It’s almost time!! The San Marco Heist will be out on July 14. But because I’m just too excited to wait, I wanted to share chapter one with you!

Chapter One – Scarlett

My mark was late.

I ran a finger under the lip of the desk while cataloging every photograph, every book, every little statue in the private library. Pulled on the trunk of the ivory elephant. Nudged the wall sconces. Spun the inlaid globe to check if it wobbled. Started tugging on the drawers.


He must have seen me come in here. Either that or I was losing my tou—

“Library’s off-limits to guests.”

“Oh!” I gasped as I turned to see him, my hand flying to my chest.

Greasy black hair caked with too much luxury pomade. Clean-shaven, tux with gray accents, shoes polished well enough to reflect the pot lights. No bulges or jingles to indicate wallet or keys from this angle.

He didn’t even bother to look at my face. No, the dress was doing its job.

My hand lingered over my lungs, highlighting the plunging neckline. The shimmering gold lurex gown with a thigh-high slit had garnered plenty of attention all on its own, but he deserved extra. I breathed deeply, swelling my chest, dragging the hand away slowly. Pulling his eyes with it. “You startled me.”

“That wasn’t my goal.” He pushed back strands of hair which fell to his forehead and approached, shoulders squared, gaze finally lifting almost to my mouth. “But you still shouldn’t be here.”

“I just…” I leaned against the desk, gripping its edge. Girl next door? Femme fatale? Damsel in distress? Our research said bimbo. My least favorite. Regardless, I pursed my lips and ran one crystal-studded nude Louboutin across the floor in front of me. “Someone at the party downstairs said there was a really cool book in here.”

“We have a lot of those.” He gestured absently around the room. Thirty feet by twenty, mahogany shelving, books enclosed by glass doors. Behind me, two arch-topped springline windows with a view of the gardens and pool.

One locked.

One not.

“Cool books turn me on.” I blinked slowly, but the movement was lost on him.

His eyes followed the foot, like a predator waiting to pounce. I dragged it up to my other ankle.

“I wish someone could show it to me.” I chuckled, low in my throat, and pushed myself off the desk, heading toward the door. As I passed him, I whispered, “But I don’t belong here, so…”

He grabbed my wrist to stop me. “How turned on?”


“Depends on how cool it is.” I eased my mouth open and ran my tongue along my upper lip. Come on, just show me already. We both know you’re going to. “Does it have pretty pictures?”

He closed the small distance between us, his chest flush against my arm. As repulsive as he was, as much as his vocal fry grated on my nerves, his scent was heavenly. Bergamot. Pineapple. Clive Christian, maybe? X? “They’re called illuminations.”

“Ooh!” I shivered, turning to face him. “Like lightbulbs?”

“Not quite.” He smiled, a You’re not very smart smile, and gestured to the other side of the room. Walking behind me to take in the exaggerated sway of my hips. “Medieval manuscripts have pictures in them, which are called illuminations.”

“I like that.” I stopped at the end of the room. As with the other walls, it was covered in dark wood shelves and crammed with books. But this section included flat file drawers without locks.

He pulled one drawer, which only came out half a foot. Far enough to reveal a keypad I’d missed.

“Turn around,” he said, fingers hovering over the numbers. “This is private.”

Oh, no, you don’t. I took his free hand in both of mine and positioned it over my eyes. Another giggle. He hesitated, but when I bounced slightly in excitement, he punched in the code.

Eight digits. Ridiculously easy.

“All done.” His hand drifted from my eyes, along my chest—but no touching—and circled to the small of my back, pulling me closer. This was a man used to taking what he wanted. Fortunately for me, what he wanted most was my reaction, and I’d gladly exchange it for what he was giving me.


When the drawer opened fully, I sucked in a deep breath. The manuscript was exquisite. Fifteenth century vellum, the Latin lettering executed in immaculate black ink, framed in vines and leaves. Five oversized capitals of filigree and gold leaf. The top left contained an illumination of three men, two hills, and an angel.

The Codex of San Marco. Worth just shy of three-point-four million dollars.

Encased in an argon-filled titanium frame with double-walled glass. Not quite as secure as the Charters of Freedom, but that case certainly inspired this one.

“It’s so pretty,” I breathed, leaning against him to get a better look.

