The heist: steal the Heart of Ailonsileah from a heavily fortified space station during a ball held by its wealthy and unscrupulous owner. Do not get distracted by the other expensive baubles on display, and definitely don’t get distracted by Galenn, the attractive and mysterious art appraiser who has his own agenda. Too bad Shay was never good at sticking to a plan.
Things go from bad to worse as the heist meets more than its share of complications, including seduction, calamity, and betrayal. And through it all, Shay finds himself drawn to Galenn, even over the objections of some of his team.
Can Shay make it through with his skin intact, his wallet full, and his heart unbroken?
The Heart -- the real Heart of Ailonsileah -- stood encased in plexiglass on a pedestal in the center of the room. Galenn stood to the side as Shay looked, eyes trailing over it. Of all the pieces his group had lifted from rich assholes, this was one of the most beautiful. It was much like the holosculpt, masterfully sculpted, likely from one piece of sun-substance, but the black areas of this piece seemed to eat light, while the silver portions seemed to pulse. It was impressive. Shay couldn’t begin to guess how much a piece like this might net them -- or how it would feel in his palms.
“You at least have the decency to look impressed,” said Galenn.
“Because it deserves that.”
“You hate it.” Shay tore his eyes from the Heart to look at Galenn. The appraiser seemed to be doing some heavy thinking. “You’re an art appraiser who fucking hates art.”
“That’s harsh, and no,” said Galenn, but he was frowning now. Shay sensed something had shifted between them. They were no longer getting along easily. “But you’re not the home for it, either.”
“So, what? You change your mind? You just sounded relieved I was here to take it.”
Galenn stepped closer.
“It’s true, I’m sad to see pieces like this end up with people like Bekkah. But you’ll simply quit your job and sell for as much as you can get to the first buyer. That’s ... equally loathsome. It has the virtue of at least being safe here.”
“I never said I was here to steal it,” said Shay, concerned now.
“But you clock my tech. You know a thing or two about theft, don’t you?”
“Your tech is rich tech.”
“How did you get in here again?” Galenn took another step closer. “No, I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn you in. Don’t,” he added as Shay moved toward him, “try anything. You’re not armed with anything more than tools and you have no idea what my tech is capable of.”
Shay paused, licked his lips. This Galenn guy seemed moody as hell. He was almost certainly not straight.
“Are you really so sure I don’t have your tech clocked?” he asked. He moved closer. People like art appraisers, when pushed, often were cowards at heart. And Shay had gotten around the galaxy some. Had a few scars to prove it. It was more afraid of this guy calling security than he was of a one-on-one confrontation with the man.
“Jerran and Andy have security issues,” said Kell in Shay’s ear. “Stall him as best you can. If we have to leave without the Heart ...”
Shay offered a loaded grin. He was too close to give up on the Heart now. If Andy and Jerran got to him in time, they’d just incapacitate this asshole. Easier if Shay got him in a compromising position first.
“You act like you have me clocked more than my tech,” said Galenn. He smiled, but it was the first time he looked like he was hiding something. “Am I right in assuming you’re trying to barter?”
“Don’t mention this to Bekkah,” said Shay, close enough to grab the waist on Galenn’s expensive suit, but only brushing fingers over it. “And I’ll make it worth it for you.”
Galenn took hold of Shay’s wrists, his gold-red-purple eyes gleaming. His face flushed.
“You’d better be good,” he said. “Or no deal.”
“You don’t have to worry.” Shay leaned in to kiss him, but Galenn tilted his head away. So just a transaction, then. That was fine by Shay, just so long as it lasted long enough for his backup to get there.
“If I think you’re pulling anything ...” began Galenn.
“Unleash your tech on me,” said Shay. He tugged on Galenn’s waistband. “But I think we can come to an agreement.”