Hidden away, p.16
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       Hidden Away, p.16
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         Part #3 of KGI series by Maya Banks
Page 16

 

  He reached over and touched her cheekbone with one finger and then softly traced a line downward to her jaw and then to her lips. Lips he’d tasted the night before. She uttered a breathy sigh and her features relaxed, the tension easing from her face.

  He was a dumbass to get all mushy about a woman who obviously had a great deal of baggage. There were so many reasons why he needed to treat this just like any other job. He had to be the world’s biggest pussy for being so soft-hearted when it came to her. It was, unfortunately an affliction he seemed to have around women. Rachel. Then Sophie. And now Sarah. He hadn’t even liked Sophie in the beginning, but that hadn’t stopped him from taking a bullet for her. And now he’d do damn near anything for his two sisters-in-law.

  The difference here was that he hadn’t ever wanted to kiss his sisters-in-law. Oh he was hugely protective of them. No doubt there. But with Sarah, it was different. And he didn’t like it. Not even a little bit. But neither could he help the reaction to her.

  It was as if he went on auto pilot around her. No matter what he thought, it all went out the window the moment he looked into her eyes.

  “This bullshit has to stop,” he muttered. He was fast losing objectivity and worse, he was forgetting the task at hand. All he was supposed to do was keep her safe and wait for Lattimer to make his move.

  The sun hadn’t yet to creep over the horizon. Sarah would likely sleep awhile. It would give him a chance to go back over to her cottage and check things out. The copious downpour from the night before made it difficult to find outside evidence, but he was going to give the cottage a thorough checking-over now that it was getting light.

  SARAH opened her eyes as soon as she heard the front door close. She scrambled out of bed and peeked out the window to see Garrett jog down the beach toward her cottage. She would have to move fast if she was going to get out before he came back.

  She might very well be going crazy. Maybe there hadn’t been anyone in her cottage, but she wasn’t about to stick around on the off chance she was losing her marbles. She had an escape plan—a darn good one for as little resources as she had. And it was time to ask Marcus for help, as much as the thought scared her.

  She went to her bag and hauled out a change of clothing but dug deeper until her fingers glanced over the bulge in the inside pocket. She pulled out the pay-as-you-go cell phone she’d only used once so far and punched in the number she’d committed to memory.

  “Allo?”

  “Frederick, it’s Sarah. It’s time. ”

  “D’accord. ”

  She ignored the sound of amusement in his voice and hung up. Her heart beat so fast and hard that she couldn’t squeeze in a breath. She closed her eyes to shake the light-headedness, and when she reopened them, the room spun at a dizzying speed.

  “Get it together,” she bit out.

  Her gaze snagged on the note that Garrett had left her. She paused and then went back to the bed where Patches lay purring. She picked up the piece of paper and scanned the uneven scrawl.

  Be back soon. Don’t worry.

  She blew out a long breath. There was a part of her that hated leaving. Maybe the entire night had been her imagination, but it had shaken her confidence enough that she knew she couldn’t stay here. She was terrified to go back to her cottage, and she couldn’t stay with Garrett forever. She didn’t even know how long he was here for.

  And if she hadn’t imagined her intruder, she’d only bring trouble, and with him recovering from a bullet wound, trouble was the last thing Garrett needed.

  She picked up the pen on the nightstand and turned the paper over. She sighed. How to tell him everything she wanted to? That the days spent here on the island with him had saved her life. Well, if she survived her current problems, he’d saved it. Okay, she was being way too melodramatic. A simple thanks would have to suffice. She scribbled a quick note and laid it back on the bed next to the cat. She rubbed Patches on the head and whispered good-bye before hurrying out the front door.

  Once on the beach, she turned in the opposite direction of town. The path narrowed to nothing and the sand gave way to a rocky coastline the farther west she went. There were no houses on the westernmost point of the island. The beach was rugged and gave no opportunity for lounging.

