Riley Stanhope has a secret. She spends her nights stealing jewels from the rich to finance charities…and the occasional trip to Costa Rica. When she learns of a priceless collection at the home of a reclusive, dangerously handsome dealer who recently snubbed her, she knows it’s a challenge she can’t refuse.
Art dealer and notorious master thief Cain Booth is in a bind. After one uncharacteristic slip up, he’s indebted to the Ukrainian mob. He needs a plan to get them off his back so he can head south and retire on the beach somewhere. That plan walks straight into his life when he catches fearless amateur burglar Riley sneaking into his apartment. With no choice but to agree to his demands, Riley’s just become Cain’s ticket to leaving his old life behind.
Teaming up to steal from the mob is going to require training and careful planning. As Cain puts Riley through her paces, they’ll have to ignore their unexpected chemistry and stay focused on the job.
With one chance to pull off the heist of a lifetime, and both of their lives on the line, what could possibly go wrong?
37,000 words – A novella.
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Cain Booth knew he shouldn’t have involved the girl.
She was too fierce, too unpredictable. The truth was, he was already playing with fire on this job. Drafting Riley Stanhope into the mix was like pouring kerosene on his hands. He knew she was young, impulsive, brilliant, and more than a little bit of trouble.
I knew the first time I saw you that you were a devil, he thought, watching her bargain for the earrings. The kid was ballsy; he’d give her that. Full marks for audacity.
Out of the stillness, a very small part of him, something like the ghost of his conscience, pulled at him. He actually thought about letting her go. He might have, too, if he hadn’t wanted her so much. Sure, it was a potentially lethal job, but if she’d wanted a safe, predictable life, she should have stuck to medical coding instead of stealing people’s shit. He crushed the last of his principles like a smoldering cigarette butt and decided if he were going to hell, he might as well have a bombshell date for the party.
Cain told her to go straight home, to report to him in the morning at five. He exerted himself to sound menacing. She seemed unmoved by his theatrics, which amused him. Most people, men as well as women, were intimidated by him. This girl with her two-bit earring thefts, thought she was his equal and negotiated for diamonds. It made her damn near irresistible.
When she was gone, he dumped the gun back in the drawer beside the bullets he’d never bothered to load, laughed, poured himself a drink. His winter was about to get a lot more interesting.
He sat down in a chair beneath his wife’s painting of the green face. The face she’d said was her portrait of him; his acquisitiveness, his consuming greed. He liked to sit underneath it so he didn’t have to look at her reproach.
Cain had been in his late twenties, ready to settle down and focus on his legitimate business. He wanted a wife who valued beautiful things as he did, who had an artist’s eye. By the time he got caught by the Russian mob, she was already disenchanted with Cain and had rekindled her affair with a gallery owner downtown. The distorted goblin face remained on his wall as a cautionary talisman, a reminder of how the would-be angel on his shoulder had seen him. Their relationship hadn’t been perfect, but her loss still ached.
This girl wasn’t like Caryn. She was as arrogant, as bold, but wilder. She was the knife he could throw into the heart of the Russian mob. The instant he’d seen her turning flips in the narrow hotel gym, he’d known she was exactly what he needed. He’d just have to remind himself that he needed her in a bank vault in the Ukraine, not tangled up in his black cotton sheets.
Cain retired for the evening, distracted but determined.
His doorbell rang before he had the coffee made in the morning. Grumbling to himself, he opened the door to her. She was clad offensively in a virulent citron green. Her workout wear lacked a certain sophistication. So did the contents of her tote bag, which moved.
“I hope you don’t mind. I brought Tico,” she said, releasing a hissing, spitting ball of evil into his immaculate and very expensive home.
“Is that a cat?”
“That’s what the shelter said he was. I wonder sometimes if he isn’t part demon.” She watched him careen around the room, testing his claws on the dense pile of the velvet sofa, wincing slightly at the violent scratching sound. “I couldn’t leave him locked up all alone. Frankly, if I leave him in the apartment for more than a couple of hours, he shreds stuff.” She shrugged. “Anyway, here I am. You don’t have to bother hunting me down.”
“Coffee. Then we run.”
“Okay,” she said, sitting down. The angry feline pounced into her lap, stropping his claws on the hideous green nylon leggings as she petted him.
Cain returned with cups of scorching hot coffee. She sipped with a grateful noise and set the mug on a table. Cain picked it up automatically and transferred it to a less valuable surface.
“Sorry,” she muttered, clearly offended at his fussiness.
“We don’t set drinks on Louis Quatorze,” he said instructively.
She looked around the apartment in daylight and strolled over to the rosewood chest, lifting the lid carefully. The earrings were gone.
“You didn’t imagine I’d leave them where you could find them?”
She nodded with something like agreement and trailed her fingers over a long necklace of amethyst beads.
“You could try it on, but not with that lime green you’re wearing. It would risk searing my retinas.”
Riley rolled her eyes and replaced the lid on the chest. He bit his lip to stifle a smile, and quashed a thought that she was adorable.
“Are you ready to run yet? Or do men your age need more time to wake up?” she taunted, leaning over the back of the sofa lazily.
“Men my age?” he asked, one eyebrow cocked at her. “We’ll see if you can keep up with me, missy.”
She trailed after him out the door and down the hall. “We’ll need to hurry. I don’t want Tico to get restless around your antiques. You do have a litter box, don’t you?” she asked slyly.
“No, I do not. Get back in there and rig something up. I will not have feline excrement polluting my Turkish carpets.” He pointed back at the door, and she snorted.