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certain the blankets were in place, Tucker switched on the light again, then began swiftly packing the things they would take with them. There wasn't much; a few provisions, a change of clothes, some money; nothing that would arouse suspicion if they were stopped. Niema moved to help him, and in silence they divided the provisions into five equal packs.Then there was nothing to do but wait. She moved over to the radio and checked the settings, though she had checked them before; there was nothing coming over the single speaker because the men weren't talking. She sat down in front of the radio and hugged herself against the cold.Nothing about this job had been a picnic, but the waiting was the worst. It always had been, but now that Dallas was in danger, the anxiety was magnified tenfold. It gnawed at her, that internal demon. She checked her cheap wristwatch; only fifteen minutes had lapsed. They hadn't had time to reach the facility yet.A thin blanket settled over her shoulders. Startled, she looked up at Tucker, who stood beside her. "You were shivering," he said in explanation of his unusual act and moved away again."Thanks." She pulled the blanket around her, uncomfortable with the gesture, considerate though it was. She wished she could ignore her uneasiness about Tucker, or at least figure out why she was so wary of him. She had tried to hide her wariness and concentrate only on the job, but Tucker was no one's fool; he knew she was uncomfortable with him. Sometimes she felt as if they were in a silent battle no one else knew about, those rare times when their gazes would accidentally meet and distrust would be plain in hers, a slightly mocking awareness in his.He never put a foot wrong, though, never did anything that would bring their discord into the open. His relationship with all three of the other men was both easy and professional. With her, he was unfailingly polite and impersonal, and even that was a measure of his professionalism. Tucker respected Dallas and certainly wasn't going to disrupt the team or endanger the job by openly antagonizing his wife. That should have reassured Niema on a couple of levels-but it didn't.Until he put the blanket around her shoulders, there hadn't been a word spoken between them since the others left. She wished it had remained that way; keeping Tucker at a distance, she thought, was the safest place for him.He sat down, as relaxed and graceful as a cat. He seemed impervious to the cold, comfortable in a black T-shirt and fatigue pants. Dallas had the same sort of internal furnace, because he seldom felt the cold either. What was it about men like them that made them bum so much hotter than the rest of the human race? Maybe it was their physical conditioning, but she herself was in very good shape and she had been cold the entire time they had been in Iran. She didn't wish they were cold, too, just that the damn anthrax facility had been built in the warm desert, instead of these chilly mountains."You're afraid of me."The comment, coming out of the blue, startled her more than it had when he put the blanket around her, but not enough that she lost her composure. His voice had been calm, as if he were discussing the weather. She gave him a cool look. "Wary," she corrected. If he thought she would hasten to deny her uneasiness, the way most people would do when cornered, he was mistaken. As Dallas had learned, to his amusement more often than not, there wasn't much that could make Niema back down.Tucker leaned his dark head back against the cold stone wall and drew one leg up, draping his arm loosely over his knee. Unreadable brown eyes studied her. "Wary, then," he conceded. "Why?"She shrugged. "Feminine intuition?"He began to laugh. Laughter wasn't something she had associated with Tucker, but he did it easily, his dark head tilted back against the wall. The sound was genuinely amused, as if he couldn't help himself.Niema watched him, one eyebrow tilted as she waited for him to stop. She didn't feel the least impulse to join in his laughter, or even to smile. Nothing about this situation was funny. They were deep in Iran on a job that could get them all killed, and oh, by the way, she didn't trust the team leader one inch, ha ha ha. Yeah, right."Jesus," he groaned, wiping his eyes. "All this because of feminine intuition?" A shade of incredulousness colored his tone.Niema gave him a stony look. "You make it sound as if I've been attacking you left and right.""Not overtly, at least." He paused, a smile still curving his mouth. "Dallas and I have worked together before, you know. What does he say about your suspicions?"He was utterly relaxed as he waited for her answer, as if he already knew what Dallas would have said- if she had mentioned her feelings to him, that is. She hadn't uttered a word of misgiving to him, though. For one thing, she had nothing concrete to offer, and she wasn't about to stir up trouble without proof other than her feminine intuition. She didn't discount her uneasiness, but Dallas was a man who dealt in hard realities, who had learned to disconnect his emotions so he could function in the dangerous field he