  By the time she reached the rendezvous point, she was winded and stood holding her side as she sucked in breaths. She scanned the water, looking for a boat, but all she saw were the waves crashing against the rock outcroppings.

  Then a distant sound, like the wine of an engine, drifted to her on the breeze. It grew louder and louder until she saw what looked like an inflatable boat with an engine ’round the bend and zip between two outcroppings. It sped toward the beach and the pilot cut the engine just as the nose slid onto the sand.

  She hurried forward, clutching her bag and the carryall with her laptop in it.

  Frederick waved to her and smiled. The man thought she was an idiot—but an idiot who paid well nonetheless.

  He held out his hand to help her into the boat. She climbed over, making sure she didn’t drop her bags, and the pilot gestured for her to take a seat in the middle.

  He backed away from the beach and executed a sharp turn just as a wave rolled in. He gunned it over the swell and sped away.

  Sarah huddled in her seat, holding on to her bags as the craft bounced and swayed over the water. She looked back as the island got smaller and smaller in the distance. Her throat knotted and she rubbed to assuage the ache. It was silly to have regret over what she’d left behind. There was nothing. She had no ties to the island. She’d only been there a short time. But still, she couldn’t shake the sense of sadness over leaving Garrett—a man who had helped her when he didn’t have to. A man who seemed to understand the demons she fought.

  GARRETT left the constable’s office in town and started to jog down the road back to his cottage. After closely scrutinizing the area around Sarah’s cottage, he’d discovered a few footprints that hadn’t been washed out by the rain. He also found a window with muddy fingerprints.

  He hadn’t spent a lot of time the night before because it was as dark as sin and he’d been anxious to get back to Sarah, but there had been someone at her cottage and whoever it was hadn’t been the least bit careful. Which to him meant it was likely someone local looking to score a little cash or whatever he could come across. But on the other hand, it could be someone else completely. Garrett couldn’t afford to assume anything.

  Sarah would just stay with him from now on. It’d make Garrett’s job a hell of a lot easier. Not to mention a good deal more pleasurable.

  Several minutes later, he jogged up to his porch and opened the door. It was quiet inside, which meant Sarah probably hadn’t rolled out of bed yet. It was still early and she needed her sleep. Still, he found himself quietly approaching the bedroom. He just wanted to check in on her. That was all. It wasn’t like he wanted to watch her sleep. Never mind the fact he’d spent a good portion of the early predawn hours doing just that.

  When he pushed open the cracked door, he frowned when he saw the bed empty save for the cat, who was still curled into a ball next to the pillows. He pushed in farther. “Sarah?”

  Lying on the bed was the note he’d left her, only it was folded out so that what he’d written was on the outside. He picked it up and saw that on the inside she’d written him a note.

  Thank you for everything, Garrett. I have to go. Please take care of Patches for me.

  His gaze flew to the spot on the floor where her bag had lain. Only now it was empty.

  “Son of a bitch!”

  He tossed the note aside and took off at a dead run. He checked the other rooms in the house just in case she hadn’t left yet, but came up empty. He hit the porch and leaped off the steps, his gaze scanning the beach. She hadn’t come into town on the main road. He would have seen her. And there were no footprints leading down the beach path.

&
nbsp; But to the west . . .

  Small imprints in the still damp sand led away from the cottage toward the more remote edge of the island.

  “Son of a bitch, son of a bitch,” he cursed over and over as he took off.

  Where the hell was she going? And how the hell could he protect her when she wasn’t where he could see her at all times? Damn it. He’d only just convinced her to stay in his cottage, a point he planned to press. He was going to make damn sure she stayed under his watchful eye. Yeah, that had worked just great. He’d fucked up and left her alone, thinking she wouldn’t—couldn’t—run in the short time he’d left her.

