SITUATED ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE with a glorious view of the park, the Athenia Hotel was supposed to be some kind of Olympus, high in the clouds above the mere mortals, a place for playing and drinking and dancing like gods. But as Macey followed her father and mother out of the gleaming elevator and into the towering ballroom, she wasn’t exactly in the mood.
Sure, the Calloway Ball was supposed to be the charity event of the season, but before Macey had even entered the ballroom, she already knew precisely what she was going to find.
She saw the same food and the same band. The same old men flirting with the same young women. The same stories and canapés and people pretending they were there for charity and not just for a picture in the gossip columns on Page Six.
So Macey decided not to look at the room as the daughter of a senator and a cosmetics heiress. Macey found herself looking at it as a Gallagher Girl. She heard her Covert Operations instructor’s voice in her ear as she counted the exits in the ballroom (five) and the armed security professionals there to watch over VIPs (three). She mentally noted the best ways to block the cameras, and she eavesdropped on ten different conversations in four different languages. But still, Macey McHenry couldn’t help herself.
Macey McHenry was bored.
She was just starting to consider her escape (the fire exit near the kitchen seemed especially promising) when, at last, Macey saw something that she absolutely was not expecting.
Oh, there were always plenty of young men at these parties. They went by names like Scooter and Mitchell and Beau and were frequently juniors or seconds or thirds. They went to schools like Colgan and Exeter and had hobbies that varied from polo to yachting, womanizing to rehab. But walking through the door right then was one boy who seemed, in a word, different from the others.
When Macey walked by in high heels and a strapless red dress with a slit high on her thigh, he didn’t stare. When she tucked her glossy black hair behind her ear, he didn’t notice. And when she allowed her blue eyes to linger a moment too long in his direction, he gave a small smile of indifference and turned and started across the crowded room.
For a moment, Macey studied him—the one puzzle in the room the Gallagher Academy hadn’t taught her how to break. She racked her brain, trying to remember if she’d met him at any of the many schools she had attended before the Gallagher Academy took her in, but the boy remained a very handsome enigma.
It was something of a game to her after that. He was tall, with broad shoulders and careless hair, in a designer tuxedo that he wore as if it was simply what he’d found on the floor by his bed that morning. With his roguish smile and cool indifference, that boy looked how Macey McHenry always felt—like he’d been born into a world of privilege and had spent his whole life not really caring whether or not it spat him out.
She watched him stop to pat the mayor on the back. He stumbled a little in the crowd, and his left hand disappeared ever so briefly inside the mayor’s tuxedo pocket. It was over in a flash, a blink, a second. And Macey was quite certain she was the only person in the entire room to have seen it, but that was just as well. At last, Macey had seen enough. And at last, the boy made sense.
Carefully, she walked through the crowd until she found him standing out on the hotel balcony, eating a jumbo shrimp with one big bite.
“You might want to put that back,” she told him. She leaned against the ledge, her hands at the small of her back. From there, she could look up at his square jaw and bright eyes. When he smiled down at her, despite her training, she might have swooned a little.
“Now what would that be?” He cocked his head.
“The mayor’s cell phone,” she told him. “It was so rude of you to slip it out of his pocket when he was distracted.”
The boy feigned offense. “Would I do that?”
“You know you did.”
“I don’t have a cell phone.” He held his hands out wide. “Go ahead. Frisk me.” He leaned a little closer and winked when he said, “You know you want to.”
“Nice try,” Macey said, totally immune to the flirting. “And it might work if I hadn’t seen you steal it a minute and a half ago.”
“Yes, but evidently you didn’t see me put it back forty-five seconds ago.” Then, as if on cue, a phone started to ring. “See,” the boy said, pointing at the mayor, who was searching his tuxedo jacket, finally finding the device not exactly where he’d left it.
And for the first time that evening, Macey was impressed. “Oh, you’re good.”
“Well, if Macey McHenry says so…” The boy turned from the railing and stepped back toward the ballroom, and again she felt the pang that something in this boy was familiar.
“I seem to be at a disadvantage,” she told him.
“Don’t feel bad.” He grinned. “Most people are.”
“I mean…” she said pointedly, “what’s your name?”
“You’d be surprised how many times I get asked that question,” he said; then he looked at Macey anew. “My friends call me Hale.”
“Hale? As in…a Hale?” she asked, but he only smiled in response. “Why are you stealing cell phones? Doesn’t Hale Industries own a cell phone company?”
“Only a little one,” Hale said, exasperated, then added to himself, “Why are girls always getting that wrong?”
“How disappointing,” Macey said. “I was starting to think you were some high-society thief, determined to pilfer our pearls and steal our Rolexes. The party just got boring again.”
“I could be a thief.” He sounded almost insulted.
