Earth. Present time.
Lorcan reluctantly peeled the tiny recording and tracking device out from under the left sleeve of his shirt. This project and client were much too important for him to mess around. He couldn’t afford to have his cover blown by an amateurish mistake at this critical stage.
He looked in the mirror and adjusted his tuxedo and neatened his hair to ensure he had the million dollar looks his cover required. One last job, and he'd have enough to retire from this line of spy work. Then he could focus on his tech job and spend more time with Orla, the love of his life. Retirement wasn’t his focus, but a proposal was. He wanted to buy a beautiful ring and propose to Orla. Just thinking about it made him smile.
Admittedly, both his tech job and his spy job involved stealing information. But he only stole from the worst kind of criminals. As far as he was concerned, his work was justified. Last month, he had given an anonymous tip to the police based on some stolen information, and his tip had helped stop an armed robbery at a major bank. Didn’t that count for something? he thought.
The phone rang.
“Your transport has arrived, sir,” the concierge said.
“Thank you. I'll be right down.”
Adopting a polished accent wasn't too much of a stretch for him. Sometimes he wondered why he'd never told his parents he appreciated his privileged background and what they had given him. But what was the point? He shrugged absently. He’d been a runaway child, the black sheep in his family.
The target didn't trust him with information, so he had no idea where the party would be. As predicted, they sent him the most conspicuous limousine available in the country. He reciprocated by letting the target pick him up from the most exclusive hotel in London—one he’d booked by charging the client thirty percent more.
Big jobs cost big money. And they knew his rates weren’t cheap.
The limousine dropped him off at a yacht club in Brighton. He mentally rehearsed the steps and strategies once more before stepping onto the dark blue carpet, carpet so thick his shoes sank an inch when he set foot on it.
He chuckled inside as he entertained a vision of these pretentious upper-class criminals scrambling around after discovering he had robbed them of their precious artifact. What it was exactly, he had no idea, and he didn’t care. His job was to steal it and bring it back to the man who had hired him. He never got too attached to the details of a job because attachment was the first step to disaster. Spy and Thief Practice 101.
He kept his shoulders back and his head high, and he looked like any other aloof businessman going to a prestigious party. A flash of anxiety crossed Lorcan’s mind when he saw the entrance to a lavish lounge room on the boat and a group of polished-to-the-bone people having pre-dinner drinks.
Something felt seriously wrong.
He didn’t usually operate on hunches, but he couldn’t squelch his intensifying unease. He inhaled discreetly, hoping to shake off the feeling, and he walked toward the bar, sitting down nonchalantly on one of the stools. He positioned himself to keep an eye out for the target. A loud air horn went off, making the yacht rumble a little. He looked askance at the bartender.
The bartender smiled politely. “It’s just a signal that the boat is casting off,” he said.
Lorcan maintained his composure, nodded, and ordered another drink. He hadn’t realized the boat would be casting off at all. He thought it would remain in the harbor, making it easy for him to escape once he had what he wanted. He didn’t like swimming. Swimming from just outside the harbor was bad enough, but he didn’t at all like the idea of having to swim from open sea to the shore, especially when it hadn’t been a part of his plans.
He thought of Orla again and smiled to himself. She would have laughed at him right now, seeing his reaction at the boat leaving shore. She could swim like a fish, but swimming was definitely not his forte.
Ten minutes or so went by after the boat had left the harbor, and he still hadn’t found his target, the host of the party. The man had to be on board. A stunning blonde woman in a long, blood-red velvet dress walked toward him. He had no desire to engage in conversation, so he turned quickly and pretended to look for the lavatory. On his way, he glanced up at the VIP section of the balcony above and behind the bar, and he froze. There he was, the business tycoon who dabbled in electronics—his target.
Now Lorcan needed to approach him and snatch the electronic swipe code so he could access the artifact in the basement of the boat. He could break the door lock in an instant, but breaking the code of the safe would take time—and he didn’t have much of that to spare—so stealing the code was his first choice.
He took a few steps toward the VIP lounge, and the woman in the red dress stepped out right in front of him.
Damn it, he thought and pasted a polite smile on his face.
“Mitch Wayland, rollercoaster tycoon. What a pleasure to meet you,” the woman said in a sexy, throaty voice.
He chuckled. The woman had done her homework with the guest list and had seen his picture. Obviously, though, she hadn’t researched well enough to know that it was only his cover.
“Just a line of business I’m lucky to do well in. I’m not exactly a tycoon.”
“Aren’t you?” She smiled, tracing a finger down his lapel. “I’d like another glass of champagne, but these heels are killing me. Would you mind getting me another glass at the bar upstairs?”
She handed him her glass before he could come up with an excuse to get away from her. As soon as his hand touched her velvet glove, he felt a prick on his finger.
He shook his head to clear his vision, and then his world started to spin. The woman smiled at him. She thrust one velvet-gloved hand at him. He could see it better now. It hadn’t been her glove, but a gigantic diamond ring she wore that had pricked him with a needle.
He saw the needle as if she were moving in slow motion. Or maybe he was seeing things that way because his mind had become numb after the initial jab. She stuck him once more in his neck. He knew what she was doing, but he couldn’t move either to grab her hand or get away from the ring.
Oh hell, he thought before the image of the woman in front of him became blurry, and his world started to spin out of orbit.