A Thief in Love Suspence Romance

A Touch of Greed
How to Steal the Pharaoh’s Jewels
It Takes a Cat Burglar

A Touch of Greed

The worry stone in Max’s pocket is getting a workout. If it’s not the latest shenanigans of his burglary crew, it’s the bombshell that just exploded in his personal life. Seventeen years after walking out on him, Marianna is back, and she has revelations that will upend his plans for peace and quiet.

The team is salivating to take advantage of her position on an archeological space dig. The backer, an illegal antiquities collector, has long eluded them. Their timeline moves up when they discover that Marianna is the mogul’s chosen fall guy.

Emotionally satisfying with a twist that will leave you shaking your head, Touch of Greed is a fast-paced read you won’t put down.

Publisher: Hot Sauce Publishing

Max dragged a hand down his face, the bristles of his freshly trimmed mustache poking him. Life had become entirely too rowdy. Which was saying something when you considered he was a longtime employee of Sebastian St. Croix, keeping track of the man’s personal business and assisting him in purloining previously stolen artworks, relics, and antiquities. A few experiences along the way had been harrowing. None as deadly as last night’s face-off with a missile. And yet it was today’s meeting that had him rolling the smooth chunk of orbicular jasper in his pocket between his fingers and thumb. He didn’t normally fidget, much less pace. But here he was marking a path between tall fluted columns reminiscent of an Old Earth Greek temple outside the Shaded Garden as he awaited a person he’d never expected to meet again.


She hadn’t said why she wanted to see him, only that it was important and needed to be face-to-face. That was five days ago. The ship she’d taken from Bontol had arrived on planet this morning. She’d messaged him with the location of a restaurant in the quaint suburb of New Arras and a schedule. And here he was, looking like, as Cade had put it, he had a date or a date in court: stylish black suit, crisp open-collared white shirt, primped, polished and waiting on a woman. The one woman he’d ever truly loved. The woman who had crushed his heart seventeen years ago.

Time had been kind to him. A touch of gray at his temples and in his beard were the only hints he was older than the forty he looked. In fact he was forty-seven. Fit. No paunch. Still in his prime.

Why should it matter? He had no wish to renew a relationship that had left him bruised and furious. But he was also well past the mind-set that would enjoy rubbing his undiminished good looks in the face of an old lover. Still he couldn’t deny he wanted her to desire him again, as if that would somehow assuage an ancient heartbreak. More likely to assuage his vanity. Prove casting him off had been a big mistake, one she was here to rectify.

No. Don’t fool yourself. If that were true, it would have happened long ago.

He compelled himself to lean against a column, arms crossed over his chest, the image of a man relaxed and self-assured. She was five minutes late, and if her habits remained predictable, he had five more to wait. And then he saw her, walking toward him in that way she had, almost gliding. The sheath she wore, a vivid coral red, showed off her long legs and the svelte figure she’d managed to maintain over the passing years. The breeze blew her dark hair across her cheek, and she brushed it aside. Their gazes caught, and he fell into her smoky brown eyes as he had the first time they’d met.

Before she reached him, he straightened, his hands falling to his sides, but he made no movement in her direction.

The barest of creases was visible between her brows. Her eyes searched his. Her mouth twitched once, but she didn’t smile. “Max.”

“Marianna.” He forced her name out through a throat grown tight.

They stared at one another as though caught in a spell, before she pressed her lips together and sighed. “Shall we go inside?”

He gestured for her to proceed him and followed her into the restaurant. Water arched from a wall fountain, cascading before a mosaic depiction of dolphins frolicking in the sea. The mural stretched all the way to the high ceiling. The blue, pink, and pale green colors of the walls, artwork, and furnishings gave the place a sense of light airiness, as though they’d been transported to a bistro near a warm ocean inlet. It was the perfect setting for Marianna’s beauty.

