Read Hide From Evil Online

Authors: Jami Alden

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Romance, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Adult

Hide From Evil (7 page)

BOOK: Hide From Evil
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Sean blew out a breath. “I’m sorry too.” His apology surprised her. “I’m a little oversensitive about some stuff.”


He picked up the chair and carried it to the far side of the great room, placing it in front of a massive picture window that offered a breathtaking view of the Cascade Mountains erupting up to the sky. He reached out for the footstool. “And I’m sorry about the windows in the car,” he said as he placed it on the floor. “Ever since I got out of prison, I can’t stand being in a totally enclosed place.”

“Claustrophobia?” Krista’s stomach rolled with guilt. This scar, too, was partly her fault. All the more reason she needed to make everything right.

He shook his head, the lines of his shoulders and back tense as he stared out the window. “It’s not a small-space thing. It’s a no-way-out thing. Like this room is huge, but if the door closes and I don’t get a window open quick, it’s, like—bam—full-on panic attack. The therapist calls it cleithrophobia.”

“That sounds like a fear of something else,” Krista snorted before she could stop herself. She bit her lip, as shame washed through her.

Sean turned, his startled laughter sounding rusty as it erupted from his chest. “No, I’m definitely not scared of that.”

Krista’s guilt fled at the expression on Sean’s face. His smile alone, which she’d never seen before in person, would have been enough to knock her flat. It transformed his hard features. Green eyes glowed with warmth and crinkled at the edges, bright white teeth flashed against tan skin.

But it was the heat in his eyes as he ran them down her body and back that made her leg muscles go suddenly weak.
I’m definitely not scared of that.
No, he wasn’t, and the look on his face said he was thinking pretty hard about proving it to her.

Then, as though he realized what he was thinking and who he was thinking it about, Sean shook his head. His eyes went cold, and his mouth pulled into a grim line. “We better get into town,” he said, heavy boots thumping as he stormed past her. “The sooner I get you out of my hair the better.”

Krista lagged behind, not in any hurry to be shut in the close confines of the truck with him. On the bright side, the freezing air would certainly cool the blood pulsing through her veins. What was it about Sean that could get her blood simmering with nothing but a look?

It was nothing she couldn’t ignore. In her profession, she’d had to learn to keep a tight rein on her emotions, never let even a flicker of sexuality enter her interactions if she wanted to be taken seriously. She needed to deal with Sean like she’d dealt with him in the courtroom: coolly, professionally, never giving any hint to the confusing, contradictory tangle of emotions that erupted from just being around him.

Sean seemed determined to do the same, barely grunting at her when she joined him on the porch. He locked the door and stormed down the steps, not bothering to see if she followed. He climbed into the cab and the truck roared to life, and once again the stereo deafened her as she got in through the passenger door.

Hot air blew from the vents as Sean cranked up the heat and then reached behind his seat to grab something. Wordlessly, he leaned over and tucked a thick down coat around her. It was huge, covering her from her neck to her knees, and it smelled faintly of wood shavings and soap.

Like Sean.

“Thanks,” she said.

Either he didn’t hear or he didn’t care, but his gaze locked forward.

She snuggled deeper into the folds of the jacket, puzzling over the man sitting next to her. The memory of his smile washed through her; his small courtesy of turning on the heat and giving her the coat warmed her from the inside. No matter how much he resented her presence, he couldn’t let himself be a complete inconsiderate ass.

Guilt knotted her stomach as she remembered something Sean Flynn’s sister, Megan, had said in the days leading up to his trial.
Sean always looks out for the little guy. He takes care of people. He would never let a woman be hurt, much less hurt her himself.

Krista felt like she’d seen a tiny glimpse of that man today, the core of him still lurking beneath the angry, closed-off person he’d become.

It hit her like a brick in the chest, so obvious she felt like an idiot for not realizing it before. Then again, maybe in her guilt, she hadn’t wanted to see it.

The realization that the years on death row had cost Sean so much more than time.


Sean parked his truck in front of Frank Halfer’s garage, located on the south end of Winton’s Main Street. It was a lost cause he knew, but as he climbed out of the cab he couldn’t help but pray that by some miracle Frank had fixed Krista’s car so she could be on her way tonight.