“You like?”

“Mm-hmm.” I bit my bottom lip, fluttering my eyelashes, which he actually saw this time.

“Legend has it this manuscript points to an immense treasure.”

“Ooh, that makes it even cooler.”

He shoved the drawer closed, but it slowed on its mechanized track. A nearly inaudible click sounded before he spun me against the bookcase, one hand leaning against a shelf by my head, the other dropping to my hip.

My left hip. Dammit.

A quick check of the clock on the far wall. Eight forty.

His hand eased down my side, inching slowly, and I slapped mine over it, halting his progress.

“I don’t even know your name,” I purred.

“Does it matter?” He dipped his head, lips brushing my neck, body pressing against me.

Thomas Gregory Maguire. Thirty-three. Eldest son of Phillip Maguire. Shame of his father, yet heir to a property development empire. Oxford dropout. Broke up with his model girlfriend two months ago. Still lived in this immense mansion with his parents.

I slid his hand on my hip to my ass—eight forty-one—and hooked a foot around his calf. This was approaching my cut-off point. At least he smelled divine.

His lips found their way to my earlobe, and I groaned, pulling him closer. Eight forty-two.

“Eloise!” came a sharp male voice from the doorway, and I pushed Thomas away. Emmett charged toward us, chest puffed, face red. His black tux and shirt, paired with the slick dark-brown hair and close-cropped beard, made him look more intimidating than usual. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Nothing!” I rushed to intercept him, leaving slobbery-mouth Maguire behind me. “Nothing happened, I swear!”

Emmett shouldered past me, finger raised. “If you ever touch my wife again, I will end you.”

Thomas looked more put out than worried or upset. “She came on to me.”

Instead of standing up for my honor, Emmett stalked back to me, grabbed my upper arm, and hauled me out of the room. “Typical.”

He stormed down the hall to the front of the house, muttering the whole way. ‘Gold digger. Irresponsible. Unfaithful.’

I hazarded a glance over my shoulder to find Thomas leaving the library. He closed the doors behind him, fiddled with the handles, and slipped something into his pocket. I winked at him before turning back to Emmett.

“You’re a brute,” I growled as we arrived at the gallery overlooking the foyer. Dozens of well-dressed people milled about below us, spilling into rooms that radiated out like the legs of a spider. The study, the drawing room, the snooker room.

Laughter and chatter echoed through the space, bouncing off the chandeliers and statuary adorning the ostentatious display. Men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns dotted the balcony.

“Better a brute than a sleazebag.” He shot me a grin and continued dragging me.

“I hate attending these things with you,” I said louder than was necessary.

“Good, because we’re leaving.” Emmett slowed as we stepped onto the grand, white marble staircase. He was considerate of that, if nothing else, even though my stilettos were as comfortable as bare feet.

I scanned the room below us and located Rav. Taller and broader than most of the other guests, with deep-olive skin and slicked-back, wavy black hair, he stood out from the crowd. And yet somehow blended in at the same time—one of his specialties. I swept two fingers across my nose. He raised a full champagne flute in salute, and he was gone.

When Rav moved, the man behind him looked up at me. I gripped the railing when my eyes met his. So blue I could see them from thirty feet away. Blue as the sky at sunset. Like the Winston Blue diamond. His hair was dark-blond, styled in a medium quiff, and he sported enough facial hair that it wasn’t a beard but was definitely intentional. Lips so sensual I felt their curl deep inside.

The evening might have gone differently if Thomas looked like that. Probably not for the best though.

Emmett’s face appeared in front of me. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry, my shoe landed funny.” I resumed my progress down the stairs behind him. Focus. “Twelve minutes to the hour.”

“You never space out.”

“And you’re never two minutes late,” I shot back.

A slender, dark-skinned woman in red brocade and a tuxedoed man with matching accents stood at the base of the staircase, in our way. Emmett smiled at them and excused himself, then another couple, a pair of women, and we were almost at the exit.

“Emmett Reynolds!” came a deep voice behind us.

Don’t react, Em.

Emmett spun us around, his scrunched brow quickly replaced by a wide smile. Blue Eyes. The two shook, and Emmett clapped the man’s shoulder. “Mal? I haven’t seen you in forever! What are you—”

The newcomer inclined his head and glanced toward me, looking pointedly at Emmett. “Who’s the beauty with you?”

