Home > Kill and Tell (CIA Spies #1)(10)

Kill and Tell (CIA Spies #1)(10)
Author: Linda Howard

"You want some coffee?" Chastain asked. "Or are you heading home?"

"Naw, there's no point in it now. Coffee sounds good."

"Come on in, then."

A little surprised by the invitation but anxious for a chance to do some more brain picking, Shannon slid out of the car. Chastain unlocked the gate, and they walked into a long, narrow, bricked entry. A single light fixture set into the wall lit their way. A courtyard opened up beyond them, and in the predawn darkness, Shannon got the impression of lush vegetation, and the sweet scent of flowers teased him. Chastain turned to the right and went up a flight of stairs. "I turned the house into four apartments," he said. "It was the only way I could afford the upkeep. This one's mine." When he reached the upper balcony, he unlocked another door, reached in to turn on a light, and motioned for Shannon to enter.

Shannon looked around, his interest keen. The ceilings were high, at least twelve feet, the floors bare hardwood except for a few scattered rugs. A lazily whirling ceiling fan hung in the center. Most of Chastain's furniture was so old-fashioned and shabby Shannon thought it had to have been his grandmother's, though here and there a few new pieces had been added. The place was clean and fairly uncluttered, though there were newspapers on the floor beside a big easy chair, a coffee cup left on a lamp table, books scattered around. "No television?" he blurted.

"It's in the armoire," Chastain said, nodding toward an immense piece of furniture. "My grandmother loved watching soaps, but she refused to leave the television out where her friends could see that she had one. The kitchen's through here."

He led the way past a small inset dining room on the left, pushing open folding doors to enter the kitchen. It was a square, functional room, surprising in its normality. Stove, refrigerator, microwave, toaster,

coffeemaker—Shannon had kind of expected a food processor or something, because it seemed Chastain was a man who appreciated fine food and would want to have all the appliances on hand for his girlfriends to cook for him. A wooden table for two was set against the wall. Chastain expertly measured coffee and water and turned on the maker. "Make yourself at home," he said. "I'll be out by the time the coffee's done. You hungry?"

"I could eat."

"There're some pastry things in the freezer. Pop a couple in the toaster." A moment later, Shannon heard the shower come on. He didn't want to put the pastries in the toaster too soon, so he walked over to the french doors and stepped out onto the balcony. His car was parked just below. To his left, lights were coming from the other set of doors, so he imagined that was Chastain's bedroom.

Shannon thought of his own place, with dirty clothes on the floor and dishes in the sink and dust all over everything. If he had a girl over, he had to rush around shoving clothes under the bed or in the closet, hide the dishes in the oven, try to blow the worst of the dust off, and it took a can of air freshener to cover the smell of dirty socks for a while. Chastain could bring a babe here anytime without worrying about how his place looked.

Man, this was the way to live. Nothing fancy, and just about everything was old as hell, but he bet Chastain drew babes like a magnet. The way he dressed, the way he lived… women liked this stuff. Shannon settled against the railing, thinking. Maybe he couldn't own a house in the Quarter, but he could take better care of his place, clean it up, maybe buy a few plants or something. No one would have to know he got them himself instead of a girlfriend giving them to him. And he needed some new threads; nothing flashy like the drug dealers, just maybe some good shirts and a nice jacket or two. And maybe a food processor. Hell, why not?

He was so involved with his plans that he didn't hear the shower cut off. A few minutes later, he was startled when Chastain walked out onto the balcony, freshly shaven, his short black hair plastered to his skull. He was buttoning a short-sleeved white dress shirt made out of some kind of gauzy stuff.

"Ah, hell," Shannon said, disgusted with himself. "I forgot about the Pop-Tarts."

"I put them in," Chastain said.

Shannon felt embarrassed into speech. "I was just—man, this is nice, y'know? The house and everything. And I noticed the way you were with the witnesses, like you were gonna put your arms around them and say, 'Now, now,' any minute. Women like that shit, don't they? I mean, thirty seconds of that stuff, and that girl turned off the spigot and started talking. I thought she was gonna throw herself at you."

"They deserved to be taken care of," Chastain said calmly. "They hadn't done anything wrong, and they were upset. They don't see the things you and I see every day." From inside came the sound of a toaster ejecting its contents, and the two men walked in.

Chastain got two cups down from a cabinet and poured coffee into them. He had made it strong, the way almost everyone in New Orleans did, and the kitchen was fragrant with chicory. Next, he placed the

pastries on two small plates, dusted them with powdered sugar, and handed them to Shannon while he got two forks out of a drawer. Shannon put the plates on the small wooden table. "These aren't Pop-Tarts," he blurted.

"A girlfriend—"

"—makes them for you," Shannon finished, and sighed.

"Yeah. They're pretty damn good when I don't have the time for a regular breakfast."

"How many girlfriends you got?"

"I have a lot of friends who are women. I don't date all of them." Shannon got the message. A gentleman didn't brag about his girlfriends. These few hours with Chastain had been a revelation, Shannon thought. Watching him work, seeing how he was with witnesses, how he lived and dressed and comported himself, struck Shannon all of a sudden as how a man should be. "I bet you open doors for women, don't you?"

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