Always a Thief

Always a Thief

4.0 32
by Kay Hooper
     
 

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In a deadly game of skill and deception...A master thief is just the first wild card…

The priceless, rarely displayed Bannister collection is about to be exhibited—and the show’s director, Morgan West, can’t ignore her growing uneasiness. She’s certain she hasn’t seen the last of the infamous cat burglar Quinn. But she

Overview

In a deadly game of skill and deception...A master thief is just the first wild card…

The priceless, rarely displayed Bannister collection is about to be exhibited—and the show’s director, Morgan West, can’t ignore her growing uneasiness. She’s certain she hasn’t seen the last of the infamous cat burglar Quinn. But she never expected him to turn up at her apartment one dark night in desperate need of her help—help she can’t refuse. The mysterious master thief is playing a dangerous game, and it’s a game that just might get him killed.

With Morgan’s help, Quinn sets a trap intended to catch someone far more elusive…and more deadly…than a thief. But an unseen threat shadows him in the fog-shrouded San Francisco night, an unknown adversary more cunning than any he has yet encountered. Now, just when the stakes are higher than even Quinn can imagine, no one can be trusted—and everything’s at risk.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Before Hooper penned single-title paranormal romantic suspense novels, she wrote series romances for Bantam's Loveswept line. In this uninspired offering, she puts her out-of-print Men of Mysteries Past quartet through a sieve, filters out much of the sex and romance and mixes in elements of the paranormal. What's left is a gaggle of flat characters and a formulaic story line that mirrors Hooper's previous book, Once a Thief, the first entry in this "reimagined" series. When the renowned cat burglar simply known as Quinn comes to exhibition director Morgan West for help after being shot, Morgan promptly calls wealthy, no-nonsense Max Bannister, who's preparing to exhibit his family's collection of priceless jewels and art. Max inexplicably rushes to aid Quinn, who we later learn is working for Interpol in order to catch a murdering thief known as Nightshade. The light bantering between Morgan and Quinn adds a touch of romantic tension to this otherwise tame mystery, but the paranormal aspect-Morgan's weak psychic connection to Quinn-isn't likely to satisfy fans of Hooper's more recent novels. Apart from Quinn, Hooper's characters are sketchily drawn, and many readers may find it far too difficult to grasp the intricacies of their relationships without having read the original Loveswept series. (June 3) Forecast: Fans of Hooper's paranormal thrillers will turn out in droves for this slim offering, but romance readers, particularly those who were disappointed by the lack of sexual sparks in Once a Thief, may opt to borrow rather than buy. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553585681
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/03/2003
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
734,284
Product dimensions:
4.05(w) x 6.85(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Morgan West was beginning to get tense about the entire situation. The Bannister collection of priceless artworks and gems would be moved to the museum within days, which meant the bait would be in the trap. Neither Max Bannister nor anyone else had deigned to inform her that there was a trap, information she knew only because of an overheard conversation. And she hadn't seen—or felt—a sign of Quinn in weeks.

It was maddening.

She didn't fool herself into believing that Quinn wasn't uppermost in her mind. Once she'd gotten over her fury at having been presented with a concubine ring (though she fully intended to give him a piece of her mind about that little item when next they met), she had gone back to spending an hour or two of her evenings parked outside some likely museum or jewelry store, hoping to be able to sense him, feel him, whatever the hell she'd been able to do before. But he hadn't been kidding when he'd said if he didn't want to be found, not even she would be able to find him.

The most elusive thief in the world seemed to have no difficulty in eluding her.

Dammit.

She had read the newspapers front to back and had kept her ears open during her days at the museum, but if Quinn had robbed anybody they apparently didn't know it. There had been no splashy headlines about the world-famous cat burglar, and no breathless news bulletins on television.

In fact, nobody had reported a jewel or art robbery of any kind since Max Bannister, his half brother Wolfe Nickerson, and Interpol agent Jared Chavalier had captured a psychotic thief bent on murdering Storm Tremaine, the exhibit's computer expert.

With that leader of an organized gang of thieves out of business and the gang scattered and inactive, anybody with valuables to protect in the city had heaved an almost audible sigh of relief.

In Morgan's own museum, the Mysteries Past exhibit space was nearly ready for the priceless collection of gems and artworks now being cleaned and appraised in its vault. And barring a definite undercurrent of tension between Wolfe and Jared, things had been downright peaceful.

Morgan told herself she should be happy about that state of affairs. It was best for all concerned. Quinn had quite probably gone back to Europe, especially after she'd warned him about the trap.

Something she hadn't mentioned to Max.

