Deadly Misconceptions

By: Sandy Loyd

Chapter 1

She slowly turned the dial. When the first soft click hit her ear, her hand stilled, even as the pounding of her heart increased. Then with painstaking precision, she switched direction until she caught the next click.

“Uh, Lucy.” Mike’s voice shot into her other earpiece. “We got problems. Finnegan’s heading my way and he doesn’t look happy.”

“Rats,” she said under her breath, letting go of the dial. Just what she needed. Jack “By-the-book” Finnegan spoiling her perfect heist. “Stall him,” she whispered into her mic.

“I’ll try,” her partner answered.

Mike’s words faded into silence. Lucy took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders.

“Where the hell is Maddox?” Jack Finnegan’s annoyed voice burst into her earpiece with enough force to make her jump. Damn, did Cardello’s golden boy have nothing better to do than search her out? She almost had the safe open.

“Tell him I’m in the ladies’ room.” Lucy flicked off her earpiece, then stuck her penlight into her mouth to free up both hands. After shaking them out, she wiggled her fingers. The instant she touched the dial, her concentration returned to the other listening device attached to the metal door. Much to her good fortune, Cardello hadn’t updated this dinosaur. The newer digital safes on the market were harder to crack, which would mean more time. With Choirboy Finnegan sniffing around nearby, that precious commodity had suddenly shrunk to seconds.

When the last tumbler fell into place, releasing the ancient safe’s door with an audible snick, she opened it and swallowed triumph. Moonlight larceny with a party in full swing not a hundred feet away wasn’t her preferred MO. Neither was wearing a secondhand vintage Versace that made her feel naked on top, but friendship trumped playing it safe. And she had to admit, a little B and E kept her skills sharp. She adjusted her strapless gown to make sure nothing had slipped, and ignoring one hell of an adrenaline rush, she took the penlight out of her mouth.

Angling the light to maximize its limited beam, she swiftly scanned the small compartment noting papers, the family jewels, and passports. Then spotting what she sought, Lucy allowed herself a satisfied smile. Without disturbing the other contents, she reached for the thumb drive.

“All in a day’s work,” she whispered, hurriedly slipping the device into her beaded gold evening bag. Hopefully the drive would lead to a few answers, mainly—where her best friend was and why she had disappeared in the first place.

Lucy’s focus then switched to returning to mingling at the Friday night gala without Jack Finnegan or anyone else being the wiser. Still moving fast, she closed the safe, rearranged the original Monet back into place, and tossed the mic, both earpieces, and penlight into her bag, then darted toward the exit across the room. Just as Lucy reached for the crystal doorknob, it turned slightly in her hand. A heartbeat later, the door flew open.

Oops, she thought, stopping short with barely enough time to step back before colliding with a tuxedo-clad Jack. Light from the hallway outlined the solid mass of male elegance, one who’d fit right in at the Oscars. But there was nothing elegant in the deadly gleam of those baby blues aimed directly at her.

“What the hell are you doing in the judge’s personal office?” His harsh whisper rasped into her ears and slid down her stiffening spine.

They locked gazes as the door closed behind him, leaving them surrounded in shadows. His spicy scent drifted under her nose, filled the space around her, and added to a masculine appeal few females could resist—excluding her, of course. Wouldn’t you know he’d look his best tonight. He could give Brad Pitt lessons on being sexy. Too bad the package was misleading. In her mind, the man was the antithesis of what those sexy good looks promised.

“I asked you a question.” Jack grabbed her arm and pushed her up against the wall. “And I expect an answer.”

The chair rail dug into the small of her back and she was too surprised to do anything but stare into his face. “I was doing my job,” Lucy said, hissing the words once she found her wits.

Even in the darkness, she could see annoyance well up in Jack’s eyes, an irritation so strong it bristled off him as he loomed over her, his tall muscular body so close the thumping of his heartbeat blended with hers.

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