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Athena Force: Books 7-12 [Secure eReader]
eBook by Carla Cassidy & Evelyn Vaughn & Harper Allen

eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: Athena Force--chosen for their talents. Trained to be the best. The women of Athena Academy shared an unbreakable bond--until one of them was murdered. Don't miss the riveting conclusion to this miniseries with Athena Force: Books 7-12! Six exciting books of action, adventure and romance including Deceived by Carla Cassidy, Contact by Evelyn Vaughn, Payback by Harper Allen, Countdown by Ruth Wind, Target by Cindy Dees, and Checkmate by Doranna Durgin.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Bundles
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2006

14 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter 1

The rock glittered brilliantly against the swatch of navy velvet, a sparkling gem beneath a single spotlight in the glass display case. Fifteen carats of multifaceted perfection that threatened to steal Lynnette White's breath away…if she was breathing.

At the moment she was holding her breath and inching down a rope suspended from the large skylight overhead. She paused just before touching the display case and tilted her head to the right.

From the upstairs she could hear the sounds of the owner of the mansion snoring in his bedroom. Good. She'd gotten past the security guards outside the huge mansion and had managed to breach the electronic security system to get inside. The last thing she wanted was for the owner of the house to stumble downstairs for a drink of water and discover her hanging like a spider directly over his precious gem.

If she were like normal people she would never have been able to hear the faint snores coming from an upstairs bedroom. But Lynn wasn't normal people.

She looked at her watch, still listening for any sound of movement inside the home. She knew the owner was an elderly, eccentric millionaire who lived alone. She hoped he hadn't chosen this night to invite some lady friend to overnight hospitality. His household staff didn't live in the house, but were day workers who left after dinnertime.

She checked her watch again. Ten seconds and there would be a thirty-second blip to the computer security system. She'd hacked into the security files and had programmed a fifteen-second delay that hopefully wouldn't be detected during or after the fact.

Thirty seconds was all she'd have to cut the top of the glass display case, pluck up the gem and get the heck out of Dodge. It shouldn't be a problem.

The smell of the house surrounded her, a scent of lemon polish and the lingering smell of Italian cooking that must have been dinner for the occupant.

She drew three deep, measured breaths as she stared at the second hand on her watch. When it read precisely 1:00 a.m., she efficiently cut the glass, pulled out the circle with a piece of duct tape, then reached into the top of the display cabinet. She grabbed the cool diamond and placed it into the pouch in her spandex top, then climbed up the rope at warp speed.

Her heart hammered as she listened for the sound of an alarm or racing footsteps. But there was nothing except the pounding of her heartbeat and the faint sound of her own measured breaths.

When she reached the outside of the roof of the three-story stone house she yanked the rope up and coiled it over her shoulder. She carefully placed the panel of the skylight back where it belonged, then headed for the edge of the tiled roof.

A peek over the side of the building would have forced most people backward, away from the steep, sheer drop to the brick patio below. But the height didn't frighten Lynn. She'd come up the side of the building relatively easily, going down should prove no real problem.

She had no idea how long it would be before somebody would realize the prized diamond named the Star of Russia was gone. She hoped nobody would notice until morning but was aware that she might only have minutes or mere seconds to escape.

Heart still beating a frantic tattoo, she moved to the downspout that had aided her climb up the side of the building. Checking to make sure the security guards were no place in sight, she began her descent.

Like a spider she used both the downspout and the uneven stones of the facade to make her way down the side of the building.

When she hit the patio she ran like the wind, across the lush grass lawn. The dark July night embraced her, shielding her from sight.

Euphoria washed over her as she raced to the place where her car was hidden in a copse of trees in a nearby public park.

She'd done it!

Granted, it had been an easier job than some of the others she'd pulled off. But she still felt that burst of confidence and competence that filled her after every successful heist.

She pulled the black stocking hat off her head as she ran, allowing her shoulder-length, chestnut hair to fall free. She knew she was taking a chance if anyone saw her and could describe her, but if she was seen she'd look more suspicious wearing a stocking cap at this time of year.

The car was where she'd left it, the sleek muscle car her uncle Jonas had disapproved of but that Lynn had been adamant about owning. Three months ago, in a rare burst of stubbornness, she'd fought him tooth and nail until he'd given in and let her buy the bright red Mustang. Before that time she'd been driven by a chauffeur wherever she needed to go.

In the car with its slick contours and powerful V-8 engine was the one place where Lynn felt free…completely liberated from the constraints and worries of her everyday life.

No sirens chased her down the coastal road to the south of Miami as she headed for the mansion she called home. Although she longed to open up the engine and fly with the windows down and the air smelling of midsummer and ocean, she heeded the speed limit.

She wasn't about to allow a speeding ticket to bust her now. Still, even driving the speed limit with her window rolled down, she felt that aura of freedom, of a world with no threat, of joy in the sheer pleasure of being alone. Jonas allowed her to be alone so rarely.

Copyright © 2005 by Harlequin Books S.A.

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