Once a Thief [Network Series Book 1] [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Michele Hauf
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Rachel Blu had left her life as thief behind her. But when a priceless jewel is stolen, and Rachel is partially to blame, she must race to regain the precious item before she loses her newfound career and the love she's just rediscovered.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Bombshell
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2005
This eBook is part of the following series:
9 Reader Ratings:
Eight months later —a Midwestern metropolitan city Monday —2:11 a.m.
The brushed surface of the steel door bore minute lines in the cold metal. The antipenetration plate proved an unwanted tactile sensation, which made concentration initially frustrating. A full minute passed, her fingers idly twisting the heavy dial that moved like a dream upon its well-oiled tumblers. With a TL rating of 30-6, this safe was comfortably resistant to tool entry.
Which is why the old-fashioned method proved tried-and-true.
Easing into the feel of the box, taking in its density and seeking its secrets, the moment of connection suddenly hit. Eyes closed, Rachel settled into focus. One precise dumpf vibrated against the tips of her fingers. The beat of a heart. The heart of the combination lock had begun to answer to her manipulations.
Fingers extended and forehead pressed to the steel door, she twisted slowly to the left. Nothing to hear; ten thick inches of steel beneath her fingertips. Just… sense.
Smooth roll. Twist quickly. Spin for the feel. Grip the stop and…dumpf.
One number remained.
Easing out her right leg, Rachel counteracted an oncoming cramp. Crouched on her left leg, she wiggled her toes within the black nylon rubber-soled creepers. She should have worked out this morning but lately it was easy to slack. Why push her body to its limit when there was no longer anyone to force that maniacal control?
Final spin. Rachel pressed the side of each hand —pinkie fingers inward —to the dial and rotated steadily. So close. Feel for the final wheel to click into place.
Crackin' boxes, you're a natural, sweet. A whisper from her past, flavored with a British accent.
A few notes of a hummed tune visited her memory. She didn't know the words, only the rhythm. How many times had she replayed that tune in her head? And always when on a job. What was the song? It was familiar, but—
Chasing off the seductive slip into memory, Rachel nodded once as each number passed with her rotation. Counting, waiting, anticipating…
Dumpf. The gate and fence mechanism dropped into place.
Letting out a breath, Rachel paused, fingers of both hands splayed flat before the safe door, but not touching. Too easy? No, just out of practice. Not accustomed to the hands mastering the method before the brain comprehended. And likely, interference from her past joggled her expectations.
Rachel moved her forehead away from the steel door, stretched her right arm to the side and spun the five-spoked spinner wheel. And…
…click. The bolt retracted and the inner suction breathed out, pressing the thick steel door into her shoulder.
Repressing a smile —a smile! Imagine that. It was a new thing within the past few months —Rachel peered inside the box, tilting her head to focus the tiny laser light snaked over her left ear.
A walk-in safe about six-by-eight feet, walls approximately eight inches thick and rimmed with inner lighting activated by opening the door. Fire sparkles glinted with each pass of her headlight over the rows of glass shelving. Colored stuff and diamonds, little flames dancing in the sudden shock of light. Nothing was concealed. All items were laid out for display upon black velvet trays.
A check of her watch: 2:19. A little over seven minutes to crack the box. Not bad.
Drawing the laser light across the rows, she spied a thick rope of pearls. Not flashy enough. Colored stuff was her fix —rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Instead, she selected a strand of canary diamonds. A single pear drop weighted the piece nicely. Ten carats? She studied the heft of the feature stone in her palm. Close. Enough to make a point.
She tucked the necklace inside the nylon waistbelt fit snug around her stomach, then closed the door, spun the spoked handle, and began to backtrack. A stretch of her arm touched the camera over the door to the safe room —a wood door with little more than bolt locks placed at top, mid and bottom. The same key opened each lock —stupid mistake. (As if the wood door would prevent an ax from cleaving it open?) Tilting the camera back into position, she shook her head at the ease.
Did no one test their security systems? And if they did invest in cameras, why were there no on-site guards to watch the monitors? Sure, there were videotapes, but that after-the-fact evidence always proved too stale. Arrests were difficult because the thief was long gone by the time a positive identification was made.
Mentally tallying key security hazards, Rachel slid down the hall in the darkness, a shadow incarnate.
Five more cameras were avoided on the way to the back door. Yes, the back door. No sneak entry into the ultrachic main street jeweler by way of the duct system or roof ventilation. Access had been all too easy.
Tilting the final camera back into position, Rachel then ducked into focal range and gave a wave to the camera lens. A thumbs-up gesture provided necessary proof.
Bending to reset the trip sensor at the base of the door, she shouldered open the metal door and scanned the alleyway. The heavy July air settled on her face with a muffling hug. It hadn't cooled much with nightfall.
The camera across the street, mounted in the shadows of an office-supply factory, had been disabled with a rock. No functional damage, merely redirection to sight in the battered yellow station wagon parked behind a Chinese restaurant down the alley. There were no on-site guards to answer any commotion the cameras should spy. The nearest security office was a three-minute drive to the south. The police station? Twenty blocks to the east.
Copyright © 2005 by Michele Hauf