Still, in spite of common sense and logic, she had the nagging feeling that Quinn hadn't left San Francisco. He was here somewhere, and if he hadn't committed a robbery it was probably because he was waiting for a chance to grab Max's collection—trap or no trap.

That was why she kept looking for him, she told herself. Because if the first warning hadn't worked, maybe she could come up with one he would pay attention to. It was, after all, her responsibility to guard the forthcoming exhibit from harm, and Quinn undoubtedly posed a threat she should guard against.

Yeah, right! she sneered at herself.

She was an idiot, there was no doubt about it. She should be doing everything possible to put his ass behind bars and never mind warning him.

She could have provided the police with a very accurate description of him. Did he know that? Of course he did. Did he worry about it? No, because he knew all too well she wouldn't say a word to the police about being able to describe him.

Dammit.

She refused to wear the concubine ring—no matter how beautiful it was—but she hadn't exactly dumped it in the garbage either. In fact, she had a habit of taking it from her jewelry box and staring at it for long minutes each night before she went to bed.

And wouldn't Freud have a field day with that.

On this particular Thursday night, Morgan had, with difficulty, talked herself out of her usual search for Quinn. She had occupied herself with paperwork and a late movie, then showered and dressed for bed in her usual comfortable sleepshirt. She paid a brief visit to her jewelry box and studied the glowing, square stone of the concubine ring, said a few heartfelt words about Quinn's probable ancestry out loud, and, her feelings vented somewhat, went to bed.

When she woke with a start, the luminous display of her alarm clock proclaimed that it was twenty minutes after three in the morning. It was very quiet, but she found herself lying rigidly beneath the covers, wide awake, her ears straining. Something had awakened her, she knew that. Something—

There. A faint sound from the front of the apartment, from the living room. A scratching sound, then a very soft creak, the way a floorboard protested weight.

Morgan held very strong views about guns. She believed that the vast majority of the people who owned guns probably shouldn't have been trusted with a slingshot, and she believed that anyone who had both a gun and a child of any age in the same house was guilty of criminal stupidity.

But she had also been on her own for too long to take dumb chances. So she had learned to handle guns, from experts, and she had bought an automatic to keep in her apartment. Twice a month, she went to a target range and practiced scrupulously to keep her aim true. She was, in fact, a crack shot.

So it was almost a reflex to slide very carefully from the bed, ease open the drawer of her nightstand, and take out the gun. It was another reflex to thumb off the safety and hold the weapon in a practiced two-handed grip.

Of course, it probably would have been smarter to creep into the bathroom with the gun and her portable phone—also on the nightstand beside her bed—lock the door, and call the police. But she didn't even think of that until much later. Instead, she crept toward the door of her bedroom, ears straining, trying to be utterly silent.

The hallway was short, and she lingered close to the wall just outside the living room, searching the dark room for any sign of movement. There—by the window. It was only a shadow, indistinct, but it didn't belong there.

Remaining close to the wall for cover, her eyes fixed on the shadow, Morgan managed not to startle herself with the clear strength of her own voice. "I have a gun," she warned in a grim tone. "And I'll use it, believe me."

"I believe you." The voice was deep, masculine, and somewhat dry. "However . . . since American authorities haven't yet . . . put a price on my head . . . I'd rather you didn't. Shooting me for profit . . . makes perfect sense . . . to me . . . but I'm not . . . quite . . . ready for a mercy killing."

She slumped. "Quinn."

"Don't sound . . . so damned relieved, Morgana," he reproved in an even dryer voice. "I may not . . . be a murderous fiend, but you should . . . at the very least . . . consider me . . . dangerous. I am . . . a known felon . . . after all."

"You're a lunatic." Automatically, she pointed the pistol at the floor as she eased the hammer back down and thumbed on the safety. She stepped into the living room and put the gun on a table by the wall, then turned on the lamp there.

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the sudden light, but when they did she found him near the window, his gloved hands resting on her high-backed reading chair. More disappointed than she wanted to admit to herself, she noted that his usual all-black cat-burglar costume included the ski mask that effectively hid his face. Why was he hiding his face from her when she'd already seen it?

"What are you doing here, anyway?" she demanded.

"Happened . . . to be . . . in the neighborhood," he murmured.

Morgan took a step toward him, then another, frowning. He was standing too still, she thought, too stiffly. And something about the way he was speaking wasn't right. "Oh, really? And you just happened to climb up my fire escape and pick the lock on the window?"

"Lousy lock," he said, his voice growing softer, almost slurring. "You . . . ought to get another."

