Authors: Suzanne Enoch
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General
For my agent, Nancy Yost,
who didn’t laugh when I said
I had this great idea
for a different kind of story.
And for my editor, Erika Tsang,
but in all the right places.
Samantha Jellicoe wondered who, precisely, had written the rule that…
Richard Addison came to with an EMT holding open his…
Tom Donner flipped his cell phone closed. “Myerson-Schmidt confirms they…
“This is ridiculous,” Richard said, hanging up the phone after…
“Did Danté give you the damage report?” Richard asked, sitting…
“I am not climbing into that car with you.” As…
Samantha had observed enough powerful, ego-driven businessmen to know that…
Addison was right about one thing. He knew how to…
Samantha awoke to the sound of men muttering. Peeling open…
Tom Donner and four phone messages were waiting in his…
“We are not taking your limousine.” Samantha folded her arms…
Patience might have been a virtue, but it wasn’t something…
Mouths locked in an embrace, Rick gave way as Sam…
“Good morning, Mr. Addison. Hope you don’t mind me just…
Ronald Clark had been moved to the day shift after…
“I should call Tom,” Rick said, though he didn’t move.
Frank Castillo kept his mouth shut as he watched the…
Samantha watched as Hans trimmed the crust off a fine-looking…
Samantha could hear the soft whir of her father spinning…
Samantha couldn’t remember ever being in a house that felt…
By the time they pulled up to the gates of…
They decided to start with the Picasso, both because it…
Dr. Irving Troust sat back, taking a swallow of iced…
Castillo called in three cops and a U-Haul to help…
The officer led them into what looked like one of…
“Change of plans,” Rick said, an hour and a half…
Rick looked at him for a long moment. “You. It…
Two weeks later, Sam sat beside Rick as they drove…
Tuesday, 2:17 a.m.
Samantha Jellicoe wondered who, precisely, had written the rule that thieves breaking into anything larger than a paper bag must always scale walls. Everyone knew it. Everyone counted on it, from prisons to castles to the movies to theme parks to the impressive east Florida estate sprawling before her. Stone walls, electric fences, cameras, motion detectors, security guards, all for the purpose of preventing an enterprising lawbreaker from climbing over the walls into the sanctity of private space beyond.
She looked from the stone wall in front of her to the wrought-iron double gate at the front of sprawling Solano Dorado House and gave a small smile. Some lawbreakers were more enterprising than others. So much for the rules.
Drawing in a slow breath to steady her heartbeat, she un-slung the weapon from her shoulder, sank deeper into the shadows outside the gate, aimed at the camera mounted atop the fifteen-foot-high stone wall to the left of it, and fired. With a small puff of air, a paint ball splatted hard against the side of the casing, tilting it crazily up toward the treetops and
streaking the lens with white paint. An owl, disturbed by the motion, hooted and launched from a branch of the overhanging sycamore, one wing passing right in front of the redirected camera.
, she thought, slinging the paint gun back over her shoulder. Her horoscope had said that today would be her lucky day. Normally she didn’t put much stock in astrology, but ten percent of one-and-a-half million for an evening’s work seemed lucky enough to qualify. She scooted forward, sliding a pair of long-handled mirrors into place on either side of the heavy gates to deflect the sensors into themselves. That done, it only took a second to bypass the circuitry in the control box and shove one of the gates open far enough for her to slip through.
She’d spent all day memorizing the location of the remainder of the cameras and the three motion detectors she needed to pass, and in two minutes she’d crossed through the trees and landscaped garden to sink into a crouch at the base of a red stone staircase. Thanks to blueprints and schematics, she knew the location of every window and door, and the make and model of every lock and wiring connection. What the drawings hadn’t done was tell her color and scope, and she took a second while she caught her breath to admire the sprawl of decadence.
Solano Dorado had been built in the 1920s before the stock market crash, and each successive owner had added rooms and floors—and increasingly sophisticated security. Its current incarnation was probably the most attractive so far, all whitewashed and red-tile-roofed and massive, surrounded by palms and old sycamores, with a hockey-rink-sized fishpond in the front. At the back of the house where she crouched, two tennis courts lay beyond an Olympicsized swimming pool. The actual tidal pools at the edge of the actual ocean gurgled and sighed only a hundred yards away, but that was for public consumption.
The estate was private and protected, and created to suit the whims of man rather than nature. After eighty years of
tasteful modifications and expansion, it was now the house of someone with a massive pocketbook and an equally massive ego. Someone whose horoscope read the opposite of hers and who happened to be out of the country at the moment.
Doors and window casings would be wired to within an inch of their lives, but sometimes the old, simple tricks were best. As
’s Mr. Scott had once said, the more elaborate the plumbing, the easier it was to plug up the drain. With a check of her watch to confirm her timing, she pulled out a roll of gray duct tape. Samantha taped down a rough, three-foot circle low on the patio window, then pulled a suction cup and glass cutter from her pack. The glass was thick and heavy, the pop and squeak when she jerked the cut round piece free louder than she would have liked. Wincing, she set the circle into the flower bed and returned to the opening she’d made.
Swiftly she ran down the list of anyone who might have heard the glass separate. Not the security guard downstairs in the video bank, but at least two more guards patrolled the inside of the house while the owner wasn’t in residence. She waited a moment, listening, then, with a deep breath and the customary adrenaline flowing into her system, she slipped inside.
Two more pieces of duct tape kept the curtains in place over the hole. No sense in revealing her exit to the first guard who wandered by. Next came the stairs, a genuine Picasso hanging from the wall at the first landing. Sam passed it with barely a glance. Another would be hanging in an upstairs conference room, both wired with sensors and worth millions. She knew about them already, and tempting as they were, they weren’t the reason she was there.
