Hidden away, p.10
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       Hidden Away, p.10
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         Part #3 of KGI series by Maya Banks
Page 10

 

  “It’s all right. Maybe I’ll go get some more in a few days. If I ever get the courage to leave my cottage again. ”

  He reached over to where her hand rested on top of the step and covered it lightly. “You’ll be fine. ”

  When he left his hand there, she edged it sideways until her hand came free. She brought it up to her lap and laced her fingers into a tight ball. She tried to imagine how she might have responded to Garrett a year ago. Would she have encouraged him? Would she have flirted and flashed him playful smiles?

  It was hard to remember acting so freely with a man. For the past year, she’d been consumed with self-preservation, and for her that meant avoidance. But avoidance hadn’t done anything to stop the shame, the frequent anxiety attacks or the sleepless nights. There were days she couldn’t remember what her life had been like before . . .

  You can say it, Sarah. You were raped. You were violated. You were attacked by someone you trusted.

  Her lips wouldn’t form the syllables but it screamed through her head until she shook it from side to side to rid herself of the word, which was as brutal as the act.

  And here she sat, next to a stranger. Someone she didn’t know from Adam. Someone she didn’t trust and knew nothing more than that he was here recovering from a bullet wound. If someone she had trusted could do something so horrible, how could she possibly believe that a complete stranger wouldn’t do the same?

  CHAPTER 8

  SENSING her tension, Garrett got up and needlessly went to turn the meat. He piddled at the grill longer than necessary and took the time to watch Sarah. He’d made a mistake touching her, but found that he was unable to resist the urge to offer comfort. Comforting women was something entirely alien to him. That was something his brothers were far more adept at. He was lovey with Rachel—okay, and now with Sophie. Maybe he wasn’t a complete failure when it came to women, but it didn’t mean he understood them either.

  What he did know of Sarah in turns pissed him off and made him hurt. There just wasn’t an excuse for hurting a woman. Ever. It was the one thing designed to infuriate him above all else. And Sarah had been hurt. He knew it. He felt it. Saw it in her eyes every time she looked at him.

  A normal guy would ask her questions. And he was supposed to be a normal guy. Most men would be curious about a woman like Sarah. They might even try to cozy up for a vacation fling. He blew out his breath, remembering that Resnick had all but suggested it. The problem was, he wasn’t a normal guy. He was here on a job and he couldn’t feign casual interest.

  But he wasn’t supposed to know anything about Sarah, and a normal guy would be a little freaked out by her seemingly bizarre behavior. Garrett? He understood it. Only too well.

  Still it might seem strange if he didn’t try to pry a little.

  He grunted under his breath. He hated this kind of shit. He didn’t do undercover crap. That was more Sam’s forte. He’d much rather go in, blow the shit out of the bad guys then go home and have a beer.

  Well, at least he had the beer covered.

  “I’m going to grab another beer. You want anything?”

  She turned to look at him with those big eyes and his stomach tightened. Damn. He had to chill on this bizarre . . . attraction. No matter what Resnick suggested, he wasn’t going to try to get into a woman’s pants just to get on her good side.

  “No, I’m good,” she said.

  He went inside and was greeted by Patches, who jumped onto the counter to watch as he pulled another beer from the fridge.

  “You want some?” he asked the cat.

  She eyed him balefully then turned with a swish of her tail and proceeded to ignore him.

  He shrugged. Typical female.

  He walked back onto the porch and sat back down by Sarah. She didn’t move away, which gave him an absurd thrill. He took a swig of his beer and stared out at the incoming waves.

  “So what brings you here? Vacation?”

  She gave him a startled look. Great. He’d caught her off guard even though it was the most innocuous inquiry he could summon. Maybe she hadn’t considered fielding such a question, but wasn’t it something anyone would ask her? She wasn’t going to blend in if she freaked every time someone got friendly with her.

  “Yeah. Vacation. Needed some time away. ”

  He nodded. “I hear that. Where you from?”

  She was growing more uncomfortable with each passing second, but she managed to smile though it was so fake she could be one of those beauty pageant queens whom Donovan liked to watch on television.

  “All over, actually. I moved a lot as a kid. ”

  “Really? I lived in pretty much the same place my entire life. Except when I was in the military. ”

  “Oh? Where’s home?”

  He didn’t miss the obvious way in which she turned the tables on him or her evident relief that she’d avoided his original question. But he went with it. He could play the dumb tourist as well as anyone.

  “Tennessee. Little town on Kentucky Lake. My entire family lives there. ”

  She sighed. “It sounds nice. You have a big family?”

  “You could say that. There’s my mom and dad. I have five brothers. I’m second oldest. I also have two sisters-in-law, one of whom is ready to pop out a kid any day now. Then there are my mom’s adopted chicks. Her most recent find is a surly-ass teenage girl who she’s determined to keep on the straight and narrow. My brothers and I have given up and wished Ma luck. ”

  Sarah chuckled. “Aren’t all teenage girls surly?”

  “Hell, I don’t know. They’re all deranged, if you ask me. ” He glanced sideways at her. “What about you?”

  A slight grin flirted with the edges of her mouth. “I’m pretty sure I was deranged at sixteen. ”

  “Smart-ass. I meant what about your family?”

  Her expression became more pensive. “I grew up in foster homes. ”

  He shifted uncomfortably. He already knew that but he wasn’t supposed to and now he had to sit here and play dumb. He was dying to ask her about Lattimer, and why, if she was his sister and he was so protective of her, had she grown up without all the benefits he had? Instead he offered a lame reply that said he didn’t really know what to say at all.

