With no options left, Aubrey went on the run with the Adrianos' young heir and an ancient manuscript containing a shocking historical secret. Pursuit was swift—and now, she had just hours to seduce the child's brooding bodyguard, keep the heir safe from his bloodthirsty family—and pull off a heist so impossible, it would surely be the death of her.
About the Author
By day, Lorna Tedder hangs out with rocket scientists and negotiates technology contracts. By night, she kicks ass with her fictional heroines. In her spare time, she conducts experiments in unified field theory and teaches workshops on setting up interdimensional portals for communication. The author of more than a dozen books, she holds a doctorate in metaphysics and a Third Degree Elevation as a Wiccan High Priestess. Her popular blog, SuperGirl@40, can be found at her website, www.LornaTedder.com.
Read an Excerpt
San Francisco, California
Hanging upside down is for bats and Spider-Man. Not for an Oxford-educated literature professor like me. Then again, I was no longer a professor. I was nothing but a thief. One in a lot of trouble.
It wasn't the first time I had been in that position. Wouldn't be the last, either. But then, life doesn't always turn out according to plans. For me, it never has, but I make them anyway.
Tonight's assignment was to be my last job for the Adriano family, a decision that normally only an Adriano can make. They don't exactly offer a hefty retirement plan, though it's rumored they always pay for the funeral—whether or not there's enough left of the employee for a coffin. I'd heard everyone from high-tech security specialists down to kitchen servants murmur the same epitaph: Once an employee, always an employee.
I intended to break that rule. Soon.
I flexed my bare feet hard, twisting them around the rope and held my breath. Only the crooks above my heels—where Achilles took his poison—held fast to the line strung between the rooftops. My tendons tensed and burned. Twenty-three stories of gravity called to me, but I refused to look down. The smell of garbage and exhaust rose from the street below, stinging my eyes and nostrils. The wind between the hotel buildings swatted at me, whining in my ears so loudly that I could barely hear the sound of the angry traffic below.
I didn't worry that anyone would notice me hanging by a thread in the night sky, stripped down to a cat burglar's black leotard, belt and bare feet. Too many things had gone wrong already on this job—enough that I had to wonder if I'd been set up. The Adrianos simply did not make mistakes when they gave instructions. If anything did go wrong, they were always careful not to be responsible. That's what employees were for.
With a deep but steady breath, I rotated one ankle, looping the rope around my foot. It wouldn't keep me from plunging to my death, but it was a step in the right direction.
The muscles in my calves ached and burned. The human body, no matter how well maintained, simply isn't meant to hold this form for twenty minutes. Especially when one knee is weaker than the other from being bashed to hell and back.
Still, a setup didn't make sense. Why would the Adrianos want me to fail? I was their best acquisitions consultant—a lovely euphemism for a thief—and tonight's prize was considered a very important artifact, even though I wasn't deemed important enough to know what was in the package I was to confiscate.
Yes, okay, so my last mission had been botched, thanks to an Interpol agent named Analise Reisner. But as far as the Adrianos knew, it wasn't my fault I hadn't retrieved the Madonna statue and instead had nearly lost my life when I'd followed Analise in search of the statue and had wound up helping her get away from some truly scary Adriano henchmen. The Duke himself had agreed I wasn't to blame and had paid me a handsome fee for my efforts despite his severe disappointment. None of the henchmen had lived to tell tales.
Why then had he had his underling—a soft-spoken henchman who'd identified himself by phone as Eric Cabordes—give me follow-up instructions for this job? My training days were long over. Details on the job usually came from the Duke himself or, on rare occasion, from his youngest son, Joshua.
Even after all my loyal years of service—like I had a choice!—I sensed I was on shaky ground. I liked to think that the Duke treated me differently from other employees, that he had developed a fondness for me. I was hoping to parlay that fondness into some special treatment I'd heard didn't exist—release from his employ. Truth was, maybe his soft spot for me was in my imagination. Maybe I just wanted somebody to appreciate me for me, somebody who didn't demand I earn his love. So far, I'd lost the only two people who fit that description.
With a deep breath, I tightened and relaxed my calf muscles. My good leg was starting to cramp up. Not good.
I couldn't afford to make a mistake and return to Italy empty-handed a second time. Not and face the wrath of the Adrianos! Sure, to most of the world they were dashing philanthropists with a direct link to the Vatican, the White House and every remaining royal family in Europe. To those who knew better, either firsthand or from studying history, failing them meant misery, not hazard pay for injuring your leg.
I gritted my teeth against the pain in my knee, against the doubts that plagued me. It's times like these—when a heist goes badly—that I think of the little girl I left behind, of the man who was her father and of what might have been.
But my memories were a danger to fine concentration. For this moment, it was all about instinct. About survival. About how to hang on to a rope no wider than my little finger and propel myself upside down until I reached the hotel's penthouse window. Fortunately it wasn't the hardest job I had ever had.
I sucked in a deep breath and grabbed for the rope with both hands. I pulled myself up again, fighting the wind for balance, and held the rope gingerly under my crossed knees. Not the best or fastest way to move from one building to another, but I hadn't had much choice.
