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computer as surely as he had breached the estate's security. Ronsard couldn't afford to assume otherwise. Nor could he afford to underestimate his opponent, a man who evidently appeared and disappeared at will, and who had access to government documents before they were made public. Such a man was a man with power either behind him, or in his own hands.They had to be found. With one phone call to the authorities in Lyon he had immediately thrown a net over the airport, then, when one of his more observant men saw where a car had been driven off the road and found the Mercedes abandoned, extended that net to the car rental services also.They were on foot, unless Temple stole another car. Ronsard arranged that he be told immediately if any thefts were reported.He sat down at his desk, drumming his fingers on the wood. Lyon was the most logical immediate destination-but perhaps Temple would go in the opposite direction, for that reason. Do the unexpected. Keep your opponent off balance, guessing.This would be like a game of chess, with moves and countermoves. The key to victory was planning ahead, anticipating every move his opponent could make.Marseilles was to the south-a larger city than Lyon, with a huge, busy port. It was farther away, but once there, the chances of escaping went up dramatically.The port. That was the key. Temple would escape by water.* * *The village was a small one, no more than fifteen houses loosely grouped on each side of the road. John selected an older model Renault that was parked in front of a cottage, as the older cars were easier to hotwire. Niema stood watch while he eased the car door open and felt under the dash for the wiring harness. The interior light was burning, but he didn't have a flashlight and had to take the chance of someone seeing the light. With his knife, he stripped the wires of their plastic sheath.Three cottages away, a dog roused from its doggy dreams and barked once, then fell silent. No light came on in any of the cottage's windows."Get in," John whispered, moving aside so she could crawl in from that side and not make more noise by having to open and close the passenger door, too. She wasn't a four-year-old, and the Renault was small; she banged her knee on the gear shift, her head on the interior light, and her elbow on the steering wheel. Swearing under her breath, she finally maneuvered herself into the passenger seat.John wasn't laughing, but his mouth wore a curve that said he wanted to. The small interior light gave her the first dear look at him since they left the estate, and her heart skipped a beat. The right side of his face was streaked with dried blood, despite his efforts to wipe it off. His once-snowy shirt was rusty with dirt and blood, his hair was tousled, and beard stubble darkened his jaw. With the black strip of silk tied around his head, he looked like a disreputable, Armani-dad pirate.If anyone saw them the way they looked now, they were busted.He twisted the wires together, and the engine began trying to crank. It coughed, the fan turning, and he slid into the seat and gently pressed the gas pedal. With a high-pitched hum like a sewing machine, the car started. Without closing the door, he put in the clutch and shifted into low gear; the car began rolling as he let out the clutch. Fifty yards down the road, he closed the door."What time is it?" she asked, slumping in the seat. Her feet were throbbing. She eased them out of the sandals, knowing she might not be able to get her shoes back on and not caring. Sitting down was such a relief she almost groaned.He glanced at his wristwatch. "A little after three. With luck, we have two or three hours before anyone notices the car is missing. Why don't you try to get some sleep?""I'm not sleepy." She wasn't. She was exhausted but not sleepy. She was both hungry and thirsty, and really, really needed to soak her aching feet in cold water."You will be. When your adrenaline drops, you'll crash.""What about you? Don't you have adrenaline?" she snapped, though she didn't know why she was suddenly crabby."I'm used to it. I've learned how to work through the crash.""I'm okay."She wasn't, though. She glanced at him. His strong hands were steady on the wheel, his expression as calm as if he were out for a Sunday drive. Maybe she looked that calm, too, but inside she was shredded."Do you want to talk about it?""No," she said, appalled. There was no need to ask what "it" was. She didn't want him to be reasonable and logical and tell her to just look at what they'd done as part of the job. All she wanted was to get this over with and leave with some semblance of dignity still intact."We have to at some point.""No, we don't. I just want to forget it."He paused, and his jaw tightened. "Are you mad because you came, or because I did?"She felt like screaming. God, why wouldn't he just leave it alone? "Neither. Both.""That's certainly a definitive answer.""If you want definitive answers, get a dictionary."Another pause, as if he measured her resistance. "All right, I'll drop it for now, but we will talk."She didn't reply. Didn't