Home > Hidden Away (KGI #3)(10)

Hidden Away (KGI #3)(10)
Author: Maya Banks

Warm fur rubbed against her arm and the low rumble of a purr reached her ears. She raised her head to see the cat up on its hind legs, paws on her thigh as she rubbed her head against Sarah’s skin.

“You scared me to death,” Sarah said hoarsely. “How did you get in here?”

The cat meowed and dipped her head, obviously wanting Sarah to pet her. Sarah laid the pipe on the floor and reached to scratch the cat’s ears. The cat responded with an even louder purr and a ripply sound of pleasure. She began kneading Sarah’s arm and Sarah gently removed the claws from her skin.

Pitifully grateful for the affection of the cat, she gathered the animal closer, putting her against her chest. The cat nudged at Sarah’s chin and repeatedly bumped her head over Sarah’s jaw.

“Are you hungry? Is that what you were doing in the kitchen?”

Had she been so lost in her thoughts when she’d returned from town that she hadn’t seen the cat come in? Or had she left the door ajar earlier? The thought worried her. She was going to have to be more careful. She couldn’t afford any lapse in attention.

The cat responded with more purring and Sarah smiled as she wiped the tears from her cheek. Gathering the cat under one arm, she got to her feet and walked into the kitchen. She flipped on the light and grimaced. The cat had knocked a glass off the counter and it lay in pieces on the floor, the edges gleaming in the light.

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.


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.

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