Series: Stolen # 1
Seven thieves. Seven days. Seven priceless items. Only one will be crowned the best of the best.
Braxton Hughes has seven days to complete his mission. His reputation is riding on his attention to detail and infallible focus. Not to mention the bet he has no intention of losing. There’s no time for distractions.
But then he meets beautiful Elise Savade. She quickly becomes a complication he can’t afford…and a temptation he can’t resist.
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Accolades & Reviews
… an erotic story full of lusty thoughts and desirous looks, where the fulfilling of these cravings is blazingly fiery.
“Really good book, enjoyed it.” ~ Barbara, Smashwords
From: Zeus @ theblindbet.com
To: sevenofspades @ theblindbet.com
Subject: The Bet
1787 Lafite G.W.
You have seven days.
Braxton Hughes stepped out of the limo and tugged his bow tie into place. Roger Savade’s enormous French chateau sat at the end of the cobblestone walk, looking regal and impenetrable. He held out his hand to the woman in the backseat, and she slipped her satin-gloved fingers into his.
For a woman pushing fifty, Claire Renaldae looked great in her lavender dress with her hair perfectly coiffed. He tucked her arm through his and started up the path with the other guests, anticipation sizzling through his veins.
“Thanks for bringing me tonight,” Claire said, her voice soft. Her silver gray eyes, rimmed with dark liner, sparkled up at him. There was an air of smoky sophistication about her, showing him that she belonged at parties like this one. Rubbing shoulders with the filthy rich, dancing until dawn.
Recently divorced, she was here to show up her ex-husband with a hot new stud on her arm.
Braxton was here for the wine.
He’d known as soon as he’d pushed himself out of the pool at Chateau Le Cannet four days ago that Claire was perfect for him. Perfect for the job. She’d been lying on a lounge chair, a black one piece showing off a trim, sun-kissed figure. The big, fluffy hat hadn’t been able to shadow the look of desire in her eyes when she’d glanced at his body glistening from his afternoon swim.
It had taken little effort to strike up a conversation and find out about her ex-husband and her invitation to the Savade party. Nor had it taken much effort to casually offer to escort her to said party.
“You’re welcome.” He glanced around at the other guests, nodding at the few who made eye contact. “Think he’ll be here?”
“Of course. He wouldn’t miss a party like this, or a chance to show her off.” The her Claire was referring to was her ex-husband’s new mistress, Scandinavian supermodel Mia Rassmusen. She’d mentioned the other woman several times, and he found himself wondering why a woman like Claire would waste her time and energy on a man like her ex-husband. She may not have been a hot, young supermodel, but she was smart and witty enough. And not at all bad on the eyes. Years of spa treatments had, no doubt, seen to that.
“Well, I seriously doubt she’ll look anywhere near as beautiful as you,” he said, playing his part.
Claire preened under his gaze, her spine straightening. “You’re so sweet.” She squeezed his arm.
The receiving line slowed to a halt.
Brax looked around the manor, noting the number of windows and doors and their locations. His gaze traveled over the shrubs and stone walls of the landscape. The large front doors were wide open, and golden yellow light poured out. He could hear music. Probably some lesser known French composer.
“Roger Savade is such a pompous ass. He hosts these parties to show off his money. His things,” Claire whispered. He glanced down at the necklace dripping with diamonds around her neck. Speaking of showing off one’s wealth…. “Just like my ex-husband.”
Brax stayed silent and watched as the hosts greeted the guests. It wasn’t that he didn’t agree with her. Roger was known to flaunt his money and his possessions. Brax wondered if he’d have the 1787 Lafite on display in the dining room. That would sure make his job easy.
The line moved forward, and he saw their host nodding to a short, graying gentleman. By habit, Brax surveyed his surroundings for security, both electronic and hard, hired muscle.
Did Roger Savade even know the significance of the 1787 Lafite, or had he bought it just because someone had told him it was rare?
“Claire! How are you?” The feminine voice with the French accent pulled him from his thoughts. Claire tugged on his arm until they were standing in front of the blonde woman just inside the door.
“Rona. I’m well, and yourself?” Claire replied, clasping the other woman’s hands in her own. They did the air kiss thing and stood back to sum each other up.
“Fabulous. Thanks so much for coming. Roger will be so glad you came.”
“Speaking of Roger, where is he?”
“I’m afraid he got pulled away. He’ll be around. Who’s your friend?”
“This is Braxton Hughes from L.A.”
Brax exchanged pleasantries, all the while looking around the enormous foyer. Priceless antiques and artifacts dotted the space. It was an art collector’s paradise.
“Enjoy the party,” Rona said, already turning to greet the next person in line.
“We will,” Claire cooed.
They stepped across the foyer toward the grand hall. The music and laughter grew louder. Expensive perfume and spicy cologne filled his nose.
“You know there’s a rumor—“ Claire began.
