One last job and she’s out of the family business…
It’s a good plan. Get in, grab the jewelry, and get the hell out. Piper Lewis knows the layout of Cason Wilde’s place, and where
the safe is located. Technically, she’s not a thief. She’s a retrieval expert, except the law probably won’t see it like that. It’s still
breaking and entering.
One small glitch: Piper didn’t plan on Cason catching her in the middle of the job. Tall, dark, sexy-as-hell, and not at all happy
to see her with her hand in his safe. Brandishing her little bitty gun only ticks him off more. So, yes, when he charges her, it’s a
natural reaction that her finger jerk. She only grazes him, but he can’t seem to remember what happened, and he thinks Piper is
Now, Piper’s stuck playing nursemaid to someone because she’s consumed with guilt. New plan: as soon as his memory
returns, she’ll make good her escape. No more guilt trip. What could possibly go wrong?
Piper Lewis sat on the high stone fence and stared at the house. No, it wasn’t a house, it was a mansion. At least compared to her tiny apartment. As far as mansions go, it was probably on the smaller side, six thousand square feet, but still impressive…and forbidding. Especially in the dark of night.
How had she let her father talk her into doing this again? Her forehead wrinkled in thought. Or for that matter, the last three jobs.
She squared her shoulders. This was the absolute last one she did for him, and she meant it this time.
Her cell phone began to play Wild Thing. She rolled her eyes. This might be a good time to put her phone on mute. She pulled it from her pocket and looked at the screen. Her father’s face smiled back at her.
“What?” she asked.
“Just checking in.”
Really? “I said I’d do it, didn’t I? This is absolutely the very last time, though.”
“But you’re the best retrieval expert I have.”
She hated when he whined. “You can call it anything you want, but it’s still breaking and entering.”
“Technically, you’re only getting what doesn’t belong to him and returning it to the rightful owner.”
“I’m pretty sure that won’t stand up in court.”
“Come on, Piper, it’s her grandmother’s jewelry. How would you feel if someone took your grandmother’s ring?”
She snorted. “Maddie doesn’t have a sentimental bone in her body. She’ll hock or sell anything long before she has even one foot in the grave.” Hence, the reason she called her grandmother, Maddie. Unless Maddie was using her grandmother status to scam someone, then she called her Nana. Her grandmother was what her father called a natural in the business.
When Piper was around ten, her father decided to go legit, much to the chagrin of her grandmother. Well, sort of. He’d opened his office and claimed he was a retrieval expert. If something was lost or stolen, he’d find it—most of the time.
Piper started going with him on jobs when she was twelve, and at the time, loved the idea of returning items to the rightful owner. Because of her early experience, she could pick a lock and bypass the most intricate alarm system.
“You are going to retrieve the jewelry, right?”
“Dad, I’m already here. The lights upstairs went off about an hour ago. I said I would, now let me do this, because it’s getting cold out here.”
“I always am.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
She muted her phone and slipped it back in her pocket, then wound her shoulder-length, blonde hair into a knot and stuffed it under her lucky blue baseball cap—go Texas Rangers. After making sure the hook on the stone wall was secure, she pushed off and repelled to the ground.
Her black shirt, black pants, and black tennis shoes blended in with the night as she silently made her way to the door. She practically knew the place inside and out. The blueprints had been easy to obtain. Her cousin, Dalton, had pretended to be a wealthy businessman interested in a home exactly like the home that was right in the middle of the Texas Hill Country, near New Braunfels. He’d covertly taken all the pictures of the blueprints so that Piper would know the layout. He was good at covert operations, being an ex-marine and all. That, and he was raised in this business as much as she had been.
Piper also knew there was no domestic help living on the premises, so she didn’t have to worry about bumping into a maid or butler looking for a late night snack. His cleaning crew came in once a week, and they had been there today.
The man inside the mansion was a different story.
A shiver ran down her spine, and this time it wasn’t from the cold January wind. She quickly shook off the ominous feeling of impending doom. Cason Wilde was an enigma. She’d seen a grainy picture of him at a wedding for his best friend who was marrying a princess. Dark hair, green eyes, well built. Not bad looking. He’d made several fortunes, all different ventures, and even lost a few. He apparently liked taking chances. That was one thing they had in common.
As she stopped at the backdoor, a familiar adrenaline rush swept through her. Yes, she understood taking chances. This was the one thing she would miss when she left the business—that burst of excitement coursing through her veins.
She undid the cloth belt at her waist and unrolled it. Dalton had told her the alarm system was state of the art. Then they had both laughed. Dalton knew there was no alarm system that Piper couldn’t bypass.
She selected the tool she would need, then inserted it into the lock. When the lock almost immediately clicked open, she rolled her eyes. The alarm system might be complicated, but a child could pick the door locks. She quickly replaced the tool, then fastened the cloth belt back around her waist. Silently, she slipped inside the house, closing the door behind her.
More burglars had been caught because they left the back door open. The owner had come downstairs when he heard a noise, saw the open door, and called 911. Or so her father had told her. She wasn’t sure if it was true or not, but she never took any chances and always closed the door behind her.
Dalton had also visited the alarm company and shown them blueprints of the house he was going to build. He wanted to know where they would put the alarm system. Eager for his business, they had showed him a downstairs coat closet with easy access to the system. Piper shook her head. People could be so gullible.