Once they settled at a table and had ordered, silence again descended over them like a thick cloud. Customers carried on conversations around them, cutlery clattering amid occasional bursts of laughter, but it was as though he and Marianna were inhabiting their own private universe.

“You look well. Life has been good to you?” It wasn’t a question as much as a statement. Her expression gave nothing away about her inner thoughts.

“Why are you here, Marianna?”

She glanced down, gazing at her lap where Max knew from past habit she was fisting and stretching her fingers. “There…there is someone…”

Her accent, with its slightly rolled r’s and descending cadence, washed over him, eliciting the same visceral response it always had. He waited, the ache in his chest expanding, for her to find the words she needed to tell him.

Her eyes were shimmering with tears when at last she brought her gaze up to meet his. She held her lips tight, unsuccessfully attempting to keep them from trembling.

Was she in some kind of trouble? What could be happening in her life that she believed he was the person she should turn to? He leaned forward. “Tell me. Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it.”

“You have a daughter.” She blinked, and a tear escaped to trail down her cheek.

For a moment Max’s brain froze. His gaze dropped to the table, his vision unfocused. He replayed her words in his mind, once to assure himself he’d heard correctly and a second time as the reality of their meaning slammed home.

He flicked his gaze up to glower at her.

She pulled back as though his stare had physical force to it. “You’re angry.”

Before he could respond, the waiter came with their meals. Max acknowledged the man, thanking him with a false smile while tapping the index finger of his left hand against the tablecloth.

A daughter! How the hell could he have a daughter? Marianna had not been pregnant when she left. He knew for a fact she’d had her birth control vaccine two months prior to their split. A baby was impossible. And even if it were true, why would she wait seventeen years to tell him? Surely the point when she needed help would have been when the child was young. Did she want a payout now? Was she trying to shake him down for money? That wasn’t the Marianna he remembered.

Once the waiter removed the wineglasses they wouldn’t be using and headed into the kitchen, Max took a deep breath and deliberately relaxed his taut muscles. It seemed he didn’t have to fear the dredging up of old emotions and desires. They could stay packed and sealed in the box he’d constructed for them in his heart almost two decades ago. Any thought of reconciling was sliced to pieces by the razor’s edge of a new betrayal.

“Explain how that’s even possible.”

She dipped her chin in a quick nod. “It shouldn’t have been, but my birth control failed.”

He canted his head to the side.

Her eyes widened, and she lifted her hand in a placating gesture. “I know. It’s impossible, but the vaccine I received was one of 144 a tech stole and replaced with saline. Apparently there’s a black market for the stuff. Something to do with slavers and cults where men marry young teenagers.” She waved her finger in the air. “The important point is, I was unprotected the two months we were together. And I became pregnant.”

He turned from her to gaze at a second fountain in the center of the room, locking on to the water flowing from an urn tipped in the hands of a pudgy marble cherub. A child. He’d abandoned any notion that he would have children of his own. First came the wife, and after Marianna there had been no one her equal to fill that role in his life.

He’d always been close to Sebastian since he’d been assigned to protect him when the boy was six years old. That relationship had evolved, but Sebastian hadn’t needed a father. Max had been more an older cousin. It was true he was Uncle Max to Cheyenne, the daughter of Sebastian’s sister, Jeanne. A blessing, but not the same as having a little girl of his own to welcome from the moment of her birth. And now Marianna was telling him he’d had such a child, but she’d denied him sixteen years of parenting that would have created an inseparable bond between them. It tore at him, unleashing a pain that made him want to raise his fists and roar his agony at the universe. Instead he mentally counted at a slow, steady pace and focused on the water spilling from the urn, allowing it to soothe him, to wash away the worst of his emotional reaction.

Still unable to look at her, he finally spoke. “All right. Let’s say I believe what you said. Why the hell didn’t you tell me? Why did you leave, knowing you bore my child?” He turned to face her once again. “My child, Marianna. Not just yours. Mine. Is that the real reason you left? You made it clear that your career was more important to you. That I didn’t fit into your life. But a baby…that would tie me to you for the long term. Did you really want to be rid of me that badly?”

