Long Shadow (Veiled Intentions #2) - Elle Keaton



Niall jabbed the Down button viciously with his index finger.

The sailing to Piedras left in two hours, and he was damn well going to be on it. He was done with the city; he didn’t belong here anymore.

Getting home, no matter how fuzzy the idea of home was, was more important to him than meeting with the perky real estate agent again, more important than handing over the keys to his condo—he’d drop them in the mail—more important than making sure all his moving boxes were properly labeled. Niall couldn’t stand another day with four walls closing in on him. The city had trapped him, with its cement walls and gleaming office buildings; the entire time he’d been away from Piedras he’d paced back and forth like a captive animal in its tiny cage. He missed his dog, he missed his crappy motel room, and it was possible he missed Sheriff Mat Dempsey, but that he wasn’t ready to admit.

The display above the elevator doors indicated the car had moved up one floor and then stopped.

“Jesus Christ.” Unwilling to wait a second longer, Niall took the stairs to the lobby two at a time, letting gravity carry him downward. His heavy footsteps created a cacophony in the empty stairwell.

Most of his belongings were in storage now. Niall had been surprised to discover that, except for his furniture, his life fit in an eight-by-five storage unit with room to spare. The furniture he’d left behind for the agent, and he would donate it once the sale went through. Niall didn’t care about it, and it likely wouldn’t fit when he rebuilt his cabin.

He hit the ground floor landing with a crashing boom and burst out into the tiny lobby, very nearly running into the delivery driver standing there.

“Shit. Sorry,” Niall said.

He went to swerve around the younger man, trying to regain his escape velocity.

“Any chance you know Niall Hamarsson?” the man asked.

Niall jolted to a stop, twisting around to stare at the driver.

“That’s me,” he replied. What were the chances?

A small box was tucked under the driver’s arm. “I have a delivery, if you wouldn’t mind signing for it.”

After digging his wallet out to show ID, Niall scrawled his signature next to the X, and the driver handed him the box. “Thank you,” Niall said automatically.

The driver grinned at him and turned away, pushing through the lobby doors, leaving Niall standing there. He shook his head and glanced at the box, but the return address—downtown Seattle, by the zip code—showed no name. He didn’t have time to deal with the contents right now.

Snapping back to his objective—escape Seattle—Niall headed to the parking garage, where his car waited in the loading zone, a suitcase of clothing and a few boxes of belongings jammed inside it. He slid behind the wheel, tossing the box on the passenger seat along with the stack of mail that had been jammed into his mailbox, and started the engine. If traffic wasn’t completely fucked, he’d make the ferry. If it was, he’d be spending hours in his car waiting for the next one.

Niall drove as fast as he could without catching the attention of the highway patrol. The Subaru’s elderly stereo system belted out Nirvana’s Nevermind on repeat. He’d been a young teen when Nirvana was big, but Cobain’s lyrics appealed to the wounded, animalistic, angry side of him.

Outside Mount Vernon, an RV pulled out in front of him. Swearing, he swerved into the slow lane to avoid hitting it. A horn blared from behind him, and the box slid off the passenger seat into the footwell. The first lines of “Come as You Are,” raspy and painful, sounded from the speakers. Niall took a deep breath and slowed his speed. He didn’t need to get in an accident now; he was almost there. Almost home.

But it wasn’t until he was at the top of the hill heading down toward the ticket booth and saw the ferry pulling in to the dock that he was able to stop pounding the heel of his hand on the steering wheel in impatience. And it wasn’t until he’d been directed onto the ferry deck, the big engines rumbling underneath him, that he was able to breathe again.

Upstairs in the passenger area, the change of season from winter to spring was evident in the number of families heading to the islands for the weekend. Children ran back and forth, excitedly looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows or begging their parents to go on