Authors: Nic Saint
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When Scotland Yard officer Glynis Fox finally manages to capture notorious jewel thief The Shadow, she has her reasons for locking him up in her ancestral home instead of a regular prison. The Shadow stole her ailing mother’s pearls, and Glynis has sworn an oath to get them back. At any cost.
Forcing the gentleman burglar to retrieve the gems, however, proves more dangerous than she thought… for The Shadow seems determined to lay claim to a property even more valuable than the family jewels: the policewoman’s heart.
Thomas Spencer is not having a good day. First his latest score, a seven million pound diamond, is taken from him. Then he’s abducted and held at gunpoint by a crazy policewoman. Now he needs to use all his skills to escape her clutches unscathed. Soon, however, he finds himself falling for the attractive cop, and even question his own vocation as premier supplier of priceless gems to London’s wealthiest Russian oligarchs.
THE RUSSIAN'S TENACIOUS LOVER
“Um, sir? Excuse me? Sir?”
Thomas ignored the waiter and kept on walking. He trusted the loyal serf wouldn’t have the nerve to stop a distinguished guest, even if he was wandering off the beaten path.
“Sir? Please, sir?” The man’s voice carried after him, and, setting a brisk pace, he’d soon left him behind.
With a shake of the head, the server returned to the reception, probably thinking scathing thoughts about annoying guests refusing to remain within the corral.
Thomas smiled to himself. A pity he’d been seen sneaking off, but he would take care of that later. First, he had more important matters to attend to.
He was a tall man of athletic build, clad in a perfectly tailored suit, with exceptional dark eyes in a handsome face that made women’s heads turn at any social function he graced with his presence. At the moment, he could do without the attention, and his vigilant gaze scanned his surroundings for any hint of danger.
He rounded a corner and found himself in a long corridor, this one not quite as ornate as the one he’d left behind. As a regular at Lord Crocket’s seasonal receptions, he knew the way. A door led to the sanctum sanctorum, his host’s very own private office.
Checking left and right, he inserted one of the tools of his trade into the lock. Precious seconds later, the door yielded to his carefully applied tradecraft, and he turned the knob and entered the office.
He was fairly certain the office would be empty, Lord Crocket too busy entertaining the cream of the crop of London society. Then again, one never knew. Crocket could have posted a bodyguard in his private quarters just in case. A house full of people does present a security risk, especially to one as ostensibly rich as the recently anointed peer of the realm.
As Thomas steeled himself for a possible confrontation, he stepped inside the room, rehearsing one of several cover stories he liked to employ on occasions like these. The most obvious one that he’d been in dire need of the lavatory and had surmised one such establishment might be concealed behind this door.
Why he’d felt the need to pick the lock might be explained with a baffled, ‘But the door was open, my good man!’
To his great relief, the office was empty, the lights dimmed, casting a diffused glow across the wood-paneled floor and a perfect replica of the desk of Charles Dickens, which now served as the center of Crocket’s private empire.
It wasn’t the desk that interested Thomas, however, but rather the safe housed behind the portrait of Queen Victoria, which hung suspended over Crocket’s desk.
Standing on his host’s chair, he dipped into his pocket and took out his trusty surgical gloves, then slipped them on, the talcum powder easing the process. He reached up and eased the painting aside. It noiselessly swung on its well-oiled hinges.
“Sorry, old girl. Just need to get into your knickers,” he whispered as he teased the painting of the imperiously glaring monarch aside to reveal a large safe built into the wood-paneled wall.
Licking his lips at the sight of the ultramodern contraption, he twiddled his fingers. The next moment, he was tapping the combination into the keypad, hoping the information he’d paid a fortune for would yield results.
After a suspenseful moment, the LED light on the faceplate flicked from red to green, the mechanism gave a soft click, and the door swung open a fraction of an inch.
Thomas silently rejoiced. His informant’s claims hadn’t been a boast.
Opening the safe door, his eyes widened fractionally when he caught sight of the small black pouch. Taking it out carefully, he opened it and checked its contents. When he saw that everything was perfectly in order, his lips turned up into a smile, and he quickly shoved the pouch into his pocket, then produced a small note and placed it in its stead.
The note read,
‘With My Deepest Gratitude - The Shadow, Prime Thief of Britain’
That would give them food for thought.
Closing the safe and watching the light turn from green to red again, he swung Queen Victoria into place and stepped back, admiring his handiwork. No one who walked in would even suspect foul play. And since Lord Crocket only occasionally checked his safe, it could be days before his visit was detected, and the boys and girls of Scotland Yard called in.
By then, he’d already have disposed of the gem, a nice seven-figure amount added to his substantial, and very discrete, Swiss bank account.
Retracing his steps to the door, he opened it a crack and peeked out, wanting to make sure he’d gone undetected. When he saw that the coast was clear, he quickly stepped out and slid the door into its lock behind him. Even if he did run into a member of staff, he could simply say he’d gotten lost in Lord Crocket’s sprawling mansion.
Thomas Spencer walked back to the main reception hall, and mingled with the crowd, removing the last traces of suspicion from his person when he bumped into the waiter from before, and told the man that he’d fruitlessly gone in search of the lavatory and could he perhaps steer him in the right direction?
The man’s face lit up into a smile of exceptional wattage, and when he told Thomas where he could relieve himself of the excess of Pinot Noir, he was amiability itself, and profusely thanked the man.
Five minutes later, he was walking back to his Jaguar, and another five, leaving Kensington Gardens behind, and with it the possibility of being caught with a seven million pound thirty-one carat D-color flawless diamond in the vest pocket of his bespoke suit.
