Books

New Release: Once a Thief

OnceAThief_200x304A former cat burglar discovers that coming out of retirement is not as easy as she thinks—especially when she finds herself at the mercy of a mark who wants something more than her professional expertise.

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EXCERPT

She liked bondage as much as the next girl.

Cleo, however, didn’t think her current bound state was a prelude to more enjoyable things.

She yanked on the rope that secured her hands together and tethered them to something above her head. There was some give as the cloth-covered rope stretched but not nearly enough. Stubbornness being a trait of all Moran women, she tried again. And again. And again.

A small noise of frustration escaped her throat.

Despite the dull, throbbing pain in her head, she decided more leverage was needed, twisted on the bed, and sat up. And noticed the man seated in the armchair in the far corner of the room. He was immersed in the shadows that swathed the room, so she saw nothing but a menacing outline blacker than the surrounding darkness. His silent regard felt like a thick blanket suffocating her senses.

Fear made her mouth go dry and her skin prickle with heat and sweat.

It was a full minute before she found her voice, a little hoarser than usual, but she lifted her chin to compensate. “Did you enjoy the show?”

No response. Not even so much as a muscle twitch. Her chest noticeably rose and fell with each shortened breath.

“Are the police on their way?”

More silence, and the lump in her throat grew.

“I need that statue more than you need another dust collector.” She was babbling, knew it and couldn’t stop herself. “It needs to be returned to its rightful home.”

The silence continued and agitation flickered through her, slicing past the fear.

“Look, I tried the legal route, but you flatly refused all of my offers. I had no other choice.”

A whisper of cloth on leather. He’d moved. Finally. She was beginning to think he was a statue himself. Then he rose, an imposing shadow that made her very aware of the pulse thrumming in her throat. He came toward the bed, stopping at the foot, and moonlight, stark and chilly, spilled over him.

He’d never be labeled handsome, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away. Formidable frame, dark hair, deep-set eyes, broad face with rough-hewn features that looked as if they’d been carved of the same stone as the statue. Unlike the statue, his face was masklike with its lack of expression. It took a concerted effort to ignore the tiny voice that urged her to cower against the headboard.

“Cleo Moran.”

The sound of her name spoken by that deep, cold voice sent a jolt through her. Of course he knew her name. His administrative assistant had passed on enough messages from her in the past three months. And the man was reputed to be a shark, so he would remember the name of the woman who’d tried repeatedly to buy a relic for several times more than its appraised value.

“If I wouldn’t sell the statue to you, what makes you think I’d just let you steal it?”

Absurdly, she winced. Steal had such an ugly ring to it.

“You weren’t supposed to have a say in the matter.”

A corner of his mouth quirked up and she was amazed his face didn’t crack. In fact, it sent a shiver of sensation snaking along her spine.

“I’m the one who should be angry, not you,” he said, the ice in his voice thawing. He slid a hand inside the front pocket of his trousers and his regard changed, feeling almost like a touch.

Jittery, but from more than simple fear, she brought her hands up and pulled back the strands of hair that fell over her eyes and clung to her lips. “You weren’t supposed to come back here tonight.”

A dark slash of a brow lifted and, without a hint of pique, he drawled, “So, the enthusiasm in my date tonight was faked.”

She cursed her babbling tongue. Well, she’d never encountered this situation before and there wasn’t a For Dummies guide that covered it.

“Unfortunately for you, I need more than a pretty face and man-made assets to entice me.” A degree of heat wrapped around his voice. “Then I come home and you waltz in.”

She had trouble filling her lungs with oxygen. “What now?”

His eyes glittered darkly. “Since the woman you hired to distract me didn’t do her job, why don’t you?”

She licked suddenly dry lips. “I’d rather you call the police.”

Copyright © 2010, 2020 by Ann Bruce. All rights reserved.

Ramblings

Accidental FIRE

I was on the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) path well before it became an internet movement. I’m a numbers geek at heart. I tracked my spending in Excel since I was twelve. I loved–and still love–the sense of control of knowing how every penny I earned was spent or saved. I started investing not long afterwards–and made countless, costly mistakes 😖 but learned from (most of) them.

