Read The Con (Men Who Thrill Book 4) Online
Authors: Kaye Blue
Tags: #Interracial Romantic Suspense
Kaye Blue’s Men Who Thrill: The Con
Kaye Blue’s Men Who Thrill
For the Love of Money...
Stealing is easy. Killing is easier. And while both have their special charm, nothing is as gratifying—or difficult—as pulling off the perfect con.
In fact, I’m in the middle of one right now, my biggest, and my last, and once it’s done, I’ll have all the money I could ever need and the freedom that comes with it.
She’s the only thing standing in my way.
It’s simple enough, though. I’ll just get close to her, get what I need, and then disappear.
Things aren’t going according to plan. Somewhere along the way, she’s become more than a means to an end, and I’m worried I might be breaking the first rule in the book:
I might be falling for my own con.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
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I love it when a con comes together. My favorite part of any job—after the money, of course—is watching as weeks, months, or years of meticulously planned work is flawlessly executed, the end result an inevitability.
Unfortunately, my current con isn’t like that, not at all. It’s more like a train wreck that’s about to end in a fiery crash that will send my work, and my money, up in smoke.
“Explain this again.”
I glared at Daniel in disbelief of what he’d just told me.
“It’s over. We’re done.”
I exhaled, closed my eyes, and prayed for the strength not to choke him out, at least not until I got an explanation.
“Daniel, what happened?” I said in a voice that was less lethal than I felt but that still conveyed my lack of patience.
And if the look on Daniel’s face was anything to go by, he understood the gravity of this moment, knew that his fate, whether he’d meet his end in the dark, rather unpleasant alley, was hinging on what he said in the next thirty seconds.
He started, words tumbling out in a rush. “Susan’s dead. Jordan’s not at Titan anymore. We don’t have access; there’s no way in. It’s done.”
This was all news to me.
“What you mean Susan’s dead? And who’s Jordan?”
“Yeah, she died three weeks ago. Car crash on the interstate.”
I’d had no idea. And more importantly I didn’t appreciate my “partner,” a fact that I regretted more and more as each moment passed, keeping such vital information from me.
“No. I hadn’t heard. But thanks for the heads-up,” I said sarcastically. “So who is Jordan?”
“She was, potentially, another way in if Susan hadn’t worked out,” he said. “But she left, right around the time Susan died. Same day as a matter of fact.”
I grit my teeth. “We never discussed putting another avenue in place. I’m assuming this woman worked with you in data analysis?”
“Yeah. She was under me, so I had access to her username and password. I used it to test the system, see how far I could get, but since I used her credentials, she’d be on the hook for it.”
I’d seen almost everything, but I couldn’t help but be stunned.
“Are you a fucking lunatic?” I said, voice a growl.
He looked taken aback, eyes wide. “What you mean?”
“Do you have any idea how fucking stupid it is to implicate someone in your own group, asshole? You don’t think that kind of behavior from one person in the group might cause the powers that be to wonder what else data analysis might be up to? And it never occurred to you that your partner dying and someone in your group leaving on the same day might be connected?”
The expression on his face told me that it hadn’t, something that was confirmed with his next statement. “No. I mean it was a car accident,” he said.
If I didn’t need him to finish the job, I would have killed him where he stood. Or even smarter would have been to walk away. He clearly had no concept of what kind of people he worked for, the lengths they would go to. This whole project was a fucking mess, and I should have cut and run. But I couldn’t let go, not yet. The score was too big, and I’d exhaust absolutely every resource before I gave it up.
I took a deep breath, focused on the best way to get things back on track. Then I looked at Daniel.
“There’s been a change of plans,” I said, working on the fly. “Do nothing. Say nothing, until I tell you to.”
“What you mean? We don’t know how much longer it’s going to be there, or even if it’s still there,” he said. “We have to act before it’s too late.”
“It’s there. And let’s get something straight,” I said, squaring up to tower over Daniel, who shrank back. “You don’t make decisions. You don’t give suggestions. You do as you’re told. And right now you’re to do nothing and say nothing until I tell you otherwise. Understood?”
The last word was deceptively light, not even a fraction as angry as I’d been earlier, but Daniel understood what I meant.
“Sit tight, and remember what I said.”
I turned and left.
Stealing one of Titan Industries closely held and highly valuable secrets was a high-risk, high-reward scenario, and I wouldn’t let the incompetence of someone like Daniel ruin it for me.
Which left me no choice.
I’d have to go in.
Sixty-Seven Weeks Later
Clad in my heavy blue work uniform, false name stitched on my shirt, I walked through security at Titan, the anticipation of being so close to what I craved only tempered by the necessity to ensure that everything went perfectly.
For over a year I’d worked at a temp agency, cleaning office buildings by night and planning for this moment by day. Thousands of hours spent emptying trash and cleaning toilets, all for a shot to end up here.
