Allie risks getting arrested as she sneaks onto millionaire inventor Quinn Buchanan's estate to take back an item that rightfully belongs to her. She doesn't realize that someone has tipped Quinn off to her plans, and he has a few plans of his own. The two of them have a history that must be addressed, whether or not Allie is willing to admit it.
The year 2177
Breaking into Quinn Buchanan’s mansion was a hell of a hassle. But as far as Allie was concerned, she didn’t have much choice. She wasn’t going to let him keep what was rightfully hers, whether it was technically legal to take it back or not.
Allie hadn’t risked driving her hover-car anywhere near the neighborhood. Security was so tight that she was sure to be spotted. Instead, she’d borrowed her friend Frieda’s single-seat hover-bike. This way, Allie could drive through the opulent part of town and, since Frieda was also Quinn’s head maid, even pass through the gates of the estate without arousing suspicion.
It was lucky for Allie that she and Frieda were close. Otherwise, she didn’t know what she would have done.
She pulled up to the massive gold filigree gates, the security spotlight shining down on the tinted window dome of the enclosed bike. Allie felt the first pangs of fear as the reality of what she was doing suddenly sank in. Could she actually pull this off? And perhaps more importantly, should she?
Securing her long white-blonde wig with blunt-cut bangs in place, she took a deep breath and pushed a dark circular button on her left. A hole just wide enough for her to put her arm through opened up on the dark dome. Sensing her movement, a slim keypad on a metal rod rose up from the ground. She entered Frieda’s code, which she’d carefully memorized. A melodic chime sound signaled that the code had been accepted. Then, with a trembling hand, she held up a tiny, egg-shaped recording device. When she pressed the top, Frieda’s firm but feminine voice filled her ears:
“Frieda Morain reporting for duty.”
The keypad lowered back into the ground, and the gates unlocked and slowly opened.
By the stars, this was really going to work. Almost giddy with her success, Allie grinned then bit her full lower lip, adrenaline rushing through her limbs. The thought of slinking in without Quinn knowing it thrilled her to the point of feeling high.
“You always did think you could get away with being a bastard,” she muttered to herself. “Once again, you’ll have to learn the hard way.”
Buchanan Manor was one of the most beautiful homes in the metropolis. As she drove up the right arc of the circular drive, the mansion stood like a bright white castle under the starlight. The vibrant city with its colorful, towering buildings and slowly rotating sky cafes twinkled in the distance.
The staff garage, big enough for four hover-trucks, was around the back, separate from the house. Allie pulled up and entered the code again. The door lowered into the ground. As soon as she pulled in, it closed behind her.
Automatic lights lit the pristine white space. It was empty except for her bike. The hour was late; no one on staff would be expected. And Quinn would be gone.
At least he should be gone.
She felt her second small twinge of panic. What if he hadn’t gone to his weekly meeting tonight? What if he was ill or the meeting had been called off?
She blinked and let out a shaky breath. No. That was just her fear talking. Quinn never got sick. Of course he would be at his weekly meeting. He was President of Buchanan Inventions Incorporated, and Wednesday nights were reserved for their all-important five-hour lab result presentations at company headquarters. There was no way he’d miss it.
She pressed on a rectangular button, which released a small microphone from the control panel. “Vehicle off,” she said, her voice vibrating with excitement. The bike’s shut-down was barely noticeable, as it had made such a quiet hum when it was running that she could barely hear it. Its domed dash descended into the back of the bike, allowing her to open the door and get out.
She ran her hands over Frieda’s solid black body suit, the water-resistant material hugging her curves. Petite Frieda was a size smaller, but Allie could still fit into the outfit. The sleeves had heat-resistant black gloves attached that allowed for easy pick-up of hot dishes straight from the oven. But Allie wouldn’t be cooking tonight. She’d be taking back what was rightfully hers so Quinn couldn’t squander it.
Leaning down to look into the rear-view mirror, she adjusted the blonde wig so that the bangs touched the tips of her eyelashes. She’d painted her lips the same rust red that Frieda usually wore. From a distance, even if someone did happen to be spying on her, nobody would be able to tell it wasn’t Buchanan’s head maid.
Posture erect, a devilish smile on her face, she walked over to a silver ring on the floor and stood in the middle of it.
“Identify,” said a metallic voice from a nearly invisible speaker in the corner of the garage.
Allie played Frieda’s recording once more. The room slowly rose around her as the circular platform beneath her feet lowered into the ground. She rode the elevator beneath the manor and emerged at the entrance to the large, dark kitchen.
* * * * *
On the fourth floor, watching the security monitor, Quinn Buchanan leaned back in his easy chair. The back of the seat vibrated, easing the stress-caused kinks out of his muscles. He watched as Allie, dressed in Frieda’s clothing, walked through the kitchen. Tsk, tsk, Allie, he thought. Did it really have to come to this?
He picked up his paper-thin phone from the marble-topped desk where he sat and selected Frieda’s number.
She picked up after two rings. “Is she there?”
“Right on time,” Quinn said.
She sighed. “She’s going to kill me when she finds out I told you.”
“No, she won’t. She’ll understand. I’ll make her understand.”
“If you insist. You know she’s going to be angry.”
“I know. She might put up a fight, but she won’t be able to run this time.”
“Boy, if I could be a fly on the wall when she sees you.”
He chuckled. “Thanks again, Frieda.”
He terminated the call and gently placed the phone back on the desk. He stretched his arms out in front of him, locking his long, tapered fingers together. The muscles of his thick shoulders, brawny arms, and hairless torso twisted with the movement.
Relaxing against the vibration of the chair, he gazed at Allie in the monitor as she moved from the kitchen into the foyer. The right side of his mouth rose in a crooked grin. He quickly lifted a hand and smoothed it down, running his fingers across the stubble he’d carelessly left unshaved today. Now wasn’t the time to lose his focus. He needed to remain serious—at least on the outside.
His deep, chocolate eyes peered out of his chiseled face, his dark olive skin freshly scrubbed from a hot shower. Dark brown hair he normally kept trim curled in little waves at his ears and at the nape of his neck. He popped his knuckles, a bad habit he knew Allie hated, but it was his default gesture when nervousness paid him a visit.
All day, he’d barely been able to contain his excitement and his fear. He would meet with Allie tonight. There’d be no more ignoring him. She would listen. And they would do more than just talk. It was going to be the kind of meeting he knew they both needed. Allie just didn’t know it yet.