How to Steal the Pharaoh's Jewels
Cade’s fantasy is to seduce his best friend if he isn’t murdered first.
His comfortable routine as a member of Sebastian St. Croix’s cat burglar team is shattered the day he’s pinned in a crushed car. In a moment of clarity, before everything goes dark, he realizes he’s in love with his best friend, a woman who has sworn off intimate relationships for life.
It’s taken Bassinae years to overcome a past filled with physical abuse and embrace the truth that she is a powerful, capable woman in her own right. Tamping down a case of nerves, she’s ready to take on a larger role as a thief in Sebastian’s next caper. If only Cade would stop acting like a lovelorn idiot. She needs her best friend’s support to help steal the Pharaoh’s jewels.
Set in the distant future, this sci-fi suspense romance has action and adventure as well as a sizzling romance.
Also available in 6"x 9" trade paperback at Amazon.
CADE KISSED THE SIDE of Bassinae’s head. “Why do you watch these things if they scare you so much? You’re practically in my lap.”
“I like it. Besides”—she grasped his hand to pull his arm tighter—“I have you to keep me safe.”
“Always.” He gave her a squeeze. “But protective detail has made me hungry. You promised to feed me if I watched this horror vid with you.”
She slapped his thigh. “And a promise is a promise. I can make sandwiches, or we can go to Gio’s.”
“Let’s stay in. Eat on the terrace. This is the nicest day we have had so far this year.”
“Sandwiches it is.”
He followed her into the kitchen, opening the cooler door to grab a brew. “How do you find anything in this mess?”
“My apartment may be cluttered, but I know where everything is.” She took the handle from him and opened the door wider. “What do you want?”READ MORE
“A beer. If there’s one hiding amid all those bottles of health drinks.”
She reached in and pulled out the beverage he’d been looking for and handed it to him, pushing him away from the cooler when he reached out to rearrange things. “Oh no you don’t. You can turn your cooler into a military barracks, not mine. Get to the terrace. I’ll bring our sandwiches out in a minute.”
“Fine. But none of those disgusting kelp chips.”
If he had seen the broad grin on her face, he would have scowled and accused her of plotting to poison him with health food. Instead he sauntered out of the kitchen toward the terrace doors, as always, comfortable with who he was. He was her best friend, one of a very short list of men she loved. Purely platonic. Romance was out of the question, but if she were looking for that kind of love, Cade Johnson was the type of man she would look for. He was her biggest supporter, the person she spent most of her time off with.
She turned with a happy sigh to plop slices of bread on the plates she’d placed on the counter. From ingredients she pulled from the cooler, she created a sandwich piled high with Cade’s favorites, to which she added a sprinkling of cruciferous vegetable powder that he would never notice. She wouldn’t have to resort to these interventions if he ate better, but he refused to eat broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or anything he included in his nasty veggies list.
On the terrace she found him stretched out on the one chaise lounge she owned. She handed him his plate. “Hey. That’s my spot.”
“You snooze, you lose.”
“Uh-huh.” She gave him the stink eye, but he was already biting into the sandwich. “I’ll be right back.” When she returned, she scooted a chair toward the chaise, settled in with her own lunch, and propped her bare feet on his leg.
He smirked at her. “That works.”
Quiet surrounded them. The sunny balcony with its riot of flowering plants hanging in baskets and standing in clusters of pots was an inviting space to enjoy a lazy afternoon. When the weather allowed, Bassinae often ate her lunch outside, soaking up vitamin D from the sun and letting the warmth seep into her bones.
Cade finished his food before she did, following the last bite with a deep pull from his beer. He shut his eyes and would have been asleep in minutes if she hadn’t spoken.
“I’ve been thinking.”
He peered at her with one eye. “And?”
She gazed off into the distance. “I feel like I need something more in my life. I don’t know. I love my job, working with abused women at Do It Now, but it’s pretty much a routine. I’m not stretching, growing.” She returned her gaze to him. “Does that make sense?”
A furrow appeared on his forehead. “You want to find a new job? You’d have to give up your apartment here. It would be harder to meet you for lunch when I’m free.”
“No.” She nudged him with her foot. “Not a new job. It’s just...something’s missing. Maybe I should take up aikido. I don’t know. I thought you might have some ideas.”
