Home > Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(7)

Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(7)
Author: Linda Howard

“Nothing,” M. Durand replied promptly. “Except perhaps the bread, though I didn’t see Mademoiselle Morel eat any. Monsieur drank wine, an exceptional Bordeaux, Chateau Maximilien’s eighty-two vintage, and Mademoiselle drank coffee as usual. Monsieur did prevail upon her to taste the wine, but it wasn’t to her liking.”

“So they shared the wine.”

“A small sip only. As I said, she didn’t care for it. Mademoiselle does not drink wine.” Durand’s very Gallic shrug said he didn’t understand such peculiarity, but there it was.

But last night she had drunk wine, even if it was only a small sip. Was the poison so potent that one sip would threaten her life?

“Was there any wine left?”

“No. Monsieur Nervi drank it all.”

That wasn’t unusual. Salvatore’s head had been remarkably hard, with the result that he drank more than most Italians.

“The bottle. Do you still have the bottle?”

“It will be in the refuse box, I’m certain. Behind the restaurant”

Rodrigo ordered two men to go search through the trash and find the empty Bordeaux bottle, then turned back to M. Durand. “Very well. You will remain my guest”-he gave a humorless smile-“until this bottle and the dregs have been analyzed.”

“But that can-”

“Take days, yes. I’m sure you understand.” Perhaps Vincenzo could get his answers faster than that, in his own lab, but that remained to be seen.

M. Durand hesitated. “Your father… he is very ill?”

“No,” said Rodrigo, rising to his feet. “He is dead.” And once more the words arrowed straight through his heart.

*    *    *

By the next day, Lily knew she would live; it took Dr. Giordano another two days to make the same pronouncement. She needed the entire three days before she felt well enough to get out of bed and take a much-needed bath. Her legs were so shaky she had to hold on to furniture to make her way to the bathroom, her head swam and her vision was still a little blurry, but she knew the worst was past.

She had fought desperately for consciousness, refusing the drugs Dr. Giordano tried to give her to ease her pain, give her sleep. Even though she had passed out during the drive over to what was obviously the Nervi compound, she hadn’t been drugged. Despite the excellence of her French, it wasn’t her first language; if she were sedated, her native American English might slip out. She had pretended to be afraid she would die in her sleep, that she felt she could fight the poison so long as she remained alert, and though Dr. Giordano knew that was medically ridiculous, he had nevertheless bowed to her wishes. Sometimes, he’d said, the patient’s mental condition meant more to recovery than the physical condition.

When she slowly, laboriously made her way out of the lavishly appointed marble bathroom, Rodrigo was sitting in the chair by the bed, waiting for her. He was dressed all in black, turtleneck and trousers, a dark omen in the white-and-cream bedroom.

Immediately all her instincts went to a higher stage of alertness. She couldn’t play Rodrigo the way she had Salvatore. For one thing, as wily as Salvatore had been, his son was smarter, tougher, more cunning-and that was saying something. For another, Salvatore had been attracted to her, and Rodrigo wasn’t.

For the father she had been a younger woman, a conquest, but she was three years older than Rodrigo and he had plenty of conquests of his own.

She was wearing a set of her own pajamas, brought from her flat yesterday, but she was glad of the extra covering of the thick Turkish robe she’d found hanging on a hook in the bathroom. Rodrigo was one of those overtly sexual men who made women very aware of him, and she wasn’t immune to that facet of his personality, even though she knew enough about him to make her cold with disgust. He wasn’t innocent of the majority of Salvatore’s sins, though he was innocent of the murders that had moved her to vengeance; by chance, Rodrigo had been in South America at the time.

She struggled to the bed and sat on it, clinging to one of the posts at the foot for support. She swallowed and said, “You saved my life.” Her voice was thin and weak. She was thin and weak, in no shape to protect herself.

He shrugged. “As it happens, no. Vincenzo-Dr. Giordano-says there was nothing he could do to help. You recovered on your own, though not without some damage. A heart valve, I believe he said.”

She already knew that, because Dr. Giordano had told her the same thing that very morning. She had known the possibilities when she took the risk.

“Your liver, though, will recover. Already your color is much better.”

“No one has told me what was wrong. How did you know I was sick? Did Salvatore become ill, too?”

“Yes,” he said. “He didn’t recover.”

Some reaction other than, “Oh, good,” was expected of her, so Lily deliberately thought of Averill and Tina, of Zia with her adolescent gangliness, her bright, cheerful face and nonstop chatter. Oh, God, she missed Zia so much; it was an ache in the center of her chest. Tears filled her eyes, and she let them drip down her cheeks.

“It was poison,” Rodrigo said, both his expression and tone as calm as if he’d commented on the weather. She wasn’t deceived; he had to be in a rage. “In the bottle of wine he drank. It appears to be a synthetic, designer poison, very potent; by the time the symptoms occur, it’s already too late. Monsieur Durand from the restaurant said you tasted the wine.”

“Yes, one sip.” She wiped the tears from her face. “I dislike wine, but Salvatore was insistent, and he was becoming angry because I didn’t want to taste it, so I did… just one very small sip, to please him. It was nasty.”

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