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Stealing His Heart

By´╝ÜDiane Alberts

Chapter One

Tara Harris slipped into the shadows of the trees, her breath coming fast. For a second, she was sure she’d been had. There was a shout, followed by some scuffling from inside the house. She’d been worried the door would open, and she’d be caught in her black jeans and sweatshirt on the jerk’s front porch.

But the door remained closed. All signs of possible discovery from within had silenced. Her careful calculations hadn’t failed her…yet.

She hunkered down behind the overgrown plant, peeking around it cautiously. Right on schedule, the door opened and out came her target. He wore an expensive suit, and had his arms slung over two half-naked women. Mistresses vying for a new provider, more than likely. They must be desperate if they were trying to catch him on their hook. He had a reputation for being more of a dick in bed than he was out of it.

And that was saying a lot.

As the threesome passed, she held completely still, not daring to so much as breathe. This was the crucial moment. It was the small span of time where she could be seen, if she’d been even a centimeter off in her calculations. The chauffeur opened the door for them, and the group slid inside. Within seconds, they were gone. And she was alone.

Thank God.

She took a shaky breath, allowing herself a moment of victory before she moved her focus back to the house. Lurking behind the shrubbery, she made sure no one turned on the lights. One could never be too careful when it came to breaking and entering, after all. A few assignments back, she’d entered a house immediately after her target left and walked in on a celebrity’s husband, naked and handcuffed to the bed.

He’d assumed she was the dominatrix he had ordered, come to bring him pleasure laced with a healthy dose of pain. She’d sent the real dominatrix away. Retrieved the item from his home she’d come to steal back, and left him for his wife to find. The next day, the tabloids reported he was in rehab for “personal issues.”

Seemed silly to go to rehab for enjoying sex, but who was she to talk? She wasn’t exactly an expert in the S&M department. She wasn’t the type to relinquish control to a man, whether it be in the bedroom or out of it, so she might not be the best fit for that lifestyle…no matter how much she liked reading about it in books.

When the interior of the house remained still and dark, she pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and crept to the door. Since she’d done her homework beforehand—obviously—she already knew it would take mere seconds to disarm the security system. It was ridiculously easy. Too easy, really. She almost wished the idiot had gone to greater measures to keep a thief like her out. Almost.

But then again, it was rare she encountered a challenge anymore.

Although…she had struggled with a code last week. In fact, it had almost beaten her. But in the end, she’d prevailed. She made it inside that asshole Soltese’s house, and the British earl who had flown all the way to the United States for her help had his heirloom vase back in his country estate where it belonged.

She’d get the same results tonight, too.

Glancing over her shoulder, she wired her phone into the system and waited for the code to pop up. When the six-digit encryption lit her screen, she keyed it in. The green light flashed twice, and she grinned. Easy as taking candy from a baby—not that she did that. She had to draw a line somewhere.

She entered the same digital password into the front-door system. People always thought that it was safer to use these electronic locks. What they didn’t realize was any hacker worth their salt could easily break in. And once they had the code…they could get anything they wanted. And she wanted that painting.

She’d get it, too.

Slowly, she opened the door, wincing when the hinges creaked. After shutting it behind her, she shoved her phone into her pocket and headed left toward the family room. According to her source, that’s where the artwork would be. It was. The expensive piece hung over the fireplace in the opulent room. The muted hues of the meadow were more striking in their simplicity than she’d ever believed possible.

She took a second to admire it. The piece of work had been completed in 1547, and had been in the royal family until the early nineteen hundreds. After that, it had mysteriously been sold to an unknown buyer. After years of obscurity, it had shown up deep inside the Viotollo mob. The head of the crime family had stolen it from a wealthy American CEO when the man refused to sell it to him, and she had every intention of returning it to him.

She wished she could hang it over her fireplace for a little while. It would go nicely with her Monet. But this one wasn’t for her. It was for her employer, and she wouldn’t steal from a good person like him. It was against her code.