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Authors: Kay Hooper

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Lady Thief

BOOK: Lady Thief
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
Praise for Kay Hooper
“Kay Hooper writes a wonderful blend of wit, whimsy, and sensuality . . . She is a master of her art.”—Linda Howard
 
“A multitalented author whose stories always pack a tremendous punch.”—Iris Johansen
 
“A master storyteller.”—Tami Hoag
 
“Kay Hooper’s dialogue rings true; her characters are more three-dimensional than those usually found in this genre.”
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 
“Kay Hooper is a master at painting the most vivid pictures with words!”
—The Best Reviews
 
“Not to be missed.”
—All About Romance
 
 
 
And don’t miss these other Kay Hooper collections . . .
 
THE REAL THING
Includes
Enemy Mine
and
The Haviland Touch
 
ENCHANTED
Includes
Kissed by Magic, Belonging to Taylor,
and
Eye of the Beholder
 
ELUSIVE
Includes
Elusive Dawn, On Her Doorstep,
and
Return Engagement
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
LADY THIEF
 
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author.
 
PRINTING HISTORY
 
Lady Thief
: originally published by Dell Publishing / July 1981 “Masquerade”: originally published by Jove Books / February 1994 Berkley Sensation trade paperback edition / March 2005 Jove mass-market edition / May 2006
 
Copyright © 2004 by Kay Hooper.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
eISBN : 978-1-440-68484-5
 
JOVE
®
Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
JOVE is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “J” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
 
 
 

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Lady Thief
In loving memory of Mary Sue Price,
my Aunt Sue, who kept the faith,
and who did not live to see
the realization of my dream
Chapter One
Dominic Vernon Ware, Duke of Spencer, swayed easily in the traveling coach, making no attempt to hold to the strap even when the wheels struck a bad rut in the road. He was deep in thought, remembering what one of his friends in the War Office had told him.
Richard Standen’s face had been grave, his eyes worried. “I just don’t know what to make of it, Nick. Vital papers turn up in the wrong files or, worse yet, are simply found lying on someone’s desk. Last week an entire bundle of military papers was left on the doorstep of the Office—and no one knows how long they’d been missing. The next day, Conover was found near the coast; he’d been shot.”
“Any speculation?”
“Of course. The most popular idea seems to be that Conover was a spy trying to get the papers to France, and that the Cat stopped him and returned the papers to us.”
“The Cat? But the Cat is a thief.”
“True. She is also something of a legend. After all, how many female highwaymen have there been?”
“You have a point. What do
you
think, Richard? Do you believe the Cat is trying, in a rather unorthodox manner, to locate and eliminate spies?”
Standen shook his head, puzzled. “There’s something deuced odd about the woman, that much I’m sure of. She seems more concerned with jewelry than money, and yet . . . Nick, do you remember how old Farrell ranted and raved a few weeks ago about how she took his signet ring?” As Spencer nodded, he continued. “I saw him the other day and he was wearing that ring—not a copy, but that very ring. When I questioned him, he said that he had misplaced it.”
“Perhaps he did.”
“Nick, that ring hasn’t been off his finger for more than thirty years. No, I believe the Cat took it from him—and I believe that she returned it to him.”
Spencer frowned. “But, why?”
“That, my friend, is the question—why?”
Spencer was brought abruptly back to the present as his traveling coach ground to a shuddering halt. There was an ominous silence, and he began to reach for the pistol that he kept in the coach. But before his hand touched the handle of the gun, he changed his mind. With a faint smile on his lean face, he folded his arms and settled back in his seat.
The door of the coach was suddenly flung open, and a calm feminine voice said, “Step out of the coach, if you please—and don’t do anything foolish.”
Spencer slowly climbed from the coach, realizing that his team was perfectly quiet and that his coachman sat rigidly in the box, eyes fixed on the imposing figure of the Cat’s henchman. The large man was masked and hooded, and held two pistols in his capable hands—one pointed at the coachman, one at the duke.
Spencer straightened and turned his gaze to the woman sitting at ease on the back of a huge, powerful black stallion. Dressed like a man, she was outfitted entirely in black and, like her cohort, wore a black hood and mask. She seemed a figure carved from the night, save for her strange eyes, which glittered like the eyes of a wild animal. One black-gloved hand held a pistol pointed squarely at the duke’s heart.
The stallion stamped one hoof suddenly, his eyes glaring redly, and the duke wondered which was wilder—the woman or the beast she rode. “So,” he murmured, “you are the Cat.”
“Indeed.” Her voice was cool and mocking. “And you are His Grace, the Duke of Spencer.” A small leather pouch was tossed to land at his feet. “Your money and jewelry, if you please. And, Your Grace—don’t try to be a hero. My silent friend there would like nothing better than to shoot you where you stand.”
The duke smiled and slowly bent to pick up the bag. He heard the large man shift slightly in his saddle, and knew that both guns were trained on him. As he began to empty his pockets, he casually remarked, “I count my life worth more than a few trinkets—tell your silent friend to relax.”
A soft chuckle came from the Cat. “I felt sure that you were a reasonable man.” She watched as he deposited his money and jewelry into the pouch, and then held out one black-gloved hand. Carefully, the duke tossed the pouch to her, and watched it disappear beneath her cloak.
At that moment, the moon came out from behind the clouds, and he felt curiously light-headed as he saw clearly the strange wildness in the Cat’s vivid eyes. He was conscious of his heart thudding in his chest, and had to force himself to concentrate on what she was saying.
“You have friends in the War Office, do you not?”
“Yes.”
She smiled coldly. “Tell your friends to look within their ranks for the spy. That is where he’ll be—unless I find him first.” With that, she wheeled her horse and disappeared into the forest, her henchman at her heels.
Spencer stared after her, his mind bemused by her eyes and by her words.
“Your Grace?” The coachman sounded hesitant. “I beg pardon, Your Grace, but it all happened so fast.” He fought to control the suddenly restless horses, glancing worriedly at the silent duke.
The duke stirred slightly. “Never mind, Owens. There was nothing you could have done.”
“It were the queerest thing,” Owens muttered. “That black devil jumped out of the woods with nary a sound. Stood right in our path, he did, with fire in his eyes. The grays stopped like they’d run into a wall—an’ stood there as calm as you please. It weren’t natural. Your Grace, them standing so quietlike when they’re generally wild as be-damned. That black devil bewitched ’em; or that female on his back did.”
Spencer prepared to climb into the coach, a faint smile on his face. “So you think they were bewitched, do you? I don’t suppose it would do any good to tell you that there was nothing unreal or unnatural about either the girl or the horse.” He wondered absently if he believed his own words.
BOOK: Lady Thief
8.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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