The Tenderness of Thieves

The Tenderness of Thieves

by Donna Freitas

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A summer romance filled with danger and lies

Jane is ready for a fantastic summer. In fact, she’s pretty sure the universe owes her one.
This past winter, Jane was held at knifepoint during an armed robbery and the specter of that night still haunts her. A summer romance with one of the town bad boys—sexy Handel Davies, who takes her breath away and makes her feel like a bolder version of herself—seems like the universe’s way of paying her back.
But bad boys always have secrets, and Handel’s secret just might shatter Jane completely.
This suspense novel marries psychological thriller with summer romance and is perfect for teen fans of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.

“Tempting, sexy, and dangerous, this book will steal your heart. I was...completely lured by the story's dark twists and turns.” –Marie Rutkoski, author of The Winner’s Curse

"Donna Freitas's stunning prose catapulted this dark, seductive tale straight into my head and heart. This is a perfect read for thrill-seeking teens." --Anna Collomore, author of The Ruining


"The meandering, dreamy language—grass is 'tender with the newness of life,' and Jane's desire makes her heart 'flutter like the wings of a hummingbird'—is perfect for the hazy, hot summer days depicted."--Kirkus Reviews

"Full of passion, tenderness, and fun...readers will enjoy the chemistry that simmers between Jane and Handel....For a summer romance with a twist, Freitas delivers."--Publishers Weekly 

"Both the romance and mystery are skillfully told, with smooth, believable dialogue and well-developed characters....The surprise ending is likely to spark discussion, especially for those with strong feminist viewpoints."--Booklist 

Praise for Donna Freitas's previous books:

“Love and death are always a potent mix, and in the hands of a talented writer like Freitas, this is especially so.”—Booklist 

“This is an amazing story about love, loss, and the healing power of music.”—Morgan Matson, author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

“A riveting portrayal of the corruption of power and, ultimately, the triumph of innocence.”—Francisco Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World

Donna Freitas's Awards

The Gorgeous Game – 2010 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
Sex & the Soul – 2008 A Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly
The Survival Kit – 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults List for Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA); 2013 Bookstar Award (Switzerland)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698184817
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
File size: 842 KB
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Donna Freitas ( is an author of fiction and nonfiction for kids and adults. Her previous young adult books include The Possibilities of SainthoodThe Survival Kit and This Gorgeous Game. Born in Rhode Island, Donna now splits her time between New York City and Barcelona. @donna_freitas

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was a day like any other when he first spoke to me.

That boy.

The one who would change everything I thought about life and love and right and wrong.

The one I would change.

At the time it didn’t seem so out of the ordinary. It even seemed right: the good girl who gets to go out with the bad boy. Everyone knows that story. It was mid-June, and summer had just started. We were fairly rich with boys by then—me and my girls. They were always crowding around us at school, teasing, talking, inviting us to go somewhere in their cars, trying to kiss us in the rain. It was almost like we deserved it, I deserved it, after a winter that threatened to shatter everything I knew, everything I was and am. I was holding things together as best I could, leaning into my new visibility like it might prop me up. But it’s dangerous when we let the boys fix the broken parts within us. It makes us vulnerable. It scars us for life.

“Jane,” he said, just like that, like we’d already been introduced, like he knew me and I knew him.

And we did, sort of.

I was walking by, strutting really. I was happy the school year had ended, relieved to be on the other side of those four walls, walls that used to feel like a welcome shelter but lately felt like a prison. The air was hot and humid, the signs of a heat wave on its way. I wore a string bikini, not ostentatious, not bright pink or dotted with flowers or a shiny silver, but a dark plain blue. Then again, when is wearing a string bikini not ostentatious? A beach towel was draped over my right arm, lush green, so when I set it down on the sand it was like lying on a patch of grass.

He laughed. “Jane.”

My name a second time.

I stopped and turned. Looked at him. The ocean breeze whispered across my bare skin.

“Handel,” I said as though I knew him, too, his strange black eyes holding me there. I’d seen him before at school. He played hockey. Graduated last year. Worked on the docks. The bad boy all the girls whispered about. Lusted after. Not me, though. Not until that very moment, my name poised on his lips. “See you around,” I said then, my skin hot, flushed, tingling.

“See you,” he said as I walked away, hips swaying, the ties of my bathing suit bouncing against the tops of my legs and back.

“Hi, ladies,” I said, Cheshire cat grin on my face, just five minutes later.

Tammy, long blond hair to her waist, turned to me, the ends of it swinging over her left shoulder. “Ooh, Jane has something to report!” Her big eyes were wide.

Tammy, short for Tamra, was the daughter of Russian immigrants, the bossy one among us, bossy and loyal. The boys loved her but didn’t quite know how to make their approach. She could be intimidating if you didn’t know her well.

