Lady Viola Preston can relieve a gentleman of the studs at his wrists without his being any the wiser and pick any lock devised by man in less than a minute. But she's careful to wear gloves when she steals jewels. Because when Viola touches a gemstone with her bare skin, it "speaks" to her, sending disturbing visions—visions almost as unsettling as the sight of the cool-eyed stranger who catches her red handed.
Now Viola will only be stealing at Greydon Quinn's behest. And even more daunting than the violent history of the red diamond he's after is the prospect of a night in the devastatingly handsome lieutenant's arms. Touch has always been Viola's weakness, and the full body-to-body contact Quinn has in mind is about to shatter her defenses and set her senses reeling.
More Praise for Mia Marlow and Touch of a Thief
"Mia Marlow is a rising star! Hot and steamy. . .a sensually satisfying read. . .a page turner." —New York Times bestselling author Connie Mason
"Mia Marlowe proves she has the "touch" for strong heroines, wickedly sexy heroes, and love scenes so hot they singe the pages." —Jennifer Ashley, USA Today bestselling author of Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage
"Adventure lovers rejoice as the race is on to find a rare, powerful jewel with an alluring thief and intriguing hero." —Barbara Vey
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Touch of a Thief
By MIA MARLOWE
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Diana Groe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNovember 1856 Amjerat, a principality of India
On any given day, someone writhed in exquisite pleasure at the home of the most sought after courtesan in Amjerat. Unfortunately for Captain Greydon Quinn, on this day it wasn't him.
"Very good, Quinn-sahib," Padmaa cooed as he lowered his mouth to her neck. She smelled of jasmine and musk and warm, roused woman. "You are fast becoming a master of the teachings of Vatsyayana."
He was fast becoming too much for his trousers, but the exercise was about giving bliss to the woman, so only Padmaa was gloriously naked. When Quinn set out to learn the ancient pleasuring techniques from an obscure Sanskrit text called Kama Sutra, he realized there would be times during his sensual odyssey when sacrifice was required.
This was one of those times.
His groin ached in unrelenting need, but he concentrated on Padmaa's hitched breathing and on every shivering muscle beneath her golden brown skin.
"You are the best student I have ever taught," she said, her tone breathless. She took one of his hands and guided it over her belly to the soft, sweet delights between her legs.
By some oriental magic, Padmaa always removed all the small hairs on her body, even the ones covering her sex. Quinn found her smooth pudenda exotically erotic.
"Many of your countrymen come to me for training in the sensual arts, but so few complete the lessons." She made a soft purring sound and tilted her pelvis into his questing fingers. "Why do you think that is so?"
The way his body throbbed for release, Quinn was having difficulty thinking much of anything.
"Attend, Quinn-sahib," she said, when his fingertip slipped away from the spot Padmaa called her "little pearl." "You can do two things at once."
He drew a deep cleansing breath and resumed his intimate caress. Padmaa gave a soft moan of approval.
"I think it's a matter of time that keeps them from completing the training," he said through clenched teeth as he struggled with control. Her skin flushed hotly, sending a message of desire straight to his groin. It was all he could do not to yank down his trousers and bury himself in her soft wetness.
"Do we not all have the same length days, the same ... heartbeats while we ... live?"
Quinn was encouraged that Padmaa, an expert in the sensual arts, seemed to struggle with control as well.
"Yes, but we Englishmen divide our days up into nice, practical little hours and minutes." When Quinn first arrived in India, he'd railed at the Asiatic disregard for punctuality. Since then he'd realized there were times when the eternal now could not be regimented into a Western schedule.
"No, I think it is because most Englishmen seek only their own satisfaction, not ways to please ... their ... women ... oh!" Her dark eyes rolled back into her head and her body stiffened in preparation for release.
As she came in shimmering waves, Quinn glowed with reflected pleasure. It made a man achingly alive to bring a woman to such a peak.
