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In The Inadvertent Thief, Vivien Flowers specializes in protecting fine art and her highly structured world comes to a halt when two very special paintings are stolen. In her fierce determination to get them back, Vivien learns how to become a thief. The handsome insurance agent assigned to the case is eager to help and together they unravel the clues that lead to a complicated web of intrigue.
Read This Book Excerpt
He approached me with a quick and light step. His eyes crinkled into a smirk that looked especially prepared for me. He was tall and had a strong muscular build that was apparent even underneath his suit and tie. Coming right towards me, the intensity of his green eyes nearly took my breath. I felt the need to look away but was uncontrollably sucked into his gaze. His angular features spread into an even wider grin.
“Vivien Flowers?” The voice was pleasant and surprisingly deep.
“Um, yes.” My tear filled eyes quickly swept over his chiseled, razor-sharp features.
“You’re just the person I was looking for.” Again the smile flashed and my knees weakened. “Walter Johnson. Pleased to meet you.”
The insurance guy? That was fast. We shook hands.
“What can I do for you?” I was relived at how even my voice sounded. Now all I had to do was pull myself out of the deep green pools that were his eyes.
“I’m investigating what security is in place, what’s been done so far and what still needs to be done on behalf of the paintings.”
“I’m afraid I’m rather new at this. What exactly is the protocol?”
“Well, I would like to get the paintings back. If that’s possible,” he paused and ran his hand through his dark chestnut hair halfheartedly, “or at least, I would like to ensure that the other two paintings in the series are safe from any further theft. We insure all four, you see.”
He continued to grin but this time I noticed the smile stopped before it reached his eyes. Further thefts! My career was swiftly going down the toilet. Just hours after my first stolen artifacts, an insurance agent had been sent to make sure I wasn’t going to lose any others.
“There won’t be any further thefts. I can assure you that the other two of the Four Seasons are safe and sound. They won’t come to any harm.”
My eyes narrowed as they took in his face. He seemed only superficially placated and his expression was unbearably patronizing. This man didn’t believe a word I said. My checks grew warm with anger and I tried desperately to keep calm. “As for these,” I gestured to the large empty wall, “don’t worry. I’ll get them back.”
He first seemed surprised to find that his words brought up so much emotion. Then my final resolve made his once contrived smirk finally brake through all the way to his eyes.
“What makes you so sure?” There was a curious edge to his deep voice.
“Because,” I paused and met his eyes with passionate conviction, “this is personal.”
His eyes had a skeptic glint but he was still grinning.
“May I ask, Mr. Johnson...”
“What is it you want me to do for you?”
“I was hoping you could give me some kind of proof, an assurance, that the other two paintings are safe. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and this theft has all the earmarks of a series collector. No other paintings were stolen and one must assume the worst to prevent any further loss of the company’s assets.”
His voice dripped with honey over this carefully prepared little speech. I could understand the insurance agency’s quick reaction. Payout for just one of the paintings would mean millions, two would be double. This grinning Apollo was more interested in loss prevention, not reclamation. He considered Fall and Summer a lost cause. I was still struggling to control my emotions after the painful interview with Mr. Colton and I now needed more than the usual resolve to keep my voice even. I was determined to keep the water out of my eyes with sheer willpower.
“Look, Walter, I’m perfectly confident that the other two are more than safe. Unlike the stolen ones,” I couldn’t even say their names, “the whereabouts of Winter and Spring are hardly common knowledge. I’m sure that the secrecy around them is security enough for the time being. At present, my focus is on the two missing paintings. I’m sure you can see that. Your company will be more gratified if they get these back instead of just preventing the loss of the others.” I was taking deep and deliberate breaths, my words coming out unnaturally slow.
His eyes took in my face. I saw the grin fade for the first time as he paused for a moment. Then he came to a quick conclusion.
“Okay. We’re going to get them back. I’ll help you in any way I can. I have lots of resources at your disposal and the company has authorized me to make myself indispensable, do whatever is necessary, to protect their assets.”
He must think I’m a complete idiot or a fragile mess. How was I going to work with those penetrating and judgmental eyes following me around? I needed every mental faculty at its sharpest.
“Thanks for the offer but I work alone. I’ll keep you updated of course.” I offered with an ineffectual smile.
He leaned in closer.
“I usually work alone too, so I guess we’ll both have to make some concessions. You see, this is my job and I do it very well. I have my instructions and Mr. Colton’s support.” He drew in a deep breath. “Listen, I have a feeling you are just as determined as I am and I think our best bet at getting what we want is to work on this together. So, what’s your first step?”
“Okay.” I said with a little hesitation. “The first step is to go to my office. I need to go over all the data I’ve collected so far.”
“Great, I’d love to see you work. I’ve heard a lot about your little company.”
I took slight offense to the word little. I may only have two employees, but my company was my personal masterpiece. I hid my irritation and directed my attention to my caramel colored handbag. Its over-sized leather design well hid the fact that it was a veritable tool box. I dug around until I found what I was looking for and then handed him my own plain white card with my office’s address printed on it. I gave it to him and he looked amused. Surely he didn’t expect something pink with flowers on it?
“Do you need directions?”
“No, I’ll find it. I’ll just check in with the police before I go. I want them to keep me in the loop. Let’s hope they’ve found something on the tapes and solved the case for us.” He was ginning again, widely.
“Sorry, I don’t believe in miracles.”
About The Author
When I'm not writing, I teach Biology and Algebra to teenagers. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading, or pursuing my love of Art History, buried deep inside of a museum or traveling with my husband and daughter.