I plopped down on Tammy’s towel, wedging myself between her and Bridget, another of my girls, the sweet one, the one the boys fawned over easily and who would kiss anybody. She was lathering sunblock all over her fair Irish skin. The smell of cocoa butter and summer wafted everywhere.

“I do have a story,” I said. “But it’s a short one.”

Bridget handed me the lotion. “I’ll take any distraction from this heat. Since when does it reach ninety in June?”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, B.” This from Michaela, lifting the sunglasses from her eyes a bit and her head from the rolled-up T-shirt underneath it. Her knees pointed toward the hazy blue sky, her body parallel to us. Michaela was the down-to-earth one, practical to her very center. Always the mediator. Protective. “It’s not that bad out today.”

“Spoken like an Irish who got her Italian mother’s skin,” Bridget said to Michaela, rubbing sunblock into places she’d just put it a minute ago.

Our New England town was a regular melting pot of immigrant families. I came in on the Italian side. One hundred percent. There were the fishermen and their sons, passing along the livelihood to the next generation, and the neighbors, nosy with their gossip, sunning themselves on front porches, looking out toward the wharf. There were summer residents, too. The folks who came year after year, renting the same house, dragging the same chairs and umbrellas down to the sand and their favorite spots. But mostly it was just us, the year-rounders, long ago in love with the beach even when it was raining or blurred by snow, streaked with the kind of cold that runs through you like a ghost; a place so remote that the paraphernalia of the now was useless and we liked it that way. The summer was sacred to all of us.

“Can we focus, please?” Tammy demanded. “Distract us, Jane.”

I stood. Took my time setting up my towel, dropped my bag at one end of it and a single flip-flop on each corner at the other. Enjoying the suspense, I put my sunglasses on, propped myself up on my elbows, and, finally, said his name. “Handel Davies.”

It was all that needed saying.

Bridget squealed. “No way.”

I nodded. My grin reappeared.

“Well?” from Tammy, still impatient for more information.

Michaela didn’t react. Not at all.

“I was walking down the beach to meet up with my girls,” I said, savoring the words as they came out of my mouth like they were candy. Looked at each one of them individually, Tammy, Bridget, Michaela. “I didn’t even see him there, not at first. Then I heard my name. I heard him say, ‘Jane.’”

“Handel Davies knows your name?!” Bridget’s tone was all exclamation points and question marks. That’s how she always spoke.

“I know,” I said. “Crazy, right?”

“I have dreams about that boy.” Her voice turned woozy.

“Keep them to yourself, please,” Michaela said. Michaela had dated a lot of boys, but none of them seriously, or not that we knew. She didn’t kiss and tell like Tammy and Bridget. Tammy and Bridget were always bubbling over with the details if they’d made out with someone in the janitor’s closet during American History (Bridget) or while skinny-dipping the first day of June (Tammy) or in the back of a truck in the school parking lot during free period (Bridget again). I, on the other hand, didn’t have details to share. Not lately at least.

Tammy was watching me. “And then?”

“I bet I’ll have dreams about Handel tonight,” I said, looking at Bridget, appreciative of her Handel appreciation, unwilling to let Tammy rush this. Then to everyone, “So I hear my name once, twice, then I stop and turn to see who it is, and there he is.” Bridget cupped her mouth with her hand to stop from squealing again. Tammy’s eyes were glued to my face. Michaela was silent. I couldn’t read her. “He’s looking at me like he knows me, like we’ve known each other forever. Like we share a secret,” I added, at first for dramatic effect, but then, I realized, because it was true. I’d felt it in his stare. “And I say back to him, ‘Handel,’ just like that, all even toned, like we really do know each other, like, of course he knows my name.”

“Good for you,” Tammy said, proud of my cool in the face of gorgeous and bad and boy. Tammy probably would have glared at him without saying anything, but the rest of us lack that level of restraint.

Now it was Bridget’s turn to push. “And then what?”

“Then nothing. Then I walked away. Walked here.”

“Smart,” Tammy said.

Michaela watched me, unsmiling.

Bridget was outraged. “Jane! That’s it?”

If it had been Bridget, not me, she would have sat down next to Handel, sat down in his lap if he’d let her, and chatted for an hour. “I told you it was a short story, B,” I said. “You said you didn’t mind.”

Michaela finally spoke. “I don’t like it. There are so many other boys you could pick. But him?”

“Don’t mother her,” Tammy said. Ironic, since Michaela’s not the bossy one.

Michaela got her defenses ready. Looked at Tammy, then Bridget. “Handel hangs out with the Quinn brothers. And the Sweeneys. He’s a Davies, for Christ’s sake.” She turned her attention directly on me after naming the most infamous three families in our town. “Jane, he’s bad news.”

But Bridget’s eyes were still dreamy. “Isn’t that why they call them bad boys?”

“Spoken like a cop’s daughter,” I said to Michaela with a laugh, trying to cover the unease suddenly threatening like a rain cloud.