He was sure she'd demonstrate her gratitude by returning the favor just as soon as she stopped convulsing.
There was a soft rap on the door. Quinn cursed under his breath. Padmaa rose shakily from their bed of cushions and wrapped a length of silk around her body. "Come."
"That was my plan," Quinn muttered. Pleasing a woman was all well and good, but a man had needs too.
It was Sanjay at the door, so Quinn rose to his feet.
"A thousand pardons, my friend." No one would suspect the man in threadbare leggings and tunic was the Crown Prince of Amjerat. Quinn had accompanied him on several incognito adventures when he evaded his guards and slipped out of the palace, but it was the first time he had interrupted Quinn's visit to Padmaa. "There is trouble at the temple."
"What kind of trouble?"
"A Thugee band entered the outer court," Sanjay said. "Already they have killed one of the priests."
Not all devotees of the destroyer goddess Kali practiced ritual murder, but Quinn had heard a group of Thugee were traveling south on the Grand Trunk Road, leaving offerings to their goddess along the way. He usually practiced tolerance when it came to the beliefs of others, but garroted corpses left a particularly unsavory trail of breadcrumbs. Each kill was considered an act of puja, a veneration of Kali.
The British had attempted to quash the cult, but obviously some persisted. Now that this new band had reached Amjerat, Quinn could act against them.
He kissed Padmaa's cheek. "My apologies. I must go."
"Then your training is complete." Her musical voice was tinged with regret. "To give bliss without thought of receiving is the goal of the enlightened soul."
"I'm not all that enlightened." Quinn growled in frustration as he shoved his Beaumont-Adams revolver into his belt. "Believe me, I bloody well thought about it."
At a brisk trot, Quinn followed the prince into the sultry night and down a narrow alley toward the imposing temple in the center of Amjerat's capital. They approached the temple's side door in case the Thugs had posted a guard out front.
"What do they want in the temple?" Quinn whispered as he and Sanjay drew near. Most victims of thuggery were caught stumbling home from the local opium den, too wrapped in their lotus-eating haze to put up much of a fight.
"I fear it is Baaghh kaa kkhuun."
"Blood of the Tiger?" Quinn translated for himself as he ran toward the small side door.
Sanjay followed. "Oh, yes. It is the red diamond that makes up the eye in our Shiva. It is said to contain immense power. In the wrong hands, the energy of Baaghh kaa kkhuun turns to evil."
"Then let's make sure it stays in the right hands, shall we?" Quinn drew his revolver, wishing he'd reloaded after target practice that afternoon. He'd been in too much of a hurry to get to Padmaa. He had only four shots instead of the usual twelve.
Quinn kicked open the door and bellowed at the gang to stop. When one was outnumbered, a bit of bravado rarely went amiss.
But it only served to put the gang on alert. Quinn counted ten of them. The Thug perched on two of the four arms of the massive statue at the far end of the temple tossed them a glance and continued prying the eye of the god out with a wicked-looking dagger.
Quinn raised his pistol and dropped four Thugs as they ran toward him and the prince, their long, curved swords glittering. He considered trying for the one clinging to Shiva, but the other four were closer. Besides, Prince Sanjay would take it badly if Quinn accidently put a bullet through his god.
As it was, he and the prince stood back to back, slicing away with their swords, fighting off the rest of the masked gang. Blades arcing, Quinn and Sanjay turned in concert, a stylized dance of death. None who came within their reach escaped without being cut.
It never failed to astound Quinn how battle heightened a man's senses. He noted a hairy mole dividing the eyebrow of one of his attackers, the pungent smell of fenugreek and curry emanating from their flowing robes, and the strident scream when his blade opened a vein and a fountain of red spurted into the air.
He and his friend were both expert swordsmen, but if either of them went down, they were both dead.
The thugee defacing the god suddenly screeched out a high ululation. At the sound, the remaining band turned and ran after the man who had the red diamond clutched in a square of black silk.
