FLESH AND THIEVES

 Book 1 in the Flesh and Thieves Series

 It can be lonely being a bad-ass female thief and assassin. That is, until you meet your match…

Flesh and Thieves is part one in a multi-part series starring Effie, a world-traveling, honorable, sexy, wisecracking thief. Her life changes on a job in Columbia, where she meets Mr. Big.

 

PREVIEW

If people really knew me, some of them might not be too fond of me, considering my line of work is theft and murder.

But really, it’s always best to know someone before you judge.

Today, I was lying in the underbrush, flat on my stomach, in full camouflage. Granted, I don’t look as good in green as I do in black. And Colombia’s danger zone is not my favorite place.

But I only take jobs were I know justice is served, and my client is on the side of the righteous. Which is why I’m here. In the mud. Looking through my binoculars.

I hear a twig snap. It’s very quiet, but it brings all my senses to alert. Fuck! There shouldn’t be anybody out here on this ledge looking over the compound.

I hold my breath. I can hear breathing and steps. Very quiet. A man. A big man. He stops maybe a few steps from me. I’m still holding my breath.

My first thought is that he’s a guard. The rich bastard I’m trying to case out is a major player in the drug and art world. He wouldn’t be on my radar if he hadn’t stolen from my client. But now that he did, and he was in my sights, I would have to take care of business.

I was under a bush. There was a possibility the guard could be almost on top of me and not see me. Men rarely look down. Typically they expect trouble to come from their own height.

I’m still holding my breath, but I’m going to have to take a breath soon. I’m waiting for him to wonder off. That’s the thing about guards. They are always walking their rotation.

He doesn’t walk away.

In fact, he’s not walking at all.

I take a very shallow breath. So far, he still doesn’t notice me. But what worries me now, is the absence of sound. Guards have no reason to be so quiet. They are always making some noise and not realizing it. Playing with a lighter, humming softly, talking to themselves, fingering their guns.

Not this guy.

In fact, it’s so silent, for a second I wonder if maybe it was an animal that made that small snap.

I breathe in through my nose, very quietly, all my senses focused on smell.

And I do smell something.

Testosterone.

Lots of it.

Oh shit.

Not an animal. Not a guard.

What the fuck?

I calm myself, picturing a mandala drawn by Buddhist monks.

Not an animal. Not a guard.

An assassin.

Well, I have a certain respect for those.

He moves closer. I sense him. He’s still making virtually no noise.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

He’s looking for the very best vantage point.

And I’m in it.

Oh crap.

But I have one thing he doesn’t. The element of surprise.

Until he whispers, “So. You just going to hang out there, or are you going to introduce yourself?”

So much for the element of surprise.

“You smell great by the way.”

I part the bush and tall grass and find myself looking at green fabric tucked into combat boots.

I look up. Way up. Broad, clean shaven, square jaw, intense piercing grey eyes; very handsome.

I make my voice ridiculously sexy, “Care for a little bush?”

He laughs, but it’s silent. Movement of his face. He squats down next to me and gives me serious eyes.

“Yes,” he says, in a voice that’s very, very deep.

I scoot over, away from him, and he crawls under the small opening in the bush until he is lying right next to me, his left shoulder pressed against my right. In some circumstances this might bother me, but I’m naturally a lefty. I can shoot just as well, or better, from my left side.

We are silent for a moment.

“Are you here to kill the mark?” I ask.

“No,” he says, and the way he says it I can tell he’s telling the truth. “I’m here to retrieve something that appears to be misplaced.”

“So am I,” I said.

He smiles broadly. He raises one eyebrow. I shrug one shoulder.

“Absolutely,” he says. Just like that, we’ve agreed to work together.

We are silent again. He takes out his binoculars, and hands them to me. I’m immediately impressed and envious. And grateful. I’ve seen these binoculars on-line and salivated over them. They cost $3,000.

I look through them. They are better than mine. I can see the details on children’s faces playing in the courtyard. I can get a very good look at the security pad to the right of the side door. I know that system. Not bad. Not good, but not bad.

I hand the binoculars back to Mr. Big.

He looks through.

“Have you worked that system before?” he whispers.

I nod.

“Live?”

I nod again.

I look at him. He mouths ‘only in practice’.

So I’ll be the one to break in.

We lie there for about four hours. The sun sets. Dinner time comes and goes. We watch the rhythms of the compound.

“I’m going to go, and come back at three,” I whisper. “You in?”

He nods.

I move to get up. He does not.

“You going to wait?” I whisper.

He nods.

“Meet you here then,” I say.

I step over him to get out, and disappear into the night. I hike back to my car. I drive back to my hotel, three towns over. I go to my room, check all the footage from my surveillance cameras, and settle in for a nap.

Despite the surprise appearance of Mr. Big, I have a feeling this job will go smoothly. I wonder what he is retrieving.

It starts to rain as I drive back. I consider this a very good sign.

Mr. Big is exactly where I left him.

I’m dressed in my blacks, with my work pack. I jerk my head toward the compound and he follows me.

I’m happy for the cool mist landing on my face. Less people wander out in the rain.

Fifteen foot jump off the surrounding wall. I just free-fall jump it, I’m a pretty good jumper, and it’s on to dirt. He jumps behind me. I hear him land, a quiet thump, surprisingly quiet for a guy his size.

