We are SOOO close to the release of The Frailty of Things and I want to celebrate. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 2!
Lying in his bed upstairs, Garret could hear Caleb rummaging around in the kitchen. Caleb wasn’t much of a rummager, and when he moved around a room, he was naturally quiet as a mouse. That Garret could hear him up a flight of stairs, down a hall, and through a closed door said more about his friend’s state of mind than Caleb would ever actually say himself.
A bird flying by the massive window caught Garret’s attention. He had the same kind of floor-to-ceiling windows in his room that Kit had in hers, and he turned his head and took in the snowy scene.
He did let his eyes take in the sweeping landscape—he and Caleb had spent the majority of the past few months moving in and out of South America’s jungles and crowded cities, so he had to adjust to the expansive views—but mostly, as his eyes adjusted, his mind was on Kit.
She was right, of course. Not about not being together. In that, he knew she was very wrong, and he could work on that. What she had been right about was his love at first sight comment—it was true that the “at first sight” was the easy part; it wasn’t as though either of them had had to work at or even think about the instant attraction they had felt. But sticking with it over years and decades—through the good and bad times—took a lot more effort and said a lot more about a couple and their love for each other than what they had felt in the first seconds after they’d met.
But even knowing that it was only with time that they would ever really discover if they were good together, he was hard pressed to forget the day, the instant, he’d met Kit. Caleb hadn’t wanted him to stay at her house five months ago when they’d come to help a friend of hers, so he had camped on her property instead. But somehow she’d found him—or his camp, rather, while he was in town picking up supplies. And the moment he’d come upon her, sitting on a log near his tent as if she had been waiting for him, was indelibly seared into his memory.
He remembered coming to an abrupt stop, gripping his backpack of supplies, and simply staring. It hadn’t been so much the surprise of finding someone at his camp as the shock he had felt reverberate through his body when she’d looked up at him with her golden eyes. For a moment, he’d actually contemplated going down on his knees to thank god, or whomever, for sending her.
He hadn’t, of course. Instead he’d walked slowly toward her. Her eyes had been wary but curious, following his movement. He’d told her his name and held out his hand; she had taken it in her own and offered him a tentative smile—as if to seal a deal neither of them had yet understood.
Down in the kitchen, a drawer slammed and Caleb cursed, bringing Garret back to the present. He smiled. Kit’s brother rarely swore out loud; it just wasn’t his thing. It seemed that being in the presence of Kit had affected them both.
Then Kit’s question from the night before echoed through his mind: What are you doing here? His smile turned to a frown. What were they doing there? And did it have anything to do with how Caleb was acting?
Jackknifing off the bed, he rested his feet on the cold floor as he dug in his bag for a pair of socks. He was already dressed, and had been since he’d heard Kit leave earlier that morning, but he hated socks. That said, even though the house was well heated, coming from the South American summertime to a North American winter required some adjustment, even for him.
Tugging a sock onto one foot, he let his eyes trail back to the windows. Again, Kit’s voice echoed in his ears: It’s almost enough to make me believe in magic. He could almost see that too. The morning light was just barely starting to make its appearance and, from Kit’s southwestern views, the shadows were shortening and the snow was starting to glisten and sparkle. It reminded him of a Christmas years ago, when some relative or another had tried to expose him to a little bit of culture by dragging him, aged eight, and his four-year-old sister, to The Nutcracker.
He didn’t have many memories of the dancers, but he did remember the set—a snowy forest. As an adult, he’d seen his fair share of snow, but back then—back when he was eight and living in the bayous of southern Louisiana outside Baton Rouge—snow was about as foreign to him as ballet. He’d been captivated.
Now, looking out Kit’s window, a tiny bit of that awe crept back into his soul, because it was stunning. Pristine and clean. And quiet. Too quiet, at the moment.
After pulling on his other sock, he ventured down to the kitchen, unsure of what he would find. What he did find when he walked into the room was Caleb sitting at the kitchen island, glaring at the cabinetry, resting his chin in his palm.
“There a problem?” Garret asked, not bothering to stop the grin that tugged at his mouth.
Caleb turned his glare on Garret for a full ten seconds, then finally threw his hands up.
“I can’t find the fucking coffee,” he growled.
Garret studied his friend for a long moment before turning to the freezer, opening it, and pulling out a bag of ground beans. After holding it up on display for a moment, just to needle Caleb, he went to the coffee maker on the counter and started making a pot. A big one.
“How the hell did you know that?” Caleb finally demanded once the water had started to perk in the machine.
Garret kept his back to Caleb as he shrugged. “It was just a guess.” Only it wasn’t, not really. Caleb knew nothing about Garret’s meeting with Kit last fall, and Garret had no desire to enlighten him. Thinking back on those three days he’d spent with her, during which they’d mostly just talked, he didn’t remember her drinking any coffee—though she’d had quite a few cups of tea. But even if Kit herself preferred tea, she was too conscientious not to have coffee available for visitors or friends, so in his mind, it made sense that she would have some coffee stored somewhere, and the freezer seemed to be the most common spot.