Quinn and Sanjay gave chase, but soon lost them in the tangled rabbit warrens of the bazaar. Baaghh kaa kkhuun disappeared like a gob of spit into the Ganges. The red diamond left no trace as it descended into the rotting heart of Amjerat's underworld.
March 1857 London
This is positively, absolutely the last time, Lady Viola Preston promised herself as she squeezed through the ground floor window of the posh London town house.
Viola had contemplated Lady Henson's new emerald necklace over the soup course at Lieutenant Quinn's dinner party, but then the lieutenant let slip that he'd brought back a couple handfuls of uncut stones from India. A newly returned nabob shouldn't flaunt the details of his wealth if he didn't wish to be relieved of it.
Viola's fence would have to chop up Lady Henson's necklace and even then, the gems were large and of a uniquely deep color. They might be recognized. Uncut stones—one of them big as a peach pit, if the lieutenant were to be believed—were nigh untraceable. Viola would get full value for them.
And then she'd stop.
Only once more, Viola vowed silently. Though, like the Shakespearean heroine for whom she was named, she'd miss wearing men's trousers from time to time. They were ever so much more comfortable than a corset and hoops.
From somewhere deep in the elegant town house came a low creak. Viola held her breath. The longcase clock in the main hall ticked. When she heard nothing else, she realized it was only the sigh of an older home squatting down on its foundation for the night.
The room she'd broken into held the stale scents of cigar smoke and brandy from the dinner party of the previous evening. But there were no fresh smells. Perhaps Lieutenant Quinn had taken Lord Montjoy up on his offer to introduce Quinn at Montjoy's club that evening.
Probably visiting a brothel instead. No matter. The house was empty. Why made no difference at all.
She cat footed up the main stairs, on the watch for the help. The lieutenant hadn't fully staffed his home yet, but had brought a native servant back with him from India. During the dinner party, Viola had noticed the turbaned fellow in the shadows, directing the borrowed footmen and giving quiet commands to the temporary serving girls.
The Indian servant would most likely be in residence.
So long as I steer clear of the kitchen or the garret, I'll be fine, Viola told herself. She knew the stones would be in Lieutenant Quinn's chamber.
Her fence had a friend in the brick mason's guild who, for a pretty price, happily revealed the location of the ton's secret stashes. Town houses on that fashionable London street were all equipped with identical wall safes in the master's chamber. The newfangled tumbler lock would open without protest under Viola's deft touch.
She had a gift. Two, actually, but she didn't enjoy the other one half so much.
Slowly, she opened the bedchamber door. Good. It had been oiled recently. She heard only the faint scrape of hinges.
The heavy damask curtains were drawn, so Viola stood still, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the deeper darkness. There! A landscape in a gilt frame on the south wall marked the location of the safe.
Viola padded across the room and inched the painting's hanging wires along the picture rail, careful not to let the hooks near the ceiling slide off. She'd have the devil's own time reattaching them if they did. With any luck at all, she'd slide the painting right back and it might be days before Lieutenant Quinn discovered the stones were missing. After moving the frame over about a foot, she found the safe right where Willie's friend had said it would be.
Viola put her ear to the lock and closed her eyes, the better to concentrate. When she heard a click or felt a slight hitch beneath her touch she knew she'd discovered part of the combination. After only a few tries and errors, the final tumbler fell into place and Viola opened the safe.
The dark void was empty. She reached in to trace the edges of the iron box with her fingertips.
"Looking for something?" A masculine voice rumbled from a shadowy corner.
Blast! Viola bolted for the door, but it slammed shut. The Indian servant stepped from his place of concealment behind it.
"Please do not make to flee or I am sorry to say I shall have to shoot you." The Hindu's melodious accent belied his serious threat.
Viola ran toward the window, hoping it was open behind the curtain. And that there was a friendly bush below to break her fall.
