Last May Touch of a Thief came out. Right now it’s on sale as part of the Kindle Top 100 program for a budget-pleasing $3.99. It’s the first book in the Touch of Seduction series. In each of the books, at least one of the characters has the “gift of touch”–the psychic ability to glean information from objects. For example, when my heroine Viola touches gemstones, she hears their voices and receives visions of the people whose lives have been recorded by the gems.
Here’s a little snippet from Touch of a Thief . My heroine Viola has been caught red-handed breaking into Greydon Quinn’s bedchamber where his safe is located. Since he needs the services of a thief, he wants to be sure her skills are as advertised.
After spreading the kerchief on the bed, he dumped the contents of the stocking onto it. A glowing rainbow of stones glittered up at Viola.
“You keep your jewels in an old stocking?”
He shrugged. “It seemed more secure than the wall safe with the likes of you prowling about London.”
She frowned down at the gemstones. It was an impressive pile of riches, but the resonance was off. “Some of these aren’t genuine.”
He cocked a brow at her and nodded. “Show me.”
She drew a deep breath and stretched out her hand. She’d do the pearls first. Their sibilant, watery voices were always easiest to bear. She picked up a gray pearl, a smoky iridescent orb. The low hum began inside her head.
Like a waving bed of kelp, the pearl spoke to her in wobbling, gentle tones. The words were garbled, and in no language she knew, but a quick vision of a wizened old gent with a purple turban and scarlet-dyed beard flashed across her mind. She dropped the pearl before the precious thing could show her any more.
It was unusual for her to receive a vision from a pearl. Perhaps it was because they were never as old as other gems. Perhaps the fragile substance resisted picking up imprints from its owners. Or perhaps pearls realized they too were mortal and didn’t want to carry someone else’s burden for the course of their stay on earth.
Whatever secret this gray pearl bore, Viola didn’t want to know it.
“That pearl is real,” she said. “And very old. You’ll not find its mate. It will have to be used as a pendant.”
“How do you know that?”
“I just know.” How could she explain something she didn’t understand herself? She only knew she was different.
And people mistrust those who are different.
She turned back to the rest of the jewels. One by one, she sorted out sweet-voiced carnelians and sultry-toned lapis lazuli, shoving their silent imitations to one side. Then she moved on to the harder gems.
The ones with more strident voices. The ones most likely to invade her mind with nightmarish images of their past. She gleaned out the rasping emeralds, the muttering sapphires and wailing rubies, sorting the paste gems off in a small pile by themselves. Some of the fakes were quite good and probably would have fooled most jewelers, but if a stone didn’t speak to her, she knew it wasn’t real.
Finally, she was left with only five diamonds. She drew a deep breath to steel herself against them. Of all jewels, diamonds screamed out the atrocities in their pasts most painfully. Perhaps being uncut would help. They couldn’t have had contact with too many people.
“Why are you stopping?” Quinn asked. “Can’t you tell with diamonds?”
She picked up the largest and breathed a sigh of relief. “Fake.”
She dropped it on the floor and ground it under her boot heel. The stone splintered into shards.
Viola reached for the next stone. The moment her fingertips brushed it, the diamond screeched at her, a high-pitched squeal on the edge of sound. She bit her lip and pulled back her hand before it could send her an image.
Quinn moved the gem to the ‘keepers’ pile and it whined softly when he touched it.
How does he not hear that? It was unusual for a stone to speak without her touch merely because she was near. The gem must have a particularly vicious story to tell. This one she would avoid at all costs.
The rest of the diamonds were genuine. Viola managed to handle them quickly enough that only one was able to send her a red-splashed image of the moment the dark-skinned man who first dug it out of the ground was hacked to death for it. She swallowed hard and tried to expunge the horrific scene from her mind.
“So the rumors are true. You cannot be fooled by a fake, no matter how cunningly realistic.” Quinn scooped up the genuine stones and replaced them in his stocking.
She stood. Barring that last diamond, she’d escaped rather easily. She doubted any of the visions lasted long enough to leave her with the grinding headache that usually accompanied the use of the gift. “I’m glad to have been of service. Now, if you’ll excuse me—”
“Not so fast. I haven’t explained the purpose of our partnership.”
“But I’ve already culled your stones.”
“That was only a test. I had to be sure you were the real Mayfair Jewel Thief. Sit,” he said curtly.
His tone was so commanding, she obeyed reflexively. Then she stood back up. She wasn’t one of his sepoys to be ordered about.
“Very well, I’ll sit.” He claimed the end of the bed again and grinned up at her.
Irritation fizzed up her spine, but she was the one who’d chosen to stand.
“Here are my terms and they are non-negotiable,” Quinn said. “You will render me a burglary service, and at the end of our association, you will receive half the gems you just saw.”
“My choice from among them?” Something inside her quivered with hope. It would mean her family’s money troubles were over. She’d never have to steal again.
“Very well. I accept your terms. What do you want from me?”
“What do you know about red diamonds?” he asked.
“Red diamonds? They’re extremely rare.” In all her thievery, she’d never run across one. “And because of that, they’re worth the earth. But they aren’t for everyone. It’s said they often carry curses.”
“Are you the superstitious sort?”
“No.” It wasn’t superstition to believe something true. She’d be able to hear the curse first hand. “But as far as I know there are no red diamonds in all England. And even if there was, I wouldn’t steal it.”
“Because it would be impossible to fence. And an absolute sin to re-cut into smaller stones. Red diamonds are never overly large to begin with, no more than five or six carats. What would I do with one?”
“Let me worry about that part.” Quinn rose to his feet. “I need to see you home, Lady Viola. You have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow.”
She was gratified to hear him use her title, but the rest of his words made her slant him a suspicious look. “What am I going to be doing?”
“You’ll be leaving for Paris with me,” he said. “There is a diamond called Baaghh kaa kkhuun en route to the Queen’s royal collection. And I mean to meet the courier in France.”
“Baaghh kaa kkhuun?”
“It means ‘Blood of the Tiger,’” Quinn said. “And you, my Lady Light-fingers, are going to help me steal it.”
Buy link: Amazon now only $3.99!