“Claire.” They turned to see a silver-haired man in an expensive-looking tuxedo.
Brax felt her freeze next to him. “Charles,” she said, her voice wooden. The two stared at each other in tense silence. This must be the ex. The last thing Brax needed tonight was a jealous ex-husband drawing unwanted attention.
“Who’s this?” the ex asked.
“Braxton Hughes,” she said, inching closer to Brax. “My date. Where’s what’s-her-name?”
“We broke up, mon petite chou.” He held out his hands, palms up as if to surrender. “Tu me monques.”
He saw her shoulders sag just a little as she put a tiny bit of space between them. The look on her beautifully made up face told him she was warring inside. It’d take a coldhearted woman to resist being called a little cabbage by the man she still loved. And when said man started murmuring things like ‘I miss you’, it was a safe bet that Brax was on his own.
“I’m going to go get something to drink,” he said and excused himself.
The exquisite details of the Neoclassical architecture weren’t lost on him as he made his way through the crowd. Heavily-carved crown moldings detailed every nook and corner. Columns soared up to a sculpted ceiling high above the grand hall.
He strode across the polished black and white checkerboard marble and almost did a double take as he passed a heavily gilded mirror. This job had required him to cut and color his hair a rich chocolate brown. He’d put in contacts to make his blue eyes green. Gone were his summer surfer dude good looks. He smiled at the thought.
He wasn’t that broken up about losing his date. At least now he didn’t feel like a gigolo. But it would be more difficult to fit in and snoop around.
He plucked a flute of champagne from a passing tray and made his way through the huge rooms, casually looking for his prize.
If I were a priceless bottle of wine, where would I be? he thought and turned to see a vision walk through the door. She was tall…even without the killer strappy heels that made him dream of fast and furious sex. Curvy in all the right places with lush breasts that would fill his hands and then some. The midnight blue fabric hugged her pale skin like a glove, shimmering as she moved. It dipped down deep into her cleavage, teasing his cock and his eyes.
He stopping breathing as her eyes locked with his. Classical. Her features, the careful twist of her charcoal brown hair, the delicate jewelry she wore on her wrist and ears…all spoke of elegant taste. Her eyes looked blue from here, but he would need to get closer to see if he was right. Momentarily, he forgot about the reason for coming to tonight’s party and wondered if she was as soft as she looked. If her raspberry colored lips would taste sweet and yet tart.
Remembering his mission, he mentally shook his head and then finished his champagne. “Keep your eye on the prize,” he muttered to himself and tried to think of every dull, arcane thing that would keep his cock from standing at attention. He let his gaze wander around the impressive space as he reviewed his mental checklist for tonight’s reconnaissance mission. Find the item. Find a way back in. Check for security.
A soft, lyrical laugh filled the air, and he sought out the sound’s source with his eyes. It was her, of course, laughing at some older man, her hand pressed against her heart.
Damn, she was beautiful. Stunning. Doubly so when she smiled. Those lips, framing perfect white teeth, tortured him with thoughts he had no business thinking. Not tonight.
But his private pep talk wasn’t helping.
All he could think of was her and the fact that he’d never been knocked off his game before. Never. Work came first. Pleasure came second. Claire had been part of the plan. Essential.
But the beauty in the blue dress with the lovely laugh…. She wasn’t part of the plan at all. In fact, she was a risk, a temptation he hadn’t even considered.
He needed some fresh air. Cold air.
A tall set of doors to his right opened to a stone terrace that would save him from staring at her any longer. Brax made his getaway.
Damn, he didn’t have time for a distraction. He needed to look around. From where he stood, he could see a lower level of the house. Maybe it was in a vault down there. Or a cellar.
A waiter circulated among the few guests braving the chilly evening air, and he swapped out his empty glass for a full one. Slowly he sipped the bubbly liquid and turned to take in his surroundings. He carefully gauged distances, counted the exits, looked for alternate entry points and scoped out the home’s security. After he finished this glass, he’d find a way downstairs.
Not that he was stalling….
“Can I give you a tour?”
He turned to see her standing halfway between him and the door, the yellow light silhouetting her. A small smile pulled the corners of her mouth upward.
“Sorry. I just find the architecture amazing.”
“It is lovely.” She stepped closer, and he felt a punch low in the gut.
“Indeed. It must have been built in the mid sixteen hundreds.”
“Sixteen forty-two, actually.” She stopped next to him and leaned against the carved stone railing. So much for the crisp night air cooling his libido. One look at her and his temperature was through the roof.
He quirked an eyebrow as he stared down into her upturned face and tried not to notice the thick fringe of dark lashes around her crystal blue eyes. Without her heels, she must have been at least five-foot-eight. With them, she came up to his chin, and he wondered what it’d feel like to have her in his arms. To nuzzle the creamy skin of her naked neck.
“This is my father’s home,” she said matter-of-factly.
That cooled him down.