Dear Reader, I’m in the middle of writing my third book! The working title in my word files is “Jewel Heist” because I’m terrible at titles, lol. But I’ve got characters and a halfway decent plot, so that’s good enough for now. Let me introduce you to Celeste (prolific art thief) and Magnus (geology professor), former lovers who, after 10 years, are teaming up for one last heist. With the recent death of their mentor, Dr. Doris Grant, they’re left with a mysterious request in her last will and testament: One last job. Together. They might be able to pull it off, if they can stop hating each other… Here’s a taste of their enemies-to-lovers relationship:
I can’t believe where I am.
Celeste tried not to look at Magnus’ powerful forearms as he switched gears and tapped his fingers against the shaft. He’d always had beautiful arms, tanned and muscular, peppered with golden blond hair. She tried to avert her gaze from his arm and turn back to the Long Island Expressway, where traffic was beginning to lighten up. They were not talking, and it made Celeste uncomfortable. Magnus should have known that. He knew that she talked to fill space, to distract herself, to avoid dealing with her feelings. He was once the quiet sounding board for her, the kind of man who could patiently listen to her ramblings without judgement. But that was a decade ago.
“So, how was teaching this week?” she asked in a nonchalant tone.
Magnus grunts something that sounds like an affirmative before switching lanes. He checks his mirror and increases speed. Celeste checks his speedometer and raises a brow.
Magnus glances at her. “What?”
“You might want to slow down through here.” Celeste sensed a familiar argument presenting itself. Magnus was a stick in the mud in most ways a Swedish-American man could be, except for his excessive speeding habit. They fought about it in the past, it usually ended with her bracing herself in the passenger’s side, waiting for the joyride to end.
“The L.I.E. is basically the Autobahn,” he said in an irritated voice. “I can do eighty-five out here.”
She rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh. “Mags, you know that’s the Ronkonkoma exit, it’s a speed trap.”
“And we just passed it,” he said pointing at the exit sign. “We’re fine.”
“You’re going close to ninety,” Celeste said. “Slow the fuck down.”
“Celeste.” His voice was a low growl that would have normally aroused her, would have made her cross her legs to keep the throbbing at bay. Now, she rubbed the bridge of her nose and tried to contain her frustration.
“Magnus,” she said, matching his tone.
“Everyone drives at this—”
Before he could finish his sentence, the sound of sirens interrupted their argument. Red and blue lights reflected in the mirrors, proving her point. “What did I tell you?” she shouted.
“For fuck’s sake,” Magnus muttered, slamming a fist against the steering wheel. As he veered towards the side of the expressway, he eased up on the speed and eventually came to a complete stop.
His small-scaled theatrics didn’t impress her. Magnus had rarely gotten angry while they were dating, but it seemed as though he saved up a lot of anger for her. Celeste should have expected that.
“Okay,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Let me do the talking.”
She gave him a look before saying, “You’re the one driving. Who else is going to do the talking?”
The state trooper finally made his way to the driver’s side and tapped on the window. Magnus rolled down his window. “What seems to be the—”
“—License and registration,” said the burly man with the wide brim hat. Celeste leaned forward and noted the walrus mustache, beer belly, and mirrored aviators. She quietly slipped one of the rings from her right hand to her left.
“Sure officer,” Magnus said reaching across her lap and sifting through the glovebox. “Is there a reason I’m being pulled over?”
Celeste bit back a smile as Magnus attempted to talk his way through a potential ticket. If he knew him as well as she remembered, he would attempt to negotiate by using his own brand of stubborn logic. He would argue with an authority figure before he would bow to one. And by the looks of this state trooper, the man would most likely let his pad of tickets do the arguing for him. She worked a little differently. As a thief, she was better at playing roles and blending into her surroundings.
Charm was always the best weapon.
“Oh honey, you were definitely speeding,” Celeste said in a sweet voice. To the police officer, she flashed a good-humored smile and wagged her left hand towards the window. “We just got married and guess who can’t wait to get to the Hamptons?”
She felt Magnus’ body tense next to hers as his eyes landed on the silver ring on her left-hand ring finger.
Just like Celeste had hoped, the state trooper softened just a bit. “Newlyweds, huh?”
Magnus coughed. “Yep,” he said, flashing her a covert glare. “I just couldn’t help myself. She’s so… damned lovely.”
She let out a throaty chuckle and laid a hand on his thigh. As she squeezed his leg, she took note of the tense muscles that twitched beneath his slacks. “I told him to slow down,” she chirped. “We don’t need to spend our first days of marriage in the emergency room.”
“Hmm,” the trooper grunted. “Hold on a minute and let me check these.”
