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Death Angel(5)
Author: Linda Howard

Jackson kept an eye on the split screen, looking for a better angle, but it was as if the bastard knew exactly where they were, because not once did he reveal more than a partial view of his face. His right ear, though- Jackson froze a very good image of the ear. Ears were good; they varied from person to person in shape, size, the way they were positioned on the head, and the interior whorls. People who disguised themselves often completely forgot about the ears.

The facial identification program surrendered, telling him there was no match, which he'd expected. "Come on, look at the birdie," he murmured to the man. "Let me take your picture."

He was focused so intently on his task that, until Cotton gave an uncomfortable cough, Jackson didn't realize what he was watching. "Damn," he muttered. "He's doing her right there, out in the open." Not that they could really see anything, but it was obvious from the couple's positions and movements what was happening on that balcony.

Then the unknown man swung them around, presenting his back to the camera, and half-walked, half-carried the girlfriend into the penthouse, pulling the sliding glass door shut behind him.

Not once had he provided them with a clear look at his face.

AFTER THE BRIGHTNESS and warmth of the sun-drenched balcony, the penthouse was blessedly cool and dim, and private. Drea clung to him for support; her legs were like cooked noodles and her brain felt like mush. He dipped his head to trail a line of slow kisses down her throat and across her collarbone. "Is this place bugged?" he asked in that low, half-audible tone of his, his lips moving against her shoulder as he murmured the words on her skin. "Cameras anywhere?"

"Not now," Drea replied, then a sharp surge of combined lust and fear turned her insides to water. She worked hard to make people see her as ornamental, self-absorbed, and more than a little dumb: in short, nonthreatening. Having people underestimate her gave her an enormous advantage...but he didn't seem to underestimate her at all, and that both pleased and frightened her. If he could see the brains beneath the act, then others might, too. At the same time, his easy assumption that she'd know the answer to a question so crucial fed a need that she hadn't realized was there, a hunger to be treated as an equal on some level.

At any rate, it was too late now to continue the dumb act. Recklessly she added, "He used to, but he decided having a record of anything could be dangerous to him."

At first, Rafael had had her followed everywhere she went, and hidden cameras had recorded her in her bedroom, as well as her bathroom. She'd had no privacy at all, and she had simply gone with the flow, keeping her activities completely innocuous and boring. She had been with him for almost five months when she overheard him telling Orlando Dumas, his electronics whiz, to get rid of all the cameras and microphones, and to burn the tapes. Orlando hadn't bothered to tell him it was all digital, and there were no tapes, but Drea had had a private laugh at Rafael's expense.

If Rafael wanted to know how often she had her nails and hair done, fine, let him waste time having her followed. She shopped, she watched television, and she made a habit of going to the nearest library and checking out coffee table books of other countries. She would pore over the pictures, and in a deliberately careful manner read snippets about different customs and geographical features aloud to Rafael, until he impatiently told her he wasn't interested in ferrets and lemurs, nor did he care which waterfall was the highest in the world. Drea had managed to look faintly hurt, but thereafter kept the tidbits to herself. Shortly afterward, he'd stopped having her followed whenever she left the penthouse.

Most of the time, Drea didn't take chances, and behaved as she had when she'd been followed. She really did get her nails and/or hair done frequently, and she spent a lot of time shopping, both in person and on the Internet. She kept her bedroom television on a shopping channel, and a pad lying there with item numbers scribbled on it-numbers that she frequently scratched through, or changed, just in case Rafael had someone check. There were even real item numbers for clothing, should he check that far. She spent a lot of time doing exactly what Rafael expected her to be doing.

Occasionally, however, she did something entirely different. Rafael was ruthless and street smart, but he didn't think she was intelligent enough to slip anything by him, so she managed to slip quite a lot.

But this man, this killer holding her in his arms, saw beneath her carefully constructed façade, stripping away her defenses and exposing her as effortlessly as he'd stripped down her pants. She stared up into his narrowed gaze, wondering what else he saw. Was her secret safe with him, or did he see it as a card he could play whenever it was strategically useful? Maybe he'd want her to give him information about Rafael. Whatever he wanted her to do, she'd have to do it; she had no choice. That was actually an easy decision to make, because this man was one of the few people she'd bet on against Rafael.

Her thoughts had wrenched her from the control of her overloaded senses, and as clarity returned she again felt the icy finger of panic. He wasn't finished with her. So far he hadn't hurt her-the opposite, in fact-but that didn't mean she was safe. Maybe he was just playing with her, getting her to lower her guard, relax. Maybe he got his jollies from sucker punches.

"You're thinking too much," he murmured. "You just tensed up again."

Think! she commanded herself, willing the panic away. She had to think, get herself under control. God, how stupid could she be? Instead of acting like some twit who didn't know what her body was for, she should be using it, doing what she did best, which was make a man feel special.

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