Home > Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(8)

Kiss Me While I Sleep (CIA Spies #3)(8)
Author: Linda Howard

“You are lucky. According to Vincenzo, the poison is so potent that had you drunk any more than that, if the sip hadn’t been very small, you would be dead.”

She shuddered, remembering the pain and vomiting; she had been that sick without actually swallowing any of the wine, just letting it touch her lips. “Who did this? Anyone could have drunk that wine; was it some terrorist who didn’t care who he killed?”

“I think my father was the target; his love of wine was well-known. The eighty-two Chateau Maximilien is very rare, yet a bottle mysteriously became available to Monsieur Durand the day before my father’s reservation at his restaurant.”

“But he might have offered the wine to anyone.”

“And taken the risk that my father would hear about it and take umbrage that this rare wine wasn’t offered to him? I think not. This tells me the poisoner is very familiar with Monsieur Durand and his restaurant, and the clientele.”

“How was it done? The bottle was uncorked in front of us. How was the wine poisoned?”

“I imagine a very thin hypodermic needle was used to inject the poison through the cork. It wouldn’t have been noticeable. Or the bottle could have been uncorked, then resealed if the proper equipment was available. To Monsieur Durand’s extreme relief, I don’t believe either he or the waiter who served you are culpable.”

Lily had been out of bed so long that she was trembling with weakness. Rodrigo noticed the tremors that shook her entire body. “You may stay here until you are fully recovered,” he said politely, rising to his feet. “If you need anything, you have only to ask.”

“Thank you,” she said, then uttered the biggest lie of her life: “Rodrigo, I’m so sorry about Salvatore. He was… he was—” He was a murdering asshole son of a bitch, but now he was a dead murdering asshole son of a bitch. She managed to produce one more tear, thinking of Zia’s little face.

“Thank you for your condolences,” he said without expression, and left the room.

She didn’t do a victory dance; she was too weak, and for all she knew there were hidden cameras in the room. Instead she climbed back into bed and tried to seek refuge in strength-restoring sleep, but she was feeling too triumphant to do more than doze.

Part of her mission was accomplished. Now all she had to do was disappear before Rodrigo discovered Denise Morel didn’t exist.

Chapter Three

Two days later, Rodrigo and his younger brother, Damone, stood beside their parents’ graves at their boyhood home in Italy. Their mother and father were once more side by side in death as they had been in life. Salvatore’s grave was covered in flowers, but both Rodrigo and Damone had taken some of the flowers and put them on their mother’s grave, too.

The weather was cool but sunny, and a light breeze was blowing. Damone put his hands in his pockets and stared up && the blue sky, his handsome face drawn with grief. “What will you do now?” he asked.

“Find who did this and kill him,” Rodrigo said without hesitation. Together they turned and began walking away from the gravesite. “I’ll also put out a press release about Papa’s death; ft can’t be kept quiet much longer. The news will make some people nervous, wondering about the status of various agreements now that I am in charge, and I will have to deal with that. We may lose some revenue, but nothing that we can’t absorb. And the losses will be short-term. The revenues from the vaccine will make up the difference, and more. Much more.”

Damone said, “Vincenzo has made up the lost time?” He was more of a businessman than Rodrigo, and it was he who handled the majority of their finances from his own headquarters in Switzerland.

“Not as much as we had hoped, but work is progressing. He assures me he will be finished by next summer.”

“Then he is doing better than I’d expected, considering how much was lost.” An incident at Vincenzo’s lab had destroyed much of his current project.

“He and his people are working very long hours.” And would be working even longer ones if Rodrigo saw they were falling behind schedule. The vaccine was too important to let Vincenzo miss the deadline.

“Keep me abreast of the situation,” said Damone. By agreement, because of security issues, they wouldn’t be together again until after the poisoner was identified and apprehended. He turned and looked back at the new grave, his dark eyes filled with the same pain and rage Rodrigo felt. “It’s still so hard to believe,” he said, almost inaudibly.

“I know.” The two brothers hugged, unashamed of their emotion, then got into separate cars for the trip back to their private airfield, where they would each take a corporate jet home. Rodrigo had taken comfort in his younger brother’s presence, in having what was left of his immediate family next to him. Despite the sadness of their purpose for being together, there had also been an ease of companionship. Now each returned to their linked but separate empires, Damone to watch over the money, Rodrigo to find their father’s killer and exact revenge. Whatever steps he took, he knew, Damone would support him.

But the fact was, he hadn’t been able to make any progress in finding who had killed Salvatore. Vincenzo was still analyzing the poison, which might give them an idea of its origin, and Rodrigo had been closely watching his rivals for any hint of knowledge that Salvatore had died, any aberration in their usual pattern of doing business. One might think their less legitimate associates would be seen as the most likely suspects, but Rodrigo didn’t eliminate anyone from suspicion. It could even be someone within their own organization, or someone in the government. Salvatore had had his fingers in many pies, and evidently someone had got greedy enough to want the whole pie to himself. Rodrigo just had to discover which one.

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