When the man walked back to his police cruiser, Magnus wheeled on her. “What was that?” he asked in a dark growl. His face had gone red with embarrassment and his Nordic blue eyes darkened as much as the impending storm that trailed them.
Celeste smirked, almost missing his flushed face and how easy it had been to provoke. “The Ball and Chain.”
“We don’t do that anymore,” he said in an exasperated voice.
The Ball and Chain worked well enough when they were in the field… and dating. She didn’t see a problem with employing it now. “You looked like you needed some help.”
“I had it under control.”
“I’m going to disagree. You tensed up and started off defensive.”
Magnus glanced down at his leg, where her hand still rested. She could have moved it right after the trooper stepped away from the vehicle, but the familiar warmth of his body drew her closer to him. “I wasn’t tense,” he muttered.
Beneath her fingers, his muscles were still firm, giving off tiny twitched as he willed his body to remain still. Celeste finally withdrew her hand, returning to her own lap. “Just promise me that when he lets you off with a warning, you’ll admit that I’m a better actor than you.”
He rested his elbow on the console between them and leaned closer to her. “Don’t congratulate yourself on being a good liar, Celeste,” Magnus’ voice dipped to a low purr that filled the small space of his car with a warm vibration.
What is he doing? Her brows furrowed at the middle as she watched him slowly invade her personal space. If she didn’t know any better, it appeared that Magnus was leaning in for a kiss. His lips were parted slightly, the bottom one just as kissable as she remembered. Her heart began to pound against her chest as she waited in anticipation. A flash of lightening lit the sky just behind his head, causing the hairs on her arms to lift.
“He’s on his way back,” Magnus said.
In an instant, his mouth covered hers, swallowing any question that may have been on the tip of her tongue. Magnus Larsson, her lover from ten years ago, took a firm grip on the back of her neck and gave her a crushing kiss. A jolt of pleasure traveled down her body and hit her just below the belly. Tingling sensations spiraled from his fingertips as he teased her mouth open with his tongue. Celeste remembered this rhythm and found herself falling in step with an eagerness that shocked her. Her tongue quickly caught up and slid against his in a delicate exploration. Without thinking, she reached for him, letting her fingers graze his neck. His skin was burning for her touch, the tendons stretching as he angled his head for a deeper kiss. We shouldn’t be doing this. But the familiarity of Magnus Larsson’s lips was like a warm blanket. She felt warm and safe.
Only when she heard the tap against his car door and the trooper clearing his throat, did Celeste open her eyes. She hadn’t realized that she had closed them in the first place. Magnus pulled away with a laugh that she was not familiar with and released her.
“Sorry about that, officer,” he said. “Just apologizing to Mrs. Larsson.”
It took her a second to realize what Magnus was playing at. He was trying to act. And a well-timed kiss was his prop. She quickly changed her stunned expression to a beaming smile.
The officer gave a good-natured chuckle as he hitched his thumbs in his belt. “Best to get good at apologizing now,” he said. “Remember: she’s always right.”
Magnus took her hand and kissed the back of her knuckles, another intimate gesture meant to close out the show. “Yes, sir.”
The officer handed him his documents and leaned over the vehicle. He tipped the brim of his hat back and gave them a once over. “I’m gonna let you off for a warning, son. But you listen to your wife. A storm is coming through and if you want to make it to The Hamptons alive, I suggest you drive slower. This isn’t the Autobahn or something.”
Celeste suppressed the barking laugh that wanted to make its way up her throat. “Exactly,” she said with a straight face. “Thank you so much, officer.”
He gave the roof of the car a tap before returning to his cruiser. Magnus quietly rolled up his window before resting both hands on the steering wheel. Scarlet blooms colored his cheeks as he took a deep breath.
“Is there something you want to say?” she asked.
He turned to her with a raised brow, daring her to laugh. “You’re a better liar than I am.”
Celeste couldn’t help how smug her grin was. “To be fair, Mags, you’ve gotten a little better yourself.”
Magnus turned the ignition and pulled back onto the expressway. “I don’t think I have,” he murmured while checking his mirrors.
Her grin faltered as she spotted the muscles in his strong jaw clench. “The kiss looked convincing,” she tried.
She didn’t get a reply. Apparently, Magnus was done talking about it. As he continued the drive, he kept his speed in check and his eyes on the road. Celeste settled back in her seat and switched her simple silver ring back to her right hand. They were returning to the silence he was comfortable with. As the first raindrops hit the windshield, she shoved aside the nagging thought about Magnus’ lips pressed urgently against hers. Between that and still feeling the strong pressure of his fingers at the back of her neck, Celeste knew she was in trouble. A kiss shouldn’t have been enough to unlock everything she’d stuffed away in her heart.