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She stared for a moment at the hotel phone in the living room of the suite, and the button for the front desk. In the end, she didn't pick it up.

Instead she showered. She shampooed the blood from her hair and scrubbed it off her shoulder and hands as if it was tar. She didn't know the specifics of the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates, but presumed it was more civilized than next door in Saudi Arabia. (She had a vague sense from the TV news that public beheadings were only a little less popular than soccer in Saudi.) Still, she didn't want to find out.

She really had two choices: either she called someone the moment she emerged from the shower or she didn't. She was either here for a long time—a very long time—or she was on the flight to France in a couple of hours. The words echoed inside her: a very long time. Good Lord, she recalled some poor American college student who spent years in a prison in Italy awaiting trial for a murder she swore she didn't commit. She shuddered to think what loomed for her here in the Middle East, especially since she presumed no one would believe that someone else had come into the suite, nearly decapitated Alex Sokolov, and spared her. And if she did choose the first option, alerting people to the corpse in the bed where she'd slept, did she call the front desk or did she call the airline? Did she call the American embassy?

The choice hinged in part on whether she really had killed this young hedge fund manager. Despite the evidence, a part of her—the biggest part of her—honestly believed that she hadn't. Certainly she had done other batshit crazy things when she was in the blotto zone: when she was blackout crazy drunk. She'd hear the next morning about the things she had said. She'd hear the next day about the things she had done. Sometimes she'd hear when she was back at a particular bar.

You were doing this insanely provocative, pretend karaoke—without music, Cassie, without music! There was no karaoke machine!—while standing on a stool in the corner.

Oh, God, you had an epic face plant just outside the ladies' room. How did you not break your nose?

You were taking off your clothes and trying to get the bartender to do naked yoga with you.

It was only dumb luck that she had no DUIs, no crimes and misdemeanors in her history, and thus was still allowed to fly. She thought once more of her father. As she dried herself—quickly, roughly—she recalled the men and the mistakes in her own past, and she counted once more all the different countries in which she had slept with strangers and woken up sick in unfamiliar beds. Even now, probably no one in the crew was thinking anything about the fact that she was not with them at their own hotel. Most of them barely knew her, but most of them knew women and men just like her. Her behavior might have been extreme, but it was not uncommon.

If she hadn't slashed the throat of the man who had tenderly washed her hair in the shower, she guessed she should be deeply grateful that whoever did hadn't bothered to kill her. And that, in turn, suggested either a respect for human life or a distaste for collateral damage that was rather at odds with the ferocity with which he (or she or they) had murdered last night's drunken dalliance. It also might mean that she was being set up. Someone—perhaps even that woman who had come to their room for a drink—wanted her to be blamed for this crime. Two thoughts crossed her mind, and she was unsure whether to categorize them as paranoid or uncharacteristically clearheaded: the first was that she hadn't
killed Sokolov, but her fingerprints were nevertheless all over the neck of the broken bottle. The second was the notion that it wasn't the arak that had put her out so thoroughly: she'd been drugged. They'd been drugged. Maybe it was the vodka in that very bottle that Miranda had brought. The woman claimed she'd brought it because she wasn't sure if the minibars at the Royal Phoenician had liquor; in Dubai, some hotel minibars did, some didn't. Perhaps there was no
more to the gift than that; perhaps there was.

She took a little comfort in the fact that no one she knew had any idea that she was here in room 511 at the Royal Phoenician. Sure, Megan and Shane had seen her flirting with Alex in 2C, but she'd never told the two flight attendants that she was going to see him. She and Alex had been discreet when they'd discussed where and when they would meet. She hadn't given him her cell because he hadn't asked for it—which meant that she wouldn't be in his phone.

There was only Miranda.

But Miranda knew a lot. Miranda knew that she was a flight attendant. Miranda knew her name—at least her first name. Miranda would, Cassie assumed, be the one to call the hotel when Alex missed whatever meeting he was supposed to be in and didn't answer his cell.

In the end, she told herself that she did problematic things when she drank, but slashing people's throats wasn't among them. At least she didn't think it was. But she also wasn't going to take the bait and call the front desk. She was going to get as far away from Dubai and the Arabian Peninsula as she could, and she would deal with Miranda's allegations—and, yes, her own guilt—when she was back in the United States.
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