“No.” Her eyes widened. “I didn’t know about the baby when I left. I didn’t realize I was pregnant until a couple of months later. It was so unexpected I didn’t recognize the signs. I wanted to tell you, but you’d left by then, escorting Sebastian on his grand tour. The baby would be a few months old when you returned, so I decided to wait.”

“Why would you do that?” He brought his knuckles to his temple, looking down at the pasta growing cold on his plate. “I don’t understand.” He dropped his hand and stared at her. “I loved you. I would have come back immediately. Hell, you know I wanted you to join us. I’ve never comprehended how you could throw away everything we had created, the love I thought you felt as much as I did, to move off planet for a position at a minor university.”

“It wasn’t minor. It was tenured.” She shook her head. “But that’s not the point. You chose Sebastian over me. I didn’t want you to come back for the baby. I wanted to be first in your life.” Her shoulders lowered. “After she was born, everything changed. Call it maternal instinct, but I realized I was being selfish. I tried to reach you.” She threw her hands up in the air. “You were supposed to be gone for one year. How was I to know you’d extend it another two years and take yourself off to locales where you were impossible to contact?”

“I see.” He grimaced. “It was all my fault for believing you when you’d said it was time for us to go our separate ways. I should somehow have remained available to you. You scraped my heart with a cheese grater when you left, but I should have ignored the pain and continued to hope that we would be together. I remember the ultimatum you gave me like it was yesterday: go with you or go with Sebastian. I begged you to wait for me. I offered to pay the expenses for you to join us during your vacation time. I promised to vid comm you every day. Why couldn’t you just tell me you’d wait for me?”

She bristled at him. “Because I was stupid. Is that what you want to hear? I hated your relationship with Sebastian. I was jealous. You treated him like family. I’d been raised to believe that a person’s heart was limited in capacity. It could love only one person at a time. That’s how my parents explained their lack of interest in me.”

Her voice broke, and she paused to look away for a moment to collect herself before returning her gaze to Max. “I was wrong. I forced you to choose because I couldn’t believe you really loved me if you loved him. I crushed my own heart.”

Sebastian stared at her. He’d known she was jealous of Sebastian, and he’d done everything he could to resolve the tension between Marianna and the boy. But Sebastian hadn’t made that easy. He’d teased her, fought plans to include her, and generally acted like a prick when she was around.

But the boy was eighteen and Marianna was twenty-five. His lips prssed tight, Max fought the retort that filled his mind. He’d expected her to be the one to behave with greater maturity. All his attempts to explain that after the trip he could move to Bontol to be with her had been rebuffed. As was his request that she understand his desire to see Sebastian into manhood. But her focus had been so rigidly set on “me or him.” It was a struggle to keep his gaze settled on her.

“Lina changed me.” Another tear slid down Marianna’s cheek. “I discovered that there was room in my heart to love you and her, each fully and ferociously.”

Max looked past her, pinching his lips. “It’s been seventeen years. Surely you could have found the time to inform me I had a daughter. You haven’t even told me her name.”


He rolled it over in his mind, whispering, “Carolina.”

Marianna’s lips thinned, her brow wrinkling. “Carolina Joana Walker.”

Walker? His stomach went hard. Taking several slow, deep breaths, he resisted the urge to bellow at her, recognizing that she was about to deliver another gut punch. She poked with a fork at the salad she’d ordered, jerky stabs that failed to spear a bite.

“Why Walker?”

The pointless movement of the fork ceased, and her knuckles went white on the handle. She stared at her plate for a hesitant moment before lifting her gaze to him. “I married John Walker when Carolina was a year and a half old. Eventually he adopted her.”

For the first time in a very long while Max wanted to hit something, to vent the emotions raging through him on an inanimate object. A lifetime’s worth of patience and control, gained by dealing with Sebastian’s wild escapades and scrapes, bled away, deserting him when he needed them most.

