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.

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