I’d been diligent, showed myself as reliable and trustworthy, and, most importantly, anxious for more work, and only after months of toil—and gaining the trust of the woman in charge of assignments—had I finally gotten here.
They’d given me the night shift, told me that new people started there and had to work their way to day shift. I was practically gleeful. Night was exactly when I wanted to be at Titan, but I’d played the role, seemed slightly disappointing yet ever so eager, smiling inside as the plan fell into place.
I looked around the eerily silent lobby. I’d never been inside this building, but the interior matched my perception of the exterior. It was bland—bland walls, bland decor, bland everything. But I wasn’t fooled. I knew that underneath, Titan Industries was anything but bland, and soon, it would make me rich beyond my wildest imagination.
Of course, I needed to do recon first, but I had no idea where to go or what I should be doing, and the security guard, who was building his fantasy-football roster with the intensity of a warrior at battle, would be of no help. I stood for a moment, looking around the lobby, waiting.
I turned toward the sound of wheels scraping against the smooth marble floor and saw a cart laden with the supplies I’d become very familiar with being pushed by, based on height and body shape, a woman.
The lobby was dim, so I couldn’t make out many of her features, but I noted what I did see. She was a little taller than average, extremely curvy, curvy to the point that applying that word was generous. She pushed the cart until she reached me, and then she stopped. I took in her face. Average features, on the low-end of attractive, a pleasant face, but topped with eyes that stared at me with, if not quite malice, a healthy dose of skepticism.
I looked at the patch on her shirt, taking in the scripted name: Ruby. Then I looked at the badge that hung around her neck and confirmed the name. Ruby Struthers.
And just above the badge around her neck was a key. Curious, something I’d keep in mind. My perusal was interrupted by her voice, which was low, feminine, and surprisingly seductive given her appearance and our surroundings.
“I’m Ruby. You’re with me. Let’s go.”
With that welcoming introduction, she began pushing the cart again, and after a few beats I fell in line behind her, making note of her erect posture and sturdy, broad shoulders.
We walked in silence, the scrape of the wheels against the floor the only sound in the loud hollow halls. And even that was muffled when, after scanning her badge, she pushed the cart down the hallway over carpeted floors. So now there was only the very muffled roll of the wheels, an occasional hum of halogen lights, but otherwise there was silence.
She turned back and cut her eyes at me sharply, that skeptical expression still on her face.
“I can see your name on your shirt. You can see mine. That’ll be the extent of introductions.”
I raised my hands in placation. “Sorry, just trying to be friendly,” I said, following the words with a smile.
“Don’t be friendly. Work.”
She turned back and donned a pair of latex gloves and then reached for the first of what looked to be a hundred wastebaskets in a sea of cubicles that seemed almost infinite.
“You take the left. I’ll take the right.”
She said nothing more.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I watched Ruby through the night, looking for some break in her facade, and also keeping an eye on the way things ran here. It was tight. I’d immediately spotted the cameras that were placed in three-foot increments down the hallways and wondered if they were manned at this hour. And, I thought as I gazed up at the speakers that were built into the ceiling, I would bet cash money that the intercom system also contained recording devices.
The floors were broken down into sectors, each requiring an access badge, something I didn’t doubt was logged. More importantly for my purposes, I didn’t have one, so I wouldn’t have a chance to examine the card closely and see if it could be duplicated. And janitors worked in two-man teams, so it would be a long while yet before I’d have any independent movement.
Yet I wondered about the key around Ruby’s neck. So far, every place we had cleaned had required an access card, nothing so simple as a lock and key. Maybe it wasn’t related to her work, but in either case, I needed to figure that out.
Scoping out Titan and trying to get the lay of the land made the hours move fast. This would be tough, just as I’d suspected, but I would do whatever it took to get the information I needed.
I glanced at my companion, mind drifting from the plan and to the intrigue stoked by her reaction.
People were always nice to me, though I’d never understood why. I was handsome enough, friendly enough, but the way people seemed to welcome me with open arms still surprised me. That strangers didn’t know me, or what I’d done and would do in the future, probably explained a lot of it, but had I been a normal person and met me, or someone like me, I would have run away screaming.
Ruby Struthers hadn’t quite gone that far, but she was reserved to the point of rude and as close to outright rejecting me as I’d ever gotten. And if I were being honest, it annoyed the crap out of me. I was going to finish this job, and she was not going to stand in my way. But it would have been so much easier if she’d been nice.
Seemed that wasn’t to be, something that made me too curious for my own good. But I couldn’t afford to make waves, at least not yet, so I’d play it cool. Still, I would figure out what if anything I needed from Ruby Struthers, and I would get it.
Of that I had no doubt.
Of course, after a week at Titan, I was no closer than I’d been in the seven days before. I had Titan’s security setup down, but I still didn’t have an access badge, which meant I was chained to Ruby.
And that was more difficult than anything.