Stealing His Thunder (Masters of Adrenaline)

BOOK: Stealing His Thunder (Masters of Adrenaline)
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Titles by Sparrow Beckett

Stealing His Thunder

Masters Unleashed

Finding Master Right

Playing Hard to Master

To Have and to Master

Stealing His Thunder

Sparrow Beckett

INTERMIX BOOKS, NEW YORK

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

STEALING HIS THUNDER

An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Sparrow Beckett.

Excerpt from
Fueling His Hunger
copyright © 2016 by Sparrow Beckett.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about The Berkley Publishing Group, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 9780451488350

PUBLISHING HISTORY

InterMix eBook edition / June 2016

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Dedicated to chocolate, for getting us through late night plot sessions.

Chapter 1

Energy buzzed through Addison as though lightning had invaded her bloodstream. Sweat beaded on her forehead despite the dry Nevada night. Awkwardly, she held her body as close to the window of the vehicle without touching it as she could. Her ass was dangerously close to bumping the car in the next spot over. She made a mental note to avoid crowded parking lots from now on, even if the ritzy apartment complex
did
have some of the finest engines she’d ever seen.

After disabling the alarm on the silver Lexus, she slid the blank key into her hacking device and waited for it to upload the car’s computer information.

It was her first time using the new software—something she had modeled after an existing gadget thieves who actually had money could afford. It was hard to believe she’d gone from mostly law-abiding undergrad student to criminal all because of a news segment on high-end car theft. The idea that it was now about hacking instead of hotwiring appealed to her inner nerd.

Time to put her electrical engineering degree to the test. Busting her ass for her master’s was a waste of her time and potential when, in less than ten minutes, she could drive off in a hundred and fifty thousand dollar Lexus.

So far, she hadn’t resold any of them to chop shops or done anything
that
illegal. Ditching them on the side of the highway was enough to feed her adrenaline addiction. The whole thing was harmless and barely broke any laws. It was more of a prank, really. At least that was what she told herself as she went to sleep at night. She might have been slinking around in the dark, wearing black, stealing cars from rich people, but she had principles, damn it.

Eventually, she might travel down the cash-paved road of organized crime, but she had a plan to keep her karma scale in balance. She’d donate a large percentage of her income to charity. Steal from the rich, give to the poor. Like Robin fucking Hood.

And then there were her grandparents—the real reason she’d started down this path.

If she ever figured out how to sell what she stole, she could reunite them. The system sucked. What kind of world forced apart a couple who’d been married for forty-five years just because one of them was too sick to live at home? Like her gran was doing that much better?

The sight of the small, frail woman trying to transfer her husband back and forth from bed to wheelchair had been heartbreaking. Even respite workers hadn’t been enough to keep him home—not when he started fighting Gran’s help when they were alone. The fact that he rarely remembered the woman he’d built his whole life around was bad enough. Separating them should have been illegal. There just wasn’t money to have them together at the nursing home, though.

With desperation driving her, she’d practiced hacking into cars, working her way up to the big leagues. It was more interesting than working part-time at the electronics store. She just wished she could find a way to make it pay her in cash rather than adrenaline.

Just as the device finished uploading the code into her blank key, her phone buzzed in her cargo pants pocket.
Shit.
Rolling her eyes at the disruption, she pulled it out so she could turn it off. The name
Mama Drama
with a text message lit up on the screen.

Scrapbooking class starts in one hour, if you’re interested.

She sighed.

The woman had an obsession with decorating photos from every life moment with stickers and doilies and cheesy sayings like “a time to treasure” and “moments to remember.” After she’d finished all of Addison’s baby books, she’d gone on to scrapbook family vacations, Addison’s graduation, and every major and minor holiday. Didn’t think Labor Day could have a photo theme? Think again. Even their dog, Peanut, had his own scrapbook. And if her mom knew about her budding car theft addiction, she’d probably scrapbook the hell out of that too.

She typed back,
Busy. Thanks anyway.

Guilt about doing something her staid parents would never understand weighed her down. Not for the first time, she wondered if she was adopted. How did two careful, productive citizens produce an adrenaline junkie daughter with a penchant for crime?

The sound of heavy breathing echoed through the parking garage, but she realized it was her own. She had to hurry. She’d been sitting here too long already.

