Home > Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(5)

Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(5)
Author: Linda Howard

Rodrigo swore softly in Italian, then holstered his weapon and rapped out an order to one of his men.

Lily gathered her strength and managed to whisper, “Do not… get so close. I may be… contagious.”

“No,” he said in his very excellent French. “You aren’t contagious.” Moments later a soft blanket settled over her, and Rodrigo briskly wrapped it around her before gathering her into his arms and, with easy strength, rising to his feet.

He strode out of the flat and down the back stairs, where his car waited with the motor idling. The driver jumped out when he saw Rodrigo, and opened the rear door.

Lily was roughly bundled into the car, with Rodrigo on one side of her and one of the other men on the other. Her head lolled against the back of the car seat and she closed her eyes, whimpering in her throat as sharp pain once more daggered through her stomach. She didn’t have the strength to stay upright and felt herself slowly begin to topple. Rodrigo made an exasperated sound, but shifted around so she could recline against him.

Most of her consciousness was taken up by her sheer physical misery, but one clear, cold portion of her brain remained separate and alert. She wasn’t out of the woods yet, with either the poison or Rodrigo. For now, he was withholding judgment, but that was all. At least he was taking her somewhere for medical treatment-she hoped. He probably wasn’t taking her anywhere to kill her and dump her body, because killing her in the apartment and walking away would have been far easier. She didn’t know if anyone had seen him carrying her out, but the odds that someone had were good, even though he’d taken her out the back way. Not that he cared if anyone saw him, at least not much. She assumed Salvatore was either dead or dying, and Rodrigo was now the head of the Nervi organization; as such, he’d inherited a lot of power, both financial and political. Salvatore’d had a lot of people in his pocket.

She fought to keep her eyes open, to pay attention to the route the driver was taking, but her lids kept drifting shut Finally she thought to hell with it and gave up the effort. No matter where Rodrigo was taking her, there was literally nothing she could do about it.

The men in the car were silent, not making even idle comments. The atmosphere seemed heavy and strained, with grief or worry or even rage. She couldn’t tell which, and since they weren’t talking, she couldn’t eavesdrop. Even the outside noise of the traffic seemed to fade away, until at last there was nothing.

The gate to the compound slid open as the car approached, and the driver, Tadeo, slotted the white Mercedes through the gap with only inches to spare on each side. Rodrigo waited until they were stopped under the portico and Tadeo had jumped out to open the passenger door before he shifted Denise Morel around. Her head lolled back and he realized she was unconscious. Her face was a pasty yellowish-white, her eyes sunk back in her head, and an odor clung to her-the same odor he’d noticed on his father.

Rodrigo’s stomach clenched as he fought to contain his grief. He still couldn’t quite believe it-Salvatore was dead. Just that fast, he was gone. The news hadn’t got out yet, but it was only a matter of time. Rodrigo wouldn’t be allowed the luxury of grieving; he had to move fast, consolidate his position and take up the reins, before their rivals moved in like a pack of jackals.

When the family doctor had said Salvatore’s ailment looked like mushroom poisoning, Rodrigo had moved quickly. He dispatched three men to take M. Durand from the restaurant and bring him to the house, while he himself, with Tadeo driving, took Lamberto and Cesare to find Denise Morel. She was the last person his father had been with before falling ill, and poison was a woman’s weapon, indirect and indefinite, depending on guesswork and happenstance. In this case, though, the weapon had been effective.

But if his father had died at her hand, she had then poisoned herself, too, instead of fleeing the country. He hadn’t truly expected her to be at her flat, since Salvatore had said she was going to Toulouse to visit her ailing mother; Rodrigo had taken that as a handy excuse. It seemed he’d been wrong-or at least the possibility of error was strong enough that he hadn’t shot the woman on sight

He slid out of the car and hooked his hands under her arms, then dragged her out behind him. Tadeo helped support her until Rodrigo could slide his arm under her knees and lift her against his chest. She was of normal height, about five and a half feet, but on the lanky side; even though she was dead weight, he handled her easily as he carried her inside.

“Is Dr. Giordano still here?” he asked, and received an affirmative reply. “Tell him I need him, please.” He took her upstairs to one of the guest bedrooms. She would be better off in a hospital, but Rodrigo wasn’t in the mood to answer questions. Officials could be so annoyingly official. And if she died, then she died; he had made all the effort he was willing to make. It wasn’t as if Vincenzo Giordano wasn’t a real medical doctor, even if he no longer had a practice and instead spent all his time in the lab on the outskirts of Paris that Salvatore had funded-though, perhaps if Salvatore had called for help earlier and asked to be taken to a hospital, he would still be alive. Still, Rodrigo hadn’t questioned his father’s decision to have Dr. Giordano brought in, had even understood it. Discretion was everything, when vulnerability was involved.

He laid Denise on the bed and stood looking down at her, wondering why his father had been so besotted with her. Not that Salvatore hadn’t always had an eye for the ladies, but this one was nothing out of the ordinary. Today she looked awful, her hair lank and uncombed, her color as terrible as if she were already dead, but even at her best she wasn’t beautiful. Her face was a bit too thin, too austere, and she had a slight overbite. The overbite, however, made her upper lip look fuller than the lower one, and that alone gave her features a piquancy she would otherwise have lacked.

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