Home > Hidden Away (KGI #3)(8)

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

She’d use the money to protect him, just as he’d protected her.

Demons past and present haunted her dreams until she was exhausted and worn thin. On the eighth day of her self-imposed solitude, she’d risen at dawn and watched the first fingers of the sun spread over the deep blue water. Watched as the waves gently foamed onto the sand, reaching and then retreating.

Drawn to the peace it seemingly offered, she’d walked barefoot onto the sand and stood at the water’s edge, face turned up into the sun. Here, her past didn’t matter. It was a chance to be reborn. She just had to take it. She had to believe in it.

Though the sun warmed her skin, she was still cold on the inside. She was in survival mode. Everything was locked down. She didn’t feel. She couldn’t feel.

Gradually she ventured out to buy groceries, figuring she’d gain more suspicion by never leaving her cottage than if she mingled with the locals. The island was a fascinating mix of cultures, and people from all over the globe seemed to have traveled to this place for a new beginning.

Tourists hadn’t yet found the island. It was inhabited largely by year-rounders, corporate people who’d left the rat race, artists seeking inspiration and loners like herself who sought refuge in a sparsely populated island where everyone pretty much kept to themselves.

Today she left her cottage wearing a tank top and casual trousers. Flip-flops and slides were the shoes of choice and she’d purchased a few pair days earlier in her attempt to blend in with the local scenery. Her destination was the coffee shop perched haphazardly on a beach overlook a mile from the cottage. It was a popular haunt. The coffee was good and they served a variety of sandwiches and croissants. It also had free Wi-Fi.

She tucked her laptop into her bag and then felt inside the pocket of her pants for the paper with the instructions on how to check the email account she communicated with Marcus from. Even though it had been her and Marcus’s primary method of communication for a few years now, she hadn’t yet committed the intricate steps to memory. Marcus had despaired of her, exasperated by the fact she made lists and notes for everything. He preached to her about paper trails, but she’d never considered his grumblings. Never considered that she’d be in a position to actually worry about such a thing.

She’d made a mistake already. She’d used her real name. Her passport. Like an idiot. She’d left Boston in such a rush that she hadn’t really thought about the potential pitfalls of the very thing Marcus feared. A paper trail. Even her destination hadn’t been planned. At the ticket counter in the airport, she’d plunked down her credit card and asked for the first available flight out of Boston. It just happened to be going to Miami. On the plane, she’d sat by an elderly couple whose final destination was Isle de Bijoux. It sounded perfect. By the time she landed in Miami, she’d had time to actually think about what she was doing, so from there, she chartered a private Cessna to the island, used a fake name and paid via wire transfer from the account Marcus has set up for her. The pilot probably thought she was a drug dealer, but he hadn’t turned down the money she offered.

Then she’d booked another commercial flight to Los Angeles, though if anyone really looked hard, they’d know she never got on that flight. And it wasn’t as if she’d made it difficult for anyone to track her to Miami. Still, she felt some sense of satisfaction that with as little experience as she had with subterfuge, she’d managed to get to the island and not stick out like a sore thumb. But the stress of not knowing if she was being hunted—by the authorities or Stanley Cross—had worn away at her already frayed mental state.

So one of the first things she’d done was to weigh her options and plan an escape route. It amused her that she was acting like a character in some ridiculous spy movie. She’d flown here, and flying back out in a hurry simply wasn’t an option. If she ever had to bolt, her best avenue of escape would be by sea.

Instead of looking up the two larger charter services, she’d instead opted for a small, hole-in-the wall, one-boat operation that looked as though it was usually passed over for the two other services. She gave the owner a ridiculous story about how she was an author doing research and writing a crime novel and that she wanted to arrange for him to be on call to pick her up on the western tip of the island and take her to the neighboring island.

To his further amusement, she made him do a test run. He probably couldn’t care less about why she was acting so ridiculous as long as she paid him, and she made sure it was worth his while, but she remained in character, even bringing a notebook where she pretended to take copious notes while they rode the two hours to the next island.

To her delight, there were a few charter services to choose from there, but she nearly did a victory dance when she found out that one of them made routine flights to Mexico to deliver goods to a retail store. After again spinning a yarn about researching a thriller, she convinced the pilot to allow her to hitch a ride when she got ready. She didn’t bother to tell him that she preferred never to be ready, but at least she had a viable and somewhat secure escape route from her island should the need arise.

All the way back to the island aboard the small boat, she’d patted herself on the back and asserted that while she was a decided amateur at matters of deception, she wasn’t a complete idiot. Then she’d spent an afternoon in the coffee shop researching her options in Mexico.

She’d come a long way from the spineless coward she’d been after Allen Cross raped her. So she’d changed one hiding place for another, but she was far more in control of her destiny here than she’d been in Boston. And she wasn’t about to let go of the reins again.

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