About The Pretender:
They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Harrison Tate is proof. Once a professional burglar, he now makes a lawful living tracking down stolen art. No one needs to know about his secret sideline, “liberating” artifacts acquired through underhanded methods. At least until one of those jobs sees him walking in on a murder.
Gabrielle Wright has long been estranged from her wealthy family, but she didn’t kill her sister. Trouble is, the only person who can prove it is the sexy, elusive criminal who shouldn’t have been at the island estate on that terrible night. She’s not expecting honor among thieves—or for their mutual attraction to spark into an intense inferno of desire.
Under the guise of evaluating her family’s art, Harris comes back to the estate hoping to clear Gabby’s name. But returning to the scene of the crime has never been riskier, with their hearts and lives on the line.
Harrison Tate didn’t believe in luck. He believed in planning. Right now, he needed the luck.
He blinked a few times, hoping the scene in front of him would change. No body, no blood . . . nope, it was all still there.
A woman—the woman—the one who stuck to a schedule and rarely ventured outside a three-mile area. She should have been reading at the dock, as she did every nonrainy day at this time for the last three weeks. Sitting there, watching the waves lap up on the stone retaining wall that separated the Chesapeake Bay from Tabitha Island. Her private island.
He’d staked out the isolated land, this house and this woman for more than a month. Watched from a boat at one point and from the small uninhabited island a short distance away at another. He’d been able to hack into the camera on her laptop. He knew when she was working on it, which was almost always.
He’d tracked her movements, knew her schedule. But on the ride over here he’d missed seeing someone else go into her house. Someone who wanted more from her than a painting.
The longer he stood there, looming over her still body, the more he became locked in a confining shell he could not break. Less than thirty seconds had passed since he walked into the old-school library with its dark floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and massive desk positioned in front of the French doors to the small patio outside. He’d found her there, sprawled on the floor with her eyes closed and her chest not moving. Blood pooled around her and seeped into the muted gray carpet beneath her.
Just as his brain signaled to his hand to grab his cell and call for help, her eyes popped open. Stunning green. That fact registered in his mind. Next came her fear. It bounced off the walls and pummeled him. Her body shook with it.
She reached out and her fingertips brushed his pants right near his calf. She likely thought she grabbed him and pulled hard, but he barely felt the touch. Whatever energy she possessed had been spent during the furious battle that waged in the room before he got there. Glass shattered on the floor, an overturned table. Books and papers scattered everywhere.
He dropped down, balancing on the balls of his feet, and reached for her hand. He still wore his gloves but she didn’t seem to notice. She kept mouthing something. A soundless word he couldn’t make out. He leaned in with his ear right over her mouth, trying to pick up a thread or any noise but that didn’t work either.
He pulled back and looked into her eyes. They were clouded now and unfocused. “Tabitha?”
He knew her name because he made it his business to know the people from whom he planned to liberate any number of items. In her case, a specific painting that usually hung over the fireplace in this room. It balanced there now, ripped from the wall with one edge hanging over the mantel. Teetering, ready to fall. All eleven million dollars of it.
“Help me.” The words came out of her on a strangled cry. Her chest heaved as she fought for breath.
He could see her wince as she inhaled. Her hand slipped out of his as all the tension drained out of her. Her eyes rolled back then closed.
“No, no, no.” This time he started mouth-to-mouth. He blew and counted, trying to remember the precise sequence from every television show where he’d seen it performed and from a class he’d taken more than a decade ago.
He clamped down on his fight-or-flight instincts and reached for the burner cell tucked in his back pocket. He’d just hit the first button to make the call as he heard the sound. A gurgling in her throat, as if she was drowning in her own body. An openmouthed labored breath . . . then a shocking stillness. Saliva dribbled out of the corner of her mouth as her head dropped to one side.
The death rattle. Had to be. He’d never heard it before and never wanted to hear it again.