Samantha paused at the third-floor landing, crouching on the stairs and leaning around to view the dim, long, gallery hall. Even as she reflected that she’d seen lesser collections of arms and armament in museums, she checked for any sign of movement or sensors newer than her blueprints and scowled at the number of shadowed places a guard could be
standing, where she’d never see anything until she was right on top of him.
Her target was in the middle of the hallway, through a door on the left. Sam didn’t bother glancing at her watch again; she knew how long she’d been in the house, and how much longer she was likely to have before an outside patrol discovered either the hole in the glass patio door or the small mirrors at the front gate. With another deep, silent breath she pushed off.
Keeping low, she made for the nearest of the motionless knights, pausing in its shadow to listen again before she slipped forward once more. It was going to be close; she needed to be through that side door before the next patrol came by. And because of the razor-sharp timing this was her favorite part—not so much gadgetry as pure nerves and skill. Anyone could purchase the former, but the latter was what separated the women from the girls.
Ten feet from her destination she stopped short. A thin, dim glint of moonlight ran straight across the hallway, two feet above the floor and three inches from her left leg. A wire. No one ran a wire across the middle of a hallway. It was stupid, not to mention primitive and dangerous to the residents. Of course no one was
residence, but surely the security guards would occasionally forget the damned thing and either fall on their faces or set off the alarms—or both.
Scowling, she edged closer to the wall to see how the idiotic thing was anchored. What she should do was step over it, get what she’d come for, and leave, but its presence was just so…wrong. High-tech security everywhere, and here a damned steel wire.
A damned copper wire, she amended, looking closer. Wire set into small, flat black panels on either wall, stretched tight and not precisely parallel to the floor. Close, but not exactly. Yes, the house’s owner was famously fanatical about his privacy, but trip wires seemed a bit much. Nor had she seen any clue that he was less than fastidious about the mansion’s craftsmanship. Her frown deepened.
Sam froze, crouched behind the wire.
. The guard was early. Thirty feet in front of her, on the far side of the door, a shadow stepped out from between two gleaming silver knights.
“Don’t move a muscle!”
“I’m not,” she said calmly. He belonged there; she didn’t. And he had a big gun held not quite steadily in both hands. “I’m not armed,” she continued in the same cool voice, eyeing the shaking weapon and silently urging him not to panic.
“What’s that over your shoulder, then?” he snapped, edging closer. A drip of sweat slid down his forehead.
Be calm; make him feel calm
. She knew how to work this—she’d done it before. “It’s a paint gun.”
“Put it down. And the bag over your other shoulder.”
At least he hadn’t already begun squeezing off rounds in her direction. Young, but with some training, thank God. She hated amateurs. Sam put her things on the floor, easing them onto the tasteful Persian carpet runner. “You don’t have anything to worry about. We’re on the same team.”
“Like hell.” Freeing his left hand from the butt of the pistol, he reached for his shoulder. “Clark? I have an intruder. Third floor, gallery.”
“No shit?” came over the radio.
“No shit. Dispatch police.”
Taking a heartbeat to be grateful that the owner liked his privacy enough to keep cameras out of the main house, Sam produced a loud, suffering sigh. “That really isn’t necessary. Your boss hired me, to test security.”
“Like I’ve never heard that before,” he retorted, his sarcasm blistering even in the cool darkness. “No one told me, so you can tell it to the cops. Stand up.”
Slowly she straightened, keeping her hands well away from her sides as her adrenaline pumped up another notch. Just in case, she took one long step back, away from the wire. “If you knew about it, it wouldn’t be a test. Come on, I could have had the Picasso downstairs, or the Matisse in the
drawing room, or anything else I wanted. I was supposed to test the central security. Turn on the lights, and I’ll show you my ID.”
The lights went on, quick and bright enough to make her jump.
What the hell?
There wasn’t any of that voice command shit in here—and the guard looked startled, too, the gun twitching alarmingly. “Easy there,” she urged smoothly. She bent her knees a little, getting ready to run.
His blinking gaze, though, was beyond her shoulder, toward the stairs. “Mr. Addison. I found—”
“So I see.”
Sam fought the surge of annoyance, and the damned curiosity to see the rich and rarely photographed. If she got out of there, which was beginning to look dicey, she was absolutely going to kill Stoney.
No one in residence, my ass
. “Richard Addison, I presume,” she muttered over her shoulder, relaxing her stance again.
“I thought he hired you,” the guard said, more confident now beneath the overhead lights and with backup.
“Not him,” she returned, deciding to keep up the game. “The security firm. Myerson-Schmidt.
“Doubtful,” the low voice murmured from closer behind, just loud enough for her to hear. For a rich guy, he moved pretty quietly. “She’s not armed, Prentiss,” Addison continued at a more normal level, cultured and slightly faded Brit in his voice. “Lower your weapon before someone gets hurt, and we’ll sort this out downstairs.”
Prentiss hesitated, then holstered his pistol. “Yes, sir.”
“Now, why don’t we have a look at you, Miss…”
“Smith,” she supplied.
Sam wasn’t listening. She was watching Prentiss snap the holster closed over his gun, watching him stride forward, obviously pleased to be able to show off for the big boss. Watching him not even glance down. “Stop!” she ordered, abrupt panic making the command shrill and tight.
“Jesus.” Sam whipped around, angling for the stairs and plowing at a dead run into Addison, registering no more than a glimpse of bare chest, startled gray eyes, and tousled black hair as she took him down to the floor with her. With a pop and flash at her back the hallway exploded. Heat slammed into her even pressed against Addison on the floor. The house shook, glass shattering. Drawing in its breath, the gallery roared even more thunderously, and the lights went out again.