Home > Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(4)

Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(4)
Author: Linda Howard

“Well?” Salvatore asked impatiently, even though he’d seen the shudder.

“Rotten grapes,” she said, and shuddered again.

He looked thunderstruck. “Rotten-?” He couldn’t believe she didn’t like his wonderful wine.

“Yes. I taste its antecedents, which unfortunately are rotten grapes. Are you satisfied?” She let a hint of temper show in her own eyes. “I dislike being bullied.”

“I didn’t-”

“You did. With the threat of not seeing me again.”

He took another sip of wine, buying time before answering. “I apologize,” he said carefully. “I am not accustomed to-”

“Being told ‘no’?” she asked, mimicking him by sipping her coffee. Would the caffeine speed the poison? Would the cream in the coffee slow it down?

She would have been willing to sacrifice herself in order to take just one well-placed shot at his head; how was this any different? She had minimized the risk as much as she could, but it was still a risk, and poison was a nasty way to die.

He shrugged his burly shoulders and gave her a rueful look. “Exactly,” he said, showing her some of his legendary charm. He could be a very charming man, when he chose. If she hadn’t known what he was, she might have been taken in; if she hadn’t stood beside three graves that contained two close friends and their adopted daughter, she might have philosophically decided that, in this business, death was a fairly normal outcome. Averill and Tina had known the risks when they got into the game, just as she had; thirteen-year-old Zia, however, had been an innocent Lily couldn’t forget Zia, or forgive. She couldn’t be philosophic.

Three hours later, the leisurely meal consumed, the entire bottle of wine now sloshing in Salvatore’s stomach, they rose to leave. It was just after midnight, and the November night sky was spitting out swirls of snowflakes that melted immediately on contact with the wet streets. Lily felt nauseated, but that could well have been from the unrelenting tension rather than the poison, which was supposed to take longer than just three hours before the effects began to be felt.

“I think something I ate isn’t agreeing with me,” she said when they were in the car.

Salvatore heaved a sigh. “You do not have to pretend illness in order to not go home with me.”

“I’m not pretending,” she said sharply. He turned his head and stared at the Parisian lights sliding by. It was a good thing he’d drunk all the wine, because she was fairly certain that he would have written her off as a lost cause in any case.

She leaned her head back against the cushion and closed her eyes. No, this wasn’t tension. The nausea was increasing by the moment. She felt the pressure increase in the back of her throat and she said, “Stop the car, I’m going to be sick!”

The driver slammed on the brakes-odd how that particular threat made him instinctively go against his training-and she threw the car door open before the tires had rolled to a stop, then leaned out and vomited into the gutter. She felt Salvatore’s hand on her back and another on her arm, holding her, though he was careful not to lean so far that he exposed himself to the line of fire.

After the spasms had emptied her stomach, she slumped back into the car and wiped her mouth with the handkerchief Salvatore silently passed to her. “I do beg your pardon,” she said, hearing with shock how weak and trembly her voice sounded.

“It is I who must beg yours,” he said. “I didn’t think you were truly ill. Should I take you to a doctor? I could call my own doctor-”

“No, I feel somewhat better now,” she lied. “Please just take me home.”

He did, with many solicitous questions and a promise to call her first thing in the morning. When the driver finally pulled to a stop in front of the building where she rented a flat, she patted Salvatore’s hand and said, “Yes, please call me tomorrow, but don’t kiss me; I might have caught a virus.” With that handy excuse, she pulled her coat around her and dashed through the thickening snowfall to her door, not looking back as the car pulled away.

She made it to her flat, where she collapsed into the nearest chair. There was no way she could grab her necessities and make it to the airport, as she had originally planned. Perhaps this was best, after all. Endangering herself was the best cover of all. If she was also ill from poisoning, Rodrigo wouldn’t suspect her, wouldn’t care what happened to her when she recovered.

Assuming she survived, that is.

She felt very calm as she waited for whatever would happen, to happen.

Chapter Two

Her door was kicked open with a splintering crash shortly after nine o’clock the next morning. Three men entered, all with weapons drawn. Lily tried to lift her head, but with a low moan let it drop back to the rug that covered the polished dark wood of the floor.

The faces of the three men swam in front of her as one knelt beside her and roughly turned her face toward him. She blinked and tried to focus. Rodrigo. She swallowed and reached for him with one hand, a silent plea for help.

She wasn’t faking. The night had been long and difficult She had vomited several times, and had been seized by alternating waves of hot and cold. Sharp pains had stabbed through her stomach, leaving her curled in a fetal ball, whimpering with distress. For a while she thought her dose must have been lethal after all, but now it seemed the pains were abating. She was still too weak and sick to climb from the floor onto the couch, or even to phone for help. Once last night she’d tried to get to the phone, but her effort had come too late, and she hadn’t been able to reach it.

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