“The grandson of one of the wealthiest women in the world?” Macey asked. “Somehow I doubt it.”
“Would it make you feel any better if I told you that serial numbers make Rolexes almost impossible to fence? But pearls, on the other hand…” He leaned a little closer, studied her a little harder. But then, just that quickly, the sparkle faded. He seemed almost serious when he said, “I’m sorry if I’m not flirting with you. I’m kind of spoken for.”
“I’m sorry if I’m not disappointed. I kind of don’t care.”
“A year ago your father was running for vice president. That’s how I knew your name.”
“I was America’s sweetheart,” Macey said, a little too much saccharin in her voice.
He gave her a smile. “America could do worse.”
The music was louder than Macey remembered when she walked with Hale back to the ball. And for one brief moment, he looked like a code she really wanted to break, a language she couldn’t quite understand.
“I suppose I could try to pull some high-class heist,” he told her. “You know…just to spice up your evening.”
“Really? Well, I’m pretty sure Lady Darlington was wearing emerald earrings when she got here.”
The boy looked impressed. “Yes. But Her Ladyship put her earrings in her handbag ten minutes ago.” He shrugged. “Besides, I have a bad history with emeralds.”
“What about canaries?” Macey scanned the crowd and pointed to the one jewel that stood out from all the others as it dangled around the neck of the woman of the hour.
“The Calloway Canary? Oh, very tempting…” He looked longingly at the necklace that seemed to catch every bit of light in the room. “Twenty carats if the rumors are true. A perfect canary diamond surrounded by flawless white stones…Nope. Sorry.” Hale shook his head and pulled another shrimp from a passing tray. “Besides, it’s a fake,” he told her with his mouth full.
“No, it’s not,” Macey said. “I assure you, old lady Calloway is rich enough to buy any diamond she wants. There’s no reason for her to have a fake.”
“Oh, I’m sure the Calloway Canary is very real,” Hale told her. He grabbed another shrimp and pointed with it across the room. “I’m just saying that’s not it.”
Was he lying? Maybe. But then again, Macey realized, maybe not.
“So are you the Hale who was institutionalized or the one who burned down the planetarium at Colgan?”
The boy shrugged and smiled, looked at her with that thousand-watt grin. “Who says they can’t be one and the same?”
“Seriously.” Macey felt herself growing impatient. “Where do you go to school?”
“Knightsbury. Why? Where do you go?”
“It’s a girls’ school,” Macey told him.
“So? I know lots of girls.”
“Not like these,” Macey said with a shake of her head. “Why don’t I know you?”
“Does anyone ever really know someone else?”
“You think you’re cute,” she told him.
“You think you’re gorgeous. But I’m the one guy here who knows better.”
“So I’m not gorgeous?” Macey challenged.
“Of course you are.” He started away, turned back at the last minute. “But I’m the guy who figured out that’s not all you are.”
FROM THAT POINT FORWARD, W. W. Hale V knew two things for certain. First, the party was far more interesting than he’d been expecting. But the second (and more important) thing was that he should not talk to Macey again. Since the day a little over two years before when he had crawled out his window and out of his world, Hale had lived with the fear that someday someone in his old life might find out about his new one, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that Macey was very much up to the challenge.
She wasn’t a thief; of that much Hale was almost sure. But she wasn’t your typical society girl either. Her steps had too much purpose; her blue eyes moved around the room with too much precision. She reminded him far more of the girls in the world he’d chosen than the girls in the world he’d been born to, and that was why he knew that he shouldn’t let her study him too closely. That maybe she might see a little too much.
It didn’t matter anyway, Hale realized. He wasn’t going to stick around to find out. He looked down at his watch: 9:45. Then a man in a dark gray suit caught Hale’s eye and started his way.
“Yes, sir?” Marcus asked. Hale had often wondered how Marcus read him so well. He was supposed to have a good poker face, after all. But it didn’t matter how good an inside man Hale was supposed to be; Marcus was a far superior butler.
“I think I’m in the mood to leave, Marcus,” Hale said, scanning the room. He saw his father chatting up a business associate by the bar; his mother was busy looking over an antique clock that was a part of the silent auction. He wondered exactly how long it would be before they realized he was gone. If they’d ever realize…
“What’s our exit strategy?” Hale asked.
“I believe the stairs by the balcony are mostly vacant,” Marcus told him.
“Perfect,” Hale said, and without another word he started toward the other side of the room. When his phone rang, he had to dig through his pocket to find it, and his fingers brushed against a pair of tiny earbuds he and Kat had last used in Monte Carlo. Hale smiled a little, realizing he hadn’t worn the tux in ages. It was just one of many ways his life had changed in the years since a girl named Katarina Bishop crawled into his window and into his life.