A DATE WITH DESTINY
Mason Vermilion is a professional thief.
He steals rare and priceless artifacts to the highest bidder, which often are very old supernatural creatures who really just want their stuff back without breaking the boundaries of the human world. Yes, supernatural beings do exist and Mason knows a great bit about them. Most of them give him the creeps, but business is business and they know Mason can get the job done.
When he’s asked to capture back a very odd item for a crime boss, he’s offered a price that can get him to retire from this life. With an offer so sweet, who can resist?
But, when it's revealed that the artifact is a woman, all bets are off and Mason is caught in a crossfire with a catatonic red-head beauty whose power of touch could be redeeming or dangerous.
Breaking a deal with a powerful mob and angering the Greek pantheon, Mason has clearly bitten off more than he can chew. There's nowhere to turn, with no honor among thieves in this fast-paced, steamy paranormal romance!
EXCERPT: A HEIST GONE AWRY
Mason and his partner-in-crime, Harland has their sticky hands full as they finally discover what it is they have to steal...or die trying.
In all their thievery it never seemed to fail that their target was surrounded by busybodies no matter how much research they did on the timing. Why did Mason think this boost would be any different was truly beyond him. Perhaps with the end so close in sight, he dared to be uncharacteristically positive. He frowned at the group of security guards huddled around the third floor. Just wasting their employer’s money ambling around like they were at the mall. He lowered his binoculars with a hiss. “This is taking too long. What the hell are they talking about?”
Harland stuffed some jellybeans in his mouth. “No clue. Likely just some cooler talk. I told you doing this on a Friday would be bad luck. You don’t start anything big on a Friday.”
Mason rolled his eyes. “Your superstitions are just as annoying as an anal itch.”
Harland twisted his face. “It predates religion, you know.”
Mason raised an eyebrow.
“I meant the superstition. Not the ass itching…” He tilted his head. “Though I guess… both predates—“
“We chose the right time. We gotta do this today or it ain’t gonna happen. Lagosi’s down my neck. I have a big fucking IOU for Tina and we need money to keep us alive. We’ll wait it out for now.” He glared at a fidgety Harland as he fisted another load of jellybeans into his mouth. “Try not to sugar crash or get our gear sticky while you’re stuffing your gob with that mess.”
Harland chewed, pouting. “We’re janitors. We’re supposed to be messy.” His eyes met Mason’s unamused expression. “And stop judging. You know I nosh when I’m anxious.”
Mason sighed. “Whatever. Do what you gotta do to get the jitters out. In fifteen more minutes, it’ll be shift change.” He slipped the counterfeit badge over his neck. “Let’s move into the garage out of sight until the change.”
Mason handed Harland a black USB drive. “This should help you.”
Harland plugged it in his laptop and pulled up the private contents. “You know, one day you’ll have to tell me again how you’re able to weasel this stuff out of unsuspecting folks. Though, I know this particular mark happened to have a nice ass.”
He smiled, remembering fondly. “She did, among other things. Anyway, some call it charm. Others call it social engineering. Either way, it’s not my fault their head of IT had legs for days and a thing for curious custodians.”
Harland grunted. “No doubt you enjoyed the power play.”
“A gentleman never tells.”
“Awesome. Let me know when one’s around.”
Mason chuckled. “Jealous?”
“A little, but that part of our work is not my cup of tea. I don’t have much of a poker face or the abs. I never get the fun stuff is all. I’m always hacking and chloroforming folks.”
“We can put all this shit away once we finish this score, Harland. You can go legit. Open that white hat agency you keep nerding out about.”
“Yeah, that would be pretty dope.” He ate another handful of jellybeans then threw the empty bag into another plastic bag. “How ‘bout you? You never say what you’ll do after this. I can always offer you a job.”
“An office jockey? Hard pass.” Mason sat back, looking out the back window. “I don’t have any specifics. This is all I know.”
“Without an exit strategy, you’ll just find yourself back—“
Mason held up his hand. “Shut up. They are coming out. I see them.” He turned to Harland. “Patch into the security cameras and let’s take a look around.”
“I’ll pull up their database that tells me when each person on shift has signed out.”
“Good. When it gets to the last three, it’s go time.”
Mason unlocked the back door without being noticed and they immediately split up. Each with an earpiece as a way to communicate.
“Mason, it’s impossible to get in their system.” Harland panicked, it meant the cameras wouldn’t be blocked. “Hide your face, I’ll distract the guards and try to find it.” Mason cursed under his breath, out of all things the worst happened to him.
Mason inspected the corridors and then quickly hid when a security guard strolled by. It would be harder than he thought. When the guard was a safe distance he acted quickly and hit his gun at the back of his head, the man was caught off guard but the pain was too much to handle and quickly fainted, leaving Mason with a grin on his face.
Determined to find the room where the statue was located he walked through a couple of halls, deliberating whether Lagosi was telling him the truth or it was just a setup. It was truly impossible to find, to a point where he started losing hope.
“Hey, what are you doing here!?” The voice caught him off guard, it didn’t belong to Harland and it was evident it belonged to a person who worked here. What was even Harland doing?
“Night shift, I’m new.” The guard checked out his outfit which cleared any suspicion left. He kept the flashlight on him for a while and Mason tried his best to hide his face, once he nodded and started walking away a gust of relief took over him . Mason took advantage of the situation and did the same, he hit him on the back of his head and then dragged him to the janitor’s room, locking him in.
“Harland, where are you for god sake!?” He whisper-yelled into his earpiece, clearly annoyed.
“Come to the third floor, quick. I think I found her.”
Mason stopped dead in his tracks at his words, so it was real. Without wasting any time he stormed towards the exit which had a staircase leading up.
