Welcome Rachel Shane. It is my pleasure to bring you this wonderful author, a fellow contributor to our Sultry Nights Collection, due in August. Today Rachel is sharing an excerpt from another collection. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Take it away , Rachel.
I’m excited to share with you an excerpt from my story, STEALING HEARTS, which is exclusively part of the FORBIDDEN Romance Anthology. This one was super fun to write! I loved getting into the mind of a con artist and the sexy billionaire who trips up her usually flawless con jobs. I hope you enjoy!
She sets out to steal from him, but he might just steal her heart instead.
Liliana Stratford dons a new alias and a short skirt in order to pull off her biggest con job to date: exacting revenge on billionaire bachelor Colby Carver. He’s the jerk who purchased her precious family heirloom for mysterious reasons at an auction after her deadbeat mother pawned it off. Without the funds to buy it back, she decides her best course of action is to infiltrate Colby’s life, find the brooch, and swipe it out from under him the same way he unknowingly did it her.
A personal chef’s job for Colby provides Liliana with exactly the right opportunity to snoop behind his back. As she grows closer to finding the brooch, she also grows closer to Colby himself, bonding with him despite her conscience telling her what a bad idea this is. The chemistry between them crackles and soon she finds exactly what she wasn’t looking for: love. But how can she fall for him when she’s planning to rob him blind?
Excerpt from Stealing Hearts
It’s time to get revenge on Colby Carver for a crime he doesn’t even know he committed against me. I don my shortest skirt, fluff my newly dyed blond waves, and spruce up my cleavage by adjusting my push up bra. A swipe of my shiniest gloss makes my lips glisten like the diamonds I plan to steal. I take one last look in the scuffed mirror and give myself a satisfied nod despite the dim lighting in this shitty motel. He won’t recognize me like this. It’s the perfect disguise.
I fly to my laptop and curse under my breath as it lags and wheezes in an attempt to connect to the crappy Wi-Fi. I’m stuck in this shit hole until I get what I traveled over three hours from backwoods Florida to luscious Miami for. The Craigslist ad for a Personal Chef pops up and I jot down the address, ignoring the part that says to call to set up an interview. I can’t put my fate in the hands of an anonymous phone screener. In person, I can disarm Colby with all the charms.
I head twenty minutes in the wrong direction to a gourmet market with a five star Yelp rating and prices that make me want to gouge my eyes out. Wooden walls and dim lighting give the place an authentic rustic vibe. The forty dollars weighing down my purse has to last me through the next few days. I bite my lip and inhale the heavenly aroma of peppery basil, crisp maple bacon, and grilled salmon fresh from the ocean. My stomach grumbles at the very sight of the food I won’t get to eat.
Still, I load up separate environment-friendly cardboard containers with perfectly grilled lamb chops doused in mango chutney. Char marks create a crisscross pattern on the mouth-watering meat. Truffle risotto fills the second container, releasing a scent so intoxicating, it takes all my will power not to dip my finger in and slurp down an expensive bite. Colorful yellow and red tomatoes roll on top of crisp arugula greens sprinkled with a light citrus vinaigrette. I top it all off with a decadent slice of chocolate cake dripping in gooey caramel drizzle.She sets out to steal from him, but he might just steal her heart instead. Stealing Hearts by… Click To Tweet
I wait off to the side, balancing the heavy tray in my arms. Men and women jostle me for prime access to the self-serve bar. Women carrying gourmet salads stream onto the check out line, but I hold out until I spy a group of men in business suits moseying toward it. With a hustle in my step, I time my approach perfectly, reaching the line entrance at exactly the same time as them.
One of the guys flourishes his hand toward me like a gentleman and I give him a polite smile in thanks. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice all three eyeing me from top to bottom. Thank you, short skirt.
“Sixty-eight dollars and seventy-seven cents,” the cashier says, already reaching for the next guy’s items.
“Wait what?” I blink in mock horror. “I’ve only got a twenty.”
The cashier gives me a look that clearly says she doesn’t give a shit.
Beneath the counter, I dig my nails into my palms until fat tears well in my eyes. “This is so embarrassing.” I cover my mouth and heave a little sob.
The guy behind me leans over with his credit card. “Don’t worry, I got it.” He gives me a wink.
“Oh my Gosh! Thank you!” I leap forward and wrap him in a hug, making sure to press my breasts against his chest in thanks. I grab my bag and strut out of there with my forty dollars in tact.
As soon as I reach my car, I get to work transferring the beautifully arranged food into Tupperware containers and sliding them into a picnic basket. I top off the presentation with a blue ribbon tied around everything, and then I hit the gas and drive all the way to the mansions at beachfront Miami.
I park just outside the sprawling carnation colored Mediterranean Revival style home with art deco sensibilities. It’s exactly the kind of outlandish thing I’ve been dreaming of one day owning myself, outright and legit, instead of stolen out from under someone. The breeze carries the scent of salt from the ocean and kicks my hair up in a wild snarl of blond. The light colored strands still startle me whenever they cross my vision, and my stomach clenches with lament for my signature dark locks. But my reward for a job well done will be a reunion with my old appearance.
I press my finger to the doorbell and as soon as I do, my limbs start to twitch. I pace back and forth on the concrete front porch, trying to wear it off. There’s more riding on this con than any of the small time jobs I’ve pulled in the past.
The clicking of my heels works to combat the sound of heavy stomps heading to the doorway from inside. A shadow covers the peephole before the door swings open. Sweltering heat beats down on my bare shoulders, but the sweat slicking my brow stems from something deep inside me.
