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First published by Heat, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, March 2009
Copyright © Carole Hart, 2009
All rights reserved
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Hart, Carole, 1965-
The family jewels/Carole Hart.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01979-5
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To Victoria Hobbs
“You’re not dressed for it, are you, darling?” said André, looking with drowsy speculation at Olivia’s flimsy halter top. His faint German accent was tinged with the British tones he’d picked up in his English private school, and there was a cultivated decorum even in his lustful glance. Everything about him, in fact, was painfully upper-crust, as it should be. After all, André was the thirty-fourth Count von Fremberg-Asp in an unbroken line going back to—Well, Olivia wasn’t sure what. Did they have Neanderthal man in Austria? André had mentioned the Holy Roman Empire, but she wasn’t sure where his family fit into it, or in fact what it was, though it certainly sounded impressive. André was also unsettlingly handsome, dazzlingly charming, a man who could kiss a girl’s hand without looking silly. His melting, hypnotizingly sleepy brown eyes were just the finishing touch to a physique that had been entrancing Olivia—a little too much—for five days now. It was certainly going to be hard to leave André behind.
“Do you want a leg up?”
“Oh—no, thanks.” Olivia eyed the horse distrustfully. Dorset was a lovely pale gray Thoroughbred, almost silvery, an elegant animal—but enormous. Could the size be normal? Was it a special breed of giant horse ridden by the aristocracy? Every time he lifted one of his hooves and let it drop again, sounding like a hundred pounds of dead weight, Olivia had to grit her teeth to keep from flinching. The groom was holding the bridle with a perfectly blank expression, which only made Olivia more convinced that he was onto her. The instant she trotted off on the back of this dinosaur, she was certain the groom would be confiding his suspicions to André. He was an annoyingly attractive man, too—a big hulk of a blond man with big strong hands. It was all wrong for a man like that to dislike her; it was against nature. But, hell, as long as she survived long enough to be thrown out, she would be relieved at this point.
The worst of it was that the horse had taken a dislike to her on sight. He had immediately begun to nip at her and irritably kick at nothing in particular. She shouldn’t take it personally, André explained. “Dorset doesn’t like women—probably because of Mama.”
It was all her own fault; she had thought it would be better to pretend that she had grown up with horses, because she was posing as the sort of Ivy League girl who did. And after all, she had ridden a horse twice, when she was thirteen. She couldn’t have forgotten everything. In the car on the way here, it had all seemed so easy, such an adventure, like trying out white-water rafting for kicks.
“Sure you don’t want that leg up?”
“I—Maybe.” Then, inspired, Olivia blurted out, “I guess what I used to ride was more, like, ponies?”
André burst out laughing, making the horse toss his head again, rolling his eyes back superstitiously at Olivia. André said, “He’s not so awfully big for a jumper, you know.”
Olivia stopped herself just in time from crying out, He’s not going to jump with me on him, is he? She took a deep breath and said, “Well, leg up, then.”
André put out his interlocked hands, and before she could think any further, Olivia stepped into them, grasped the saddle, and swung herself up into the air and on.
Immediately she was surprised by how alive the horse felt between her legs. The feeling of him dancing under her, combined with being so high up, made her feel instantly elated. It was like the moment when the roller coaster begins to move. She looked off up the road, with the bridle path that ran alongside through a copse of trees before taking a turn into an Alpine meadow. Once she was out in that clearing, she knew, there would be a view of snowy mountain ranges against a piercingly blue sky. Already in the day she’d been here, she had come to love the Austrian Alps, and the idea of riding through the meadow with the mountains rising above her now made her heart swell. “Well, got up here, anyway,” she said, a little breathless.
André smiled up at her and let one hand drift onto her bare thigh. “I shouldn’t let you ride without boots, really. I’d hate to see you get scratched up. Your skin is so lovely. I know you don’t think so. . . .”
Olivia smiled a little weakly. As a natural blonde, she had pale skin that would only take a tan out of a bottle—and even then it was more likely to come out in tiger stripes. “Do Austrian girls all have this colorless skin?”
“You don’t understand what you have,” André replied.
Then the groom was reaching up the reins to her and she was taking them in both hands, tightening them with as much care, as much sensitivity as she could. Meanwhile Dorset had begun to edge to one side—it was a feeling uncomfortably like being in a car when it skids on ice. The combination of André’s appreciative looks and the simple physical sensation of the horse between her legs gave Olivia an unwanted, unexpected surge of heat through her belly, ending in a fiery point of desire in her cunt. She looked down at André, finding the shape of his muscles under his polo shirt, the deep, powerful chest he had, the—
The horse turned his head entirely around to stare back at her in disbelief and outrage. Then he reared slightly, sprang forward, and was galloping at breakneck speed down the road with Olivia clinging to his mane for dear life.
