First Meeting from Crash Into Me ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes

first meetingThe characters in Crash Into Me actually meet twice. This week, I’ll share the first one, next week, the second. Anton Pepper is a thief – a very good one. He and his crew have been hired to steal a ruby necklace from a special jewelry show. Posing as caterers, they manage to infiltrate the security. Anton finds himself deeply attracted to the model who is wearing the Tangiers Ruby he’s been sent to steal.

The model chosen to wear the rubies had waist length, sable colored hair and pale skin. Tall and willowy, she had a long, lean throat, perfect for showing off the necklace. Hers was a true black gown, covered in jet black beads. Glittering as she walked, she circulated in a specific, heavily guarded area. No one could get closer than three feet from her. Anton knew, though the crowd didn’t, that she wasn’t just beautiful, she was lethal. Ex-Israeli military, Tabitha Levi was trained in a variety of combat skills. She didn’t need the armed guards, but the insurance company insisted.

The other models were just that, nothing special. But Tabitha, she was unique, incredible. Anton had to admit, he had a bit of a crush. Crazy, as he’d never met her, but he’d studied her extensively; every article, personnel file, audio byte, or video he could find. He watched surreptitiously, as he circulated with trays of food. She noticed, but her eyes flickered past him as if he were part of the furniture. He knew he wasn’t, though. Her gaze passed over him often, lingering. It wasn’t his imagination—at least he hoped not.

“She made you?” the chef asked quietly, as he took up another tray.

“No.”

“She keeps looking at you.”

“Yeah.” He chuckled.

His next pass, he carried a tray of beverages, near Tabitha’s perch. Three uniformed men stood between them. Anton stopped.

“Sorry, guys. I thought the lovely lady might be thirsty. Non-alcoholic, sparkling juice. Scout’s honor, not booze.” He grinned, winking at her. A slight blush pinked her cheeks when their eyes met.

One guard lifted a glass from the tray, sniffed it and handed it to Tabitha. Anton offered drinks to the men, expecting them to refuse. Tabitha sipped her drink and smiled.

“Have some, boys. He’s telling the truth.”

They all accepted graciously, if gruffly. Taking his empty tray to the kitchen, Anton counted down the seconds. Since timing was everything, their glasses had been treated on the rim with the odorless, tasteless drug. Even if they didn’t finish their drinks, merely touching it to their lips was enough.

A surprised gasp escaped a few throats as the first guests fell. The exclamation grew louder when others began to drop. A few were left standing, these got the dart.

Anton and the chef, rushed to Tabitha to remove her necklace, to find it was fastened with a special catch. Rather than waiting to undo it, Anton carried her, to the catering van. The others made a fast sweep of the room, finding easy pickings between models and guests. Seven minutes later, they’d filled their packs and shed their uniforms. Each wore biking gear beneath. From the crate, they got goggles and helmets. Uniforms and other gear, went into the packs. Kickstands up, they were gone. Anton was left with Tabitha, and her tricky necklace. He gave her another dose of the drug, securing her in the van. His heart fluttered. He’d never kidnapped anyone before. He was a thief, and prided himself on never doing harm. Feeling he had no choice, he drove away from the museum with his glittering cargo.

It took time, but he was finally able to get to a remote location on the outskirts of town near a state park. Tabitha was still asleep, but he approached warily, helmet and goggles on to help conceal his face. Taking a pair of wire cutters from his pack, he removed the security catch on the necklace.

Tabitha’s eyes flew open. She tried to make a grab for him, only to find she was cuffed to the sink with her arms behind her. Snarling, she jerked her legs. they were attached to the stove on the other side. Both appliances were heavy steel and bolted to the floor.

“I just want the necklace, Princess,” he purred, lowering his voice an octave, adding a Midwest accent, which was anything but natural. “I promise to call for help when I’m away. They’ll find you in a few hours.”

“I’ll kill you, you bastard!”

“I apologize for this. I didn’t count on the extra paranoia. Bye, Princess.” He wanted badly to kiss her, but he was fairly certain she’d bite him. Also, some of the drug might linger on her lips—not to mention, he would deposit his DNA. Controlling his impulse, he gave her a saucy salute and was gone. The road was a little rutted, but the bike could handle it. Taking off with confidence, he was on his way.

Tabitha knew better than to fight the restraints. Trusting the man was telling the truth, she tried to get comfortable, not easy in this position. Despite the awkwardness, she dozed off.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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