Forever afterward, Morgan was never certain at what moment she knew what had happened. But she began moving toward him more quickly, covering the space between them with hasty steps. Maybe it was pure instinct that told her what was wrong—the primal sensing of blood and weakness—but she knew with utter certainty that he was very badly hurt. As soon as she was closer to him, the fact was obvious.

"No police, Morgana," he muttered in that soft, thickened voice. "Doctors have to report . . . report—" He swayed, and she was barely able to reach him in time to keep his head from striking the floor when he fell.

A light breeze was clearing out the fog, but the night retained that swathed-in-cotton silence the mist usually provided, so she was careful to make no noise as she glided away from Morgan West's apartment building.

Interesting. Very interesting indeed.

And surprising. So the seemingly infallible Quinn had a weak spot? An unexpected vulnerability in the armor of his heart—and his brilliant mind?

She made her way to the car parked several blocks away and slid inside, only then allowing a soft laugh to escape her. She had come to San Francisco with one goal.

Now she had two.

"Quinn? Quinn?" The black of his sweater showed a dull, wet gleam high on his chest and on his left shoulder. A spreading gleam. And when she pulled the ski mask off, his lean, handsome face was ghostly pale and beaded with sweat, his flesh chilled. His eyes were closed.

Morgan had never felt so cold with fear, but first-aid training took over as she felt for the carotid pulse in his neck. His heart was beating, but faintly and the rhythm was all wrong; he was going into shock.

He was far too heavy for her to move. Keep him warm and elevate his legs, she told herself with a calm inner voice that came from God-knew-where. She dragged a heavy blanket from her bed and covered him, then lifted his legs carefully until they rested across a low hassock.

She didn't want to look at the wound but knew she had to, and Quinn's last mumbled words kept ringing hauntingly in her ears. She couldn't call a doctor, because doctors had to report violent wounds to the police, and the police wanted Quinn in the worst way.

Even so, Morgan knew with absolute certainty that Quinn alive and in jail would forever be her choice over Quinn dead and still an enigma to the police; if she had to make that decision, it was already made.

She used her sewing scissors and carefully cut his sweater open far enough to expose the wound. She didn't know much about this kind of thing, but she was certain she was looking at a bullet wound. One glance was enough; she made a thick pad of several clean cloths and pressed it gently over the sluggishly bleeding wound, fighting a queasy feeling. But that cool inner voice remained calm inside her head.

Not so bad. The bleeding's nearly stopped. Unless there's an exit wound . . . She slipped a hand under his shoulder and didn't know whether she should be relieved that the bullet was still lodged in his body. It isn't near the heart or lung. I think.

"Damn you," she muttered, hardly aware of speaking aloud. "Don't you die on me, Quinn. Damn you, don't die."

Those absurdly long lashes of his lifted and, even now, a gleam of amusement lurked in the darkened green eyes. "If you're going to swear at me," he said in a voice little more than a whisper, "then . . . at least use my first name."

"I don't know it," she snapped, holding on to her ferocity because she suspected it was the only thing that kept her from falling apart.

"Alex," he murmured with the ghost of a laugh.

Morgan didn't feel any sense of triumph at all, even though she was certain he wasn't lying to her. Alex was his name, his real name, and that knowledge put her several jumps ahead of just about everybody who was chasing Quinn. But she didn't feel any elation because he'd trusted her with the information. She was very much afraid that it might well be along the lines of a deathbed confession. Her voice held steady and grim.

"You die on me, Alex, and I'll hunt your ghost to the ends of the earth."

His eyes closed, but a faint chuckle escaped him. "I can save you . . . the search. You're quite . . . likely to find me . . . in the neighborhood . . . of perdition's flame . . . Morgana."

She tasted blood and realized she'd bitten her bottom lip. "I have to get a doctor for you—"

"No. The police. I can't . . . let them put me away . . . not now . . . I'm too close."

She didn't know what he was talking about. "Listen to me. You're in shock. You've lost a lot of blood. You have a bullet in you, and it has to come out." When his eyes opened again, she was even more alarmed by the feverish glitter stirring there. Quickly, she said, "Max. I'll call Max. He'll be able to get a doctor here quietly, without the police having to know."

It didn't strike her until much later how wonderfully ironic her solution was: a wounded cat burglar bleeding in her living room, and the only man who might be able to help him was the man who owned a priceless collection that would soon bait a trap designed to catch that cat burglar.

Ironic? It was insane.

Quinn looked at her for a long minute, and then a sigh escaped him. Relief, acceptance, regret, or something else—she wasn't sure what it was. But the smile that briefly curved his lips was a strange one, twisted with something other than pain.

"All right. Call him."