The information on the security of the hotel next door—the one with the higher vantage point that would allow me to propel down to the neighboring hotel's penthouse—had been faulty. Error number one, and it had cost me two hours to get past the metal detectors and security guards with the barest of my gear. Knowing the stealthiest ways in and the quickest ways out of a job site was vital, and I was no longer sure if I could trust anything Eric Cabordes had told me.
And yet I dared not balk at this job now. That would get me killed. Or—my worst nightmare—they might hurt my daughter to punish me. If they found out about her. And I wasn't so sure they didn't already know.
Stuck in midair, I inched toward the window, stopping to rest after a few feet. My calf muscles twitched from the earlier strain.
My knees trembled. I was exhausted but running on sheer adrenaline. My bare palms had started to sweat.
The rope jerked and I dropped several feet in a split second. One of the strands had caught on a metal edge along the railing above sharp enough to chew halfway through the rope as my weight pulled on it.
I glanced at the penthouse window, twelve feet and a good one-story drop below me. I wasn't going to make it! But I had to. The Adrianos had a long history of getting what they wanted, particularly when I was the one getting it for them.
I shook my head and held on tight. I thought of my lover's green eyes, which I would never see again, the same eyes my little girl had inherited. I never should have accepted this job. Never. I should have retired last week, changed my name yet again and spent the rest of my life living my dream—lecturing in some remote university and living the safe, boring, legitimate life of an academic. But there was always the lure of one more job, especially one that paid a half million dollars plus expenses. The Adrianos thought I did it for the money, but I had other reasons. And, too, there was the refusal to admit that my body had aged a year in the last twelve months and that I desperately needed time off to let my knee heal properly.
I breathed in the aloneness of nothing but night air around me. If I fell or if I failed, I didn't want anyone watching. But that's always been my preference. Succeed discreetly, fail anonymously. I'd simply be a shattered corpse found on the street below and later identified through my fingerprints. The local cops would pity me that I had no obvious family or friends to miss me. Later, the Interpol agent who'd been on my ass for the past few months would show up to claim my body, and if anyone mourned me, she was as close as it would come. Catrina Dauvergne and my other acquaintances in Europe would never even know what had happened to me.
I felt the rope jerk in my grasp and flung my head back to see what had happened at the secure end. I watched in horror as the rope frayed toward nothingness.
Both feet hugging the rope, I pushed off, propelling myself forward as hard and as fast as I could toward the penthouse window. The rope swirled into a spray of fiber and snapped, and I fell hard against the wall below the penthouse window, banging my shoulder against the dirty brick. Still I held on, and the rope was caught securely above me.
I cursed under my breath, then remembered I had a three-hour window to acquire the package and I was two hours behind schedule. I didn't have the luxury of licking my wounds. Best if I didn't waste time.
I hauled myself up the rope to the window. My hands stung with blisters, some of them bloody. I ignored the pain and focused on the window.
Fortunately at this height the windows didn't have bars or external security of any type. Unfortunately they couldn't be raised enough even for a five-foot-two-inch woman like me to squeeze through. If I'd had my tools with me, I would have been following my plan and inside already. But then, so much of life is about improvising and simply doing the best you can with what you have. Especially if what you have is faulty intel.
I'd chosen this particular window based on the blueprints that had been faxed to me. Why then didn't the blueprints match the building I clung to? Error number two. If I ever met this Eric Cabordes, I was going to give him a piece of my mind...or the back of my hand across his face. No, maybe I'd simply report his lack of thoroughness to the Duke and let him explain how dangerous little mistakes can be in the middle of a job.
Given what I knew of the blueprints and what I now knew personally of the building, access through the window was probably a bad idea. I'd expected to make a quiet entrance into an unused bedroom, courtesy of my glass-cutting tools, but the unforeseen metal detector had rendered that plan useless. I could crash through, counting on the element of surprise to aid me, but by the time I emerged from a guest suite, the crash would have been heard and every alarm in the building would have been activated. I would be trapped.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dr. Ginny Moon stole art for the highly connected deadly ¿philanthropist¿ Adriano family, but wants out as she wants to go straight. However, the family patriarch refuses to free the notorious Aubrey de Lune jewel thief, somewhat out of an obsession, but also because she could cripple the gang if the authorities learn who she is. Besides, the bottom line is no one leaves his Family.----------- The Family asks her to perform one last job for them with bodyguard Eric Cabordes at her side she assumes as a babysitter. However, she soon finds out that the object she is purloining is worth a lot more than just money if it ends up in the wrong hands. She turns to Eric in a desperate move to keep the Adriano Family from stepping closer to obtaining the Madonna Key. -------------------- Ginny makes the action-packed thriller work as she struggles between doing the right thing and the demands of her ¿employer¿ in the latest stand alone yet interrelated Madonna Key tale (see HAUNTED ECHOS). The fast-paced story line never allows the audience to catch their breath as she and her new cohort try to remain one step ahead of their former employer. With its Joan of Arc connection already making DARK REVELATIONS fascinating, part of the delight of this fine romantic suspense is the heroine¿s turmoil as to whether she should trust the bodyguard who she is falling in love with. Lorna Tedder adds a strong thriller to this fine miniseries.------------- Harriet Klausner