Lieutenant Quinn grabbed her before she reached it, crushing her spine to his chest. His large hand splayed over one of her unbound breasts.
"Bloody hell! It's a woman. Turn up the gas lamp, Sanjay."
The yellow light of the wall sconce flooded the room. Viola blinked against the sudden brightness, then stomped down on her captor's instep as hard as she could.
Quinn grunted, but didn't release his hold. He whipped her around to face him, his brows shooting up in surprise when he recognized her. "Lady Viola, you can't be the Mayfair Jewel Thief."
"Of course, I can." She might be a thief, but she was no liar. "I'd appreciate it, sir, if you'd remove your hands from my person."
"I bet you would." The lieutenant's mouth turned down in a grim frown and he kept his grip on her upper arms.
His Indian servant didn't lower the revolver's muzzle one jot. "Did I not tell you, sahib? When she looked at the countess's emeralds, her eyes glowed green." The servant no longer wore his turban, his coal-black hair falling in ropy strands past his shoulders. "She is a devil, this one."
"Perhaps." Quinn lifted one of his dark brows. "But if that's the case, my old vicar was right. The devil does know how to assume pleasing shapes."
That was a backhanded compliment if Viola ever heard one. She hadn't considered Lieutenant Quinn closely during the dinner party. She had little time for men and the trouble they brought a woman. Once burned and all that. She'd been intent on Lady Henson's emeralds. Now she studied him with the same assessing gaze he shot at her.
Quinn's even features were classically handsome. His unlined mouth and white teeth made Viola realize suddenly that he was younger than she'd first estimated. She doubted he'd seen thirty-five winters. His fair English skin had been bronzed by fierce Indian summers and lashed by its weeping monsoons. His stint in India had rewarded him with riches, but the subcontinent had demanded its price.
His storm-gray eyes were all the more striking because of his deeply tanned skin. They seemed to look right through her and see her for the fraud she was—a thief with pretensions of being a lady.
Quinn glanced at his servant. "Looks like I owe you a hundred rupees." He shook his head. "My money was on Viscount Fenway. He's been a cad ever since we were at Eton together. I thought he'd graduated from cheating on exams to lifting jewels." He released her arms and took Viola's hand, making a slight obeisance over it. "My apologies for doubting you, milady. It appears you are the light-fingered wretch we hoped to catch this evening."
"There's no reason for rude names." She snatched her hand away. Perhaps if she kept him talking, she might sidle over to the door and escape. It would be his word against hers and no one who hadn't seen her unlock a safe would believe her capable of it. "A liar has very few stones to throw. Didn't you say you'd join Lord Montjoy at his club this night?"
"Yes, I did, but standing up a friend at his club and relieving a man of his jewels are not sins of the same magnitude, are they?"
"Relieving a man of his jewels." She shot a wicked glare at him. "Now there's a thought."
Viola wished she could call the words back as soon as they left her lips. Her association with Willie had exposed her to so many overheard vulgarities while she waited for his shop to clear long enough for them to conduct their business. It was coarsening her sensibilities. No lady would ever think such a thing, much less say it.
Quinn snorted. "You'll pardon me if I don't quake in my boots"—his grin faded—"but I didn't lie. I spread misinformation. A time-honored tactic used with good reason."
"I suppose you think I couldn't possibly have a good reason for my actions." She took a nonchalant step or two toward the door.
Broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, Quinn matched her movement with the sinuous grace of a great cat. If she had to flirt her way out of this predicament, it wouldn't be the most onerous task she'd ever undertaken. But she'd only go so far. If she'd been willing to sell herself in the first place, she wouldn't have had to resort to theft. "I suppose you mean to denounce me and see me ruined."
"I greatly fear I'm too late to be the instrument of your ruin, milady."
Viola brought her hand up sharply to slap him, but he caught her arm in mid-swing and held it motionless. His intense gaze froze the rest of her. There was a thin scar running through one of his eyebrows toward the side part in his sable hair. Lieutenant Quinn might be rakishly handsome, but he was also a man of action. Dangerous. Among the men of the ton, he'd stand out as feral in the midst of domesticated stock.