had chosen. Moreover, he obviously liked, trusted, and respected Tucker."I haven't talked to him about it.""No? Why not?"She shrugged. Other than not having proof, her main reason for not talking to Dallas about Tucker was that her husband hadn't been wild about her coming on this job anyway, and she didn't want to give him an opportunity to say I told you so. She was good at what she did, but she didn't have the field experience the others had, so she was reluctant to cause trouble. And, she admitted, even had she known she wouldn't be comfortable with Tucker, she would have come anyway. Something primitive in her thrilled to the tension, the danger, the utter importance of what she did. She had never wanted a nine-to-five; she wanted adventure, she wanted to work on the front line. She wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize a job she had worked hard to attain."Why not?" Tucker said again, and a hint of steel underlay the easiness of his tone. He wanted an answer, and she suspected he usually got what he wanted.Oddly, though, she wasn't intimidated. Part of her even relished this little showdown, getting their animosity out into the open and going one-on-one with Tucker."What difference does it make?" She returned his cool look with one of her own. "Regardless of my suspicions about you, I'm doing my job and keeping my mouth shut. My reasons aren't any of your business. But I'd bet the farm your real name isn't Darren Tucker."He grinned suddenly, surprising her. "Dallas said you were stubborn. Not much of a reverse gear, was the way he put it," he said, settling his shoulders more comfortably against the wall.Because Niema had heard Dallas mutter something very close to that, after one of the few times they had gone head to head about something, she found herself smiling, too.In that more relaxed atmosphere he said, "What makes you think my name isn't Tucker?""I don't know. Darrell Tucker is a good-old-boy Texas name, and every so often I hear a little bit of Texas in your accent, so the accent and the name fit- but you don't, somehow.""I've traveled a bit since I left home," he drawled.She clapped her hands twice in mocking applause. "That was very well done. A homey piece of phrasing, the accent a little heavier.""But you don't buy it.""I bet you're very good with a lot of accents."Amused, he said, "Okay, you aren't going to believe me. That's fine. I don't have any way of proving who I am. But believe me in this: My priorities are getting that building blown and all of us safely home.""How can you get us home? We're splitting up, remember?""By doing all my preliminary work right, by anticipating as many problems as I can and taking steps to counteract them.""You can't anticipate everything, though.""I try. That's why my hair is going gray, I sit up nights worrying."His hair was as dark as her own, without a silver thread showing. His sense of humor was wry, tending toward the ironic; she wished he hadn't shown it to her, wished he had maintained the silence between them. Why hadn't he? Why now, of all times, had he suddenly breached the armed truce?"We're in."She whirled to the radio set as the whispered words came plainly through the speaker. Incredulously she checked the time; thirty minutes had passed since she had last looked. She had been so focused on her confrontation with Tucker that she had forgotten to fret.Like a flash, she knew: That was why he had done it. He had distracted her, using the one subject he knew she wouldn't be able to ignore.Tucker was already at the radio, slipping on a Motorola headset. "Any problems?""Negative."That was all, just three whispered words, but they were in her husband's voice and Niema knew that for now, at least, he was all right. She leaned back and focused on her breathing, in, out, keeping the rhythm regular.There was nothing Tucker could do now to distract her, short of physical violence, so he left her alone. She checked the radio settings, though she knew they were right. She wished she had checked the radio detonator one more time, just to be certain. No-she knew it was working perfectly. And Dallas knew what he was doing."Has Dallas ever told you about his training?"She flicked an impatient glance at Tucker. "I don't need distracting. Thanks for doing it before, but not now, please."A faint quirk of his brows betrayed his surprise. "So you figured it out," he said easily, and she immediately wondered if distracting her had indeed been his intention. Tucker was so damn elusive that even when you thought you had him read, it was possible you were reading only what he intended you to read. "But this is more in the way of reassurance. Do you know about his training?""That he took BUD/S? Yes." BUD/S was Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training: extensive, and so grueling only a tiny percentage of men who tried actually completed the course."But has he told you what that training entailed?""No, not in detail.""Then take my word for it, Dallas can do things no ordinary man would ever dream of doing.""I know.

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  • 更新时间:<2021-07-05 11:58:20>
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