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Authors: Violet Blaze

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BOOK: Stepbrother Thief
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Curling onto my side, I close my eyes and let sleep take me. When I open them, I'm face to face with a boy, a boy with dark hair and gently parted lips, a pair of earbuds stuck in his ears, and the prettiest blue eyes I've ever seen, like two icebergs ringed in sapphire. Ethereal.

I startle, shoving back from him and slam into my headboard, tearing out my earbuds with my left hand.

He, he just smiles at me, sits up slowly, lazily, like a cat waking from a nap.

“Hi, Regi,” he says, extending a hand, “I'm Gill.”

I snap to, sitting up as suddenly as the teenage self in my dream, heart pounding in my chest like it did on that long ago day in my bedroom. This time though, everything's different. I'm thirty-one and single, stripped bare of that youthful crush I developed in an instant, lost in the too blue of my lover's eyes.

“Oh, hell no,” I murmur, shaking my hair out and combing my fingers through the honey gold strands. What started off as a perfect bun early this morning is now a rat's nest of epic proportions and here I sit with no hairbrush, no toothpaste, not even a clean pair of panties to call my own. “There's no way in freaking Hades that I'm going to start dreaming about Gilleon Marchal.” I stand up and yank the orange sherbet colored blouse the rest of the way out of my skirt. I actually despise the color, but Cliff talked me into it and he was right—it brings out the gold in my eyes.

I glance up into the mirror, at the lacy white Ella Moss tank I layered under my blouse. I should've probably left it behind with all my other clothes, but I figured nobody would notice one extra missing shirt. I finger the crocheted hem and let myself remember my mom, the effortless modern bohemian look she could pull off like nobody else. This top reminds me of her, so it had to come. It just had to. Besides, it's perfect for wearing down to the bar to grab a drink—and I could
really
use a drink right about now.

I call down to the front desk and manage to wrangle up a pair of shoes—flip-flops, actually, cheap plastic ones meant for use in the indoor pool/spa area that Gill promised me. My feet twitch at just the
idea
of wearing of them, but my Louboutin stilettos are long gone and I'll have to wait for my stepbrother's promised cash flow to come in before I can grab more.


Merci beaucoup
,” I gush, clutching the shoes to my chest and passing over the single and only US dollar that I have to the sour faced hipster hotel attendant. She's wearing a PBR pin on her uniform, right next to one with a unicorn on it. I suddenly feel a whole lot less guilty about giving her a shitty tip.

“Uh, sure,
de nada,
” she says and shrugs before shoving the bill in her pocket. I cringe and hope to crap she doesn't really think I'm speaking Spanish.

“What the hell's wrong with kids these days?” I murmur as I lean against the doorjamb and shove the flip-flops on my battered feet. I stepped on broken glass yesterday morning, ran across cobblestone streets, all of it sans shoes. “I spoke French and German
and
Spanish when I was her age.” True, I'm probably only a decade older than that brat, but I was motivated. I wanted to do things, see things,
be
something. And then Mom died … and Gill left …

My heart catches in my throat and I steer my mind back to the present.

Fresh start. Forcefully dug out of my rut. New life.

All I have to do is maintain a positive attitude, something that I'm remarkably good at.

“I am a wonderful and beautiful person who deserves to be happy,” I say, using some seriously peppy self-talk to make myself feel better about what I did yesterday. Guess I'm not going to be able to pull the whole
Gill's a thief
routine when I'm trying really hard to make myself hate the memories of him. I'm a thief now, too. We both are. “I am a strong woman who can do anything she puts her mind to.”

I check to make sure the keycard's in the front pocket of my skirt and let the hotel room door slam shut behind me. As I walk, I hold up a hand and start ticking off fingers. Five positive self-talk statements per day, that's what my mom always did and she was successful and happy, even after she lost my father and to a degree, my sister.