Marianna. His Marianna had turned to another man. Taken his daughter from him and given her to someone else, a stranger to him. His fist crashed down on the table.

She flinched. “I couldn’t reach you. My savings were gone, and I couldn’t support us. My job paid well enough for one person, but I hadn’t planned on a child when I accepted the position. And you were supposed to come back.” Her voice had become plaintive.

“You were off somewhere in the cosmos having a marvelous time with Sebastian, and I was barely putting food on our table. John Walker was a kind man, and he loved Carolina. What was I to say when he asked me to marry him? What was I to say? ‘No, I’d rather starve’? I’d already spent so many credits on trans-galactic calls that never reached you. I couldn’t afford another. What was I to do? Tell me. Tell me what I should have done.”

He blanched and went completely still. Why hadn’t he gone after her? Followed her? Then he would have found out about the baby. Everything would have been different. Instead he’d allowed his hurt to dictate his actions. He should have known better. He pushed his plate aside, an ache in the back of his throat. Some of those calls had made it through, and he’d ignored them. He scrubbed his hand from his eyes to his chin. He was as much to blame for the way events had turned out as she was. His anger disappeared, leaving him numb.

Unable to swallow, he rasped out his response. “You did what you had to do. Carolina is lucky to have you as her mother.” The tightness in his chest overwhelmed him, but at last he choked out the words that had to be said. “I can’t fault you for how you handled things.” But I can fault myself. I was an idiot.

Marianna’s face crumpled, her lips pressed together, and her chin trembled. “Thank you.” Her words quavered.

He took a breath, long, slow, and deep, forcing air into lungs constricted as though resisting the pressure of a heavy weight. His voice husky, he asked, “What now? Why now?”

Fat tears dripped from her eyes. She brushed them away with slender fingers and squared her shoulders. “Carolina and I are moving here, to Domingue, permanently. I’ve accepted a position as a project manager for the Sauterelle II archeological expedition. Since Domingue is the closest planet to where the ship was discovered in deep space, they’re towing it into orbit near the space station. The expedition’s offices are here.”

She paused. “I thought…if you and she were willing”—she fingered the pendant at her throat—“it was time for her to meet you.”

He brushed a hand across his forehead to counter his sudden light-headedness. “And is she? Willing?”

“She doesn’t know about you yet. I’m not certain how she’ll react. I wanted to be sure of your response first.”

He nodded gravely, his mind scurrying with possibilities. “And your husband? How does he feel about this?”

Marianna bowed her head before returning her gaze to Max. “He died a year and a half ago.”

“I see.” Despite all the pain this discovery brought, he had a daughter. His heart actually leaped at the thought. A daughter of his own to care for and guide and spoil as only a papa could. He leaned forward and held his hand out to her. When she delicately laid her own in it, he squeezed. “I would love to meet my daughter and will accept whatever conditions you impose. If she refuses, I won’t pursue matters.” His stomach wrenched. “I’ll leave it to her, but please do all you can to convince her.”

He lowered his gaze to their joined hands. “I’ve…” She pressed his fingers tight. “I’ve always wanted a child, your child. I was half in love with her before I knew she existed. Now… It’s like I’ve been given a most precious gift. Thank you. I’ll cherish her as long as I live.”

Her face had softened as he spoke. “I know you will. I never doubted it.” She gave a deep sigh. “I’ll call you. I can’t give you a timeline. Everything depends on Carolina.”

“Of course.” He brought her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to it. “Whatever you need from me, you have but to ask.”

She glanced to the side. “I should go. Thank you for lunch. I’m sorry I didn’t have the appetite to eat.”

It took effort to release her warm fingers. Memories of how she had skillfully caressed him played in his imagination. But that was the past. She hadn’t even hinted at the possibility of renewing their relationship. And why would she? He’d betrayed her, after all. He needed to stop thinking that way. “I’ll wait to hear from you.”

