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criminals who threatened freedom everywhere.
But Miranda was not a criminal, and she posed no threat to freedom anywhere.
Except maybe deep inside, in a place he'd thought blown to irreparable bits one impossibly blue
afternoon five years before.
He clenched the steering wheel tighter, stared straight ahead, saw only the truth. The ominously quiet,
ominously still woman seated next to him, staring out the passenger window as the old car bumped down
the roadway, was an innocent. Because of no other reason than her last name, she was caught up in a
high-stakes game that had nothing to do with her personally, but threatened everything she held dear.
Striking out at a Carrington was as much a headline grabber, as much of an attack on an American icon,
as blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge or finding a way to erase the faces from Mount Rushmore.
That'sall I really want,she'd said that night in the wine cellar.To be like everyone else. To dance in the
street andnotbe splattered across thefront of everytabloid.
But Miranda Carrington, this woman who cherished personal freedom above all else, wasnot like
everyone else. There could be no anonymity for a woman with gypsy eyes and a sense of adventure and
excitement that radiated from her like a diamond against a sea of black velvet. Just like there could be no
glory in the actions he'd taken back at the safe house.
No, he thought again, blinking against the grainy dryness of his eyes. No glory. No satisfaction of a job
meticulously planned and executed. No pleasure in stripping the light from Miranda's eyes, replacing it
with the stark hollow of betrayal. No sense of accomplishment in hearing the rasp to her voice, feeling the
sting of her words. No success in the fact that she believed him and Petros to be in the same league.
No glory in the fact she believed the lie.
He'd been close. So damn close to extracting her from Portugal with minimal damage. He had the raw
fury under control now, but deep inside the knowledge that he'd either been set up or ambushed
continued to rage. He was a careful man. Twice now, however, Petros claimed to have been only a step
behind.
A hard sound broke from Sandro's throat.
Petros would be more than a step behind this time.
"Where are we going?" Miranda asked for the fourth time.
And for the fourth time, he told her only "South."
She said nothing else, just as she'd said nothing each of the three times before. She merely continued to
look away from him.
She was way too calm. Shock, he wondered, or cunning? Her silence could easily conceal plotting, just
like that day in Cascais, when she'd claimed to be Astrid Van Dyke.
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They'd been in the car for nearly an hour. Petros would probably sleep a while longer, but not the whole
night through. If Sandro had known that lowlife would be the one drinking the wine, not Miranda, he
would have mixed in the whole damn bottle of sleeping pills, not just a few tablets. He'd only meant to
ensure Miranda slept while the worst of the so-called rescue mission went down, to spare her that brutal
moment of discovery.
None of that mattered. She knew. She knew the lie, could never know the truth, how closely the two
were related. All he could do was damage control. It mattered only that she lived.
And, he amended, that General Viktor Zhukov met a certain lady named Justice.
Frustration wound deeper. There had been no rescue tonight. Only a trap. And Javier& Cristo, let him
still be alive. Petros was a dangerous wild card. He'd lost the general's favor after a botched assignment
five months before, and since then he'd been desperately trying to prove himself to his former leader.
Apparently, he thought Miranda Carrington looked like his meal ticket. His arrival on the scene could
easily have created a bloodbath.
No way in hell was Sandro risking Miranda's blood.
Or her body.
Clenching his jaw, he cursed the fat raindrops splattering the windshield. For a man who lived his life in
the shadows, he had a peculiar lack of tolerance for being in the dark.
Sandro grabbed the mobile phone from the seat between his legs and jabbed the familiar series of
numbers for the fifth time in an hour. And for the fifth time, he listened impatiently to the high shrill of a
ring unanswered.
"Damn it, Javier," he bit out. "Where the hell are you?"
His partner's voice came across the line then, a recorded message inviting his fans and followers to leave
a message. Sandro scowled at his friend's warped sense of humor, but a bad feeling sunk low in his gut.
He wanted to talk to the man, not a machine, but left with no choice, he barked out a few nondescript
words, meaningful to Javier, innocuous to others.
"Change of plans, mate. Unexpected visitors. Need to reschedule."
Miranda turned to look at him. "Who's Javier?"
Her voice was flat, empty, just like her expression. "He's my compatriot," he told her, turning the car
onto a narrow, one-lane road leading between two rows of towering trees.
She wrinkled her perfect little nose. "Yourwhat?"
"My comrade," he clarified matter-of-factly. "My partner. He's making arrangements to get you out of
the country without " he broke off the words abruptly, regrouped " without the wrong people finding
us."
"By wrong people, you mean border patrol and whoever else it is that looks for kidnapped American
citizens? Like the CIA?"
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"Among other people," he answered vaguely. More often than not, that's all it took. People's
imaginations filled in the blanks with unrivaled creativity and flair.
He knew this woman who'd once looked at him with mischief sparking in her eyes would be no different.
He'd dulled that light for now, but deep inside, beneath that damningly sexy Surf Portugal T-shirt which
rode entirely too high on her firm thighs, her spirit still burned bright. Of that, he had no doubt. She'd said
it herself.
It takes more than a few lies to break me.
God, he hoped so. He could hardly remember anything he'd ever wanted more.
Swearing softly, he clicked on the radio, cranked up the volume. Out of the corner of his eye, he would
have sworn he saw Miranda's lips twitch, but when he looked at her, her expression was as unreadable
as the night beyond.
"I take it something went wrong tonight?" she surprised him by asking.
As far as understatements went, she'd hit the proverbial nail on the head. "You could say so."
She turned down the inspiring combination of Euro dance rhythm and static. "What?"
"It doesn't matter," he said, returning the volume to a level half of where it had been before. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]