Stone of Thieves

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The following is an excerpt from Stone of Thieves by Diane J. Reed, a sexy, stand-alone, new adult romance & the sequel to the young adult novel Robin in the Hood. In this scene, Robin & her boyfriend Creek have arrived at her family’s ancestral home in Venice to search for what happened to her long-lost mother. The palazzo now offers tours of its grand interior, so Robin & Creek take advantage of this opportunity to search the house for clues, only to be confronted by stranger evidence than they anticipated…

 

Stone of Thieves

 Stone of Thieves

As I give Creek a swift nod and head toward the kitchen, I feel a tap on my shoulder.

Swiveling around, I half-expect to see the Italian tour guide. But I find myself gazing at a man so desperately handsome he steals all breath from my chest.

His dark unruly hair frames his cheekbones in random curls, and his face is all hard angles—smooth and sharp as Venetian cut glass. Eyes twinkling, he gives me a broad smile filled with enough charm to send a dozen girls’ hearts into spirals. The second that thought strikes me, a strange flutter arises in my gut and works its way out to my limbs in waves. I feel the stone throb against my pocket, harassing me with whispers that are drowned out by the pulsing sound of blood rushing to my brain.

Because something about this man’s eyes mystify me and holds me into place.

Although he appears in his early 20s at best, somehow there’s a shadow in his gaze that bears the weight of a very old man. Like the other tour guides, he’s dressed in period clothing from the Renaissance, an ivory peasant shirt and pants with brocade detail and black boots. I have to presume he’s here to help with the tour.

 “You want to see the rest of the palazzo, sì mia amica?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer, holding out his arm in an oddly cavalier way, as though he were about to ask me to dance at a ball. “Here, let me show you the map room. The group will-a join us soon.”

I hesitate, grinding my heels into the alabaster floor.

Truth be told, I’d love some of that pasta in the kitchen because I’m still starving, even after the bread and cheese we wolfed down from the nun’s handout earlier. But as I hear the Conté de Bargona bragging about his blood-red sauce, I can’t help thinking anything’s better than being near him right now. He did seem to recognize me—at least as someone who looks spooky-close to his ancestor. Does that mean he pegs me as his daughter’s bastard child?

Before I can entertain the possibilities, the tour guide forcefully whisks me up several stairs by the time I manage to jerk my elbow away from him. Glancing over my shoulder, I spot the other docents cleaning up the blood spill, and I wonder how Creek is doing with rifling through desks and files. At least this trip to the map room could buy us some more time. I give the young man a hint of smile.

He responds by breaking free of my arm and bolting up the steps to the landing, where I can see a room at the top covered in yellowed, archaic maps. Flashing that broad smile again, he disappears, and all of a sudden the landing is filled with a warm, inviting glow. Curious, I head to the map room and find him standing beside two French doors that are opened wide to a balcony. 

“The only way to truly know Venezia is by its light,” he says with a certain triumph in his voice.

He’s merely a silhouette now, his amazing physique backlit by the subtle morning sunshine, almost like a phantom.

As my eyes readjust to the outline of his dark contours, I notice there are Mardi Gras masks hanging on the walls next to the double doors. Their hollow, black eyes and faces empty of the warmth of human flesh spook me a little.

 “A-Aren’t we here to see the maps?” I remind him, cautious about stepping any further into this room. I turn slightly to glance into the hallway, my eyes hunting past several doors that have been left ajar.

“Creek,” I whisper sharply. “Where are you . . .”

No answer.

Dammit—

Returning my gaze to my host, I find he’s grabbed two of the masks and he’s motioning for me to step out onto the balcony.

 “Maps only record the past,” he insists. “Come, let’s see the future.”

I draw in a breath, rationalizing it won’t hurt to stall for more time. “OKAY,” I voice too loudly, hoping it might help Creek detect where I am, “I CAN CHECK OUT THE VIEW WITH YOU FOR A MINUTE.”

Not a sound stirs from the hallway.

Only my echo as it slowly fades away.

With a sigh, and several excuses in mind to bolt free from this guy as soon as I hear evidence of Creek, I shrug my shoulders and stroll out to the balcony to take in the sights.

Before us is the Grand Canal, its waters a deep murky green with hints of shimmer from the early sun that’s begun to peek above the elegant domes and spires. A layer of mist still shrouds the city like a blanket, making it appear hazy and sepia toned, and every bit as ancient as its architecture belies.

“Tell me,” the young man asks, “what do you see, Rubina?”

My heart skips a beat.

I haven’t told him my name yet. Much less the Italian version the de Bargonas gave me at birth—

And I feel the ruby wobble to match my quickening pulse.

 “Um, I see green water,” I pipe up, extremely antsy now to get back to Creek. The time for politeness is way over, and as I spin on my heels to go inside, his hand stops my shoulder with the abruptness of stone. He holds up a glittering gold mask.

“Un momento. Just put it on—then tell me what you see.”

He adjusts a shiny black mask over his face that instantly makes him look foreboding.

“This will only take a second,” his accent rolls in an almost musical tone, “I promise. I simply want you to understand. Everything in Venezia changes. The light, the masks, the people—nothing is ever as it seems.”

Annoyed, I slip the gold mask over my head, only because I calculate Creek will emerge from the hallway any second now. Interestingly, when I glance back over the canal, the water has transformed from emerald to an ethereal amethyst with hints of rose that sparkle over the currents as the sun ascends more boldly over the city. It’s beautiful—there’s no doubt about it. But it’s way past time for me to join Creek.

Just as I open my mouth to say a swift goodbye, the man grabs my face in his hands and swallows me in a kiss.