She rose, smoothing her dress. “Go with God, Max.” He stared after her as she slipped away, a spot of vibrance in a prosaic world.

Go with God. That phrase was so much a part of his remembrances of the woman. Go with God, she’d say when they parted. But the last time they’d left each other, God had chosen not to accompany him. Abandoned to his own imprudence, he’d made the worst mistake of his life. His stomach knotted. Regret was a bitter pill.


How to Steal the Pharaoh's Jewels

How to Steal the Pharaoh's Jewels
Part of the A Thief in Love Suspence Romance series:

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.

Publisher: Hot Sauce Publishing

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?”


“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.

Reviews:DC on Amazon 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!

Liza O'Connor on The Multiverse of Liza O'Connor wrote:

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!

It Takes a Cat Burglar

When Darcelle Lebeau throws off the invisible chains that keep her bound to her family, she discovers a new vocation. Tempted to enter the illegal playground of a man she nicknames Matou, she becomes a cat burglar in training. Deeply ensnared with each task he entices her to fulfill, she fails to discover his identity and true intentions.

Sebastian St. Croix, a wealthy businessman, has a dark side. He’s a thief, a cat burglar who steals art and historical objects. For one year, he trains Darcelle to become his assistant, remaining incognito, observing her from afar. His admiration grows along with his desire for her with every phase-one challenge she completes. Phase two will test the limits of his control. Hands-on personal training? Yes. Sex? No. With his sister’s happiness at stake, nothing, not even the tempting Darcelle Lebeau, can interfere with accomplishing the biggest break-in of his career.

Buy Now to immerse yourself in the risky business of falling for a cat burglar.

The first in the A Thief in Love Romance series of novellas.

Also available in 6"x 9" trade paperback at Amazon.

Publisher: Hot Sauce Publishing

DARCELLE’S REFLECTION STARED back at her from the solid mirror that covered the side of the Jepsen Building where she hung, suspended twelve hundred feet above the city sidewalk. Anger and determination filled the charcoal-gray eyes of her mirror image. Even as an infant, the darkness integral to her nature must have peered out of round, solemn baby eyes that weren’t the expected dark brown of her mother and father or the amber of her twin sister. No, she’d been born with eyes best described as a grayish mist. With each passing year, they’d grown darker. Someday they might rival the night sky that tonight was a wash of black pushed back by the ineffectual streetlights below and the pale serenity of a waning moon. The skull cap she wore covered the braids she’d used to tame her masses of kinky cinnamon curls.


No breeze stirred the night air, for which she was thankful. The micro-cable anchored to the sidewalk didn’t allow for much sway as the winch above pulled her higher. The noise of traffic wafted up like a soundtrack to another reality.

She swung a leg over the ledge surrounding the roof of the building. Sunrise was less than an hour away, but for now, the wealthy residents of the Jepsen slept below her, convinced that the security they spent thousands of credits on created an impenetrable barrier around them. She smirked, satisfied she was about to prove them wrong. The latest antiskimmer technology may prevent aircars from landing, but it didn’t keep out birds or, as in her case, people who avoided the domed security field by slipping under it at the edge of the building’s roof.

Security plans always had holes. Her day job at the Art et Antiquités Institut de la Sécurité was to close those she discovered in her client’s protection profiles, or at least render them too small to be exploited. Your average cat burglar couldn’t accomplish what she was attempting. The mirrored facade of the building resisted any attachments, so any of the standard slick surface anchors were worthless, as were the nonslip soles of her shoes. It was worse than trying to climb on ice.

Over the last year Darcelle had honed her skills to surpass those of the typical thief. The instructions she received before each job had included training exercises and detailed steps for committing each robbery. It was as though she was being mentored by a master thief, a man she’d never seen much less met or spoken with. Notes were his sole means of communication, written in a flowing script that was both masculine and artistic.

This was the most difficult assignment she’d received. She couldn’t land on the top of the building, she couldn’t climb the side, and attempting to penetrate through an entrance was equally impossible. Not a problem.