He studied her. “A vacation. That’s what you need. Your brain’s been sending you subliminal messages ever since Jeanne and Cheyenne left on their beach trip. I’ve got time coming to me. We could go bake ourselves too.” He sliced the air with his hand. “No, we could go hiking in the Béarn Mountains. The two of us. Pack in our supplies. What do you say?” He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Fresh mountain air. Bubbling streams. A handsome companion.”
“It sounds like fun. I’d go even if you weren’t handsome.”
A triumphant grin broke across his face. “Ah-ha! The truth at last. She thinks I’m handsome.”
She threw a kelp chip at him. “Idiot.”
It slid off his arm when he flinched away from it. “Watch it, or I’ll have you charged with assault with deadly food.” He resettled himself and closed his eyes. “Think about it. It could be fun.”
Maybe, but it didn’t ring true as the solution to what ailed her. Not that she could figure out what was causing this dissonance that had infiltrated her being. She’d become a static creature, good at what she did, but with no new challenges. If only she could lie back and enjoy life the way Cade did. Sometimes she wanted to crawl into his arms and soak in his peaceful confidence.
Sipping from her bottle of green tea lemonade, she contemplated Cade. Maybe he was right and all she really needed was a vacation. Maybe, maybe, maybe. She had more maybes than answers, but she was determined to figure this out.
* * * *
THE MAIN THRUWAY TO the spaceport was snarled in gridlock, so Cade diverted the car to a slower but better regulated side street. He made this trip frequently enough that he had the route and its alternates memorized, down to the timing of the automated signals. Still he would have preferred the quicker course of an open thruway.
His conversation with Bassinae yesterday replayed in his mind. Was she really so dissatisfied with her life that she’d quit her job at Do It Now? What would that mean for her role as a member of Sebastian’s burglary team? Hell, what would it mean to no longer have his best friend and the most important woman in his life right next door? Fate couldn’t be that cruel.
And now this road was jammed two intersections ahead.
“Damn traffic!” He slapped his palm on the padded steering wheel. In the old days no one got in his way. But then he’d been wearing battle armor as a peacekeeper for the United Colonies. Nothing like fear to clear citizens from your path.
“Problem?” The deep voice resonating from the back seat was Sebastian St. Croix, Cade’s boss and the man who had taken Cade in when the military cast him on the trash heap.
“No. Intersection’s blocked ahead. I’ll go another street right. We’ll get there in plenty of time.”
“Do what you have to. You know how my mother hates to stand around and wait. If we’re not there, she’ll take a cab, and I’ll hear about it for the next two weeks.”
Cade chuckled. “I’ll try to keep you out of trouble.” Sebastian’s mother was a force of nature. Nothing stopped her from doing as she pleased except for her husband, Sebastian’s father. The man was the immovable object that, when necessary, blocked her irresistible drive forward. The only time Cade had been a witness to such a set down, his admiration for the man’s authority had grown immensely. But Gerald St. Croix was the only person alive who had that effect on his wife.
The woman refused to use shuttle flights on the planet, even though she was wealthy enough to afford them. One should never take to the air when traveling short distances. This was her dictum based in theory on energy savings. Not that there was any substantial difference in fuel cost between ground and shuttle traffic. She’d grown up on a colony planet that had suffered near-catastrophic power loss from the shoddy infrastructure installed by political crooks. To this day she insisted on saving energy when it didn’t overly hinder her pampered lifestyle. Thus, collecting her from the spaceport took an hour-long drive rather than a fifteen-minute flight.
Cade grunted his approval and noted that the route change had worked. The road ahead was less congested, so he relaxed back into his seat and picked up speed. A parking garage lined the left side of the street, with office buildings on the right. He checked the time and glanced in the rearview mirror. “Want some music?”
At that moment, a large dump truck came barreling out of an exit of the parking garage they were about to pass. Cade swung right and hit the brakes hard, hoping to lessen the inevitable impact. The screech of metal and the splintering of the car’s plasti-shell filled Cade’s ears along with a sound like the roaring thunder of thousands of wild animals stampeding toward him.
Safety foam inundated the foot wells of the car, and the air ballasts deployed. One thought struck him. No pain. And then the world winked out.
The next he knew, someone was shouting his name and agony radiated from his pelvis. The gray airbags that held him in place deflated. Before him the mangled remains of the windshield gave him a partially obstructed view of the front end of the dump truck, an irresistible force that even Gerald St. Croix couldn’t have stopped. The left side of the car was crushed and had been pushed into the passenger side, displacing Cade two-and-a-half feet to his right.