Not just any kiss—

He wraps himself around me as though he could pour his spirit like a searing liquid into my throbbing veins.

And the fluttering I felt earlier now runs up and down my spine like wildfire, stinging me with a heat that focuses like a laser on the stone inside my pocket.

It takes every ounce of strength I have to break free from him. And the second I do, I haul off and slap him so hard it knocks that black mask off his face.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!” I cry, reeling, my fists clenched tight.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spy a wash of red. The bold sun now glows like an angry ball that pierces the mist of the city, coating the entire canal the color of blood.

The young man gazes at me without apology.

“I only wanted to kiss something beautiful before it dies,” he says. “Because make no mistake—Vittorio de Bargona will kill you.”

He steals another kiss before I can gather the wherewithal to shove his ass back.

“Go to the gypsies, Rubina,” he whispers, “out in the countryside. That is, if you want to live.”

In that moment, he becomes hazy, like the mist that still threads between the buildings of the city. Then he disappears.

And all that’s left at my feet is his shiny black mask.

 
 
The Giveaway:
 
Grand Prize Package of  (1) a Stone of Thieves tote bag, (2) a $25 Amazon gift card, (3) paperback copies of Stone of Thieves & Robin in the Hood—the first 2 books in the Robbin’ Hearts series, (4) a Gypsy Oracle Fortune Telling Deck, (5) Zhena Gypsy Chocolate Chai Tea, & (6) a crystal Ruby Heart.
Stone of Thieves Giveaway
 
About the Book:
Stone of Thieves by Diane J Reed
Published May 8th, 2014
Published by Bandits Ranch Books, LLC
Genre: New Adult Romance
 
 
Synopsis for Stone of Thieves, book 2 in the Robbin’ Hearts Series, a sensual, stand-alone new adult romance with sex & the sequel to Robin in the Hood (readership for ages 17+):
 
The Stone of Thieves . . . for centuries its magnetic draw has twisted the hearts of ambitious men and women with the promise of power, passion, and intrigue until it fell into the hands of unlikely thieves Robin and her boyfriend Creek. But can they steal their destiny away from the curse that pursues this magnificent ruby heart? As the stone begins to spread its sorcery, Robin races to find her long-lost mother in Italy in the hopes of discovering the truth about her unique gypsy heritage and the ruby heart that is rumored to steal souls. Yet when the desire for this stone by powerful members of her family threatens their very lives, Creek decides to take matters into his own hands to protect Robin, his greatest treasure of all . . .
 
Synopsis for Robin in the Hood, book 1 in the Robbin’ Hearts Series, a heartwarming YA romance with a steamy edge but no sex (readership for ages 15+):
 
 
 
“Is it any wonder I became a bank robber?”
 
But she never dreamed she’d fall in love…
 
Wealthy high school student Robin McArthur thinks she has it all figured out when it comes to bilking her work-a-holic dad for guilt money as a substitute for his genuine affection. Until one day he suffers a stroke at his law office, and she learns the brutal truth—
 
     They’re broke.
 
     Her stepmom has skipped the country.
 
     And everyone from bankers to bookies has lined up in her dad’s hospital room to collect on the millions he’s racked up in debt.
 
     Panicked and desperate, Robin figures she has two choices: either surrender to the pestering caseworker and live in a skanky foster home, or take a chance and sneak her dad out of the hospital to make a run for it. Little does she know that stealing a car and hitting the road means that before the day is through, she will rob her first bank.
 
     Now an outlaw, Robin finds a backwoods trailer park to hide her dad from authorities where she encounters Creek, a bad-boy in crime who first steals her money and then steals her heart. The two of them embark on a round of increasingly dangerous heists to provide for their motley trailer park neighbors. But what Robin hadn’t counted on is the way these hardscrabble people begin to embrace her and become the first real family she’s ever known. And along the way, worldly-wise Creek teaches her how to develop a genuine relationship with her dad based on the hard truths of their lives instead of his past lies. As Robin and Creek’s criminal journey forces them to make gut-wrenching choices, they soon begin to discover that people are more precious than pocketbooks, and true love means opening your heart to the kinds of treasures money can’t buy.
 
 
Synopsis for the Robbin’ Hearts Series:
Robin McArthur never dreamed her family would go broke—or that she’d start robbing banks to provide for those she loves and wants to protect. Along the way, she falls for Creek, her bad-boy partner in crime who teaches her far more than she ever dreamed about matters of the heart. But can love heal the cracks in Robin’s soul after she learns the truth about her family’s dark secrets? Once Robin becomes an outlaw with Creek, it’s impossible to hide from reality anymore, and their lives transform into a sensual and magical adventure as they uncover the mysteries of what it means to find your true identity—and to fall in love . . .
Robin in the Hood: Book 1 in the Robbin’ Hearts Series
Stone of Thieves: Book 2 in the Robbin’ Hearts Series
Sherwood’s End: Book 3 in the Robbin’ Hearts Series (coming in fall 2014)
 
About the Author:
Diane-Reed-239x300
Diane J. Reed has a Ph.D. in English and a lifelong passion for books—both popular, forgotten and literary—as long as they touch her soul and make her want to tuck them under her pillow at night to remember them in her dreams. She writes novels that are infused with enchantment, where characters dare to break through boundaries and believe in true love. She also has a soft spot for artisans and outlaws of the heart, those who burn brightly to live each day as a gift—because it is! In addition, Diane J. Reed has conducted 13 interviews with the cast of the hit TV show Once Upon a Time. Feel free to visit Diane J. Reed’s website at www.banditsranch.com to share your love of books and the whispers of your spirit.
Author Email: banditsranch@juno.com
Author Website: www.banditsranch.com
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