This time tomorrow, he’d be on a plane to Moscow, his client a very happy man and his bank manager even more so.
As he whistled a tune, he slipped a hand into his pocket and took out the black velvet pouch, then placed it in the glove compartment, locked it with the key, and tucked the key safely into his vest pocket.
He was a superstitious man and didn’t want any trace of this ill-gotten trinket on his person when he could avoid it. The taint of crime was not one which he wanted to linger any more than strictly necessary. With the diamond safely locked away, he could pretend he was an honorable man, and not the common thief he was.
He steered the car into the parking garage attached to The Rialto and parked the Jag between a Rolls and a Lamborghini, in the throes of a particularly expansive mood. He enjoyed his work, and always felt well disposed to the world in general and his donators in particular after a job well done.
He leaned over and unlocked the Crocket gem from the glove compartment, slipped it into his vest pocket, then exited the car with a merry tune on his lips.
He switched on the car alarm and walked to the elevator that would take him up to the plush lobby of the five-star hotel that had been his home for the past seven years. And the doors had just begun to close when a gloved hand arrested their trajectory, and a young woman of attractive aspect joined him.
As the car rode up, he studied her from the corner of his eye. She was gorgeous, he decided; full-figured and with long blond hair, she was exactly what the doctor ordered to end the night on a high note.
He noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding band, and cleared his throat to offer his opening remarks when she suddenly turned on him and sprayed him in the face with an odious liquid.
He didn’t know what surprised him more: that he hadn’t seen this coming, or that a beautiful girl like her would be in the same profession he was.
But then he was writhing on the floor of the elevator, the sting in his eyes unbearable. And when she relieved him of the pouch, he hadn’t the power to fight back, the pain paralyzing him and blocking all attempts to fight.
“Thank you, Mr. Spencer,” her soft voice sounded in his ears. “See you soon.”
And with those mysterious words, she was gone, leaving him groping on the floor and cursing his misfortune with some choice words that would have made Queen Victoria blush.
Jennifer Crocket eyed the man darkly and would have rolled her eyes if she hadn’t been brought up too well for such public displays of emotion. Not only was Lord Soakes much too old for her, but he was her father’s business partner, and as such a man to be despised.
But even as these thoughts passed through her mind, her face remained inscrutable, and when the man bent down and pressed a revolting kiss on her hand, she managed to preserve a cool detachment and resist the urge to slap him across his ruddy, jowly face.
“My dear! You look more lovely each time I see you!” the horrid man was exclaiming.
“Why, thank you, Lord Soakes. I’m sure that is absolutely not true.”
“Oh, but it is, darling. You are radiance and the bloom of youth itself.”
And you are the wilted flower of old age, she thought nastily, though her lips now displayed a rather frozen smile. When your father is one of the richest men in Britain, there are certain things expected from a girl, and Jennifer was nothing if not keenly aware of this fact.
“Are you going to the ball?” the man inquired eagerly. When she acknowledged that, yes, she was going to the ball, her first ball, in fact, he licked his lips and added, “Be your dance partner perhaps, darling? One of the first dances? I’m sure I could teach you a step or two.” He grinned, displaying a row of yellowed teeth that had her stomach turn.
“Um, I’ll think about it, Lord Soakes,” she said quickly, racking her brain for an excuse to escape his clutches. She so didn’t want to be saddled with this old fruitcake for the remainder of the reception.
The man’s face fell. “Right. Certainly. Certainly.” He looked positively crestfallen, she thought. She patted his hand. “You know what? I will dance with you at the ball. How about that?”
It appeared as if a light was lit from within. “Do you really think so?”
“Absolutely,” she said decidedly. “Can’t wait.”
“Very well, my dear. I look forward to it.”
“As do I,” she echoed, then excused herself and walked away, ostensively setting a course for the ladies’ room. As she put some distance between herself and the Soakes menace, her eye was attracted to the tall man across the room who seemed as bored out of his skull as she was. As she watched, his slender fingers absently playing with the stem of his glass, his eyes darted around the room as if in search of something. Or someone.
She was fairly certain she’d seen him before. A gorgeous specimen of the male species like him was hard to forget. There was a darkness in his eyes that belied the thin smile that played about his lips. His face was long and noble, with strong features and a slightly aquiline nose. She could see that his smile didn’t extend to his eyes and thought she knew just how the man felt.
In him, she now saw a kindred spirit. A prisoner of his social class, forced to put on his game face and make conversation with perfectly horrid people, all the while fighting the terrific urge to simply escape.
In her teenage mind, he was her soulmate, and soon their eyes would meet across the room, and one of the grand romances of this time would commence. Like Romeo and Juliet, perhaps, or that girl who fell in love with a vampire.
As she narrowed her eyes at the man, willing him to look her way, she thought he could have been a vampire. He certainly looked the part. But then her eye caught yet another old pervert staring at her, and she inwardly groaned. These so-called friends and associates of her father were all absolutely loathsome. Just because they were obscenely rich, they thought they could ogle attractive young women with impunity.
Well, she thought as she tossed her blond mane across her shoulders, perhaps they were right to goggle. After all, she was possibly the prettiest eighteen-year-old in the room, and most definitely the most eligible bachelorette of the season. At least, that’s what her tutor had told her in one of their preparation sessions for her first ball.
What with her pretty face, her cupid’s bow lips and her big, round eyes, the woman was definitely onto something.