Despite the fact that it was the middle of the night, Max answered his private phone line in a clear, calm voice and listened to Morgan's hasty explanation without interruption. When she was through, he simply said, "I'm on my way," and she found herself listening to a dial tone.

Meet the Author

Kay Hooper, who has more than six million copies of her books in print worldwide, has won numerous awards and high praise for her novels. Kay lives in North Carolina, where she is currently working on her next novel.

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Always a Thief 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read everthing she's wrote, going back 20 years or so. I liked the original series. I wasn't impressed with the first one(Once a thief) and went ahead and read the second(Always a thief) and it wasn't worth the effort. It was choppy and didn't flow. The rewrite really didn't add anything except the additional murder and thief. I took that as a set-up for a new book?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anothr of my favorites!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
omj More than 1 year ago
You really need to read "Once A Thief" first to get the full impact of the storyline, but an enjoyable read none the less
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth reading once
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It takes a thief to catch a thief. At least that¿s the logic and theme of this novel. Morgena West is a lonely woman but her life is thrown upside down when the notorious cat burglar, Quinn, drops in through her livingroom window with a gunshot wound. It¿s not the first time they have met, so she knows he is a dangerous man with cops searching for him in possibly every country in the world, so she had to decide if to inform the cops about his sudden appearance in San Francisco, but since her undeniable attraction for Quinn is clouding her sense of logic, Morgan calls Jared, a cop who is also a friend. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that Quinn and Jarad are actually brothers, and though normally they work on opposite sides of the law, this time they combined their sources to catch a thief was good as Quinn, but a million times more dangerous. Unlike Quinn, the other thief is also a killer! And Morgan, by lusting after Quinn, might find herself as the victim. ------------------------ Always a Thief has a strong opening, and the pages keep turning as the suspenseful plot takes place. The atmosphere of the book is rather gloomy and may remind you of a superhero movie, which adds to the great storytelling. But after about 75 pages, the book quickly turns into a somewhat cheesy romance novel that is trademark of ¿Loveswept¿. The story begins to drag and the love story hold no appeal. The relationship is too easy, and the whole book begins to settle around endless conversations. The action atmosphere is replaced by that of a cheep `80s series romance novel, which indeed it is. The ending couldn¿t have come sooner, and the ending wasn¿t as exiting as I wished it would be. Though the book leaves it open that a third book in the series is about to come, it hasn¿t arrived in 3 years so I wouldn¿t hold my breath for it. --------------------- If you are a fan of romantic suspense with more romance and very little suspense, you will probably find this book and it¿s characters enjoyable. But if you like romantic suspense with little romance and non stop mystery, this book will more then likely disappoint you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was better then the one before it. I didn't want to put it down. Morgan and Quinn are great, I really hope there is a sequel because I want to know what happens with Quinn. Does he truly give up his life of crime? This book was really good and suprisingly better then the first which most sequels aren't. I LOVED IT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Always a Thief was a thrilling and heart felt. I read the book straight through from start to finish in one sitting, Having read the first book it makes it easier to know that somethings were going to happen. This book left you wanting to read what is going to happen next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall, the way I figure it, you either love this book or are disappointed in it. Personally, I loved the book and would love another one. Then again, I never read the origonal, so I can't comment by giving a comparision. And I don't think it's fair to say that this book was awful because you might not feel it compares to the origonal because, frankly, a good chunk of people haven't read the origonal. The reason I love this book is because its one you can lose yourself in. It's one of those forget-about-everything, sit back, and enjoy yourself type of books. I was not disappointed in this book. Maybe it's because I never read the origonal, because I have read other books by Kay Hooper. Simply put, it's a book you can read when you're under stress and be able to lose yourself in. I'm not saying it would win a Nobel Prize or anything. Just that, if you like the sit back and taker a breather books, you'll love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved it the suspense killed me i just couldn't put the book down i needed to find out what was going to happened to Morgan and Quinn .
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put Always a Thief down. I absolutely adore Quinn and Morgan. It was a wonderful book and I really hope there is a sequel!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read 'Once A Thief' before I read the original Men of Mysteries Past Quadrilogy, and I loved it. When I read the first two books of the original, I didn't quite enjoy them as much. However, I read the last two before I read 'Always A Thief' and when I bought the book there was a marked difference. I found that I liked the originals better in that case, because the book seemed hurried and thrown together- sort of like a tossed salad. What I would like to see, personally, is Hooper creating a sequel to this book, but more in the general direction of the original series. Quinn was a much more innocent, likeable character then, and the secondary characters- all of whom were also enjoyable- had much more substance than they do now. But then again, I'd just love to see a sequel because I'm nuts about Quinn.