Sloane Steele is the pen name for Shannyn Schroeder.
Today we are celebrating the release of IT TAKES A THIEF by Sloane Steele. This is a romantic suspense title, and it is the first book in the Counterfeit Capers series.
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At noon, Mia entered the apartment carrying bags of food for lunch. His cousin might not like the people he’d hired, but she was always the consummate host. She glanced around as if to take note of the lack of Data’s presence. Before she could comment, the bell rang.
He met Data at the door. He didn’t want another scene between Data and Mia. For some inexplicable reason, he was protective of Data. “I’ve sent five grand to your usual account. You need to quit the job.”
“I need that job.”
“No, you don’t. You’ll make plenty from us. You at least have to take a leave of absence while we’re doing this. It’s not negotiable.” He couldn’t understand why she was working a menial job that didn’t even utilize her skills, but now was not the time to ask.
“Is this her doing?”
“It’s an expectation we have of all of you. We’re under a tight deadline. We need your undivided attention.” He looked closely at her face. She looked even more exhausted than she had yesterday. “What time did you start today?”
“Are you going to be able to focus?”
She crossed her arms. “What time did you get up for your day of world domination?”
“Four thirty, but I’m not the one walking around with dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep.”
“I’m fine. I’ll make sure to apply some makeup tomorrow to look more presentable.”
He sighed and shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. I don’t have a problem with the way you look.” Just the opposite. I want to spend far too much time looking at you. “I’m concerned that you’re not taking care of yourself.”
“I’m good. I take care of myself just fine.” She pointed to the apartment behind him. “Let’s do this.”
Great. Now he’d pissed her off. He needed to take a page from his own book and relax when it came to these players. They’d chosen people who work alone and now they were expecting an instantaneous team, but it would take a little time. Hopefully not too much. He’d have to put his attraction aside because Data no longer seemed all that interested.
In the kitchen, Mia had a full spread of food. Three kinds of salad, cold cuts, cheeses, a dessert tray. “Help yourself,” she said as she walked to the couch carrying a cup of coffee.
While Mia might see it as a sign of weakness to eat in front of Data and Nikki, he dove in. As usual, Nikki piled a plate high with food. He had no idea how she managed to eat so much. Data made a simple sandwich and wrapped it in a napkin.
Sitting on the floor with her legs crossed, Nikki took a bite of sandwich and said, “Shoot. Give us the deets.”
Mia inhaled slowly. “As you know, we’ve hired you to steal a painting. Data, your job will be to bypass the security system to get Nikki in and out.”
“That’s it? All the buildup for that?” Nikki sounded disappointed.
“What were you hoping for?” Mia asked.
“I don’t know. Something more spectacular than steal a painting.”
Jay brushed his hands together and then tapped on the keyboard. Audrey watched his fingers fly over the keys. She knew it was weird, but she always found it sexy when a man could type without chicken pecking. Admittedly, her standards were pretty low.
Focus. He’s the boss. Plus, he just got done telling me that I look like ass. She pushed down her obnoxious inner voice and forced her attention to the TV.
“It is a little more than that,” he said. On the screen, an image of a huge house—a mansion really. “This is the house. Not only will you steal a painting, but you’ll replace it with a forgery.”
Nikki sat up straighter. “Well, that’s a little more interesting. Why?”
“So the owner doesn’t realize he’s been robbed.”
Nikki’s whole face frowned. “Where’s the fun in that? When I get one over on someone, I want him to know. I want to push his nose in my superiority.”
“This isn’t about proving your superiority,” Ms. Green said.
And she would know all about a superiority complex.
“Then what?” Nikki continued.
“Money. Pure and simple.”
Audrey listened to what the woman said, but she wasn’t buying it. The Greens were not like her and Nikki. They didn’t need money. They looked like they stepped off the set of a nighttime soap opera. There was more to the situation than they were letting on.
“Who’s doing the forgery?” Nikki asked.
Audrey didn’t much care. She knew next to nothing about art. She wouldn’t be able to tell a fake from the original.
“Not your concern,” Mia said. “We’ll be providing that.”
“And we’re supposed to trust that this forger is good enough that no one will be able to tell?”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Mia said confidently.
The woman was so confident that Audrey wondered if she was the forger.
“Not to sound like a bitch, or anything, but I’ve stolen plenty of things in my life. Why do I need you?”
“We have access to clientele who are interested in this particular painting.” Jay rose with a smile and crossed the room.
Audrey could imagine him in a boardroom owning everything. He commanded attention. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. He wasn’t a huge guy, maybe five-ten and fit, but not physically imposing. It was the way he carried himself, as if he could do whatever he wanted and no one would question him. And if they did, he wouldn’t care.
He continued, “Masterpieces are rarely stolen. When they are, they’re usually found and returned quickly. Part of the reason is that it’s hard to fence a priceless work of art.”
“Or you could just ransom it instead of fencing it.”
“Ransom?” Audrey asked.
“You steal a painting and as soon as they discover it’s missing you call and demand a ransom for the safe return.” Nikki chuckled. “I’ve done it with the same Dali three times.”
Dali? So much for masterpieces not being stolen. Audrey had no reason to doubt Nikki. She’d come across the woman’s name in passing, although they didn’t travel or work in the same circles. Where Audrey flew under the radar, Nikki liked to let everyone know how fabulous she was.
“What makes this different? As far as fencing it,” Audrey asked.
“Me. I have access to the right people,” Jay said.
When his dark eyes met hers, she saw a spark of excitement.
“People who won’t care that it’s stolen,” Nikki said. “You sound like you have a plan, but we get paid up front.” She flipped a thumb toward Audrey.
Audrey felt an odd kinship with Nikki, like they were in this together. Which in a way they were, separate from the Greens.
Sloane Steele is the pen name for Shannyn Schroeder. Shannyn is a part-time English teacher, part-time curriculum editor, and full-time mom, even though her kids are pretty self-sufficient teens. In her down time, she bakes cookies, reads romance, and watches far too much TV. For more information about Sloane’s and Shanyn’s books, visit her main website: https://
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