Hidden away, p.15
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       Hidden Away, p.15

         Part #3 of KGI series by Maya Banks
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Page 15


  Her eyes became troubled and she edged backward, but for the first time, he forced the issue and kept a tight hold on her. He watched her closely for signs of true distress but what he saw was uncertainty. Not fear.

  “Listen to me, Sarah. I want you to stay here while I go check out things at your cottage. ”

  She shook her head but he put a finger to her lips to staunch the denial.

  “What I want you to do is to take a hot shower while I’m at your cottage. I’ll bring back your things. You’re freezing. ”

  She clutched at his hand, her cold fingers curling around his. “Garrett, you can’t! What if he’s still there?”

  “I hope to hell he is. ”

  He lifted her and set her over to the side and then he pulled the blanket up over her knees and tucked the ends around her neck.

  “Please be careful,” she begged.

  “I’ll have my gun. I tend to shoot first and ask questions later. While I’m gone I want you into a hot shower before you make yourself sick. ” He nudged her chin up with his fingers. “Okay?”

  She nodded and he got up. She had more color in her cheeks now, and she seemed more cognizant of her surroundings. She’d be fine while he checked things out. But he wasn’t taking any chances.

  “When you go into the bathroom, I want you to lock the door. Don’t come out until I get back and tell you it’s okay. ”

  She nodded again and he picked up his Glock as he headed toward the door. He turned as he stood in the open doorway and instilled enough force into his words that she’d pay heed. “Get on into the bathroom. Do it now. ”


  SARAH pushed her face under the spray of the shower. Instead of going for hot and steaming, she’d turned the cold on, determined to rid herself of the horrific fear that still crowded the edges of her mind. When she was no longer able to bear the icy water sluicing over her skin, she turned it to scalding hot.

  She stood there, thawing out as steam rose in the tiny bathroom. She closed her eyes and let the spray cascade over her icy-cold skin, warming the blood that slugged through her veins. Was she going crazy? Had tonight been one big hallucination?

  No, there had been someone in her kitchen. In her house. She hadn’t imagined it. She was too in tune with every sound her cottage made. She knew which boards creaked. Knew how the walls groaned when the wind blew too hard. The sounds she’d heard had been an intruder and she’d come awake instantly with the unshakable knowledge that she wasn’t alone.

  She stayed in the shower until she was completely waterlogged and sweat beaded her brow from the overwhelming heat. She was completely limber, and warmth had seeped deep to where the cold had captured her in its relentless grip.

  She reached up to turn off the water and stood sucking in deep breaths for several seconds before she shoved the curtain aside and stepped onto a ratty mat. She grabbed one of the towels neatly folded on the shelf over the toilet and wrapped it around her. She took another and wound it tightly around her hair before unwrapping herself again to finish drying.

  Remembering Garrett’s instructions, she closed the lid to the commode and sank down and clutched the towel tightly around her. What was Garrett doing?

  She couldn’t bear it if something happened to him. What if she’d sent him into a trap? What if whoever had been in her cottage was still there, waiting for her to return? If Garrett surprised him, Garrett could be hurt or killed. And she was stuck here. Alone.

  She never should have let Garrett leave. They could have waited until morning when it was light and the storm had passed. Then she could go collect her things and get the hell out.

  The time went by agonizingly slow. Unable to bear sitting, she stood and paced the impossibly small area. Two steps to the door. Two steps back to the toilet. Where was he?

  She yanked the towel from her hair and ran her fingers through the damp strands, arranging it around her face. She still looked like a drowned, scared rat, but some of the wildness from her eyes had receded. Her pupils were normal size and color suffused her cheeks, probably thanks to the enormous heat from the shower.

  How long had it been? It seemed like an hour but maybe it had only been a few minutes. Still, she stayed where she’d been told and kept the door locked. As much as not knowing frightened her, the idea of being vulnerable made her more so.

  Her hair was nearly dry before she heard the footsteps down the hall. She held her breath and went completely still, her ears straining.

  “Sarah, it’s me, Garrett. I’m back. You can open the door. ”

  She deflated like a pricked balloon. For a moment she simply sat there, her relief so staggering she couldn’t summon the energy to get up. Finally she stumbled to her feet and took the two steps to fumble with the lock on the bathroom door.

  It swung open and Garrett stood there holding Patches. The cat was clearly not happy and was wet from the tip of her tail to her bedraggled ears. Garrett didn’t look much better.

  She whirled around and grabbed one of the dry towels and then took the cat from Garrett and held her close to her chest. Garrett extended his other hand, which held her bag. “I packed your clothes. Get dressed and come into the kitchen. After I change, I’ll get us something to eat and drink. ”

  He dropped the bag at her feet and it was then she remembered she was only wearing a towel. And a very wet cat.

  “Want me to take Patches so you can dress?”

  Wordlessly, she thrust the cat back at him, towel and all and held both arms over her chest so the other towel didn’t slip. He backed out without a word and pulled the door shut behind him.

  She hurriedly dressed, not paying attention to whether anything matched. She was anxious to hear what Garrett had found at her cottage. He hadn’t seemed too ruffled so maybe her visitor was long gone.

  She shoved everything back into her bag and hung the towels on the rack to dry. Not bothering with any of the toiletries Garrett had brought, she hurried out of the bathroom and back toward the living room.

  Patches sat on the couch grooming herself, and Garrett was clanking around in the kitchen. She went in his direction, pausing in the doorway as she watched him pour two glasses of tea. “What did you find?”

  He turned, tea in hand and extended it to her. She took the cold glass and cupped it between her hands as she sipped at the sweet brew.

  “Nothing,” he answered.

  “Nothing? He was gone? I guess that’s good. I worried about you going over there and surprising him,” she babbled.