Excitement pulsed through her. Anticipation mixed with nerves and a sense of danger, colliding in her belly, warming her insides and extending down between her legs. It was almost as good as an orgasm. In fact, one of her biggest fantasies was wild, hurried sex on a car she’d just stolen. God, she was such a perv.

With the upload complete, and the car alarm disabled, she opened the door and slid into the smooth leather seat. Grinning madly, she sat back and ran her hands over the steering wheel. Time for a ride.

The door creaked open wider and she turned just in time to see a fist flying toward her.

***

Pain. So much pain. Like someone had bashed her head in with a brick.

A voice murmured distantly as she tried to force her eyes open. Her head felt too foggy, her body too weak to go on alert like she knew she should be. What happened?

She finally managed to pry open her stubborn eyelids. Her temple throbbed in time with her heart.

Oh yeah. Fist to the head.

Had she been caught? Was this jail? She stared up at a ceiling, trying to process anything other than the ice pick in her skull. The distant voice dropped lower then disappeared. The white paint above her was smooth, not cracked and peeling. The air felt cool and smelled like leather.

No. This wasn’t prison.

She turned her head, groaning at the stab of pain to her temple. If she had a mirror, she was sure she’d see a giant goose egg there. At least her hair would cover it.

Trying to process what was going on was like fighting an ocean undertow. She was on a bed, that much she knew. There was a black sheet underneath her and a blanket balled up at the end of the mattress. The furniture in the room was sparse—a table, a dresser, and the bed placed up against the wall. No windows. A basement? She shuddered. There was nothing more disconcerting than being knocked out only to wake up in a stranger’s basement.

A pair of jean-clad legs came into view. With effort, she lifted her gaze to see a man staring down at her. His cold blue eyes sent a shiver through her.

Wincing, he held something out to her. It turned out to be an instant ice pack. “Looks like that hurts.”

No thanks to you, fucker.
Scowling, she grabbed the ice and gently pressed it to the side of her head.

“Sorry. I didn’t realize you were a woman until after I threw the punch.”

Like that was supposed to make her feel better? Who the hell was this guy? “What am I doing here?”

“Answering questions.” He moved back a few steps and she felt some relief with the distance. “Do you know who I am?”

Forcing her stiff limbs to move, she sat upright and leaned against the wall the bed was pushed up against. No headboard, no decorations, as though things like interior decorating were a waste of his time. She studied his handsome face, suddenly feeling like she was supposed to recognize him. Was he a celebrity or something? He looked like he should be famous. Long blondish-red hair was tied back, exposing shaved sections on both sides. The beard and tattoo-covered arms suggested he didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought, which was both intimidating and hot. A black T-shirt covered his massive chest, but left his muscular biceps bare. Biceps a girl could drool over.

She peered around the room, looking for clues about him. To the side, she spotted a coil of rope and a blindfold.

Fuck. “Why do I feel like I need a safeword?”

One eyebrow rose. “You know what a safeword is?”

Fear finally surfaced. Not the adrenaline-fueled kind she loved. This was a bone-deep fear that made her either want to claw her way out of the room or shrink back into a corner and hope this was a prank.

He moved toward her and she flinched. Seeming to notice her fear, he paused, then he held out a staying hand. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“The torture chamber suggests otherwise.” She was impressed her voice sounded so calm.

“The only girls I bring down here are willing ones.”

She stared at him, blinking.

“Aside from you,” he added then looked away. With slow movements, he crossed the room and stopped at a small table by the door. “What’s your name?” he asked, back turned.

“Evelyn,” she lied.

He turned, arching a brow as he held up her wallet.

“If you already knew,” she snapped, “why’d you ask?”

“To see if you’re a liar.”

She dropped the ice onto the bed and fingered the tender bump she could already feel forming. “Congratulations. Now you know.” Between the headache and the pointless questions, this was putting her in a bad mood. “Look. If that was your car, I’m really sorry. I wasn’t going to do anything with it, I swear.”

Maybe this was all a big misunderstanding. If he owned the Lexus, he was probably just pissed and trying to deal with it himself instead of involving the police. That, she could work with. “I was just gonna sit in it.”

He snorted. “Cut the innocent bullshit. Who do you work for?”