Excerpted from Touch of a Thief by MIA MARLOWE Copyright © 2011 by Diana Groe. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
In 1856 Lady Viola Preston turns to stealing to keep her family from falling into financial ruin. She is terrific at opening any lock, her income maker is robbing jewelry. However, her problem with taking jewels is that when she touches a gem with her hands, she sees visions. Thus she uses gloves. In India, a felon takes a priceless red diamond from a temple. Fearing the violent repercussion when the theft becomes known by the local populace, Captain Greydon Quinn seeks the gem to bring it back to its rightful place. He needs a thief to catch a thief so he keeps a diligent eye out for a certain cat burglar. His surveillance works as he catches Viola and blackmails her into retrieving the purloined jewel from a deliveryman. Their trek takes them onto the continent and back to London as the clues prove false, but their attraction proves true. This entertaining Victorian romantic suspense grips the reader even before the lead couple meets, but takes off once they do. The story line is fast-paced as the action moves from India to Europe, but it is the characters who make the plot exciting fun as the thief steals the line officer's heart while they hunt the stolen diamond. Harriet Klausner
Touch of a Thief is an erotic romance with layers of suspense and paranormal in an international setting during 1857. It has three main characters without being about a love triangle. The romantic couple, Viola and Quinn. And Sanjay, whose story leads up the premise. Every one of them experienced a loss that marked their destinies. All of them know injustice, abuse and deceit. Being wronged by the successions laws of the time. Lady Viola Preston loses everything when her father dies without a male heir, hence his title and possessions go to an uncaring relative. And she is forced to steal in order to support her mother, her sister and her niece. Viola becomes the Mayfair Jewel Thief. Lieutenant Greydon Quinn is a British noble returning home after serving in India. He also carries a painful secret akin to being the heir of an aristocrat. A worse fate has befallen Prince Sanjay of Amjerat, who has lost his princedom under the British rule in India, because he is an adopted son to the late prince. The loss of his principality coincides with the stealing of a rare and malefic red diamond from the temple of Shiva. The diamond must be returned to the temple where its evil powers are bridled, or the outraged people of Amjerat will be in uprising against the British authorities costing the lives of innocents. When Quinn and Sanjay learn that the red diamond is going to be added to the English Queen's royal collection, they follow its trail of sorrow and death, intending to bring it back where it belongs. When Lieutenant Quinn returns to England, Sanjay accompanies him posing as his Indian servant. They set a trap to catch the Mayfair Jewel Thief with the purpose of blackmailing the burglar into stealing the red diamond for them. Surprised when he discovers that Viola is the infamous thief, Quinn coerces her into helping to retrieve the evil gem in exchange for her freedom and half of his personal jewels. Quinn needs Viola's abilities to open a safe, and other related skills of her profession, but he ignores her biggest gift of all, Viola channels gems's chronicles into voices and sometimes disturbing visions. Which is a blessing and a dangerous gift that threatens her sanity and health. This paranormal element in the plot is one of Touch of a Thief's strongest original appeals. At one point in the story, Viola demands to know more of Quinn other than his body. He refuses to reveal anything personal. In her quest for the truth, she touches one of his rings, the gem reveals a grievous secret from his past. I nearly cried reading those pages. Although, the heartbreaking event will be the catalyst that unites their souls. The sexual attraction between Viola and Quinn leaps out of the pages, their sensuality and their camaraderie gifted us with a wonderful romance. The only part I didn't enjoy was the use of Sanskrit words for genitalia during some of the love scenes. This is a personal peeve of mine, but it doesn't take from the story as a whole. I love historical romance books, and I've read many this year. Sadly, due to lack of time, I can only write reviews for those which I like the most. Touch of a Thief is one of the best historical romances I've read in years. It has everything I enjoy in a book - a great history setting, romance, suspense, drama, wittiness, eroticism, friendship and adventure. I highly recommend it.