When the coffeemaker beeped, Garret poured two cups, handed one to Caleb, then leaned back against the counter and studied his partner over the island. They’d been working together for nearly seven years and he had never seen Caleb so clearly agitated and tense.
“What’s going on, Forrester?” Garret asked.
Caleb took a sip of his coffee, then another, before he spoke. “I can’t find Kit.”
Garret’s stomach dropped a bit. “What do you mean, you can’t find Kit?”
“I’ve called her four times and every time it goes straight to voicemail,” he said, gesturing to his cell phone in disgust—as if it were the phone’s fault. “And I have no idea what time she left.”
That settled Garret somewhat. He remembered she had mentioned errands, so it wasn’t as though her being away from the house was completely unexpected. “She left around six-thirty,” Garret supplied. “I heard her get up around six and get ready and then leave about thirty minutes later,” he added.
“And you didn’t stop her?” Caleb demanded.
Again, Garret studied his friend before speaking. “Why would I have stopped her, Forrester? What’s going on and why, exactly, are we here?”
Caleb opened his mouth, shut it, and after a beat, responded. “I didn’t exactly invite you,” he pointed out.
Garret’s curiosity increased tenfold at that comment. “You’re right. You didn’t. But you also didn’t tell me not to come. And since the only times we’ve ever not been together during the past six plus years was when we’d specifically scheduled R & R, and because this most definitely isn’t R & R, even though we’re at your sister’s, I’m thinking it’s a good thing I’m here, so why don’t you just tell me what’s going on?”
He crossed an arm over his chest and took a sip of the hot, strong coffee. He should have paid more attention and asked more questions when Caleb had said he was coming to visit Kit, but the thought of seeing her again had pretty much overwhelmed what little sense he’d had.
“Forrester.” Garret added. His demand for information was implied, and thankfully, it worked. Caleb shot him a glare, but he didn’t leave the room.
“You’re a nosy bastard this morning,” Caleb commented.
“I’m always a nosy bastard, but I can usually read your mind or at least see the logic in what we’re doing, but this is different. Not that I mind coming here,” he said, gesturing to the luxurious surroundings with his coffee cup.
Caleb took another sip of his coffee, then drummed his fingers on the island’s granite. Twice, he took a breath as if preparing to speak, but said nothing. When he finally looked up, Garret saw something in his friend’s eyes he’d never seen there before: worry.
“That last deal we worked on, not Heinlach in Argentina,” he said, referring to the job that had so abruptly pulled them away from Windsor five months ago, “but the arms transfer we documented in Venezuela.”
Garret nodded, remembering the last-minute favor they’d done for a friend, running surveillance on a transfer of illegal arms. It had been a quick and easy job because documentation was all their friend had needed—images, details on the cargo, transfer times, and those sorts of things.
“Well, two of the people on the tarmac that day were faces I knew,” Caleb continued, ignoring Garret’s raised eyebrow. Caleb hadn’t said a thing as the transfer was going down, and that didn’t give Garret the warm fuzzies now.
“One is a guy I had my eye on years ago. He showed up in an investigation I was running on the trafficking and transfer of arms and humans. Circumstances,” Caleb paused, and for a moment, his gaze seemed to take him back in time—a look of regret flashed across his face. Then he cleared his throat and continued. “Circumstances changed and I never had a chance to follow up on him, but from what I had gathered, he wasn’t a good guy.”
This wasn’t surprising to Garret. They didn’t meet a lot of good guys in their business. “And the second guy?” he pressed.
Again, Caleb looked away, and by the tensing of his jaw, Garret could tell it was this man whose presence really bothered Caleb.
“He’s someone I knew growing up. Someone Kit knew. His name is Henry Michaels,” was all Caleb said.
Garret took another sip of his coffee as he mulled over what Caleb had said, and what he hadn’t. In their line of work, it wasn’t unusual to see the same people crop up in different places at different times—it wasn’t like they were targeting dime-a-dozen petty thieves. No, in Garret’s experience, once a person had crossed the line far enough to come onto his and Caleb’s radar, they were already the kind of person who would pretty much do anything for anyone for the right price.
And so it was the second person, the new guy, Michaels, who also caught Garret’s attention.
“Tell me about Michaels,” Garret said.
But Caleb shook his head. “I’m not going to get into it until I talk to Kit. Which is why I’m so pissed off that I can’t find her. I need answers.”
Garret blinked and then very carefully picked his words. “Just what do you think Kit might be able to tell you? What kind ‘answers’ do you think she’ll have?”
Caleb’s eyes shot to his, no doubt responding to the measured, careful tone in his question. For a split second, Garret saw a question flash across his friend’s face. And then it went neutral.
“I’m not sure,” Caleb said after a beat.