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Stepbrother Thief

By´╝ÜViolet Blaze

Diamonds.

They're supposed to be a girl's best friend, aren't they? So why, right now, do they look like the enemy, staring back at me from a tumbled heap inside the black duffel bag parked between my bare feet?

Sweat pours down the sides of my face, sticks my orange dress shirt to the skin on my lower back. I can't stop panting, my ragged breathing tearing from my chest as I wiggle my toes and try to convince myself that I did the right thing, that everything will work out in the end. If I believed that though, really and truly believed that, I don't think my heart would be pounding quite so hard.

“Ten minutes,” Gill whispers hoarsely, his own breath even, his hands loose on the steering wheel. “Ten minutes and we'll be in the air.” I sit up, forcing my stiff fingers to drop the edges of the bag and glance over at him. Something about my stepbrother's expression, the set of his shoulders, the lack of sweat on his forehead, it bothers me.

Relaxed.

That's what he is. Relaxed. My life as I once knew it is over, everything changed in an instant, snatched up and twisted in the tornado that is Gill Marchal, and there he sits like he's on the way to the airport for a goddamned tropical vacation, some pleasure cruise that'll end in sand and surf and a ticket back home waiting for afterwards. This? This is nothing like that.

I have to say goodbye to Paris, for now, maybe forever.

Gone.

A split second decision made by a stuttering heart and it's all gone.

I sneer at him. It's a nasty expression, one that Gill's father used to call mon visage laid, my ugly face, but in this moment, it's beyond my control. Emotions are running too high, adrenaline is pumping too fast. Most days, I try to be pleasant. Today, it's not an option.

“Can you at least look like you give a crap?” I ask, but Gill isn't listening. His blue eyes are focused on the road ahead, his brow furrowed just so, just enough that I can tell he's buried deep in thought. Knowing him, he's probably going over the plan for the thousandth time in that thick skull of his, running through each possible scenario until he's picked it apart and prepared for virtually anything. It's one of the reasons I agreed to be a part of this, to take a chance on something that could easily end with me locked up in prison for life—or dead. It's also one of the reasons I fell in love with him—and then out of love with him.

Jesus, Regi, snap out of it! Reminiscing about the past never got me anywhere, not after Dad died, not after Mom died, not after Gill left … Can't help it though. Memories are my coping mechanism, my way of slogging through the humdrum dull of everyday life. Anything a steaming espresso or a warm baguette can't cure, a good daydream can. But right now, when I'm running from a serious case of larceny, not a good time.

“Gill.” I say his name slowly, calmly, firmly. Look at me, damn it. Thankfully he does, turning enough so that the soft light of morning limns his profile in gold. For the tiniest, briefest moment, he looks like a god.

“Don't worry, Regina,” he tells me, his voice steady and smooth but still somehow rough, like those few years he spent on the street as a kid left a permanent mark on his soul. Or maybe it's everything that happened after. How the hell should I know? The man's a virtual stranger to me now. “I told you I'd get you through this, and I will. Relax, take a deep breath, and leave everything else to me.”

I bite my lower lip and lean my head back against the black leather seat. I have some serious trust issues, most of which were caused by the asshole sitting next to me, so forgive me if I have trouble handing over the reigns, so to speak.

“Eight minutes,” Gill says as I close my eyes and struggle to slow my breathing. “Eight more minutes.” I open them back up and glance in the rearview mirror, looking for any sign of the police, any sign of flashing blue lights and the end of freedom as I know it. A dark chuckle cuts through the silence, drawing my attention back to Gill, to his strong jaw, the rough edge of stubble that grazes his chin. Even ten years apart couldn't dampen my desire for him. Shit. Well, at least I know there's no second chance for us, no way to rekindle the relationship we once had. This right here is a professional exchange and that is it. Period. End of sentence. “By this time tomorrow, you'll be lounging by the pool at the hotel.”

“In Seattle?” I ask, raising an eyebrow. A scrap of blonde hair escapes my bun and I tuck it back. “In October? I find that highly doubtful.”

“Maybe,” Gill begins, his voice that edgy purr that always set my nerves on edge, “it'll be an indoor pool? And heated? Or maybe you'll be immersed in the warm, warm waters of a jacuzzi?” The way my stepbrother says warm makes me question my own sanity. Shouldn't be legal to make a simple syllable sound so … dirty. “Wherever you find yourself,” he continues as the car slows and we make a left turn towards the airstrip, “I can promise you, it won't be behind bars. You have my word on it.”

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