he understand? Talking about what happened was like touching a wound, keeping it fresh and bleeding. But, no, how could he understand, when it wasn't like that for him?"How far is it to Nice?""A couple of hundred miles if we use the expressway, less if we go over the mountains. The direct route probably won't be the fastest, though, at least not in this car. It doesn't have the horses to climb the mountains at much more than a crawl.""The expressway should get us there by six-thirty or seven, though.""In the neighborhood. We have to stop and steal another car.""Another one?""We're too close to Ronsard's estate. He'll hear about this as soon as it's reported. We need to ditch this one.""Where?""Valence, I think. I'll look for something there."They were serial car thieves, she mused. Well, she had wanted excitement. John Medina certainly filled the bill; there were no dull stretches while in his company. But home was looking better and better, as a refuge in which she could deal with the idiocy of having fallen in love with him. She thought of her peaceful house, with everything specifically arranged to her liking-except for the double hook-and-eye latches on every door and window."If I can get a flight out, I'll be home by this time tomorrow," she said, then remembered her passport. "No, scratch that. No passport. How am I going to get back into the States?""We'll probably take military transport home."We? He intended to travel with her? That was news. "You're going back to Washington, too?""For the time being."He didn't expand on that, and she didn't ask.Instead she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Even if she couldn't sleep, she could rest."A baker reported his car was stolen early this morning. . . here." Ronsard put his finger on the map. The village was thirteen kilometers from the estate, on a small, narrow road that wound in a general southwest direction and eventually bisected the expressway. Several of his security people were gathered around the desk while he spoke on the telephone to a friend with the local authorities.If Temple went south, he would have been in the same rough area as the village. "What make and color is the car? Do you have the license?" He wrote as he listened. "Yes, thank you. Keep me informed."He hung up and tore the sheet of paper off the pad. "Find this car," he said, handing the sheet to his men. "On the expressway to Marseilles. Bring him back alive, if possible. If not-" He broke off and shrugged."And the woman?"Ronsard hesitated. He didn't know the extent of Niema's involvement. He had personally searched her room and there was nothing suspicious there. Could Temple have kidnapped her? There was one thing of which he was absolutely sure: The man was obsessed with her. The intensity with which he had watched her couldn't be feigned. He could still feel that way if they were partners, but if they weren't, Temple was the type of man who wouldn't balk at kidnapping if she wouldn't go willingly.The Niema he knew was funny, a little sharp-tongued, and kind-hearted. He remembered the way she had shown Laure how to apply the makeup she had acquired, the gentleness, the way she didn't talk down to Laure as if being ill had somehow stunted his daughter's ability to understand.For Laure, he said, "Try not to hurt her. Bring her to me:" Chapter Twenty-FiveThey reached Valence before dawn. John cruised down the streets, looking for a promising target. The city had a population of over sixty thousand, so he should be able to find another car without a lot of trouble.He glanced over at Niema, sitting as erect as a soldier, and his lips compressed into a grim line. He'd almost gotten her killed tonight. He had been so certain this would be an in-and-out job, the sort he could do blindfolded, but instead they had barely escaped with their lives.He was still taking risks with her life. He knew it, and yet he couldn't bring himself to make the call that would get them picked up, not now, not with what he'd done to her in Ronsard's office lying between them like a snake coiled ready to strike if he tried to move it.One phone call. That was all it would take. They would be picked up within the hour and flown to Nice, where he would up-link the files and finish the job. But the way things were now, she would move heaven and earth to go home and get away from him. He couldn't let that happen, not with things the way they were between them.He had gone to a lot of trouble to keep her from realizing how focused he was on her, and now that was working against him. She thought she was nothing more to him than a means to an end. What would she say if he told her the truth, that even though the love-making in Ronsard's office had started out as a cover, he had seen the opportunity to have her and ruthlessly used it. What was worse, he would do it again. He'd take her any way he could, whenever he could.Everything he'd said at Ronsard's, everything he'd done, was the truth. That was why Ronsard had so easily believed the cover, because it was true. But Niema didn't seem to see it, even though he knew

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