André was very wrong to accuse Olivia of not understanding what she had. There could hardly be a girl in the world with as exact an appreciation of what she had. There was what she could make men do. There was how absentminded they became when she was in the room. And finally, most crudely, there was her bank account, representing the amount she’d been able to steal over the years, with the unwitting help of men who had been beguiled by her looks and her sexual prowess. She had long pale blond hair, blue eyes, and a cherubic face with deep pink pouting lips—looks that made both men and women stare at her, even when she was wearing a sweatshirt.
When she was dressed with flirting in mind, the stares were of a different nature. Olivia had had generous, rounded, D-cup breasts since she was fifteen. The rest of her body was always a little chubbier than she would like, and her skin a little whiter. But men never seemed to notice, or care. Once, when she and her sister, Lee, were watching Heroes on television, Lee had said, “What would your superpower be?”
“My superpower is being blond with big breasts,” Olivia said without thinking.
“Nothing like knowing yourself!” Lee hooted.
Olivia opened her mouth to protest, but shut it again. Lee was grinning at her knowingly. “Well, you’re actually prettier than me,” Olivia muttered at last.
Lee started laughing. She said, “Oh, okay. That means a lot.”
“It does!” Olivia said.
“Never mind,” Lee said. “No one could make better use of it than you.”
Then Olivia laughed, too, and had to admit that that was true.
Olivia had always been boy crazy in the filthiest way. She didn’t just like men’s bodies; she loved men’s bodies, and men’s habits, and men’s clothes, and men’s deep voices. She loved the moment when a man kissed her and she felt the telltale signs that he was losing control, the moment when she knew she was going to sleep with him. She loved most of all the moment when he first pressed his dick against her pussy, and paused, and then shoved into her. When she forgot everything and hung on for dear life. She always felt half in love with a man she was fucking, or in fact with any good-looking man she met. When they broke her heart—half broke it, anyway—she didn’t hold it against them. She broke hearts all the time, and there were always more hearts where they came from. That was what her life was about, at least half of the time.
The other half of the time her life was about extremely expensive jewelry that wasn’t exactly, in the eyes of the law, hers, but which could be spirited away from its owners in a delightful variety of ways. If no alarms had been set off in obtaining it, it was simply hidden in her overnight bag, usually in a box of Tam-pax. If alarms were ringing, it might be buried in an out-of-the-way place against a future opportunity. Once she had even used a trained dog, to whose sweater she had added a clever compartment; and then there was the unhappy occasion on which in desperation she had stuffed her pussy with a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond necklace—ouch, never again.
Beautiful jewelry, like beautiful men, appealed to her dreamy, romantic nature. While it remained in her hands, she would look at it again and again. So many of the pieces were originally bought as pledges of love; some of them had wild stories of fatal passion attached to them, typically about a man who impoverished his family to buy an elusive mistress the trinkets she coveted. And back in the day, before Olivia had started planning for the future, when she was still drunk on her newfound wealth and freedom, she had worn the jewelry sometimes. She would fly to some out-of-the-way place—Costa Rica, Stockholm, or even just Montana—so that she could wear her purloined rubies and emeralds with impunity. Then she would find herself sitting at a bar wearing cool, brilliant jewels against her skin and little else; the gems seemed to radiate passion into the surrounding night, the strange city. Sooner or later a man would sit beside her at the bar and ask what she was drinking. Then she would encourage him to touch the gems, his fingers brushing against her cleavage, her neck, her tender wrists, until she was tingling all over with the cool-hot desire. “Do you like my necklace? The earrings match. Feel them—the stones are real.” It could end in bed, or it could end in a doorway. Either way, the jewels made her utterly fearless, shameless, as if they were all-powerful weapons. She would always be wet with an electrifying sensitivity that made coming seem almost cosmic, like thunder in the sky. Fucking while wearing only gems—stolen gems—was a high unlike any other sex in the world.
Just that morning she had convinced André to open his mother’s safe and drape her with the ropes of pearls—three of varying lengths, pink, white, and black—his mother, Belinda, had received as a wedding present from his father. André was mainly fearful that Belinda would return and find them naked on the Persian rug in the study. While he opened the safe, Olivia began to strip for him, saying, “I want to feel them against my skin,” which was true—but also ensured that he wouldn’t notice the keen way her eyes followed his movements as he worked the combination lock.