He ran up the stairs and it took a while before he found Harland. “Where is it?” Mason spoke once he was in the biggest room on the floor, his eyes on his assistant. Harland was looking straight at it, and once Mason’s eyes landed on it, it was hard to look away. “Shit. There it is.” It was scratched and fingerprinted, tarnished by the time spent in agony. It was only a statue, Mason thought, imagining how it looked two thousand years ago. Even with all its flaws it still hauntingly lifelike.
“She’s a beauty.” Harland stammered and walked towards it, closely inspecting it. “I bet it costs a fortune. There are several deep veins of spessartine in there.”
“I taught you well on gems, I see.”
“Yeah, well if you steal enough, you pick up a few things.”
Mason rolled his eyes. “You’ve been waiting to say that, didn’t you?”
“No, it just rolled out. I’m a comic genius.”
“You’re a tool is what you are. Look at that thing. I’m certain it weighs half a ton.”
“I bet.” He reached out to touch it but Mason cut him off.
“Stop.” He paused. “It has motion censors, look at the laser in front of you.” The laser was barely touching his leg but it was faint, he could hardly see it.
Instantly Harland knew what to do and guided Mason through everything just to turn them off, once he was done it was time they moved the statue.
It was heavier than they anticipated, so they took their time and lowered it on the ground. “Did you take care of the security guards?” Harland stopped in his tracks. “I did, the majority.” Mason bluntly answered as they carried the statue to the exit.
“Are you serious? Did you suddenly forget about our strategy?”
Just as they were about to leave the grand room, several of the windows crashed as people dressed in dark tactical gear and black masks flew through on ropes onto their level. These were not guards. Nor law enforcement. Not with the firepower they were packing.
The alarm went off echoing loudly throughout the old building.
“This is unexpected,” Mason groaned.
Harland turned to him with eyes like saucers. “Who the hell are these guys?”
“Guess we’re not the only ones looking for this score.”
“They have the Pythia artifact!” One window-crasher yelled with widened eyes which caught the attention of the rest.
“Now what!?” Harland whispered.
The leader of their group stepped out, a smirk on their lips. “Hand it over, boys.”
Mason and Harland shared a glance, battling their thoughts. The smartest idea would be to hand the statue over but they would lose six million dollars. And do hard time. Or Die. There wasn’t a chance in Hades Mason was going back in the pokey or lose that amount.
“Not a chance.” Mason confidently replied. Perhaps asking for a miracle was quite an ask considering the right bastard that he was, but seems their aren’t atheists in foxholes. Anyone up there listening: we could use a hand…But I still don’t owe you shit after.
As security advanced towards them, the statue behind Mason and Harland cracked. First, a couple veins, then a million tiny cracks spreading throughout. Everyone including the confused guards stopped and stared at it. Instinct compelled Mason and he grabbed Harland, forcing them both to the floor as the statue burst into a thousand pieces of shrapnel.
The pieces and shards flew across the room, much of them incapacitating many of the guards. Mason raised his head. The statue was no more. What was more shocking is in its place, was a woman around his age dressed in a light green peplos with gold brooches and fasteners against her light hazelnut skin. Her face was partially obscured from the long scarlet hair that flowed around her shoulders—a mix of braids and twists of shimmery hair. So this was the treasure?
He frowned. The fuck?
The woman’s eyes searched the room, visibly scared and confused. When her eyes met Mason’s, she passed out and dropped back to the ground.
Fuck my life. He pulled Harland’s uniform. “We gotta go! Cover me!” Mason got up to his feet as Harland threw his last smoke grenade. As the remaining guards stumbled over themselves in the haze, Mason moved through and scooped the woman up, hoisted her over his shoulder and carried her out of the room. “I got the goods! Let’s go!”
“Stop right there!” Two guards who Mason left out were now after them as they exited the museum. Harland took care of them, freeing the way for Mason.
Eventually both him and Harland took her to the van and when she was safely laid down they started the car and sped down the road. “Make sure they are not following us.” He ordered his assistant, who watched closely on the rear view mirror.
“We have company.” Mason gripped the steering wheel at his words, he pressed his foot down on the gas, taking it to a greater speed, passing through various cars doing his best not to cause a crash.
“Are they still on us?” He kept his eyes on the road. “I can see them, just take a turn here.” And Mason did so, he took a sharp turn into an alley, running over countless boxes and driving through a fence, he put everyone in danger but honked to passing pedestrians who jumped to the side.
“Slow down, I don’t see them anymore.” He turned around. “I think we lost them.”
Mason lowered his gun and continued driving. “Good.” After making a few more detours, they finally pulled in to their garage.
For a moment, they both sat in the van, both trying to process in their own way what had just happened. Then, Mason turned to the strange, unconscious beauty in the back. She had a button nose small and narrow, with high cheek bones and smooth light almond skin. Just as she was in statue form, she was a work of art. He sighed. “Well, I have to say, this is a first.”
“This will bring us problems,” Harland warned.
“I know.” He answered without taking his eyes off her. This was not by a long shot what he anticipated. A set-up? Maybe. Getting killed or shot on the job? Very likely. But this? He didn’t have a plan B for this one. His stomach knotted. You should’ve known better given the price tag on this one. Just got too fucking greedy. Now, they were kidnappers.
“What kinda game is Lagosi playing? Did you think he knew that she—"
“Just take her up to the apartment.” Mason turned away from him, and hopped out the van. He continued on away from the house and onto the sidewalk.
“Where are you going!?” Harland called out after him, the woman in his hands. Mason didn’t reply just kept going, soon enough he wasn’t in sight. Harland shook his head and deeply sighed. “You better come back with a plan, asshole!” The redhead stirred in his arms and he shifted her better over his shoulder. “This is just great. Come on lady, welcome to the machine.”