The surface of the roof was covered in fine-grain sand. She dropped from the ledge, squatting to avoid skidding and falling on her ass. The bands of her harness burned as though they were embedded in her skin. She snapped the releases and pulled the harness off, rubbing between her legs and over her lower butt cheeks. The painful part of this operation was over. She let the harness fall next to the winch. When the break-in was discovered, they’d find the hoist chem-sealed to the ledge of the Jepsen’s roof. Let the security guards figure that out. It hadn’t taken her long the previous night to use a gravity drone to slip it under the security field and drop it onto the ledge. The breakable containers filled with chems on the winch’s underside had smashed, allowing the contents to mix and bond the winch to the stone, and the hoist had been ready to use.

She turned, squinting across the roof at an aircar circling in the distance. Time to get indoors. The heat tap was to her left and, next to it, the entrance to the main utility conduit. The cap had a standard entry lock, but the keypad was on the inside. Tough luck if the cover shut and you got stuck up here, unless you had the gadget she had tucked in her pocket. In less than thirty seconds it ran through a gazillion keystroke variations, and the cap popped open. She swung inside, bracing her feet on a rung of the synthsteel ladder that scaled the conduit from top to bottom. The cover thunked when she pulled it closed. Her destination wasn’t far.

She stopped her descent and clamped one hand tightly on the textured metal of the ladder. With the other hand she pulled the hood of her used hazard suit over her face and sealed it. Ugh! Nothing smelled like the stale odor of air inhaled through secondhand hazard suit filters, but it was better than breathing in the poisonous air she’d be entering.

No one was supposed to be home in the penthouse. Sand nits had invaded the CEO of Trans Vargas Shipping’s lofty domain. Once established, the only way to get rid of the bugs was fumigation. Who would have thought the anonymous floral bouquet sent to the man’s wife would be infested with nasty critters? Threat assessment of deliveries didn’t include scanning for the hundreds of tiny little eggs waiting to hatch and release a horde of pernicious pests. After all, the flowers were organic, and they weren’t meant to be eaten. Thoughts of sand nits made her back itch, right in the center along her bra strap where she’d once been bitten by the nasty buggers.

Gah! Not real!

She wrenched her mind back and climbed through the hatch into the dark utility room. “Lights.” Her voice was muffled by her hood and the sound-dampening walls. Across the narrow room crowded with the mech required to create modern luxury, a door led out to the main apartment. She’d taken a set of the original Jepsen Building plans from the Bureau de la Conformité de la Construction. Over the last week she’d memorized the route she would follow and alternates. She’d learned the hard way to do just-in-case planning when her third venture outside the law had taken a turn for the worse.

The utility room was in the staff area of the suite off a short hall that led to a swinging door. It was the dividing line between the haves from the have-nots. She hadn’t grown up on the haves’ side of such doors, but once her sister made tubs of money, she’d learned her way around the other side. She loped to the door, cracked it open, and scanned the serving foyer. The safe she planned to crack was in the study. That room had two entrances, one from the main hall that connected the bedrooms and another that opened from inside the master bedroom. She’d chosen the second route even though it was longer. Retrieving the item in the safe was only part of the reason for breaking and entering this luxurious home. Her primary purpose was to find what the mastermind behind her crimes had promised to leave her.

His instructions detailed the location and description of a valuable piece of art or an antiquity she was to reacquire and return to the person or institution designated. All of them had been stolen. This was her twenty-ninth burglary. Once the artifact was restored to its legitimate owner, a clue to the mystery that dominated her existence was delivered. Who was sending the notes? Why had he chosen her? She never discovered how the messages and the clues ended up where she could find them. Sometimes they were in the desk drawer in her office at work. One she found stuck to the mirror in her bathroom. Whoever was sending them was an expert cat burglar. He’d made it evident he had free run of her personal and business space. She’d nicknamed him Matou, tomcat, for obvious reasons.