The closet was easy to locate. It was only a few feet from the back door. Again, she shook her head as she quickly disarmed it. Elementary. It looked complicated enough. There were a lot of gadgets, switches, and blinking red and green lights. It was probably meant to impress the owner. Cason Wilde had probably dropped a hefty sum to buy something that would never keep out any self-respecting burglar. Not that she was a burglar. She was a retrieval expert.
Now to get the jewelry. The sooner she was out of there, the better. She slipped out of the closet and turned on her mini Maglite. Amelia Watts, the woman who hired her father had said there was a safe in the living room behind the landscape picture. She stealthily made her way in that direction. When she entered the room, she shined her flashlight around.
Wow. She whistled beneath her breath. If the artwork wasn’t reproductions, then there was enough money hanging on the walls to keep her living in luxury for a few years. Not to mention the Persian carpet under her feet. Too bad she wasn’t a thief.
She swung her light to the landscape picture that hung above the massive fireplace. Too high. She’d never be able to reach it. She shined her flashlight around the room, stopping when it landed on a chair she could move nearer.
She quickly realized it was heavier than it looked. Definitely not a fake, she thought as she strained to drag it across the hardwood floor. She was huffing and puffing when she had it in place, and she knew she was in good shape. She took a moment to calm her breathing, then stepped onto the cushioned seat. When she had her balance, she felt around for the switch that would raise the picture, just as her father had been told.
And shame on Cason Wilde for keeping the jewelry after he and Amelia broke up! Along with practically everything else the poor woman owned. Including her clothes. He told her that he would ship them to her. Men could be such jerks.
And this one wasn’t very smart, since it had been so easy to break into his home. She could tell Cason Wilde a few things about making his home safe and secure. Maybe she would send him an anonymous note after the fact. She snickered, then got serious again.
After a quick examination of the safe, she could tell it had a three tumbler, three number combination. She balanced herself on the arms of the chair to reach it a little easier, then pulled out a special stethoscope and placed it near the tumblers. With the patience of a kindergarten teacher, she listened for each one to click into place.
She pulled down on the handle. The safe easily opened. Now to get the jewelry and get out of the house. There was just something about this place that made her nervous, and she was never nervous. She reached inside the safe.
She stretched her arm all the way to the back. She even moved it across the sides and the top. Still nothing.
The room suddenly illuminated with bright light.
She gasped, dropping down to the seat of the chair, then jumping to the floor as she quickly scanned the room.
Cason Wilde stood in the doorway: tall, dark, and menacing. Her gaze quickly swept over the white shirt that was buttoned partway, exposing a great deal of tanned, muscular chest. Then down to his black slacks, and the fact he was barefoot. The man was devilishly attractive, the grainy picture had definitely not done him justice. She mentally shook her head. Right now, she needed to concentrate on something besides his looks. Like how the heck was she going to get out of this situation?
“Do you mind telling me what you were doing with your hand in my safe?”
She jutted her chin out. “I’m a retrieval expert, and I was doing the job I was hired to do.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Is that what they’re calling burglars these days?” He reached into his pocket and brought out a cell phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Calling the police.”
Police? Police! No, she couldn’t go to jail. It would ruin all of her plans. How would she ever get a job if she had a record? She quickly pulled out the small gun she carried every time she went out on a job. Thankfully, she’d never had to use it. Not that Piper thought she would now. It might just be her ticket out of there.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
He looked up. “What? Are you going to shoot me?”
“Not if I don’t have to.” She tried to sound tough, but even she could hear the quiver in her voice. She backed toward the opposite doorway, knowing it would circle back around to the kitchen, and she could make good on her escape. Except he began walking toward her. She jabbed the gun toward him. “I said, stay right there.”
“And you’ll shoot me if I don’t. Right?”
“I wouldn’t press your luck if I were you. I’m a deadly marksman.” Actually, she couldn’t hit the side of a barn even if she tried. Her aim had always been off.
He suddenly rushed her. Her trigger finger reacted on instinct. The small gun popped as it fired. His steps faltered as he stared at her in surprise.
“You shot me,” he stated. He reached up to the side of his head and came away with blood.
She dropped the gun on the floor. Oh damn, she’d shot him. She’d never shot anyone in her whole life. “You startled me. Why did you try to rush me? I didn’t mean to shoot you.” He crumpled to the floor. “Please, please don’t die.” She ran over to him and knelt on the floor beside him. His eyes were closed as he lay on his back. There was blood from the wound on the side of his head.
Blood. One of her cousins was a nurse and talked constantly about emergency situations—usually during dinner. Gag. She vaguely remembered her saying to apply pressure to a bleeding wound.
She ran out of the living room, then down a short hallway and opened the door to the bathroom. Please, please don’t let him die, she prayed. She switched on the light and grabbed a rolled up washcloth. She wet it, and then rung it out. Somewhere along the way, she lost her baseball cap and her hair tumbled down around her shoulders. She would find it later.
As she hurried back to him, she prayed that he would still be breathing. Talk about a bad resume. History: A stint in prison for murder. Yeah right, by the time they let her out she would be on social security. She shook her head, she was losing it now. She had to keep her wits about her.
She knelt beside him again, cleaning the wound. Okay, it didn’t look as bad as she’d thought. Only a graze, although it still oozed blood. She held pressure to it as his eyes fluttered open. He looked confused for a moment, then blinked a couple of times.
“Amelia,” he said, then reached a hand behind her head, and pulled her face down to his.
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