  Garrett eyed her, a gleam of sympathy in his eyes. She didn’t like that look. It was a precursor to something she didn’t want to hear.

  She set her tea down on the counter and squared her shoulders. “What?”

  Garrett grimaced and put a hand on her shoulder to guide her back into the living room. “Honey, I didn’t find any sign of an intruder. ”

  She whirled around in agitation. “What are you saying? Do you think I imagined it? You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

  He frowned. “Sit down and calm down. ”

  Blinking at the force of his command, she unconsciously obeyed, sinking onto the couch beside Patches.

  “I don’t think you’re crazy, okay? All I’m saying is that I couldn’t find any sign that someone was in your cottage. But it’s raining like a son of a bitch outside. Evidence could have washed away. I couldn’t see very well, but I didn’t find any sign that anyone had been inside your cottage. I’ll be able to take a better look tomorrow. All I can tell you is that if there was someone there, he’s gone now. ”

  Another crack of lightning flashed through the living room and the floor vibrated under Sarah’s feet.

  “I didn’t imagine it. I couldn’t have. Could I?” Her voice cracked and the last word came out in a high, hysterical note.

  Garrett sighed. He nudged her chin and stared into her eyes, the deep blue of his burning her with their intensi
ty. “Listen to me, Sarah. I didn’t say I didn’t believe you. I’m telling you what I found. Or didn’t find. ”

  “I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. God, I came over here like a lunatic. Woke you up. Made you go out in the rain to find some nonexistent intruder. ” She stood, knocking Garrett’s hand from her face. “I should go. Really. I’ve put you through too much trouble. ”

  She started to shove by him, but he caught her arm, his fingers curling gently into her flesh. He pulled her to him until she was shockingly close to his mouth.

  “You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to stay here with me. ”

  She started to open her mouth, but to her shock, Garrett sealed his lips over hers.

  It was electric, a jolt to her system that fried her entire nerve system. He curved his hand around her nape and dug his fingers into her hair as he held her in place. His mouth moved sensuously over hers, gentle, but so demanding that her knees shook under the power of his touch.

  Never had she been kissed like this. It wasn’t a touching of lips or a casual gesture of affection. It was carnal. Heated and possessive. He was placing a silent claim and it should have terrified her. She should be screaming the roof down but instead she stared dumbly at him as he drew away, his eyes gleaming in the soft light.

  “You’ll stay,” he said, his tone brooking no argument.

  And she found herself nodding.

  “Good. Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll go put some clean sheets on the bed for you. ”

  She caught his arm, still so rattled she could barely process what she wanted to say. “No. I’ll sleep here on the couch. ”

  He shook his head. “You can have the bed. ”

  “Garrett, no. Okay? I’m fine. I swear it. There is no way you can fit onto this couch and you damn sure aren’t sleeping on the floor. I can take the sofa. ”

  He gave her an impatient look and then sighed. “Tell you what. We’ll share the bed. ”

  She found herself shaking her head before he could even get the words out. Panic raced up her spine. Chill bumps rose and fanned out, prickling over her skin like tiny razors.

  He touched the side of her face. “Listen to me, Sarah. I’m not going to hurt you. Okay? The bed is plenty big. We can put pillows between us. I’ll stay on my side and you stay on yours. I don’t want you in this front room alone, so we either both sleep in the bed, or if you insist on taking the couch, I’ll have to camp out on the floor next to you. ”

  She was being stupid. She knew it but couldn’t fight the overwhelming fear that gripped her. It was irrational. It was blind. But when was fear ever sensible? She wanted to trust this man. That didn’t make any sense either, but there it was. The problem was, it wasn’t a matter of her deciding she trusted him or wanted to trust him and she could go on like a normal human being.

  Her head didn’t care what her heart said. Her head was telling her to stop being a twit and to wise up.

  Garrett stared at her a long moment and then reached behind his back and pulled out the gun. He gripped the barrel and extended the stock toward her.

  She stared at the gun and then raised her gaze to his, her brow furrowed with confusion.

  “You can sleep with this under your pillow. That way you’ll be safe from me. I won’t move the entire night. Not only am I used to sleeping in one position, but I damn sure don’t want to risk scaring you and getting my balls blown off. ”

  She tried to smile but could only think how pitiful her life had gotten. The only way she could allow a man to sleep in the same bed with her was if he offered her a gun for self-protection?

  She closed her eyes. Jesus. It made her angry. So damn angry.

  Finally she shook her head.

  Garrett’s gaze softened as he tucked the gun back into his waistband. “I swear to you that you have nothing to fear from me, Sarah. ”

  She nodded her acceptance of his vow and lowered herself back onto the couch. Patches quit grooming herself and came over to rub against Sarah’s hand. She petted the cat, allowing the simple gesture to calm her fried nerves. And she tried not to think about the fact that she’d be sleeping mere inches away from Garrett.


  PALE shades of dawn painted the room in gradually lightening shadows. Garrett lay on his side, his head propped in his hand as he stared over the barrier of pillows to where Sarah slept. She hadn’t moved the entire night. He knew because he’d slept lightly and he woke up regularly to check on her.

  She was huddled on her side facing him, and she’d inched as far to the edge of the bed as she could without falling off. Patches lay against her chest, curled into a ball of fur. At the moment, the cat was awake and batting lazily at the strands of Sarah’s hair that fell over her shoulder.

  Though Sarah was asleep, there was no peace to her expression. Her brow was wrinkled and her lips drawn into a tight line as if her jaw was clenched tight. Dark smudges lay underneath her eyes as though she hadn’t rested in many nights. She probably hadn’t. He was glad that she’d slept soundly here. Maybe she felt safe with him. Or as safe as she could feel with a strange man.

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