  He’d learned the hard way with Sophie that it never paid to underestimate a woman and fuck it all, he’d done exactly that with Sarah. Again. Christ but he was the world’s biggest idiot. Here he was, Mr. Bad-Ass Special Ops dude and he couldn’t keep track of one defenseless female. When would he learn that women never stayed where you put them?

  He followed the erratic footprints, losing them once or twice when the path became rockier. Several times he had to backtrack, and he overshot the last time. It wasn’t until he climbed down to the beach over the outcroppings that he saw where her footprints picked back up. Only this time they didn’t parallel the shore. They led directly into the surf, disappearing as the water rolled onto the beach.

  He stood staring left and right but they ended here at the water’s edge. Holy fuck. Someone had picked her up in a boat. It was the only explanation unless she’d lost her ever-loving mind and walked into the water.

  She may be a lot of things, but no fucking way had she committed suicide.

  He glanced around again, but there was nothing to be seen. No houses. No people. She’d picked the most remote spot possible to make her escape and that hadn’t been dumb luck. She’d planned her escape route, and the time in which she’d pulled it off wasn’t left to panic and last minute. She’d planned for this eventuality.

  Yeah, he’d totally underestimated her and that pissed him off more than her flight. He felt like a first-class fool, and he hated feeling like a dumbass.

  Christ, he’d been handed this cake job, and he couldn’t even manage to keep a defenseless, scared-out-of-her-mind woman in his sights. Yeah, nice. This was why he’d gone into the military. None of the missions he’d ever gone on had involved chasing a damn woman all over the world.

  He turned and stalked back down the path he’d come. She couldn’t have gotten far, and hell, what was out there anyway? The only thing that made sense was that she’d hopped to the next island. If he had any hope of catching her, he had to get there quick.

  When he reached his cottage, he threw his crap into his bag and started to walk out. A plaintive meow halted him in his tracks.

  Goddamn cat.

  He stared at it for a long time and then shook his head. He reached down, picked up the limp ball of fur and stuffed her into his bag. She yowled once but he zipped it up, leaving a small opening for her to breathe and set off for town.

  By the time he reached the row of shops, Patches was making her displeasure widely known. Garrett glanced at the bookstore. Weren’t little old ladies who ran bookstores supposed to love cats?

  He entered, throwing the door open so hard that the bell gave a disgruntled clank instead of the light tinkle. The shop owner gave him a wary glance from behind the register as he approached.

  He plopped the bag onto the counter and the woman took a step back, looking at the bag like she expected the antichrist to pop out.

  “I have a cat,” Garrett began. “Well, it belonged to Sarah. She was in here a day or so ago?”

  The woman nodded but she still looked at Garrett like he was an axe murderer.

  “Sarah had to leave unexpectedly and, well, so do I. I was hoping you could take the cat?”

  He smiled, hoping to soften her obvious wariness but it felt more like a grimace. He couldn’t believe he was standing here with a goddamn cat. He should have just left her at the cottage. Cats could fend for themselves, right? While he was standing here fucking around with the animal, Sarah was getting farther away.

  He unzipped the pack and put a hand down to make sure Patches didn’t bolt at the first sign of freedom. But the cat just licked him and began purring loud enough for the store owner to hear.

  The woman peered over the edge of the bag and her eyes lit up. “Oh, she’s adorable!”

  “So you’ll take her?” Garrett asked hopefully.

  The woman looked startled and very much like she would refuse.

  “I’d hate for her to starve. She’s a sweet cat. Probably a good mouser. ”

  He hated the cajoling, whiny way his words came out. If his brothers could see him now, he’d never hear the end of their torment.

  The woman looked at the cat and then back up at Garrett. She set her lips together as her eyes narrowed and then finally she said, “Okay, I’ll take her. It’s obvious she isn’t going to do okay in your bag. ”

  Garrett didn’t even flinch over the disapproval in her voice. He’d saved the animal from starvation, hadn’t he? He peeled Patches from the bag and unhooked her claws from his shirt then thrust her toward the woman.

 
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