“Takes one to know one,” she shot back.

I bristled. Retreated.

I don’t talk about my father.

Michaela recognized her mistake. Looked like she wanted to disappear.

“Nothing happened, M,” I told her. “Handel and I barely acknowledged each other. Besides, he doesn’t seem anything like his brothers.”

“You don’t know that, and you really don’t need any more drama,” Michaela said quietly. “Not after everything.”

Even in the hot sun, my blood turned to ice.

She had to go and push things.

“Michaela!” Tammy hissed.

Bridget reached for my hand, squeezed it. “How are you lately about . . . that?” she asked in a whisper.

Carefully, so as not to hurt Bridget for the kind gesture, I slipped my hand from hers and lay back on my towel, body flat against all that green, hoping the sun would burn away the feeling creeping over me with Michaela’s reminder. I was silent a long time, while my friends held their breath.

“Fine,” I said eventually, expelling mine with this lie. “Absolutely fine.”

“Mom? You home?” I called out later on.

No response. The house was silent. She was still at the beach.

The old floorboards creaked with every step, and I left a faint trail of sand behind me. A fine layer of it covered the floor of every one of our four tiny rooms, with thicker lines along the edges. Feeling the rough grains underfoot was a sign of summer, so it was something Mom and I welcomed rather than tried to sweep away.

I dropped my beach bag onto the beat-up seaweed-green couch in the living room and headed another three feet into the kitchen to pour myself some water. Our house was cramped, the kitchen open to the living room with everything else jutting out like four short legs. My mother’s bedroom, my room, the sewing room where my mother worked, and the screened-in porch. I’d just settled in with a novel, feet on the coffee table, when I heard someone coming up the front steps.

Seamus McCormick was peering through the open window next to the door, his hand over his eyes like a visor, blocking out the sun. We were the same year in school, and we saw each other constantly in classes because we were both in the honors program. Seamus was a devoted admirer of me and my girlfriends even before we showed up on the radar of the other boys. We’d always loved him for it.

“Seamus, what on earth are you doing?” I cried out when I saw his face through the screen. “I could be naked!” I laughed. “Or worse my mother could be!”

“Hey, Jane—”

“Why can’t you knock like a normal person? Are you planning on stealing something?” I went on, teasing him, but as soon as my words were out, I regretted them. I’d hit right smack in the center of the place where I’d been hurting. Pushed my finger into my own wound and opened it up in front of Seamus.

He started, horrified at the accusation, at the association I’d just made, and with him of all people. “Sorry, Jane, really sorry. I was just trying to see if someone was home. I didn’t mean to scare you. I would never.”

I took a deep breath, pushed the pain off to the side. “No, of course not. I’m the one who should be sorry. Now that you’ve seen me, come on in, all right?”

The screen door groaned as it opened. Soon Seamus was standing there, all tall and lanky, watching me with those shy blue eyes of his, the freckles on his face and arms trying to hide the flush staining his skin. Hands in his jeans pockets, Seamus shook the hair away from his face.

I patted the space next to me. “Sit down.”

The couch cushions sagged with his weight, and I felt myself lift a little, like we were on a seesaw. Seamus stared straight ahead at the wood-paneled wall. “I didn’t see you and your friends at the beach today.”

“You didn’t look hard enough.” I stared at Seamus while he watched the wall like it was showing a movie. “We were there.”





A pause. A breath. Then, “Tammy, too?”

I patted his knee. “Of course.”

He didn’t say a word, but he didn’t have to.

“She’s not with Devin anymore,” I said. Devin was Tammy’s fellow skinny-dipper. The basketball player she’d dated off and on during the winter and spring, then decided she was bored with the last week of school. “Are you ever going to ask Tammy out?”

“Why would you want to know that?”

“Okay, fine,” I said. “Don’t talk to me about it.”

Seamus’s knee was bobbing up and down like the needle on my mother’s sewing machine. “I tell you everything, Jane.” The note of accusation in his voice was faint, but I’d heard it, clear. Seamus told me his secrets, but I didn’t tell him all of mine.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“I do, you know. And if I needed to confess something about Tammy, I would. But I’ve got nothing for you.”

I smirked. “When you’re ready, I’m here.” I sang those words to him, trying to make everything light and sunny.

Seamus turned to me then, with those shy-boy eyes. Deadly serious. “Same goes for you, Jane. I mean it.”

Words piled up in my throat, but none of them made it out of my mouth. Seamus and I sat there, silent, our unspoken questions flitting around the room like anxious moths. The sounds of the neighborhood boys playing street hockey sifted through the screens, filling the empty air.

“I gotta go,” Seamus said eventually, when it was clear I wasn’t talking. He got up and hovered in the doorway about to head out, giving me one last wide-eyed look, one more look that said you can trust me, Jane, before he was gone.

But I couldn’t trust anyone. Not anymore.

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