Work for? She opened her mouth then shut it again. With a sideways glance, she asked, “Who do
you
work for?”

Instead of answering, he turned brusquely and walked back to the table by the door. He dropped her wallet next to her keys and purse.

He’d searched her purse? Her cheeks heated. There was personal stuff in there! Hopefully he didn’t look too closely at what appeared to be a tube of lipstick. Didn’t he know a woman’s purse was always off-limits, no matter what?

Trying to salvage some self-respect, she sat up straighter. “This is unlawful confinement.”

He looked back at her. “‘Unlawful’? You didn’t look like you cared about the law when you were stealing that car.”


That
car? So it’s not yours.” She crossed her arms and glared. “Who are you really? And what is this place? Why do you care about a car that’s not even yours?”

For a long moment, he just stared at her. Was he considering telling her the truth or deciding how best to dispose of her body? Anxiety made her stomach roll but she managed to keep her composure.

Pull it together, Addison
. Being badass mostly consisted of faking self-confidence, right?

Finally, he gestured to the door and said, “You’re not confined. It’s unlocked. You can leave any time.”

“Great.” She stood up, ignoring how shaky her knees were, and the head rush that sent pain spiking through her skull. Was this a trick? Was there a giant on the other side of the door with brass knuckles and a love for making girls scream? And not in the consensual way.

Keeping her gaze on him, she walked to the door and grabbed her things off the table. She caught a glimpse of her key-matching device in her purse and was glad he hadn’t decided to keep it. Or break it. It’d been a bitch scavenging the parts to make it work.

After she shoved her wallet and car keys back in her bag, she paused with her hand on the door knob. Something stopped her, made her reconsider leaving. Curiosity? An irrational sense of adventure? She should probably run as fast as she could away from this kinky basement and her sexy nameless captor. It would be crazy not to, wouldn’t it? Sure, danger and kinky sex were hot, but so were consent and a trustworthy partner. Why did she have the urge to stay and find out more about him?

Before she could turn the knob, he said from behind her, “How are you going to get home?”

Shit. “Um. Walk?”

“We’re miles from the city.”

She turned to face him. “You brought me here. You should have the decency to pay for a cab.”

“Like you have the decency to take other people’s cars?”

“Oh, shut up. I can tell you’re not the morality police so quit acting like it.”

His lips pressed together as though he was holding back a smile. Then he sighed and reached behind her to open the door. With his body so close to hers, she caught his scent. Soap and leather, like the room, only stronger, sexier.

“Come on,” he said, ushering her through the door. “I’ll drive you home.”

She stopped in the threshold. “Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean ‘why’?”

She threw her hands up in the air, frustrated. “You went through the trouble of bringing me all the way here. You only asked me a few questions. I didn’t even tell you my real name. I’m obviously unscrupulous. Why are you letting me go?”

He chuckled. “‘Unscrupulous’? I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone use that word out loud.”

“It’s a perfectly good word.”

“I doubt someone who was really unscrupulous would use it.”

“That’s narrow-minded. Criminals can be intelligent.”

“You’re no criminal.”

She scoffed, offended for some reason. “I just broke into a car. What would you call me then?” It struck her just how silly this conversation was. She was defending her right to be called a criminal. As if she cared what he thought. As if she wanted to be considered a criminal!

He leaned close, smirking. His eyes lit up with amusement and a small fire started in her belly. Voice gravelly, he nearly whispered, “You’re playing a dangerous game, little girl.”

Damn him. Making her angry and turned on at the same time wasn’t playing fair. The internal conflict didn’t leave her with any witty retorts. She swallowed hard, trying to clear her foggy head. How could such a cocky jackass be so sexy? But she couldn’t help it, he had “her type” written all over him—other than the kidnapping part. Tall, tattooed, and dangerous. And apparently kinky. And if he was offering her a ride home instead of taking advantage of her he obviously wasn’t the creepy kind of dangerous.

Shit. Her libido whirled out of control. She flipped between wanting to smack him and wanting to kiss him. When she tried to give her head a shake, it throbbed with pain. Suppressing a groan, she pushed past him toward the stairs. She couldn’t trust her vocal cords to work, so she pretended to stomp away. Only her stomp was more like a wobbly walk.

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