Hi friends! We’ve got Tamara Morgan with us again, sharing a special excerpt of her new book that is out today! Whee! So happy release day to her – and enjoy!
A life of crime is easy…until love goes all ninja on your ass.
Asprey Charles has always assumed he would one day take his place in the family art appraisal and insurance firm. “His place” meaning he plans to continue to enjoy his playboy lifestyle, lavish money on his Cessna, and shirk every responsibility that dares come his way.
But when a life of crime is thrust upon him, he is just as happy to slip on a mask and cape and play a highwayman rogue. After all, life is one big game—and he excels at playing.
Poppy Donovan vows that her recent release from jail will be her last—no more crime, no more cons. But when she learns that her grandmother lost her savings to a low-life financial advisor, she’s forced to do just one more job.
It’s all going smoothly until the necklace she intends to pawn to fund her con is stolen by a handsome, mocking, white-collar thief. A thief who, it turns out, could take a whole lot more than money. If she’s not careful, this blue blood with no business on her side of the tracks could run off with the last thing she can afford to lose. Her heart.
Warning: This book contains masked crusaders, a remorseless con woman, and plans to boost a ten-million-dollar painting. Expect high speeds and fast hands.
“When you say you’re good at poker, do you mean you can play five-card stud with your accountant, or do you mean you can play poker?” Poppy warily eyed the way Asprey held the deck of cards. “Todd’s no card shark, but he knows his stuff. He once lost his speedboat to the Yakuza.”
Asprey cut the deck cleanly on Tiffany’s computer table, lifting his arm to reveal an ace poking out the sleeve of his old-man sweater. “There’s no need for insults. No one has ever invited me to play with the Japanese underground, but I’ll have you know I’ve been barred from every reservation casino within a two-hundred-mile radius.”
“That doesn’t speak very well of your technique.”
“Not my fault. I have very large hands.” He held them up as if to demonstrate. They were an odd combination of masculine and girly, his thumbs wide in all the right places, but with the kind of soft skin that belonged to someone who didn’t regularly plunge his hands into the dirty dishwater.
“Besides, cheating at cards isn’t really my thing,” he added, eyes glinting. She gulped and forced herself to look away. Asprey Charles was the last man in the world who needed his ego stroked. It was already at full attention and dangerously close to poking her in the eye.
“Oh? Is cheating too dishonest for the likes of you?”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he bragged, his chest puffing with misplaced pride. “I can count cards with the best of them. But actually getting in there and messing with the deck during gameplay? Not my style. I’m better at providing a distraction.”
No kidding. It had been a long time since she’d met a man with the ability to disarm her with just one laugh—and that was more dangerous than she cared to think about. Laughter was one step away from camaraderie, which put her on that dangerous and slippery slope toward friendship.
They all knew what came after that.
“So how is this going to go down?” she asked. “I told you Todd’s weakness is gambling—and I’ve been setting him up for weeks to believe I might be able to make a high-stakes game happen. If I want to take him for the full amount, that’s where he needs to be hit.”
“And that’s exactly where we’ll hit him.” Graff took the seat opposite Poppy—far enough away that he was out of arm’s reach, but still keeping her squarely in view. She nodded once, showing her understanding.
She hadn’t been lying when she said telling Graff about Todd had been the tipping point in moving things her direction—but that didn’t mean she liked the guy any better. He was too drunk on his own power, too much the master of the situation. There were very few men in this world who used that kind of power wisely, and she seriously doubted he was one of them.
Asprey set the deck of cards aside. “You never did tell me what it is you have against the guy.”
“He’s a crook,” Poppy said. “He might look like an upstanding financial broker, but in addition to the regular work with his firm, he runs a side scheme that purposefully tanks investments that are then rerouted to his personal account in the Cayman Islands.”
Asprey’s eyes widened. “And you know this for a fact?”
“No. I overheard it at the nail salon.” She placed her palms face up on the table, her way of showing a clean hand. “Of course I know it for a fact. He targets older investors, gaining their trust and then crushing all their retirement plans to fund his gambling addiction.”
Asprey let out a low whistle. “You’ve done your homework. Tiff didn’t uncover any of that stuff when she dug around in his records.”
“There’s no reason why she should have come across anything out of the ordinary.” Poppy wasn’t without pride as she told him what she’d learned from piecing together files lifted out of his home office and a visit to the Securities Exchange Commission in a deceptively secretarial suit and glasses. “He accesses the money only after it’s been laundered through his firm and put into accounts that fail on a spectacular level. In the eyes of the SEC, all is right and tight in his world—he has no more complaints lodged against him than any other financial broker, and everything always comes back clear. It’s only the unfortunate investors who pay the price.”
“A crook,” he said, echoing her previous words. But then he added, his eyes crinkled at the corners as he appraised her, “How exactly is that different from being a con woman, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Those were fighting words. She shot back in her chair, her hands grasping the table for support. “Because I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, that’s why. I con people like you, Asprey, not the homeless man on the street corner looking for someplace warm to sleep. Besides, who are you to be casting stones? You’ve got enough loot in here to enjoy three lifetimes of luxury.”
Asprey spread the cards out in front of her. He’d somehow managed to get all the suits matched up and in order, and they unfolded in a clean, colorful line. “Fine. One deceitfully rigged poker game coming right up.”
Poppy looked to Graff. He was the unknown in all this, the wild card, as it were. “And you’re absolutely sure you’re on board? This is something you can handle?”
Graff bowed his head in a slight nod. “I told you. I don’t necessarily like it, but we can play our part if you play yours.”
BIO: Tamara Morgan is a romance writer and unabashed lover of historical reenactments—the more elaborate and geeky the costume requirements, the better. In her quest for modern-day history and intrigue, she has taken fencing classes, forced her child into Highland dancing, and, of course, journeyed annually to the local Renaissance Fair. These feats are matched by a universal love of men in tights, of both the superhero and codpiece variety.
Her home is in the Inland Northwest, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and variety of household pets. Feel free to drop her an email at tamaramorganwrites (at) gmail (dot) com or follow her on Twitter at @Tamara_Morgan.
(And hey, if you’d like to get your very own shiny new copy, you can do that here :D)