Fire With Fire – Snippet 10

Fire With Fire – Snippet 10

Chapter Five

ODYSSEUS

Caine’s guide, Ms. Rakir, drove the Rover as hard and fast as an adolescent male overdosing on testosterone, but her voice and the movements of her head were as smooth and unhurried as those of a pampered contessa. “How was your flight yesterday, Mr. Riordan?”

“Pretty much like this drive.”

She laughed, throwing back her head while swerving to avoid a stump of rock protruding from the unfinished roadbed. “You don’t like my driving?”

“It’s — exhilarating.”

“Or is it that you don’t trust women as drivers?” Her voice had modulated into a lower register, became as sinuous as she. “It’s not unusual. Many men still don’t like to surrender control to women.” She looked sideways out of catlike eyes. “Are you like that?”

Caine smiled and looked away. He had seen this coming the moment she had come to pick him up for his driving tour of Site One’s operations. Everything about her was suggestive curves: her body, her lips, her eyes, her face. And the motif was curves in motion, motion that pressed at the limits of physics — and clothing — as she had walked toward him, hand extending and swaying slightly with the rest of her. Her shirt was open two buttons down from the collar; her shorts ended two hands-widths above the knee: provocative without being outrageous.

“I’m sorry; did my question make you — uncomfortable?” Her voice had become a little more formal: she had overplayed her hand and she knew it. She’s used to men who allow the orders they get from below their belt to veto those that originate between their ears. And looking at her again, he could see why. It wasn’t just her physical attributes; it was how they seemed an external expression — and promise — of what was within her: a sensual mix of feline poise and feral energy. Judging from his own physical reactions, Caine realized he’d better start thinking about something else: he had been dead for thirteen years, and his body — at least one particular part of it — was evidently eager to prove that it had very much come back to life.

“You never told me where we’re going first, Ms. Rakir.”

“Please, call me Consuela. Well, I thought we’d start with a drive around the main compound, but Mr. Helger evidently showed that to you yesterday afternoon.”

“Yes, but it was a pretty brief tour. Night comes on pretty quickly, here. As did morning: I’m still a little earth-lagged, I’m afraid.”

“Yes, Dee Pee Three’s seventeen-hour day takes a little getting used to. Not so bad for me, though: I grew up with midday siestas and late-night tapas. The rules for day and night are less rigid, that way. Less restrictive.”

He decided not to look over at her again: he heard the insinuation in her voice. The modulation was far fainter, the suggestion was a fading grace note instead of a major chord, but it was still there. Persistent and adaptive — in all aspects of seduction, I’m sure. Aloud: “And where are you from?”

“All over. Caracas, Corpus Christi, Lagos, Amsterdam. We moved a lot.”

“That accent sounds more Cambridge than Corpus Christi.”

“Millfield and Oxford, actually. I only lived in Corpus Christi for two years. What about you?”

“Me?”

“Yes; where are you from?”

Caine felt a sudden disorientation: where do I say I’m from, now? An unlisted refrigerator? He gargled out an awkward laugh. “The stars. I’m from the stars.”

He could feel her looking at him. She laughed along, a second too late. Have to change the topic: I’m weak here. “Bad joke. D.C. area, most recently. Lots of places before that. Sounds a bit like you.”

“Yes — we have that gypsy background in common, then.” Consuela’s voice made him think of her fingers working their way between his: wiggling in, sliding and writhing around index and middle fingers, the occasional graze of a well-sharpened nail reminding that half of the excitement was in the peril.

And she was indeed peril. Caine couldn’t be sure whether Helger had sent her as a spy, a distraction, or a peace — or should that be “piece”? — offering, but it was plain that she had been hand-picked for the job of escorting him. She was too striking to be a spy, so she was either intended as baffling bait or as a bribe. Or both. Yes. That would be the way Helger would work. She was a gift that was meant to divert not merely his senses, but his attention — and she was too clever to be an ignorant cat’s-paw: she had to be a knowing accomplice. Good: now I’m thinking straight again

.

He looked up, seeing the foliage for the first time. They were speeding under a canopy of — well, not exactly trees: more like oversized ferns and sponge-sheathed goldenrod of gargantuan proportions. Oddly angular vines wound around and hung between them, speckling the shadows with impulsive constellations of small fuchsia and indigo flowers. Amazing that any world could be so habitable and look so different. Amazing that anything could be so biologically compatible with species that evolved 19.9 light-years away.

“Beautiful, no?”

Caine wondered if Consuela were talking about the flowers or herself — and thought: that’s exactly the way she wants me to think. She doesn’t want me to like her: she wants me to be mystified, intrigued, aroused, maybe even a little resentful of the titillation — anything to keep my mind off my job.

“The flowers are unlike anything I’ve seen before. All of it is. How long have you been here?”

“About a year. It’s been –”

“And what do you do? What is your job?”

She almost stuttered. You’d decided I was a gentleman — wouldn’t interrupt, sure to be susceptible to a slow seductive dance, out of good manners, if nothing else. But here’s where the game changes.

“I’m assistant director for new product marketing.”

“What new products?”

“Well,” — sweeping around a corner and out from under the foliage, they came to a dusty stop in front of a lightly-built oil rig — “petroleum.”

The action of the sudden halt sent the inevitable reactive shock waves undulating through the upper part of Consuela’s torso. Caine did his best not to notice. Instead, he smiled: “Venezuela, Corpus Christi, Amsterdam: Exxon?”

She smiled: it was a predatory leer, but honest, and — he intuited — a species of grudging congratulations on his deduction. “So you must be an investigative reporter, then. Yes, Exxon. Daddy, his dad before him, now me: crude runs in the family.”

And in your veins, I’ll bet. “So, that’s the part of CoDevCo that you hail from.”

“Guilty as charged. I am one of the she-wolves of energy corporation notoriety. The despised of the earth.”

Because you create the wretched of the earth, you supercilious bitch. You’ll be telling them to eat cake, next. It was becoming rapidly easier to find her less captivating. But I can’t show that. This is my opportunity.

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