I run to the first hut, and hide on the far side, blending in to the shadows. A second later he is beside me. He’s very good, if I weren’t aware of him in every molecule of my body, I wouldn’t know he was there.

I sprint to main building. Take out my grappling hook, get a good grip on the roof on the first throw. I shimmy up, fast. I’m a very good climber. Mr. Big is right behind me. Who is this guy?

Up and over the lip of the flat roof. Run across the roof. Pause at the roof access door.

Security pad time. I quickly get my tools out. Mr. Big puts his back to me, so he’s literally got my back. I see he has a large weapon out. Nice. I’ve never worked with a partner; it’s nice to know no one will come up on me unawares.

Unless Mr. Big has plans for me.

We’re in. I head to the bedroom. I know from the plans I bought that the safe room is behind the bedroom, I’m going to have to go through it to get there.

Mr. Big taps me on the shoulder. I turn around and look at him. He points to himself, and points downstairs.

I furrow my brows. What he wants is downstairs?

I point to myself, and point toward the bedroom. He nods and sprints off, making absolutely no sound.

How can a guy who weighs, what, 225? 250? Make no sound. Yes the floors are carpeted but still. I watch him go. He’s still wearing his combat boots. He disappears.

Impressive.

Who is this guy?

I look at my own feet. I’m wearing black ballet slippers. Footwear of champions. I run to the bedroom. In, two sleeping bodies. Not a single breath or sound from me. Super fast tip-toe across. Phew. Now, in the alcove. Very, very high security vault room door. Ugh, ugh. Come on baby, come on, come on. In.

I look around in the vault room. Holy shit. Somebody has been a very naughty boy.

There’s enough jewels and gold to run a small country.

I take only what I’ve been commissioned to retrieve: the heirloom tiara, matching three-tiered necklace, and earrings.

Out of the vault. Not breathing. Through the bedroom. Out of the bedroom. Run across the hall. Roof.

Ah, fresh air. Holy shit! Someone’s on the roof! Oh. Mr. Big. He’s waiting for me, making sure I don’t need a save. He’s got his weapon out, searching all over.

I nod. He takes a running leap and disappears over the edge.

Who is… never mind.

I run after him.

He’s out of sight when I land.

I disengage the grappling hook, stuff it in my pack. I see him, he’s rolling over the top edge of the compound wall. How did he scale that wall?

I run flat out. In a few seconds I’m there. I go to open my back. A thin, sturdy, black rope drops right in front of my nose. I grab it. I start to climb, but he’s pulling me up. I basically just run up the wall as he pulls.

Over.

Right into his arms.

Holy shit.

He retracts the rope, staring right into my face. I feel the rope slide by me, and for one second I think he’s going to tie me up with it. The last of it slides by my waist with a fast little snap, it whips me a tiny lash in the ass, and it’s gone.

Big smile from the guy. A blinding flash of whiteness in the darkness.

Then he turns and runs.

I follow him.

I’m running and pumping for all I’m worth. I’m five foot five. I’m a great jumper, a good climber, a damn good gymnast, contortionist, thief, and sleuth. But I’ll never be a great distance runner. And Mr. Big has about an entire foot of height on me, maybe more. That’s a lot of leg stretch.

I can’t see him.

After about a mile, I actually run right by him. He grabs me by the waist, and sweeps me into his arms to stop me.

I’m breathing hard.

“Ride?” he asks, pointing behind him. Camouflage jeep. So well camouflaged I missed it.

I nod. He doesn’t let me down for a second. Then he slowly slides me down his body.

Oh fuck. It’s been a long time since I’ve been with a man. I can’t remember how long. And my adrenaline is running high.

He’s still got a hand on my shoulder, as if to steady me. It’s very hot.

He raises his eyebrows. I nod. Run around to the passenger side and get in. I look around the interior of the jeep. There’s a black tube, four feet long, not very wide in diameter.

He stole a painting.

That’s why he went downstairs. That fucking cocky drug lord was hanging a stolen painting in his living room.

And Mr. Big got it back. Well, good for you.

He looked over at me and smiled. Obviously his adrenaline was running high, too.

After another mile I pointed to a dirt road. He turned. Found my car.

“That’s a long way to hike,” he said.

“Let’s me eat extra Ho-Ho’s,” I responded.

“It’s been a pleasure,” I said and opened the door.

He grabbed my arm and yanked me to him. “Where are you staying?” he asked, his voice low and deep again.

“In Chia,” I said.

“That’s far,” he said.

“I don’t like to shit where I eat. Or sleep where I steal.”

“My place is closer.” He tightened his grip on my arm and lifted me, so I was a little closer to his face. “Burn off some energy with me,” he phrased it as both a demand and a question. Maybe the question was in his face.

I hesitated.

He let go of me.

I didn’t get out of the car.

“I’ll follow you,” I said.

I hoped out of his car, into my own, and we both sped down the road, and out of danger.

I took another quick look at my bounty while driving, and did a congratulatory fist pump. This wasn’t usually the type of job I took, but it was going to reward handsomely.

And it looked like I was going to get laid in the bargain.

A great night all and all.

The drive was short. Too short. I didn’t like being this close to a completed job. Jewelry from a safe could go undetected for months, until it was wanted, but a missing painting would be discovered as soon as the household was awake.

But I would be long gone by then.