“I am going to be superfluously successful in life.” I smile at the strange looks passersby are tossing my way. “I am not going to let the negative opinion's of others affect me.”
Even if I'm wandering the halls of a Best Western talking to myself.
“I am not going to let Gilleon Marchal's beautiful blue eyes get to me.”

“My what?”

I jump and my heart slams into my throat, choking me.

I stumble in my plastic flip-flops and barely manage to catch myself on the wall.

“Gill,” I breathe, clutching a hand to my chest and turning to glare at my stepbrother. That motherfucker is standing in a decorative alcove, leaning against the wall and blocking my view of the ugly hotel oil painting behind him. “You scared the crap out of me,” I whisper, my heart still hammering away in my chest. I straighten up and toss my hair over my shoulder. So he heard me compliment his eyes? So what? It's no secret that I've always liked them. “Why the hell would you do that?” I ask as he chuckles and focuses that laser vision of his on me, giving me a head to toe once-over that draws goose bumps up on my arms. “Sneak up on me like that?”

Gill stands up straight and moves toward me, close, too close for my liking, but I'm not about to back down. He's at least got on a normal outfit today—plain black tee, jeans, run of the mill brown boots. Yesterday, he was all geared up like he was getting ready to star in a big budget action flick. He looks a lot less intimidating this way.

I glance up into his face, brushing some stray strands of hair from my forehead. I'm tall—five foot eleven to be exact—but Gill is absolutely massive, and I'm not just talking about what's under his jeans.

“God, have you gotten
taller
?” I ask, taking a step back to examine his six foot four frame, the corded muscles in his arms, the lean but muscular body I've always admired. Gilleon has this quiet strength about him, this power that seems to come from somewhere deep down, some place that he's never let anyone else see—not even me. At least, that was the case when he left. By now, he could be married with kids for all I know. Of course, he does keep in touch with his dad and Cliff's never said anything to me but … maybe my stepdad was just trying to spare my feelings?

I surreptitiously snag a look at his ring finger, but he catches me in the act and lifts his left hand.

“Not married,” he says, wiggling his fingers and smirking at me. “Not that I'd be wearing a ring if I were—job hazard.”

“Uh huh,” I say, turning away and putting my hand on the railing of the stairs. The hotel has an elevator, of course, but after living in Paris for so many years, especially in an older area like Le Marais, elevators are either nonexistent or they're broken. Anyway, the idea of crowding onto an elevator with Gill is terrifying in its own right. “Aren't you supposed to be off doing … whatever it is that you do?”

Gill jogs down the first few steps and then keeps pace with me, tucking his fingers in the front pockets of his jeans all casual like. What a front. I've seen the man move like a jungle cat, muscles sliding underneath his skin, as he broke a man's arm with his bare hands. Gill is anything but casual, calm, normal.

He's a monster.

I swallow hard and curl my fingers tighter around the railing, letting my palm slide along the polished wood.

“I wanted to make sure you were alright.” His voice is smooth and low, pleasant enough to bring back memories of warm afternoons snuggled up together in his bed, spent from lovemaking, sweaty and content and happy.

I clench my jaw and force myself to sound as pleasant as he does.
Soon this'll all be over and I'll probably never see him again.
I hate that that thought does nothing to calm me down.

“Is there a reason I wouldn't be?” I ask and he shrugs, just like that. If something's gone wrong, is
going
wrong, he won't tell me about it. And since I'm not a master thief, a career criminal, all I can do is sit here and wait and hope that he comes through on his word. He's never broken a promise to me before—only my heart. And that, he left shattered in so many pieces that I'm only just now finishing up the repair.
I am a strong, powerful woman and I don't need Gill, don't need any man to make me happy.
Some more cheesy positive self-talk makes me feel better and I relax, taking a deep breath as we hit the first floor landing.

“Most people wouldn't be quite as comfortable in this situation as you seem to be,” he murmurs, scanning the lobby with a practiced eye. I sweep past him, letting him do his thing, and saunter over to the hostess station for the hotel's restaurant, pretending I'm dressed in my best Parisian couture.
I can work these fucking flip-flops.

