Read Thomas (Erotic Romance) Book 2 (The MacKenzie Brothers Quartet) Online
Authors: Liliana Hart
By Liliana Hart
Copyright 2011 by Liliana Hart
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Cat Randolph was a thief. A damned good one.
Her marks—a Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Bixby—were out for the evening, which was why she’d picked tonight to divest them of an artifact worth several million dollars. The Mayan mask was made of solid gold, and the percentage she got from this acquisition would add a very nice chunk of change to her retirement nest egg.
The darkness surrounded her as she used the shadows to reach the Bixby’s Hollywood Hills mansion. The pack on her back was light and unobtrusive, and the black spandex jumpsuit she wore clung to her body and allowed her movements to be fluid. A stocking cap covered her flame colored hair and thin black gloves protected her hands.
One of the streetlights in front of the palm-tree-lined, stone fence that enclosed the mansion had mysteriously gone out—
careless of the security team if you asked her
—and she counted the seconds off in her head as she made one last scan of the street. She was all alone. Perfect.
She climbed up a fat tree with the skill of a monkey and crawled out to the end of a sturdy branch. Timing was everything. If she landed on the other side of the massive stone fence at the wrong moment, she’d trip the infrared sensors and set off the alarms. She looked at her watch and set her timer. She knew every quirk of the Bixby’s alarm system. She’d made it her business to know.
The seconds ticked off in her head, and with a quick prayer, she leaped soundlessly to the ground below, landing in a crouch. She didn’t have time to waste. The sensors that scanned the ground never came close to the trees. It was a weakness she’d noticed immediately when she’d studied the schematics of the system.
She sprinted from one tree to the next, keeping to the shadows, until she was pressed against the side of the house. Her breathing was steady and her pulse was only slightly elevated because of the adrenaline rush breaking and entering gave her. The large, stained glass window the Bixby’s had installed in their bathroom was the only one in the house that wasn’t wired for security. Mrs. Bixby hadn’t wanted to ruin the design.
Cat took duct tape out of her bag and taped a square large enough for her body to squeeze through in the middle of the window. She grabbed the glass cutter and had the piece removed and set aside in less than two minutes.
The bathroom was dark, but her eyes adjusted quickly. She peaked into the empty hallway, listening for the creaks of floorboards or the tap of shoes. The house was silent as she followed the blueprints in her mind and crept down a long corridor toward the art gallery. She had seven minutes until the guards on duty made their rotation. Seven minutes to get in and get out.
The small electronic device in her pocket would take care of the cameras and put them on a constant loop. Getting past the infrared beams sweeping the floor would be the tricky part.
Her thumb rested on the timer of her watch and she counted the seconds in her head. She started her watch, cut off the cameras, and began the dance and sway across the floor of the gallery, avoiding the sweeping beams of red. She didn’t stop to admire the mask when she had it in her hands, but instead tucked it into her bag and made her way back out the way she’d come.
She didn’t hit the stop button on her watch until she was safely back outside the bathroom window.
. She’d heard the heavy footsteps of one of the guards just as she’d closed herself back in the bathroom. He was two minutes early.
. Cat sprinted towards the copse of trees at the perimeter of the property just as the alarms sounded.
Floodlights blinded her, and masculine shouts to stop drowned out the blood rushing in her ears. Gunshots had her ducking instinctively as she found the darkened street light. She scrambled up a tree and over the fence the same way she’d entered, and she was just about to drop to the ground below when another shot rang out.
Pain tore through her thigh, and she lost her balance, toppling the twelve feet to the street below. Cat ignored the twisted ankle caused from her fall and the blood soaking her clothes. Adrenaline surged through her veins, and she knew if she didn’t start moving then she was as good as dead. She pushed herself up and forced one foot in front of the other, keeping to the shadows until she reached the car she’d stashed two streets away.
Her body was slicked with sweat and her hands trembled with exhaustion as she slipped behind the driver’s seat. She pulled the cap from her head, letting her hair tumble free around her shoulders, and she grabbed a light jacket from the backseat of the black Audi and used her knife to slit it down the middle. The wound bled freely, and she tied the jacket around it tightly, hoping it would slow the bleeding.
Cat forced her hands to steady and turned the key in the ignition, making her way to a more populated area of town at a sedate pace and merging with the traffic. She had to get to the Montana-Canada border in the next two days. Her contact would be waiting for her there, and she could get rid of her treasure and collect her paycheck. She just had to make sure she didn’t pass out along the way.
Two Days Later…
If Thomas MacKenzie hadn’t witnessed the event with his own eyes, he never would have believed it.
He and his brothers had been working on the fence at the front of the MacKenzie property all morning long, repairing loose boards and scraping the peeling white paint. It was a hell of a job since the fence covered more than two acres of the land. The October afternoon was nice and cool, but he’d still worked up a generous sweat. He wiped his brow with the shirt he’d discarded hours before and took a slug of water from the bottle at his feet.
He shook his head in aggravation as his gaze locked with big brown eyes. The O’Neil’s had the land across the street, and they weren’t nearly so diligent about keeping their fence in good repair. Which was why several of the O’Neil’s cows had found their way into the two-lane road that divided the two families’ properties.
Thomas didn’t even have time to curse as he saw the black sedan come over the hill, barreling towards the roving cows. The driver saw them just in time and swerved to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, the twist of the wheel pointed the car at the MacKenzie’s newly repaired fence.