Tonight’s initial task, scaling the Jepsen Building, was the toughest task she’d so far encountered. Opening the safe would be easy. She could crack any safe made. You might as well gift wrap your valuables if you relied on a safe to keep burglars from walking off with them. This time her instructions had included no how-tos, just where and when. And sniggering information about sand nits. Figuring out how to get into the penthouse suite was up to her. He’d increased the difficulty.

He’d also told her this was her final exam. Whatever that meant. And after she recovered the artifact, she would find a reward waiting where the master laid his head at night. Okay. Look on the pillows of the bed in the master bedroom.

Now the end was in sight, through the entrance to the penthouse master bedroom that stood before her.

She swung the door open soundlessly. The bed was against the far wall. It had been stripped of bedding and covered with a large gray sheet. A single pillow lay at the head, a bright yellow piece of paper visible on it. The ancient Viking knife in the safe was supposed to be her priority, but she’d check the pillow first. Matou wouldn’t know she’d switched things up.

She strode to the bed, her pulse pounding in her ears.

Four words. That’s all that was written on the paper in the same ornate handwriting used on every preceding communication.

Congratulations. I’m behind you.

She froze.

How could she have missed it? The same dark, prickling tension that had inched along her spine every time she’d sensed Matou observing her in the past was now knitting her muscles and bones together, turning her to stone. It was him. He’d never let her see or hear him, but her body reacted when he was near, as though when he gazed at her, a furnace ignited inside her. It was damn spooky.

She jumped when his fingers closed on her shoulder.

“Don’t turn.”

Like a low, throbbing bass note, his voice resonated through her to the ends of her fingers. Hell. She couldn’t move, much less turn. He trailed his hand along her collarbone. Despite the thick layer of duracloth between her and his fingertips, Darcelle was certain warmth penetrated the fabric.

His sudden yank startled her. Shock pulsed through her. He was undoing the seal on the hood of her skin suit.

“No!” She batted at him, twisting to escape his grasp. He clamped her in a bruising hold, immobilizing her.

“I said don’t turn. Stop struggling.”

Rapid inhalations of the sour combination of aged body odor and fear inside her skin suit made her nasal passages burn. She continued to writhe, fighting to free herself. He’s going to kill me!

“Fuck it. Stop. The air is pure. Look.”

Several moments passed before she registered the sun-darkened arm and hand waving in front of her. Long elegant fingers twiddled. Her breathing hitched. No gloves. He wasn’t wearing a skin suit. She stilled, allowing him to remove her hood.

“Do exactly as I say, and all will be well.”

With gentler hands he turned her toward him. She gasped. He was gorgeous. Only a master sculptor could have formed a face of such perfect symmetry. The masculinity of his high cheekbones, angled jaw, and straight brows was softened by his exquisite lips. Heat flushed through her body.

From beneath black locks slanting over his forehead, pale green eyes stared at her. Was he waiting for a response?


A smile flashed across his lips. “Are you ready to trust me?”

Darcelle pursed her lips. “I’ll try.”

He grunted. “Good enough. We are alike, minou, my kitten. Our trust must be earned.”

In the silence that fell, Darcelle waited, her legs growing restless. An instant before she burst into anxious questions, he spoke.

“This skin suit is repulsive. Clothes have been laid out for you in the master bathroom. I assume you know where that is located?”

She nodded her head, trying to keep her respiration steady even though her chest was tight. This calm, gorgeous man, her cat burglar, her Matou, had her flustered and, beyond all belief, compliant.

“Change and meet me in the study.”

“Yes, Mat—”

Her confusion must have shone on her face, because he filled in the missing designation. “Sir. Call me sir.” He quirked an eyebrow at her.

Darcelle dropped her gaze to the floor. “Yes, sir.”

“Go on.”

She heard a smile in his voice. When she looked up, his lips were twitched in a half grin. She returned his expression before skittering off toward the bathroom. Gods, he’s so damn hot!

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