After the past few hours, he wasn’t sure he could stand the idea of her staying in town for a weekend, even if she was cozied up in the little B&B a couple blocks down from Frank’s shop. He was afraid of what he might do, that a few miles wasn’t nearly enough space between them to prevent him from doing something stupid.

Like punch through the brick wall he’d built around himself and give in to the sudden, desperate urges to touch, to taste, to feel. Krista Fucking Slater. Of all the women in the world, why was she the only one who managed to remind him he was still alive in a way no one had been able to in three long years?

A way he
want to feel, goddamn it. He’d lost any meaningful connection with everyone except for his sister, and that was just fine with him. No emotional tangles, no obligations to anyone but himself. No worrying about hurting anyone or getting hurt back.

But now she had to come storming in, yanking his body back to life and ripping the cover off a tangle of emotions he’d been content to keep on lockdown for the past three years.

At least she was mercifully silent, having gotten the hint that there was no way in hell he was going to go digging through his memories, no matter what she thought was at stake.

Sean ducked under the half-closed garage door and heard the soles of Krista’s running shoes squeak against the concrete floor as she followed. The tinny sound of a country song on a radio echoed through the room.

“Hey, Frank,” Sean called. Frank looked up from the battered, paper-strewn desk tucked into the back corner of the garage.

“Hey, Sean. Ma’am,” he said, nodding at Krista.

“Any chance you’ve gotten her car started?” Sean asked, fingers crossed inside his coat pocket.

Frank shook his head. “Damndest thing,” he said. “Entire electrical system is fried. I should be able to get parts Monday—”

“Do you work with a lot of imports?” she interrupted as she doubtfully scanned the garage and attached lot populated by early-model American trucks. Sean’s shoulders tightened at her condescending, know-it-all tone—the one he’d grown to hate in the courtroom.

Frank’s eyes narrowed. “This may be the country, but it ain’t Mayberry. I have all the latest diagnostic software and my suppliers are the same that sell to your mechanic back in Seattle. I know what I’m doing.”

“Of course you do,” Krista said, raising a slender hand. “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

Sean wanted to roll his eyes at the way Frank seemed to melt under Krista’s smile. He turned to her with a frown. If she thought she was going to get to him with this new, charming side of her, she was seriously mistaken.

“Did you figure out what was wrong after getting a closer look?” Krista asked. Sean’s ears pricked up at the nervous undercurrent in her voice.

Sean’s eyes glazed over as Frank launched into a litany of possible reasons for the electrical failure and then concluded, “But honestly, it’s almost impossible to tell at this point.”

Was it just him or did Krista breathe a little sigh of relief? It froze in her chest when she caught him looking. “Well, thanks, Frank. I’ll guess I’ll check back in with you Monday.”

“Guess I’m stuck here,” Krista said as they walked down the street. Though she was fairly tall—Sean would guess about five seven or five eight, and those damn legs of hers started somewhere up around her armpits—she had to practically run to keep up with him as he rushed to Wendy Trager’s bed-and-breakfast.

“Do you know how much this woman charges? It’s not going to be really expensive, is it?” Krista said, slightly breathless in a way that filled Sean’s head with all kinds of ways he could make her breathe fast.

He shook the images out of his head. “You’re a lawyer. I thought you’d be rolling in it.”

She gave a snort. “I work for the government and it’s a recession. They spent more to keep you alive on death row than they pay me.”

He almost tripped over his own feet as he shot her a startled look. There it was again, that flash of inappropriate under that perfectly buttoned-up surface.

“I’m sorry,” she said, clapping her hand to her mouth. “That was totally out of line.”

“It’s okay,” he said, stifling a chuckle.

It should have offended him, just as her making fun of his diagnosis should have offended him. But the fact that she blurted it out without a thought, like her internal editor went out for a quick smoke, made her seem actually human underneath the controlled professional she showed to the world. Made her appealing.

Likeable, even.

