Authors: Dee Brice
It Takes a Thief
Sometimes a woman has to take a
flying leap of faith—even if it’s into the arms of a man hell-bent on her
When Tiffany Cartierri succumbs to
a night of lust in the arms of a handsome, dark-eyed stranger, she has no idea
their paths will cross again a week later. Nor can she stop herself from
craving Ian Soria’s lovemaking.
But the theft of Isabella’s Belt—an
emerald-encrusted artifact—places them on opposing sides in a desperate attempt
to recover the priceless treasure. From Austria to England to Colombia, Tiffany
and Ian race to discover who stole the Belt and who is trying to frame her for
both the theft and for murder.
It Takes a Thief
To Tina E for giving this story a second chance. To April C
for her patience and insight. And, as always, to my DH for showing me the
article on emeralds that led to the
and the book.
St. Anton, Austria
Damian Hunter awoke with a jerk, harmlessly cradled in a
leather wingback chair, his stocking-clad feet still resting on the matching
ottoman. His nightmare about his brother’s murder lingering, he opened his eyes
and grabbed a woman’s wrist.
“You!” he growled, knowing she looked nothing like the
treacherous bitch in his dream, but knowing he had seen her before. Common
sense ordered him to let her go, that his fingers could snap her fragile bones
and bring more pain into her eyes. He expected her to fight, wanted her to fight,
to pull against his implacable grip. He could feel her pulse beating
frantically under his fingers, could see her need to escape him or to scream
for help. Instead, she remained half-bent over him, her free hand on the arm of
his chair for balance, her eyes now calm.
She leaned into him and for a moment he thought she would
kiss him. She brought her free hand to his cheek, feathered her cool fingers
over his jaw and down his neck until she found his carotid artery.
, he thought a second before he passed out, done
in by a masterfully administered sleeper’s hold.
When he came to, she was standing with her back to the fire
and considering him like she might a particularly disgusting specimen under her
microscope. She also had closed the oak doors between the library and the
reception area filled with noisy skiers returning from a day on the slopes.
Given what he had done to her, he was surprised she had not
called for Security to throw him out on his ass. That she had stayed, had even
closed them in a cocoon of privacy in this remote, exclusive ski resort made
him wonder about her sanity. Maybe, like his brother, she thrived on danger.
Not that Damian would hurt her—not intentionally.
“You scared me,” she said in a husky voice that went
straight to his groin. “I thought you were dead.”
Rubbing his neck where she had applied her deft touch, he
eased out of his chair and countered, “So did I.”
Her dark eyebrows knitting into a warning scowl, she reached
behind her, then revealed the fireplace poker in her hands.
His penis pulsed. He shifted the book he had been reading
when he’d fallen asleep to cover his erection. Ski pants were damned
uncomfortable in his condition. He wondered just when he had decided he wanted
to have sex with a woman he did not know. He had not decided at all. The only
part of him that seemed the least bit interested in thinking lay south of his
waistband. He began to appreciate his brother’s craving for deep cover and
He eyed the woman. If she would let him closer he was pretty
sure he could disarm her.
, he thought again when she shifted
her weight and tightened her grip on the poker. He retreated a half step.
Discretion being the better part of valor, he tossed his book aside and held up
his hands, palms out.
“I apologize if I hurt you.”
She rubbed her right wrist, then returned the poker to its
stand. “I’ll survive. Want to talk about it?”
“You seemed to be having a nightmare.” She took a limping
few steps toward him, giving him the perfect opportunity to change the subject.
“Your first day on the slopes?”
“Yeah,” she admitted, running her hands down her baggy
sweatpants and massaging her thighs.
Chuckling, wanting to replace her hands with his own, he
challenged, “Too proud to admit you are sore, eh?”
With a look that was pure mischief, she laughed with him.
“No prouder than you,” she observed when he limped toward her.
Not knowing why—she was the antithesis of everything he
usually found appealing in a woman—he offered, “I have a hot tub in my suite. We
could suffer together.”
“I don’t get into hot tubs with strange men.”
“I am not strange, I am—”
“Or familiar ones either.”
Delighted by her quick wit, he raised his hands in protest
and schooled his expression to innocence. “It is a very large tub. We would not
even have to touch. And it is on the balcony, in full sight of the night ski
She considered him with a cool green gaze reminiscent of a
forest glade after a rainstorm. “Okay. White or red?”