“One, please,” I say and the hostess grabs a menu.

“Two,” Gill interjects, appearing out of nowhere behind my right shoulder. Immediately, the woman's eyes catch on his face, her throat working against the surge of hormones that must be rocketing through that petite little body of hers. Small blessing, he doesn't even glance her way. I'm no idiot; I'm sure in the ten plus years that Gill's been gone that he's slept with people, dated them, maybe even loved them. But I don't want to see it.

“You joining me for a drink?” I ask, tossing the words over my shoulder at Gill. His dark hair gleams under the dim orange and red pendant lights that line the restaurant, but his face betrays nothing.

“For old time's sake?” he asks, and the words cut straight through me. Old. That's what our love is—old and feeble and frail. No, no, it's even worse than that: our love is dead and there's nothing that can be done about it. Death is the end; death is final. Life's taught me that lesson more than once.

“As long as you give me an update about Cliff and Solène, I suppose I can tolerate your presence for a little while.” I slide into the booth and immediately kick off the flip-flops under the table. “
Dieu merci,
” I breathe.
Thank God.

Gill scoots in the other side, his long legs bumping mine for a moment before he adjusts himself. That small touch is enough to heat my blood and force me to take a deep breath to calm down.

“They should be landing in …” Gilleon checks his phone and his lips twitch in amusement. I wonder what it is that he's looking at and then forcefully remind myself that it's none of my damn business. “About an hour or so. My partner will pick them up at the airport and bring them here. I'll make sure they have your room number.”

“Partner?” I ask, just before our waiter stops by and asks us for our drink orders. Gill gives me a feral grin and lets me sweat out the question while he pauses to order.

“Johnnie Walker, Double Black if you've got it.” He leans his elbows on the table while the waiter glances over at me.

“Dirty martini,
s'il vous plaît,
” I say and get a sexy smile from the man. I smile back and tuck some hair behind my ear, watching as his gaze lingers on my lips as he walks away. When I glance back at Gill, he's still grinning at me.

“I can see your charm is as powerful as it ever was,” he tells me and I shake my head, sliding one of the two water glasses our waiter dropped off over to me.

“You're one to talk,” I tell him, letting the surrealism of the moment wash over me.
I robbed a jewelry store yesterday, flew on a private plane to the States, and now I'm sitting here with my stepbrother, a man I loved and lost, a man who's dangerous as hell and twice as sexy.
“Did you
see
the look our hostess was giving you? Like she wanted to chop you up and eat you for breakfast.”

I take a sip of my water and lean back, draping my left arm along the back of the booth. Across from me, Gill sits all loose and languid, his blue eyes half-lidded and his mouth set in a bemused imitation of a smile. Even though I know it's all for show, even though I've been duped before, I almost fall for it, almost let myself relax around him.

Almost.

“So you were saying … partner?” I ask, not bothering to hide my curiosity. What I do hide however is my jealously. I have a tremendous amount of pride and a serious wallop of dignity that I'd like to keep, thank you very much.

Gill takes his time, snagging a sip of his water and then mirroring my position by crossing his legs and throwing his tattooed right arm over the back of the booth. Nothing he does—
nothing
—is ever unintentional, but I can't figure out what it means, so I tuck the thought away.

“My business partner,” he breathes, taking a big breath and then running his tongue across his full lower lip. I won't let my eyes follow the motion. “My … partner in crime, so to speak. But that wasn't really your question, was it?”

“Says who?” I ask, realizing we're both asking a lot more questions than we're answering. Our drinks arrive, and I make sure to order another, letting my fingers linger on the back of our waiter's hand before I turn back to Gill and study his freshly shaved face. Yesterday's stubble is nowhere to be seen. I'm not sure which look I like better. Apparently, Gilleon Marchal looks good in everything.

BOOK: Stepbrother Thief
11.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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