Oh fuck, he didn’t even want to go there. He was startled from his thoughts as his shoulder slammed into someone who let out a loud grunt on impact. “Excuse me,” Sean said. He looked up and registered two men, dressed similarly to him in plaid flannel shirts, boots, and jeans. But there was something about them, the flat look in the eyes of the blond guy in particular, that made Sean’s neck prickle as they walked by.

He looked at them over his shoulder, but they didn’t look back as they continued down the street.

“What?” Krista said.

Sean shook his head. “Nothing.” But the prickle wouldn’t go away, that nagging sense that the enemy was close, crouched behind the next rock waiting to take him out. He kept his eye on the two men until they rounded the corner and he shook his head.

He was just paranoid, he told himself. That’s what happened when your best friend betrayed you and everyone who knows you is willing to believe you’re a monster.

And the woman next to him, the one he couldn’t seem to block out, had her own part to play in that. Sean seized on that resentment, shoving away any feelings of attraction or, God forbid, affection as he reached for the door of the B&B.

And found it locked. He knocked a couple times and then ducked his head to look in one of the glass panes that framed the hand-carved door. “Shit. She must have gone out.” He straightened up. “I’ll go get your bag and you can wait over at Marty’s until she opens up.”

“Wait, you’re just going to dump me off? What if she doesn’t come back?”

Sean wanted to tell her it wasn’t his problem. Wanted to tell her it was too damn bad, that it would be no less than she deserved for coming up here uninvited and trying to force him to dredge up a part of his life he had no interest in revisiting.

It was the shiver that did it, barely perceptible beneath the bulk of the borrowed down coat that hung almost to her knees, as she braced herself against the rapidly cooling breeze.

He muttered a curse under his breath and grabbed her by the arm, tugging her across the street. “Let’s go get something to eat while we wait.”

The scents of beer and fried food greeted him as they walked into Marty’s pub and Sean braced himself. Fortunately, the place was relatively empty during the low season, and the customers were mostly people he knew, at least by sight if not name. No tourists to do the double take, the
Isn’t that?
and then bend low to whisper over their hamburgers and fries, followed by another assessing look as they wondered if maybe he hadn’t gotten away with murder after all.

“Sean, darlin’,” Nancy McFee, the late Marty’s wife, called as she rushed across the restaurant to greet him. Pushing sixty, Nancy was still holding it together with her dyed red hair and busty figure that flirted with matronly plumpness. Her arms were flung as wide as her smile as she rushed to greet him. Sean fought not to choke on her cloud of perfume as he suffered a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. “It feels like an age since you’ve been here. It’s not good for a man as handsome as you to keep all to himself up in that lonely cabin of yours.”

“I’ve been busy,” he said, grimacing as Nancy rubbed at his cheek with a red-tipped thumb, scrubbing away at the smear of lipstick she’d no doubt left on his chin.

“But I see you have someone with you—” Nancy’s bright smile faded abruptly as recognition set in. “You’re her—you’re that prosecutor.”

“Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Krista Slater,” Krista said and held out her hand. She didn’t react at all when Nancy gave a sniff of disdain.

“Can’t imagine what you’re doing here with her. What she did to you was unforgivable.”

“No argument here,” Krista said softly.

“To be fair, Nate Brewster was the one who framed me,” Sean said, the words cutting him as deeply as ever. He had no idea why he felt the urge to defend Krista, but his mouth moved almost without his consent. “Krista was doing her job.”

“Well, if you ask me, she was doing a piss poor job of it. How anyone thought you could be capable of murder is beyond me. Known him all his life, I have, and I never believed it, not for a minute.”

Yes, she had. But Sean didn’t bother to remind her of what she’d said to the reporter from the
Seattle Tribune
after his conviction, about how you thought you could know someone and never see the evil lurking inside. Let her have her false memories and her overdone affection if it made her feel like she was making up for thinking the worst of him. “Thanks, Nance. I see my regular table’s empty. Be a sweetheart and bring us a couple of pints.”

He led Krista to the corner booth next to the window, nodding at the handful of other patrons. Many of them he’d known since childhood. They all gave him the same overeager smiles and friendly waves, as though that could erase the fact that all of them, like Nancy, had at one point believed he was capable of raping and murdering a woman in the most brutal way imaginable.

BOOK: Hide From Evil
7.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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