A voice sounded behind him. “Cade. We’re going to get you out of there. Hang on. They’ll have to cut you out.”
That was Sebastian. Thank the gods he’s okay. Minutes passed, but it seemed like hours before Cade heard sirens approaching.
“The police and emergency services are here. It’s going to be all right, Cade.”
How the fuck did this happen? Who in their right mind would drive a dump truck at that speed out of a parking garage onto a street?
“Sir? Can you hear me, sir?” A uniformed man’s head and shoulders appeared outside the shattered front window.
“Yes,” Cade croaked.
“I’m going to stabilize your neck with a collar and cover you while we break the side window and remove the roof of the vehicle.” The man pushed his way farther into the car. He slipped the collar around Cade’s neck and secured it, asking, “Where do you hurt?”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“Yeah.” Cade mumbled the brief details.
“Okay. We’re ready to remove the car’s roof. I’m going to place a blanket over you and then a shield. I’ll be right here with you.” Cade felt the emergency tech take hold of his hand. “It’s going to be noisy. If you need us to stop for any reason, squeeze my hand. Got that?”
“Got it. Squeeze your hand. Just get it done. It hurts like hell.”
“Pain meds have to wait for a full eval. But as soon as possible we’ll get you feeling better.”
“I know the drill.” Did he ever. Battle armor didn’t prevent everything, and even when it worked, the human inside could get battered and bruised.
“Here comes the blanket.” With the cover and then the flexible plastic shield in place, Cade’s world narrowed further. Claustrophobia enveloped him. He began to pant and grew dizzy.
The emergency med tech’s response was muffled but audible. “You’re all right. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth.”
Cade heard the tinkle of falling plasti-glass. His fist clenched, he followed the tech’s instructions and the light-headedness passed. Gods. I’m such a limp dick. Hell of a thing for a former special-forces operative to get his nuts handed to him over. Can’t take having a blanket covering your head.
Shouting voices intermingled with a whirring sound and then a high, metallic screech, a pause, and then more screaming synthsteel. The pain in his pelvis became white-hot when something jarred the vehicle. He gritted his teeth as a wave of nausea hit him. His eyelids squeezed shut, he counted seconds. When he reached one hundred forty-eight, light struck his lids, and he opened his eyes.
A long, slender nozzle came into view, releasing a mist on top of the solidified foam that held him in place from the knees down. The foam melted away. He moved his right foot; the other refused to budge. He immediately regretted the action when pain sliced through his torso, down his legs, and up his spine. He struggled to endure the blinding agony, hanging on, waiting for it to ease while he remained frozen, panting in short, staccato breaths. It’s a broken pelvis at the very least. Internal bleeding if it’s bad. Hell, it feels like my whole left side is crushed. He fought the urge to push his way out of the car. I could be bleeding out. If they don’t hurry, I could die.
The men working over him issued orders for placement of the backboard and the plan for extracting him. Their voices slowly faded into the background as cold gripped him. Stay awake. Don’t pass out. Don’t die. But his body ignored him.
One last image passed through his mind before consciousness winked away: Bassinae.
Adele is the name of Sebastian's mother.COLLAPSE
Liza O'Connor on The Multiverse of Liza O'Connor wrote:
I loved the continuation of this series! The friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite romantic plots because of the level of intimacy already existing between the two characters. I immediately connected with Cade and Bassinae, and felt their relationship played out so very well. The chemistry between the two had my kindle heating up! I just loved how complicated Cade’s story is outside of the cat burglar plot which was a fun twist. Bassinae’s passion for helping abused women was also a great touch!
I was also glad to see quite a bit of Sebastian and Darcelle in this. It was like visiting with old friends, and Sebastian’s Mom is one of my favorites. I was left hoping that Max’s story is the next in line! I can’t wait for more interesting burglarizing, complex and cool characters, and super sexy romance! I highly recommend this series as well as Cailin’s other books. They all have science fiction elements and steamy situations which I just can’t get enough of!
This is an intriguing story that comingles making matters right with taking back your life.
There are many issues to deal with since nothing is easy for Sebastian and his staff...or his mother for that fact. Especially, keeping the staff alive.
Still, with a bit of cleverness, they manage to recover jewels from the impenetrable vault in the most intriguing way, while teaching yet another woman to be strong. I love stories that have strong women in them. And this one is packed full of them!