Hidden Away (KGI #3)(8) read online by Maya Banks
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Hidden Away (KGI #3)(8)
Author: Maya Banks

Sarah sighed and put the cat up on the counter so she wouldn’t cut her paws. “You were a very naughty cat,” she chided. “Stay there while I clean the mess up and I’ll find you something to eat.”

The cat settled on its haunches and began licking her paw and wiping it over her jowls. Sarah collected the dustpan and the broom from the pantry and cleaned up the shards. Afterward she perused the contents of the small refrigerator and decided that leftover chicken breast was the most suitable meal until she could buy dry food from the market.

The cat tried to stick her nose in the chicken multiple times as Sarah sliced it into bite-sized pieces. She pushed at the cat’s head to ward it off but it only purred and rubbed against her palm. With a laugh, Sarah piled the chicken onto a saucer and set it in front of the cat.

She leaned tiredly against the counter, watching as the poor animal devoured the meal like it was her last. Unable to resist, she slid her hand over the cat’s fur, petting as the cat continued to scarf down the bites.

Every once in a while the cat would pick her head up and give Sarah sweet eyes and Sarah smiled. “You don’t look or act like you have a home, sweetie. Do you want to stay with me?” In truth, the idea of having a pet here appealed. It made the cottage less intimidating and the idea that she wasn’t alone—even with just a cat for company—was a huge relief.

After the last bite was demolished, the cat licked the saucer and then looked up at Sarah and meowed. Sarah scooped her off the counter and headed for the bedroom. Tomorrow, in addition to food, she’d need litter and a pan. For tonight, she’d just have to hope the cat could hold it until morning, because she was closing her bedroom door and locking it.

Even though her fears had been unfounded, she was still jittery from the scare, and she wanted to feel as safe as possible. She dropped the cat onto the bed and then crawled on the mattress to get under the covers.

To her surprise, the cat padded up to her head, pawed at the covers until Sarah pulled them back and then snuggled down just under the sheet at Sarah’s side. Sarah lay there, the cat vibrating against her side and smiled. It was a nice feeling. Very nice. She and the cat would get along just fine. Sarah would fill a need for the cat by offering food and shelter and the cat would provide some much-needed sanity for Sarah.

CHAPTER 4

GARRETT lugged his two bags through the door of the cottage and grimly surveyed the surroundings. When he’d imagined a beachfront house with great views and just steps from the water, he’d envisioned something a little more modern. Flat-screen TV, front porch with a hammock, fully stocked kitchen and maybe a hot tub that overlooked the beach.

What he’d got was a ramshackle cottage that looked like it didn’t survive the last hurricane season, with a dilapidated front porch and sagging steps. The inside smelled like his grandmother’s house. Musty and old. The furniture was threadbare and at least thirty years old. The kitchen had been designed in the sixties and had appliances to match. Worse, there wasn’t a TV at all, and his hopes for a hot tub went down the toilet.

With a shrug, he dropped his bags and began opening windows to air the rooms out. He’d certainly had worse accommodations during his years in the Marines.

He peeked out his bedroom window down the beach to where Sarah’s cottage stood in the distance. It wasn’t optimal. He’d prefer closer proximity to the woman he was supposed to shadow, but the houses were sparse along this stretch of the shore.

The first order of business was a trip into town for food. He planned to take the path down the beach that went directly in front of her house. He didn’t want to be too obvious right off the bat and force a meeting, but if she happened to be out and around when he passed, it was as good an opportunity as any to meet his new neighbor.

As he went back out the front door and stood on the tilted porch to look out over the ocean, he realized this wasn’t going to be as bad as he imagined. As much as he protested the need for any recovery time, a few weeks on a beach to exercise, eat good food and not trip over all the people who currently inhabited his house sounded pretty damn good. If it put him back to one hundred percent so he could go back to work, he’d take the downtime.

He felt a little ridiculous in beach khaki shorts, muscle shirt and flip-flops, but with the hint of scruff on his jaw and the fact he hadn’t cut his hair on his usual schedule, he passed for a man only concerned with kicking back and relaxing.

The sun beat down on him and warmed his shoulders as he set off down the worn path toward Sarah’s cottage. He flexed his arm and was happy to note that his shoulder was limber and not stiff despite the long time he’d spent traveling and cooped up in a way-too-small seat. Puddle jumpers weren’t built for men his size, and they were damn claustrophobic to boot.

Sand got between his toes and between the bottoms of his feet and the flip-flops. Worthless shoes. He stopped periodically to shake the sand from them and then continued on down the beach.

He was careful not to show any undue curiosity as he neared Sarah’s cottage, though he memorized every detail of the place from his periphery. Like his accommodations, it had seen its better days, although hers had underwent fresh paint recently. Still, it would take nothing to get inside. A good kick to the door—or hell, even the walls—and it would probably knock right down.

He continued past, wondering if she was unconcerned as she appeared. Simply using a fake name to rent a beach house didn’t guarantee anonymity. Her trail was sloppy all the way from Boston. She’d done a better job of covering her tracks once she reached Miami, but it still wasn’t clean. Resnick had been able to find her. Garrett supposed he couldn’t fault her, though. It wasn’t like people got lessons in school on how to be a fugitive. Not that she was classified as a fugitive, but she may as well be. There were certainly enough people interested in her whereabouts.

The closer he got to town, the higher the dunes on his left stacked up. There were a few shoddily fashioned walkways up over the dune to turnouts on the road. Public access to the beach, but he hadn’t come across a single beachgoer on his walk into town.

The sand ran smack into a rock outcropping, and cut into the stones were steps leading up to a coffee shack. He climbed but circled around the front to cross the cobblestone street to where the market was located. Outside the front were stands of fresh fruits and vegetables. He bypassed those for now and went inside to find the essentials. Red meat.

He soon learned that to the locals, “meat” meant fish or other seafood. He grumbled through the selection of ground meat and winced at only finding two steaks. He bought up all the pork chops and put a healthy dent in the chicken br**sts. He wasn’t a fish person. Oh, he’d put a hook in one, but eating them didn’t appeal. Not enough substance.

Which reminded him, he really needed to check out the local bait shop, pick up a surf casting rod so he could spend some time fishing. It would give him a good excuse to be on the beach, where he could watch Sarah’s cottage and get an idea of her routine.

At least the locals appreciated beer. There was a ton of variety, and well, when it came to beer, he wasn’t picky. He picked up several six-packs, tossed them in the cart and headed down the aisles to see what else he needed to feed himself for the next while.

Eggs, stuff for his protein shakes. Then he frowned. What were the odds of his cottage having a blender? He was lucky to have a few pots and pans to cook in. Cheese, bread, mayo, mustard and ketchup. Definitely ketchup. What meal was complete without it?

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