Home > Lion's Quest (A Lion's Pride #12)(5)

Lion's Quest (A Lion's Pride #12)(5)
Author: Eve Langlais

As for him… He had to lie low. At least for a little while until he was sure his troubles were all over. So far, so good. He’d not seen a single tiger since arriving in the United States.

His neighbor pivoted at the corner and jogged back, barely acknowledging him as she ran past.

He briefly turned to watch her go.

The view was nice.

She passed him again. Apparently, she preferred to stick close to home when she ran. He saw her sweep past yet again as he entered the tavern for dinner. Just watching her exercise made him hungry.

As taverns went, it fit the standard bill; dark, dingy, the booths high-backed and private where they sat bolted along the wall. The meals were actually more decent than the décor suggested. He shouldn’t be picky given what he’d eaten recently. The institution where he’d spent a few weeks catching invisible butterflies was particularly fond of runny, flavorless gruel. As he learned, though, a stomach wasn’t picky when it came to survival.

Only after he’d placed his order did he pull his phone from his pocket, VPN enabled to hide his activities. Most of it was innocuous shopping. Extra gaming remote, more coffee for his machine, random stuff that amounted to lots of tiny packages from multiple places, including two mailboxes he’d rented a while ago. Via a secured bitcoin account, he paid to have the mail forwarded. It and his purchases should arrive around the same time, muddling the two things he really wanted to get his hands on, despite those who might be watching.

Given his new brother-in-law helped him get the apartment, he had to wonder if his sister knew about the cameras inside. He’d spotted them the first day. Nicely hidden. Comprised of newer, camouflaging models. But they made the mistake of wireless transmission.

Signals could always be spied on, or hijacked. Knowing someone was watching, Peter spent some time being very mundane. So far, he’d created hours of gaming, reading, and other boring stuff. Never knew when he might need to make a virtual copy of himself for watchers.

As to who was spying on him? Perhaps it was Lawrence, who had connections but wouldn’t talk about them. Had his sister married into the mob?

Kind of cool if she had, so long as he didn’t get on their bad side.

His gaze flickered to the tavern’s main door as a huge guy walked in. Close-cropped hair and trimmed goatee, built like a linebacker. Peter stared a moment, trying to place why he seemed familiar. Hadn’t he seen him from his living room window a few days ago, unloading boxes with the woman he’d seen jogging?

One of his new neighbors. He wondered if they got the same deal as him. Fully furnished apartment for less than he would have expected because his BIL knew the landlord.

Peter figured he was paying at least five hundred dollars under market, but he wasn’t complaining about that or the job Lawrence found him working in a bookstore. Mind-numbing work that gave him a cover to hide his other activities and bide his time.

A few hours later, when he paid, he noticed the neighbor had already left. Obviously not spying on him. Just like he doubted the pair of barflies—who’d arrived around the same time he did and were nursing their umpteenth beers—gave a fuck.

Paranoia was a step in the direction of the padded white room and the little pills that made him drool. Just like giving in to the urge to flinch every time he thought he saw the flick of a tail was giving in to the nightmares that plagued him.

He would be brave. There were no tigers in the city. No one left to hurt him.

He hoped.

Upon leaving the bar, he hit the sidewalk with a long stride and lost the few other pedestrians within the first block. He trudged along, hands in his pockets, head down. Both sides of the road were empty, and yet he felt watched. The skin between his shoulders prickled.

His hands flexed at the scuff of a shoe on pavement. He had nothing to defend himself with. A gun would have done the trick, but laws had tightened in recent years for this state. There was a waiting period now to own a legal weapon. He’d applied already, but these things took time. If he wanted something sooner, he’d have to make contact with the underworld where cash was king and the selection not always USA approved.

Not that he needed anything big or hardcore. Simply a revolver he could slip under his jacket. With a caliber big enough to take down an elephant. Enough to make him feel safe.

He passed by a closed electronics shop. The big window had televisions flashing, playing some kind of show with a bleach blond, mullet-wearing guy in a Hawaiian shirt hugging a tiger. Terrifying. He couldn’t help but shudder as he walked faster.

He could have sworn he heard steps shadowing him. When he stopped, so did the echo.

Probably his imagination, yet he quickened his stride.

A car parked along the sidewalk, dark and engine off, suddenly popped its trunk. It might as well have been a gunshot.

Heart suddenly pounding, Peter darted into an alley, where a thick miasma of garbage hit him. Gag worthy but he soldiered through. Having memorized the routes to his apartment ahead of time, he knew this dark corridor led to a bright thoroughfare and a donut shop popular with the boys in blue.

Thump. Thump. Familiar meaty sounds of violence that only made him run faster.

He hit the street at the far end, saw the red and blue lights on a cruiser, and heaved a sigh of relief before looking over his shoulder to see…no one there. Another false alarm. Would he forever live his life looking over his shoulder?

He hoped not. Reaching his apartment, he shut his door and deadbolted it. He wanted to check the windows even though they had no means of being reached. Resisted the urge to drop to his knees and look under the couch.

Couldn’t let those watching see how close he teetered on the edge.

It wasn’t late enough for bed, so he texted his sister.

Rather than reply, she called. “Peter, peter, pumpkin eater,” she sang, sounding so happy.

“How’s my favorite sister doing?”

“I’m your only sister.”

“Are you implying you need competition to be the best sister there is?”

She laughed. “Still an idiot.”

“Love you too,” he teased. “Any particular reason why you’re calling?”

“Actually, yes. It’s about that stupid key we found in your apartment. Lawrence’s aunts were bugging me about it again.”

“Did you tell them I don’t remember anything?” It was the line he kept to over and over.

“I have, over and over, but they seem to think if maybe they could talk to you in person, you might remember something.”

Like fuck. He’d met enough of Lawrence’s family and friends to know there was something a little off about the group. Not appearance wise. He’d never seen a fitter, more attractive bunch. But something in the way they moved and eyed the world and people around them freaked him the fuck out.

“I wish I could help. I didn’t even know there was a key hidden in my apartment. It must have been left there by the previous occupant.” He lied his ass off and felt a twinge at deceiving his sister. However, in his defense, if he told her what he knew, she’d tell her husband, and then shit would get tense.

“If you say so,” was her doubtful reply.

“Gotta go. Work in the morning.” More like he hated lying to Charlie. He hung up. Then, because of those fucking cameras, had to pretend he wasn’t agitated.

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