  “Ouch. That had to be hard. ”

  “It wasn’t so bad. But it did involve a lot of moving. Most placements were temporary until something more permanent came along. The problem was that the permanent situations never were . . . permanent. ”

  His lips twisted in sympathy. “That sucks. ”

  She shrugged. “It’s not like I was abused. I had food and clothes. A place to live. There were a lot of children far less fortunate than I was. I don’t spend my adult life lamenting my childhood. I had some good times. ”

  He wasn’t sure what to say to that. He liked her attitude. Shit happens and you deal. Only second to the Kelly motto, in his mind. No one fucks with the Kellys.

  “So how long are you here for?”

  She frowned. “I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. ”

  “Ah. Extended vacation then. Must have really needed this one. Stressful job?”

  Tension snaked across her face. “I’m sort of taking a breather right now. I’m thinking of a career change. Maybe something a little less . . . stressful, as you put it. ”

  “Any ideas yet?”

  She smiled ruefully. “No. Not really. Maybe teaching. Something with kids. I’m kind of tired of adults. ”

  “Oh hell, and you think teaching’s less stressful? My mom and my sister-in-law used to teach. I never figured out how they survived that with their sanity intact. ”

  “Let me guess. You’re scared of children too?”

  He scowled. “Not scared. Cautious. Maybe a little apprehensive. Okay, terrified. I mean, they’re terrorists disguised as cute little people. ”

  She laughed that full throaty laugh that sent a shiver up his spine. Damn but
she was beautiful when she laughed. She lit up like a Christmas tree and her eyes sparkled. Too bad he wasn’t a humorous guy. He’d give anything to make her laugh again.

  “They aren’t that bad. They just need attention. And love. Just like everyone else. ”

  “Everyone else doesn’t puke on you. Or rub their snot on your shirt. ”

  She grinned. “That’s what antibacterial wipes are for. ”

  “Try full-body armor,” Garrett muttered.

  She rolled her eyes. “A big muscled out guy like you, terrified of women and children. What a wimp. ”

  “Hey. ” He pressed the cold bottle against the bare skin of her leg and she yelped as she slid away. “No need to get personal. ”

  She laughed again and God if he didn’t get all gooey inside. She was right. He was a first-class pansy. He scowled and gave thanks his brothers weren’t here to give him shit.

  “Better check the steaks. It’s a sin to burn good meat. ”

  He hoisted himself to his feet and made it a point to “accidentally” get her with the cold bottle again. She giggled and pushed herself up as well. She followed him toward the grill and sniffed appreciatively when he propped open the lid.

  “Smells great. ”

  “Yeah, just needs another minute or two. Want to grab plates and eat out here?”

  She glanced over to the small patio table with the umbrella that tilted precariously to one side. “Yeah, that sounds great. I’ll get the stuff and set the table. ”

  They ate in companionable silence as dusk settled over the water. The skies faded from the brilliant blue of earlier, and shades of pink and gold spread like gossamer wings over the horizon. There was something to be said for this whole R and R thing. Not that he’d ever admit it to his brothers. But damn if he wasn’t enjoying himself. And the company.

  When they pushed aside their plates, neither made a move to get up, and he was content to follow her lead. He settled back in his chair as the water turned dark with impending nightfall. The moon was barely visible as it crept over the horizon. It was nearly full and in two nights it would be, but it was still bright as it splashed across the surface of the ocean.

  “I’ve kept you far too long,” Sarah said, breaking the silence. There was a note of discomfort in her voice, not that she’d spent the time with him, but a hesitancy that signaled her regret for what she considered an inconvenience.

  “I had a good time. You’re great company. ”

  “So are you,” she said after a pause. “I had a good time too. ”

  The tone of her voice suggested that fact surprised her. And it probably did. Kind of tough to relax for a few hours when you’re looking over your shoulder at every turn.

  He rose and began collecting the plates, but she reached over and put her hand on his wrist. Cool soft fingers and yet they burned his skin like coals.

  “I’ll do it,” she said huskily. “You already did so much. ”

  “You sure you’re going to be okay?”

  She nodded and released his wrist. He wanted to take her hand back so she kept touching him. He liked her hands. Small and so dainty and feminine. She had slender fingers with tapered nails. And the pads of her fingertips were smooth and infinitely soft.

  “I’ll be fine, and again, thank you for doing so much to make me feel better. I really appreciate it. ”

  He wondered what she’d do if he told her he wanted to kiss her. Not that he would. Tell her, that is. If he was going to kiss her, he’d want her to have no warning. No time to think. But he didn’t want to scare the hell out of her either. So he stood there, watching her mouth and wondering what she’d taste like.

  “If you need anything, don’t hesitate, okay? I’m just down the beach. And I mean anything. If you get scared, I’ll come over. It’s not a problem. ”

  For a long moment she simply stared at him, her heart in her eyes. They gleamed shiny in the soft moonlight and her lips were drawn almost as if she were in pain.

  “I stopped believing they made men like you,” she said in a voice that made him ache. “Thank you for proving me wrong. ”

  He almost went back and kissed her anyway. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but he turned and walked down the beach to his cottage. He stopped midway to look back and she was still standing there, moon splashing silver on her skin.

  He lifted his hand in a wave and then traveled the rest of the way in the dark.

  When he entered his cottage, he groaned as he caught sight of the sat phone where he’d left it on the kitchen counter. Donovan was going to kill him. Better to get it over with sooner rather than later, and he was eager to hear what his brother had dug up on Sarah Daniels.

  He dialed the number and waited as it rang. A moment later, a decidedly feminine voice bled over the line.

  “Hello?”

  “Sophie? What the hell are you doing answering this line?” Garrett asked. “Everything okay there?”

  “Hi, Garrett. ”

 
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