elegance and sophistication. But he did. And he looked so damned cool and contained-he was a very still man, his few gestures controlled and minimal, with little expression on his face. With that kind of control over his body, she bet he could last for hours in bed. She thought of being the woman on the receiving end of all that control and went all shivery.On the other hand, Cara was astute about which men were attracted to her, and Temple wasn't. She and a bunch of other people, including Louis, had seen him in the garden putting the move on the Jamieson woman. She had wondered how Louis would handle that, considering he had shown more attention to Mrs. Jamieson than to any other woman she could remember, but Louis was Louis-one woman didn't mean that much to him. She knew for a fact he hadn't slept alone last night, while Mrs. Jamieson had chickened out and left the party early, to hide out in her room. Boy, if she'd been in Mrs. Jamieson's place, she wouldn't have chickened out. She'd have grabbed that man by the bow tie and ridden him for all he was worth.But she had her eye on another guy, as a consolation prize. He was rich, he wasn't bad looking, and he did something in the French defense department, or whatever they called it. He'd have lots of interesting things to tell her. From the way his wife hung on to him, he had something of interest in his pants, too. She had seen him eyeing her, so she figured he'd find a way to escape from the little woman for a while.She couldn't wait. She hadn't had sex in-well, she couldn't remember exactly how long, but she knew it was too long. Damn Hossam and his jealousy! She'd been trying to wean him away, let him down gently, but he just wouldn't go away. She hadn't slept with him, but in the interest of keeping things calm she hadn't slept with anyone else, either. She didn't want to stir up trouble among the guys in Louis's security guard, because Louis wouldn't thank her for it.She played a game of tennis at nine, and Mr. Defense Department showed up, sans wifey. Cara flirted outrageously with him, until she noticed a tall, mustachioed man, wearing a suit and sunglasses, watching them from the west patio. Hossam. Damn it, if she took him to

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