At fourteen, Freedom 55 sounded nice so I decided Freedom 45 would be even better. I didn’t have a clear cut plan on how to achieve Freedom 45, but it was always in the back of my mind as I lived my life. I finished high school, went to uni, wandered aimlessly around Europe, and finally came home to start my first “adult” job. I spent money a tad recklessly but always knew to not spend more than I made (thanks, Mom!). My aversion to debt continues to this day. I’m lazy so I put my finances on autopilot with automatic bill payments and automatic investment purchases.

In 2012, I decided to make an annual budget and track my net worth because I thought I should have a plan for Freedom 45. I wasn’t strict on sticking with my budget; it was more to help me determine how much I would need for retirement. I continued to track my net worth on a quarterly basis, even during my stint with major depressive disorder. Some years were better than others but seeing my progress (or lack thereof) helped me tweak my spending habits when needed.

Last year, once I started coming out of the anti-depressant-induced haze, I met with a financial advisor. Although I neglected my finances for 2+ years, by some miracle Freedom 45 is still on track. Even Freedom 40 is doable. In fact, I could retire right now…provided I get control of my luxury handbag obsession (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I was planning to go to Paris this April to pick up a Hermès 🙈; only the recent yellow vest protests put a damper on my plans). It’s freeing to know I could walk away from the day job whenever I want.

 

Ramblings

The Lost Years

OCD and an addictive personality are a dangerous and expensive combination.

  • 1000+ comic books
  • 300+ books
  • 200+ movies
  • 30 place settings
  • 20 water bottles
  • More cookware than I could possibly use

I bought an iPad Mini in fall of 2014, downloaded a few games, deleted some games, then tumbled down a long, dangerous rabbit hole.

Within a few months, gaming was sucking more time than a full-time job. Worse, I spent thousands of dollars on this game. (Friends spent tens to hundreds of thousands.) It is a diabolical combination of a slick mobile game that rivals any on a console and global player community with some incredibly funny, incredibly supportive, incredibly smart people. We spent thousands of hours strategizing, venting, commiserating, and laughing. We talked about the game and our lives. I formed life-long friendships. I met up with people in Europe and the US. I have another trip planned for December.

I finally quit the game this summer. It was awful. There were bribes and arguments. There may have been tears. Three months later, people still ask me when I’m coming back. We’re a community of addicts and we’ve all seen relapses. However, I know quitting was the best thing for me on many levels and have no intention of ever going back.

Balance is not in an addict’s vocabulary. Between work and the game, everything else in my life fell to the wayside. I considered hiring a cleaning service because housework was getting in the way of my gaming. My nephew resorted to taking my iPad away from me when I visited so I would play with him. Writing trickled down to almost nothing. I kept putting off funding my TFSA. I didn’t rebalance my portfolio for three years. I cringe at the thought of how I hurt myself financially.

To be completely honest, it wasn’t only the game and the community that made me neglect other areas of my life. I lost two cousins fairly recently. One at twenty-seven and one at thirty. I grew up with them. I imagined our kids playing together one day. I fell apart to the point where I could barely think of my family and friends, let alone myself. I dropped down to 80 lbs. I no longer cared about work. I expected to be terminated in the last year; it would’ve been a relief. The game and the community kept me going for a while. Eventually, they weren’t enough, and my doctors and friends pushed me into therapy. I made progress. And now I’m ready to take back control of my life.

Housekeeping

Housekeeping, SW and Instagram

Scarcely Working (SW) is as cleaned up as I’m going to get it while I debate whether or not to continue hosting on WordPress as they are quite restrictive.

The old blog was neglected and left to die because its focus was on writing and publishing. Frankly, I have little interest in discussing the mechanics of writing and the process of publishing. And I disliked the drama in the industry and community even more. I just want to write in peace, so I’ll continue to plug away at it and publish as projects are completed. Luckily for me, I don’t rely on royalties to survive. 🤭😂

The key interests I want to share and discuss with others are personal finance (PF) and food. SW will be for PF and Instagram for my food porn.

I will likely post here once or twice per month. I have spent the last few years immersed in work and gaming and need to recuperate. It’s best to sign up for email notifications if you want to stay abreast.

Thank you!

Housekeeping

Revamp In Progress

My domain renewal got messed up and some douchey drop catch company snapped it up to try and sell it for a profit…so I decided to pivot.

I’m blowing away the old blog but it’s going to take a while to rework the site (snacks are prepped).

Scarcely Working will focus mostly on my post-semi-retired life. 😋