“My wife.” He wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me close. “Eloise.”

Instead of taking the offered hand of greeting, I folded my arms. Ten minutes to the hour. We didn’t have time for this. Rav was already on the move. “I thought we were leaving.”

“We are, baby cheeks.” He grinned, and I huffed rather than slapping the look off his face. Making a scene wasn’t an option. “This is my old friend, Mal—”

Blue Eyes held up a hand.

Over his shoulder, I spotted Thomas coming down the stairs, studying the crowd. Looking for me? Or his father? I turned to face Emmett, presenting my back to his friend. Eyes narrowed, I whispered the one word that would snap his attention to me. “Broccoli.”

Shit, he mouthed. About time. “Sorry, Mal, but we’ve got to go.”

He grabbed me by the upper arm and yanked me the final fifteen feet to the exit. One of the staff took his information to the valet.

In a moment of weakness, I checked the glass in the front doors. It was dark enough outside to reflect the crowd at our backs. I was looking for Slobbery-Mouth, but what I caught was Blue Eyes staring at me. Not at my back, but locking eyes with mine in the reflection. My lungs heaved for real this time.

Dammit, he was gorgeous. But a distraction I didn’t need.

He smirked at me, and a furious heat flushed through my body. Not good. I barged out and stalked across the granite landing, down the stairs, onto the circular cobblestone driveway. A black Ferrari rolled to a stop, and a valet opened the passenger door so I could slide in as Emmett did the same on the driver’s side.

Once the doors shut, he revved the engine once—typical—and pulled out.

I rolled my eyes. “Twenty fifty-eight. Cake should be coming out in two. Rav, you got that?”

His light French accent sounded in my ear as Emmett progressed down the long driveway. “Copy.”

“Jayce, manuscript is still there and matches the specs we lifted from the safe company. Your carrying case will work. You’re good in two?”

“Copy that,” came a female voice.

“Per plan, the northern-most window is unlocked, and the library has been secured from the outside. Drawer is number eight on the schematic. Pull it out to see the keypad.”

“Confirmed number eight.”

“Code is…” I shook my head and looked at Emmett. “One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight.”

Jayce laughed. “Literally the numbers one through eight?”

“Yup. The man’s hand nearly landed on my holster so I could get that.” Good intel was critical, but I hadn’t planned on him being so forward, so fast. They usually took longer before their hands were on me. The clock on the dash switched to 8:59.

“One minute.”

Rav’s voice came over the earpiece. “Sparklers on the cake are being lit.”

“Jayce, you’re a go.”

Our car turned onto the main road, and Emmett hit the gas.

“Slow down, Em.” I touched his forearm to calm the adrenaline likely spiking through him. He was always at its mercy. “If you’re going as much as a mile over, every cop in a fifty-mile radius will want to stop you just to look at the car.”

He exhaled, slowing to the speed limit. “It’s a sin to drive this car so slow.”

“You know what else is a sin?” I gripped his arm tighter.

“Watching some creepy rich guy make out with my big sister?” He made a face like he’d eaten something disgusting. “I hate that part, Scarlett.”

Rav grunted his disapproval.

“You think I liked it?” Drool on my neck to learn one through eight. “And for the record, stopping to talk to that guy? Not only did the extra minutes risk our egress, but he announced your real name to the entire room and you reacted. Don’t ever do that again.”

“I’m in,” said Jayce. “Room’s clear.”

“Meet you at the motorcycle in ten,” said Rav, metal clanking in his background. Pots, pans, and the sounds of a kitchen.

Emmett kept his eyes on the road rather than hurling any witty barbs at me. He knew he’d screwed up and risked the op.

Part of me wanted to continue about how we weren’t posing as a married couple, didn’t have rings, and he’d risked the job that way, too. But I’d be wrong. Maguire was the kind of man who’d claim me for his, if he so chose, whether Emmett had said he was a colleague, a date, or even a boyfriend. Husband was the right call.

That’s why my brother was my number two. He understood people—read them well.

“Wheels up at the rendezvous point at twenty-two hundred hours.” I released my grip and patted Emmett’s forearm. “Stay safe. Don’t anyone be late.”