“I’ll bring the wine if you’ll tell me which you prefer.”
It had been too long since he had visited the States, he
decided bemusedly. He had grown unaccustomed to the straightforwardness of
American women. “Actually, I have a lovely white wine, a Malvasia Bianca, if
that is agreeable?”
“Lovely,” she echoed, her low voice bland but her eyes
merry, leaving him with the distinct impression she was laughing at him, albeit
Unable to recall the last time a woman had teased him, he
grinned. Women normally avoided him entirely. Or, like the women at this
exclusive Austrian ski resort, they came on to him as if he were their favorite
dessert. This woman, with her lanky body, droll humor and mischievous eyes,
Oh yes, he remembered her eyes. For more than a
blizzard-ridden week they had studied him, challenged him, dismissed him.
Always, before now, from across rooms filled with lodge guests.
“Half an hour?” he suggested when they continued to stare at
each other in silence.
“Love—fine,” she corrected while a faint, becoming blush
stained her high cheekbones.
Confounded by the contradiction of innocence and
sophistication, he barely found his voice when, at the door, she turned back.
“Penthouse four.” He would have told her sooner, but her walk quite literally
had stolen his breath. She moved with the slow, boneless grace of the women of
the Caribbean, as if she balanced a jug on her head and time did not exist.
Then she vanished.
* * * * *
When she reappeared at his balcony doors precisely thirty
minutes later, she wore a full-length fake fur coat and carried a wicker basket
adorned with a silk paisley bow. She entered on a cool breeze, wafting warmth
and an elusive scent he could not identify, but liked.
Gripping the basket handle so hard he knew she’d have the
pattern embossed in her palm, she went to the small dining table. Setting out
food seemed to help her settle. The nervousness in her eyes returned as she
glanced around as if looking for the hot tub. She must know it was an excuse to
get her to his suite, that neither of them intended to go outside.
She stared at him, the bulge in his silky sweatpants jerking
her startled gaze to his face. His eyes remained on hers. Smiling, he hoped his
expression assured her the decision to stay or leave was hers. Her breath
caught on a soft gasp before she straightened, the calm, confident woman of the
“I hope you don’t mind, but I’m starving,” she apologized in
her husky voice. She rummaged in the basket and produced a series of small
containers and swan-shaped, foil-wrapped, aromatic goodies.
Reminding him he had not eaten since early that morning and
it had now gone six, Damian’s stomach growled. “I also am hungry.”
“Good.” She shed her coat with a careless shrug reminiscent
of the subtly sensuous femme française. Under the madcap raccoon she wore a
silk jumpsuit that matched the color of her eyes and outlined curves her sweat
suit had concealed. “Do you mind?” she asked, already sliding slender feet out
of impractical open-toed, high-heeled sandals.
“Good Lord, woman,” he scolded, “you will catch your death.”
She flashed him a wry look. “I’m just next door. Twenty feet
“The balconies are ankle-deep in snow. You will get
frostbite if you leave that way.”
Another Gallic shrug accompanied her offering of warm,
crusty French bread smothered in fragrant pâté. He took a bite and watched as
she nibbled from the same slice. Wishing he were that fortunate tidbit
dissolving on her tongue, sliding down her throat, he smothered the urge to
strip off her clothes and take her without any foreplay.
He had not expected her to engage in casual sex, but he had
prepared for it—for her—with more care than he had ever done before.
“It is too cold to be outside. I thought we could enjoy the
and each other,
“in the Jacuzzi. Or here,” he amended quickly
when she headed for the door. “Please, do not leave.”
Poised for flight, she stared at him for a long moment. Her
gaze shifted from his face to trace his body. Apparently the tent his erection
had created in his pants did not offend her. He watched her eyes, saw them
change from wariness to indecision to surrender.
, he thought as she came toward him, her
stride that slow, sinuous pace that made him hard and past ready to have her.
Burnished by firelight, her skin shone like gold and her eyes glowed a feline
green. Her sensuous lips parted slightly. Her breath came in soft puffs that
caressed his taut cheeks.
“Do you want to undress me?” she murmured.