Colby stands there in low-slung jeans and a casual white t-shirt that does nothing to conceal the six-pack abs hiding beneath. His smoldering blue eyes search me, sliding down my throat, past my low cut cleavage, and lingering on the picnic basket secured strategically in front of my hips before he jerks his face back up. He pins with me a gaze so intense, so thoroughly invasive, that I sputter out a breath.
“Can I help you?” he asks.
For a moment, I can only stare at him, struck numb by the piercing eyes, chiseled jaw, and luscious locks that landed him at number two on the list of Miami’s hottest billionaire bachelors. The last and only time I saw him—when he unknowingly swiped the metaphoric tablecloth out from under me and knocked my entire life off balance—I hadn’t gotten close enough to take in that delicious smile hiding behind his pursed lips. It takes concentrated effort to force myself to swallow and remember that I’m supposed to be charming him, not the other way around.
I shake my head slightly to knock myself out of my daze and pop on my signature smile that tends to lure guys right where I need them to be: vulnerable.
“Hi!” I grab his hand from where it clutches the door, forcing him into an energetic handshake that clearly catches him off guard by the way he stumbles toward me. “I’m Liliana and I’m here to interview for the Personal Chef position.”
Colby clears his throat and casually slides his hand out from mine. “I’m sorry, but I’m already in the middle of an interview.” He pulls the door open a little more, giving me a front row seat of the dark hardwood floors that lead up to chic mid-century modern gray couches in his sitting room, and a guy wearing a chef’s coat shifting his weight uncomfortably on the tweed cushions. “You’re supposed to call first.”
Farther in the background, a woman with a severe bun sings quietly to herself in Spanish as she dusts the handsome dark wood end table that blocks the rest of the house from view.
“I did call.” I inject my words with pep and cheer to cover the way my voice cracks on the lie. “I spoke with a woman.” I switch the fluent Spanish to tell him the woman said to come by this afternoon for the interview.
Colby glances behind him and curses under his breath. He clearly did not understand a word I said judging by his knitted brows, but got my implied meaning: his employee made a promise he now has to keep.
The heavy basket makes my arms start to shake. I struggle to lift it up for him to see, grunting in the process. “Any place I can set this down?”
Colby rakes his hands through his hemp-colored hair, shifting the locks back to a side part, and presses his lips together. “One second.” He shuts the door just a bit, but it’s enough for me to hear hushed whispers and annoyed grunt from the guy in the chef’s coat.
A second later the guy in the chef’s coat storms past me, shooting me with a middle finger in the process.
“Sorry about that. That guy wasn’t working out anyway.” Colby leads me inside, giving me a perfect view of his sculpted ass as I follow him into the sitting room the rejectee just vacated.
He settles onto a couch but I immediately head down the hall until I find the dining room, my eyes memorizing every end table and closed door I pass. I set my picnic basket on the reclaimed wooden table and start removing the Tupperware plus the elegant Lenox bone china dishes I picked up at an Estate Sale last week for two bucks a pop. With equally ornate bargain serving ware, I gracefully scoop the food out of the Tupperware and transfer them to the plates before I lovingly wipe up excess with a dishtowel. After I set out a cloth napkin and ornate flatware, I flourish my hand toward the place setting. When I glance up, I notice he’s been leaning against the wall, watching me with a glint of interest.
A nervous flutter warms my belly.
He saunters over to me and takes a seat in front of the feast.
I stand up straighter. “Today I’ve prepared for you a gourmet lunch consisting of braised lamb chops seared on a grill with a spread of mango chutney and truffle risotto. The sweetness of the mango compliments the smokiness of the lamb.” I wave my hand over the first dish. Ten hours of watching the Food Network was all the prep I needed to speak like a sophisticated culinary expert. “For a lighter option, I present to you an array of vine ripened tomatoes atop a bed of wilted arugula and finished with a citrus vinaigrette that balances the tartness of the vegetables with a delightful spring pop.” I inch closer to him until he’s forced to glance up at me. “And lastly, no meal is complete without something sweet to finish it off.” I wave my hand toward the slice of cake as my toes bump against his socked feet. I lower my voice to sultry levels. “Indulge in a slice of cake made from chocolate imported directly from Paris and finished with homemade caramel sauce.” No clue where the chocolate comes from but Paris sounds decadent.
He sniffs the air. “God, it all smells amazing.”
I wink at him, knowing the only thing he can likely smell with me standing so close is my flowery perfume. “Tastes that way too.” I hope…
Colby grabs a fork and a knife and carves into the lamb chop, slicing off a piece of perfectly cooked meat. He twirls the fork in the air, admiring the way the juices run down onto the plate.
My chest stills. I don’t dare even swallow as he brings the fork to his mouth.
Before he takes a bite, his hand freezes. He presses his lips together, turning the fork over skeptically, before he sets it back down on the plate.
Panic climbs my spine and I nudge the plate closer to him. “I assure you, it’s delicious.”
“I’m sure it is.” He leans back in the chair. “But it wouldn’t be fair to the other candidates.”
Oh for fuck’s sake. This guy has a conscience?
“Can you make me scrambled eggs instead?”
“But—“ I open my mouth to speak but then clamp it shut again. My pulse amps. “I just spent all morning cooking you—“
“For all I know, you could have walked into a store and purchased this. I need to see you in action. Scrambled eggs are a simple dish but everyone has their own technique. I want to see yours.”
My technique usually involves going to brunch and ordering some. I grit my teeth. “No problem.”
Rachel Shane is the author of several romance books, young adult books, and a non-fiction writing guide. She’s been a computer animator, an e-book creator for a major NY publisher, and now she works as a Project Manager for a software company where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in NJ with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books.