Tanaka’s villa was a sprawling, two-story mansion with white stucco walls, a red tiled roof, and, of course, gorgeous views of the Mediterranean. No matter how many of these luxurious vacation homes Layla visited, she never failed to be awed.
They were greeted by a middle-aged Asian woman with high cheekbones and a strong, square chin. “This is Seung,” said Tanaka. “She looks after me.”
Seung nodded politely, as if it wasn’t at all unusual for her employer to show up with a lady friend at three in the morning. “May I take your things?” she asked in perfect Japanese. Layla handed the woman her Michael Kors clutch and watched her disappear down a long hallway.
Tanaka led her to a large, open living room. It was sparsely furnished, with a dark brown leather couch and two matching chairs flanking a wrought-iron coffee table. Plain white walls provided a clean background for several display cases containing ancient Middle Eastern ceramics and figurines. A life-sized marble statue of an athlete poised to throw a discus stood by the wall of windows overlooking the Mediterranean. Layla walked over to the windows and gazed out at the spectacular view. “Beautiful,” she murmured. “Yes, it is,” said Tanaka, from too close beside her. Before she could move away, he had wrapped his arms around her and planted his mouth on hers, kissing her so ferociously it almost hurt.
With some effort, Layla extracted herself from his embrace. She began to protest but he cut her off with another kiss. This was hardly the first time in her life that a man had come on too strong. Under normal circumstances, she would shove her suitor away, tell him loudly and clearly to keep his hands off and, if necessary, use her FBI combat training to kick his ass. But the situation was different with Tanaka. He was a major player in the international art scene, and potentially her investigation. She couldn’t afford to antagonize him. Which sure as hell didn’t mean that she was going to give in and sleep with the guy, but she had to be careful not to hurt his pride with a blunt rejection.
Layla broke off the kiss, then gave him a shy smile. “I was raised very conservative, and those lessons have really stuck with me.”
“I’d be happy to help you liberate yourself.”
She was running out of tactful ways to put him off. It was time to use her backup plan. “A drink might help me relax. Why don’t I get us something?” she suggested.
“Don’t trouble yourself. Seung can bring anything you like,” said Tanaka. Layla realized that she wasn’t thinking like a rich person. Someone who had been raised with servants would simply expect to be served. She needed a reason to lift a finger for herself.
“My father used to make a wonderful cocktail. He called it a Crimson Sunrise.” She hoped desperately that this wasn’t the name of a real drink that Tanaka might know. “It’s difficult to explain his method. I’d rather make it for you myself.” She bowed her head slightly as she said this, playing the subservient woman who wanted to please him.
“All right. I can show you to . . .” He began to lead her out of the room, but Layla stopped him with a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I saw the bar near the dining room as we came in. You just relax. I’ll be right back.” She scampered off before he could object any further. First, she went back to the front hall and followed the path she’d seen Seung take. This led her to a coat closet, where she found her purse. She opened it and fished out a small white pill containing a f ive-milligram dose of Ambien. Pierce had advised her to always keep a sleeping pill in her bag, in case of just such a situation. A small dose of Ambien, combined with alcohol, would effectively put Tanaka to sleep for a couple of hours and give her time to do a quick search of the house.
She went to the fully stocked wet bar she’d spotted just off the dining room, mentally thanking the annoying instructor at Quantico who liked to make his students close their eyes at random intervals and describe every detail of the room they were in as a test of their situational awareness.
All she had to do now was invent a Crimson Sunrise. The flavor would have to be strong enough to cover the bitter taste of the Ambien. She crushed the tablet with the bottom of a glass and dissolved it in rum, then added club soda, cranberry juice, orange juice, and a squeeze of lime. Layla took a small sip to make sure it was palatable enough and, more importantly, hid the taste of the drug. Then she fixed herself a similar drink, with less rum and no surprise ingredients, and rejoined Tanaka among his treasures.
She gave him the spiked cocktail, waiting as he took a sip. He pronounced it “very good,” but didn’t drink any more....