Home > Hidden Away (KGI #3)(9)

Hidden Away (KGI #3)(9)
Author: Maya Banks

After three weeks on the island, she settled into a routine, but she didn’t dare let her guard down. Mistakes could get her killed. Only a fool became complacent. But she did allow herself a few simple pleasures. Such as coffee at the shop in town and occasional trips to the market to see what struck her fancy.

She barely remembered the walk to the coffee shop, so deep was her concentration on her circumstances. She stayed on the narrow beach path rather than take the winding, pothole-riddled main road that that ended just a few hundred yards beyond her cottage. When she reached the crumbling stone steps that led up to the ramshackle hut, she paused to look around. Satisfied that nothing seemed amiss, she hurried up the path to the rear entrance of the shop.

Once inside, the aroma of coffee surrounded her and filled her nostrils. She breathed in and then took a seat in the far corner, where her back was to the wall. Marie, the regular waitress with a soft French accent brought her a cup of the local brew, offered a smile and then faded away as quickly as she’d come.

Sarah liked that. Loved that everyone didn’t want to be her friend, find out her life’s story or pry into her circumstances. She opened her laptop after savoring the first sips of her coffee, then carefully pulled out the folded-up instructions.

She glanced up to make sure no one was nearby and then quickly went through the series of steps to access the secure server. She held her breath waiting for the page to load and then she saw that she had not one but several messages. Nearly a dozen. All from Marcus. Most saying the same thing with little variation.

Damn it, Sarah, where are you?

Sarah, contact me immediately. I’ll come for you.

I’m worried. You shouldn’t have gone off on your own. Tell me where you are.

And then the last.

Sarah, I’m sorry you had to see that. I didn’t want you anywhere near. It had to be done. I don’t regret it. I don’t want you to be afraid of me. Never of me. People will be looking for you. Because of me. I need you to tell me where you are so I can make arrangements.

With shaking fingers she typed a response to the last email.

I’m okay. I’m safe. It’s better if you don’t know where I am. I don’t want to be used against you. I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid for you. You’re the only one who’s ever stood up for me. It’s time I stood up for myself. I promise to contact you if I need you. Let me know when things are safe for you.

Then she hurriedly shut the laptop. She closed her eyes against the ache in her throat. There was so many “if only”s. They ran through her mind like an out-of-control merry-go-round. But it was time to put the “if only”s behind her. Move forward. New life. New resolve.

A sound jerked her from sleep. Sarah came fully awake, sitting up in bed, hands shaking and nausea welling in her stomach. For a moment she was paralyzed with fear, and then she realized the room was steeped in darkness. Her gaze swung frantically to the lamp she always left on. She rolled, reaching for it and nearly knocking it off the nightstand in her haste to turn it back on. She twisted the knob but nothing happened. Had the bulb burned out? It had to have gone off after she’d fallen asleep. Her shoulder brushed against the book she’d been reading, and she shoved it under her pillow.

She listened, straining for the sound. Had she imagined it?

She swung her legs over the side of the bed, her bare feet hitting the old wooden floor. It creaked in protest when she rose and she reached down for the only means of self-defense she had—an old pipe she’d found lying outside the cottage.

Her fingers curled around it and she pulled it up to her chest as she peered through her open doorway into the hall. Her vision blurred and her head swam before she realized she was holding her breath. She let it out slow but it stuttered across her lips and she clamped then shut so she didn’t make any sound.

She crept down the hall, so terrified and yet determined not to be a powerless victim again. If only she could have that moment back. She’d replayed it so many times in her mind. She could have fought harder. She could have defended herself better. But no matter how many times she went back, the result was always the same. She’d failed.

She wouldn’t fail again.

With renewed determination and courage, she gripped the pipe and increased her pace down the hall. At the end, she hesitated, surveying the small living room. The night-light plugged into the wall cast a glow over the area, and nothing looked out of place.

A faint rustle from the kitchen sent her pulse soaring. She leaned against the wall and pondered her options. She could run out the front door, but to where? The beach? She was a mile from town and at least two hundred yards from the closest cottage, which was currently vacant.

Still, outside was away from whatever was in her kitchen, and avoidance was always preferable to confrontation.

She swallowed, closed her eyes and then reopened them, her sights on the front door. There were two dead bolts, a chain and the regular lock to contend with. She’d need to be fast because as soon as she started fumbling with the door, the intruder would be alerted.

Before she could overthink it, she lunged for the front door, her fingers reaching for the first dead bolt. She had it undone, when she heard a very distinct meow.

She froze. A cat?

She whirled around to see a scruffy calico cat standing in the doorway to the kitchen. The cat looked at her, then meowed again and proceeded to pad across the floor to rub against Sarah’s leg.

Her relief was so staggering that she sagged to the floor still clutching the pipe. She leaned her head forward onto her knees, eyes closed and laughed. She laughed until tears ran down her cheeks and then she gave up and sobbed.

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