Fun, fun, fun!! When a Lady down on her luck gets caught up with working with a handsome, sexy man - watch the sparks fly! No simpering virgins here, what you get is a women you can identify with (and a man you want to get naked with!) Can't wait for her next book...
TOUCH OF A THIEF by Mia Marlowe is an exciting historical romance set in 1856 India and 1857 London,England.When an accomplished,beautiful,talented,sexy jewel thief meets the handsome,talented,sexy lieutenant only sparks and steamy nights can come in the future. Lady Viola, is not only sexy,beautiful,and alluring but is also an accomplished jewel thief of the ton.She became a jewel thief to protect her family,after her father left the bulk of his estate to his nephew,upon his death,thinking her nephew would take care of his family.Will that didn't happen,he throw them to the wolves to defend for themselves.So Viola took to stealing from the ton.Greydon (Quinn),a lieutenant,thinks of India as his adopted country,handsome,sexy,talented in many ways,and is out to catch the notorious jewel thief.When he catches her he is amazed it is a women no less.But than strikes a deal with her,if she will help him steal the "red diamond",he will release her and not turn her in to the authorities.The "red diamond" is a daunting,dangerous,diamond with a history of violence and was stolen from India's temple of Shiva.Little does Quinn know that Viola has a special talent,gemstones "speaks" to her.They often show her their past through visions,humming,and the "red diamond" has a sensuous aspect that effects her.It also does violence to anyone who touches it with their bare hands.A violent death will occur.With a strong,intriguing hero and a heroine as an alluring thief it is no wonder this story has hot,steamy sex scenes and is full of adventure,danger,lust,romance,and love.As Viola and Quinn tramps across India,France,and England under the farce of a newlywed couple they also build a bond that is not only about sensual gratification but also about love,trustand justice.This is a fast paced,action packed,adventure with steamy sex scenes,a plot that is intriguing,and exciting as the jewel thief steals the lieutenant's heart and they hunt the stolen "red diamond" to return it back to it's rightful owner,the temple of Shiva in India.f you enjoy adventure,historical romance at it's best,danger,a little paranormal,and a lot of love than this is a story for you.It wll keep you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last.This is a compelling story of not only love between two people but also a love for another country and trying to do the right thing by that country and it's people.I would highly recommend this story you will not be sorry you did.BEWARE it has hot,steamy,sexual scenes.This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher and details can be found at Brava Kensington and details can be found at My Book Addiction Reviews.
I happened across this e-book by accident and after reading the first couple of pages I should have achieved this and moved on. Honestly, the writing style is decent and the plot is fresh but when they start turning on the continuous bedroom smut antics (with one scene and description getting more filthy than the last), I then say goodbye and start to skim to get back to the actual story (which leaves very little reading left). It is very frustrating that with such a promising writing style and plot all can be so tainted by cheap gimmicks. For some reason every historical fiction book being placed on the market these days has to include some kind of filthy shocking scene that must top the last disgusting passage you've just cringed through. I understand the audience Ms. Marlowe was trying to reach, but unfortunately I do not fall into that audience.
Touch of a Thief by Mia Marlow is a wonderful romp of a book. The story line keeps you guessing as to how the author is going to manage to bring it to a happy ending, and she does so beautifully. The sex scenes sizzle with originality and heat, and the characters are a delight to get to know. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to enjoy a sexy, light-hearted historical romance.
I won an ARC of this book in a blog contest. It's a very exciting romantic adventure. The hero is a perfect very sexy gentleman; the heroine is an alluring, accomplished, aristocratic jewelry thief. The story is set in India, England & France, on land and at sea. Naturally, there are many twists and turns... lots of erotic sex... I's well worth reading... You won't want to put it down until you are finished. Pick it up!