The screech of tires and the crash of metal and wood had Thomas running through the gaping hole in the fence after the runaway car. He heard his brother, Riley, shout after him, but he didn’t slow down. He winced when the car hit an old sycamore tree that had held a tire swing when he and his brothers were boys. His legs were long and it didn’t take him long to reach the accident.
Steam poured from the engine of the hood, and he could see a woman slumped over the wheel of the car. The crash hadn’t been hard enough for the airbags to deploy, so he wouldn’t have to worry about any of those resulting injuries. The biggest concern would be how hard she’d hit her head.
“Grab my bag, would you?” He yelled to Riley. “I’ll take her into the guest bedroom next to my office.”
“I’m on it,” Riley said.
He and Riley were the only two at the house that day. His brother, Dane, had gotten married the month before to Charlotte Munroe, or Charlie as everyone called her. Dane had been in love with for more than ten years, but circumstances had kept them apart until recently. Dane had left Surrender without knowing that Charlie was pregnant, and Charlie had left town soon after.
So needless to say, all the MacKenzies had been excited to welcome Charlie and her son to the family. Dane had moved into Charlie’s house soon after they’d reconnected, but he came by and kept Thomas company every once in a while. Usually when his book was giving him trouble.
His oldest brother, Cooper, was the Sheriff of Surrender, Montana, and he was working overtime because one of his deputies had gotten the flu. Cooper didn’t really live at the old farm house the brothers had grown up in anymore. It was easier for Coop to live in the apartment above the Sheriff’s office just in case he got an emergency call in the middle of the night. And it was easier for him to be discreet when he brought a lady home for the evening. All the brothers knew that Cooper’s taste in sex ran to the dark side, so they tried to respect that by staying away from his private quarters in town.
Riley was only eleven months older than Thomas, and he spent even less time at the house than Cooper did. Riley taught archaeology classes at the college in the next town over. When he wasn’t in class he was on a dig somewhere.
More often than not, it was Thomas left by himself to ramble around the big old house. Since he’d taken over Doc Shepherd’s position as Surrender’s only doctor two years before, he’d been all but married to the job. Because of his patient load, he’d finally decided to build a clinic and office onto the house, so there would be more time to see to the upkeep of the place.
The woman was stone still, and Thomas eased the car door open. The coppery tang of blood immediately overwhelmed his senses.
“Shit,” he murmured under his breath. “Miss? Can you hear me?” He felt for a pulse and noticed it was fast but strong. He ran his hands across the back of her neck and spine, checking for injuries, before gently lifting her head off the steering wheel. A nice sized lump was already forming on her forehead, and he frowned when he didn’t find a gash. He knew he smelled blood.
She moaned low and her eyelashes fluttered, but she didn’t come to. It wasn’t until he had one arm around her back and was slipping the other beneath her legs that he felt the syrupy wetness that coated his fingers. Her legs were covered in blood. Panic consumed him. What if she’d been pregnant? He hurried his steps so he was practically running.
“Hold on, baby, I’ve got you.” He held her close as he made his way into the house.
“What the hell?” Riley asked when he saw Thomas coming down the hall toward the guest room with his burden.
“I don’t know,” Thomas answered. “Put a quilt on top of the bed for me. I don’t want to ruin the mattress.”
He waited until Riley had the quilt spread out before laying the woman down. It wasn’t until he laid her out flat that he saw the jagged tear in her thigh. He breathed a sigh of relief.
She hadn’t lost a baby
“Damn,” Riley whispered, eyeing the woman in a way that immediately had Thomas’s protective instincts rising.
He looked at his charge and felt something shift inside of him. Her hair was spread across the pillow and glowed like fire. She had a peaches and cream complexion that was flawless and way too pale. Small breasts and hips were outlined in the formfitting clothes she wore and emphasized legs that seemed to go for miles. He couldn’t remember ever seeing anyone so beautiful in his life.
“What can I do to help?” Riley asked.
“You can get out,” Thomas demanded, deciding he didn’t want his brother anywhere near her. “Make yourself useful and let Dane know that we need Charlie to tow her car to the shop.” Charlie owned the only automotive repair shop in town.
“I don’t know, Thomas. It doesn’t seem right to leave you alone with her.?”
“I’ve managed to see patients without your supervision for two years. I think I can manage.” Jealousy crept its way along Thomas’s spine as he saw the way Riley kept ogling the woman.
Riley raised a brow at the growl Thomas let loose. “So that’s how it’s going to be, is it? It’s a good thing I’ve got a date tonight or I might fight you for her.”
“You’d lose,” Thomas promised. “I believe I was the one who broke your nose the last time.”
“Yeah, I owe you for that. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, Doc.” Riley left the bedroom and shut the door behind him.
A small moan left the woman’s mouth, and Thomas got to work. He ran his hands up and down her body clinically. Other than the bump on the head, a minor ankle sprain and the cut in her thigh, she seemed to be okay. He wanted to get a look at the thigh wound before he gathered his supplies. Stopping the bleeding was his first priority.
He examined the ragged edges of flesh and cloth and knew what it was at first glance. There were too many hunting accidents in this part of the country for him not to know what a gunshot wound looked like. But she didn’t look like any hunter he’d ever seen, so the question was, how had she gotten shot? His first instinct was to call Cooper and have him start running a check on her, but something kept him from picking up the phone. He wanted to hear the reason out of her own mouth. He wanted her to be his. He couldn’t explain the possessive reaction. He just knew he’d never felt anything like it before in his life.