Heat flared in her eyes. His cock twitched. His knees went
weak and shaky. Anticipation held him captive, unable to move as she freed her
hair. Ebony curls cascaded like a blue-black waterfall over her shoulders and
“Do you want to undress me?” she whispered again, her
throaty voice sending hot shivers coursing through him.
He hooked a finger in the big brass ring resting between her
breasts and held her wonder-filled gaze. Her dark lashes drifted downward,
hiding her emotions, but her breathing betrayed her. Soft sighs came with
increasing rapidity. Her hands trembled as she raised them to his shoulders.
Forcing himself not to rush, fighting the urges of his own
body, he traced her collarbone and eased the silky fabric off her shoulders.
Firm, satiny flesh warmed his palms.
. The thought flooded his
brain and raised his heart rate.
His eyes still focused on her face, now flushed and dewy, he
let his fingers learn the contours of her body. He touched her nipples and felt
them furl like newborn rosebuds blindly seeking the sun. On a gasp her eyes
flew open, revealing a flowering rapture in their emerald depths. He drifted
his hands lower and discovered a narrow waist, slender hips and heat between
“Take it off,” he ordered in a hoarse whisper. He stepped
back and watched her skim the light fabric from her body, then let it slide
like a lover’s caress down her long, slender legs.
A low growl expressed his appreciation. He slid his hands
under the silky blanket of her hair and hauled her to him. A purr deep in her
throat told him of her need as they collided like two beasts in heat. Mouths
parting, their lips met with brutal demand. Their tongues twined in an intimate
duel that neither would win nor lose, a duel that would end in beautiful
moments of dying.
Their first kiss left him breathless. So feral, so full of
need, he feared they would devour each other. She fumbled with the zipper on
his sweatshirt. Stilling her hands, he tightened his arms around her until he
held her so close he crushed her breasts against his chest. Her flesh felt hot,
her heat, life-giving. Life-affirming.
Without breaking the kiss, he lifted her into his arms and
carried her to his bathroom. There, votive candles cast a soft glow over the
room. The ice bucket sweated on the wide ledge surrounding the bubbling water.
He settled her there, on the ledge where, anticipating this moment, he had
placed a thick, warm towel.
“Would you like a glass of wine?” he whispered in her ear,
and then gently laved its shell with his tongue. She shivered and a soft moan
escaped her kiss-reddened lips. Every muscle in his body tightened and his cock
swelled, urging him to take her now. To plunge fast and deep and never mind
that he had not prepared her for his size or his need.
“Yes, please,” she said in a throaty murmur that made him
want to bury himself in her mouth, in her cunt.
He filled a chilled glass, held it to her lips for a small
sip and spilled the remainder down her chest.
“I shall clean you,” he muttered, his tongue lapping at
first one swollen nipple, then the other. Her moans sounded like equal parts
pleasure and pain. Her hands pressing down on his head assured him she felt
“You like that,
He needed no more encouragement. He suckled. She moaned
louder and, digging her fingers into his scalp, pressed his face tighter to
her. Laving and sucking, he eased his hand down her ribs, over her hip to her
knees. Exerting a light pressure, he celebrated when her legs opened, giving
him free access to her.
With a patience he had not known he possessed, he rubbed her
clit, felt her jerk and try to close her legs. He stilled his hand, sucked her
nipple harder until her knees again opened, wider this time, inviting him to
stroke her. Rubbing her with his thumb, he eased his thick middle finger into
, you are tight.” His cock throbbed, needing him
to bury himself in her. Now!
Using his tongue, he cleaned her nipples. Hunger growing, he
used his hands, his lips, his teeth and tongue everywhere at once. Her moans
and quivering flesh urged him on. Kneeling between her spread legs, he plunged
his tongue into her cunt.
Dios, she tasted good—like nectar from the gods.
She mewed and arched her hips upward. Grinding her mons
against his face, she murmured words of encouragement. “Like that, yes. Oh yes.
More…please, give me more.” Her entire body shaking, her juices flooded his
tongue and his moans echoed hers until they both quieted.
Surprise shone in her eyes. He eased away while she tugged
his pants down his legs. His cock curved against his belly, rigid and proud.
She gulped as a shiver dotted her flesh with goose bumps. His cock was thick
and long. Did she wonder how she could possibly take that mass inside her body
without it tearing her apart?