Uncommon Criminals (Page 22)

“So?” Gabrielle countered.

“So catch,” Kat said, tossing a coin underhanded, sending it hurtling through the air in her cousin’s direction. Gabrielle lunged to catch it, but her ankle turned and as she fell, her purse toppled open, sending two wallets, three IDs, two bottles of fingernail polish, and a stun gun skidding across the cobblestones.

“Ow,” Gabrielle said, then looked up at her cousin. “What did you do that for?”

Hale bent down, put a hand under each of Gabrielle’s arms, and pulled her effortlessly to her feet.

“No cliffs,” Kat said a final time.

Gabrielle sighed and admitted, “No cliffs.”

Kat stood with one hand over her eyes blocking out the sun, staring at the stronghold in the distance. “So we can’t go over, and it’s sitting on solid stone, which means we can’t go under. But if we get through”—she eyed the gates—“we’d still have to get to the stone and get it out.…” She turned and looked at them. “We have to get out.”

“Maybe Charlie could make another fake?” Hale suggested, but Kat shook her head.

“No time.”

“Maybe…” Gabrielle started, but Kat had already turned.

Gravity seemed stronger than normal, pulling Kat down the hill and over the cobblestone streets toward the sandy beaches below.

“What else does the emerald have planned, Hale?”

“You’re not gonna like it,” he said with a shake of his head, and Kat kept walking. She didn’t like any of it.

Over the next five hours, Kat and her companions looked like most tourists who come to the French Riviera on any given year. But looks can be deceiving.

Standing outside La Banque Royale Nationale, very few of the passersby could hear the shorter girl say to the boy, “LaFont’s safe-deposit box is a part of the bank’s platinum package?”

“Yeah.”

“And the stone is being kept here whenever it isn’t making official appearances?”

“Yes.”

“And our last shot at it here would be Thursday night?”

The boy nodded. “Before the auction Friday morning.”

“And don’t tell me”—the girl pointed to the cameras that hung at regular intervals around the perimeter—“those are the Decanter 940s with the heat-sensitive imaging?”

“Yes,” her companions answered in unison.

The girl slid a pair of dark sunglasses from the top of her head and pulled them over her bright blue eyes. She didn’t look back as she said, “Next.”

Walking through the front doors of the Cathedral of Monaco,

Kat had to look around.

“What is going to happen here?” she asked.

“Publicity photos,” Hale said.

“Okay…” Kat glanced at the doors and the cameras, the places where she could imagine the guards and the stone. “This could actually work if we get the right—”

“With the Palace Guards…” Hale added, and Kat turned on her heel and started for the door.

“Next!”

Standing outside the hotel suite where Maggie was set to host an afternoon tea for a visiting delegation of Egyptian dignitaries, Kat had an all-too-familiar reaction. (Too many hired goons, too few exits.)

The scene was no different on the street corner where, according to Simon, it might be possible to delay the armored car for five additional minutes as the stone made its way to or from the Prince’s Palace. (But there were too many bystanders and too little cover.)

There was a point somewhere between the bank and the royal jewelers, where the gem would receive its official polishing, when the group allowed themselves a little hope; but soon Kat was shaking her head and walking away from that possibility, too (entirely too little time to prep, and besides, no crew under a curse should even consider a job requiring scuba gear).

So it was with a heavy heart and very low expectations that Kat turned to Hale. “And that leaves Thursday night.…”

They had walked off the main thoroughfare. Simon was somewhere scanning the Interpol files, and Nick was still tailing Maggie. Marcus had appeared in a limo as if by magic and carried Gabrielle away. The Bagshaws were on the other side of the city, scouting LaFont’s private home. So Kat and Hale were alone as they turned onto a small winding street lined with elegant boutiques and expensive sports cars.

“Do they have a location for the ball yet?”

“They do.”

“Do we want to head over there now, or—”

“First, we make a stop.” Hale turned toward a long glass window with a blue awning. The door chimed as he strolled inside.

Kat knew there was a trick—there had to be. Maybe the bank backed up to the store and the vault could be accessed via the basement. Maybe Maggie’s stylist worked there and it would be possible for Gabrielle to impersonate her, switch the stones, and then escape in a trunk filled with couture.

Kat’s mind was reeling in a way that young girls’ minds almost never reel when inside elite boutiques on the coast of the Riviera. She was so busy, in fact, that she almost didn’t see the salesgirl who was approaching Hale, smiling.

“I’m sorry,” Kat told the girl. “We’re not really shopping for—”

“Welcome back, Mr. Hale,” the girl gushed, and kissed Hale on each cheek as if Kat hadn’t spoken at all. “I believe we have…” She trailed off, glancing at an equally tall, equally tan, equally gorgeous girl who was carrying a least a dozen bags from the back room.

“Yes, we have some beautiful things for you, Hale,” the second girl said, handing him the bags, her hand lingering a little longer than necessary on his.

“You always do, Isabella. My love to Renée, okay?”

“Bonjour,” Isabella said.

“Bonjour,” Hale said back. They were halfway to the door when he finally looked at Kat. “Now we’re ready.”

Kat tested the weight and feel of the garment bag he’d handed her. “I don’t suppose there’s a heat-resistant black cat-suit in here with built-in harness attachments?”

“Nope.”

“Then I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me what is in here?”

Hale’s smile was his only answer.

“I don’t really have a big need for fancy dresses,” Kat tried again.

“Tonight you do.”

“Why? What’s tonight? Where are we going?”

He stopped and slipped on his dark glasses. “My world.”

CHAPTER 26

Although the seasickness should, technically, have been waning, Kat felt more nauseous than usual when they finally made it back onboard the W. W. Hale. She tried to blame it on the changing weather, the shifting tides. She tried to tell herself that it was just a scouting trip—nothing more—but every time she caught sight of the garment bag lying on the end of the king-size bed, the feeling in her gut grew stronger, saying something was very, very wrong.

“Hey, Kitty,” Gabrielle called, sidling into the room. “Angus and Hamish say the roads around the bank are a nightmare, so if we hit it there we’re going to need a chopper or a…” She stopped suddenly and lunged for the garment bag. “Oh! I love this store!” she exclaimed, knocking a lamp off the bedside table and spilling a glass of juice before finally managing to rip open the bag.

“Oh,” Gabrielle said, staring down. “It’s your size.” Curse or not, she still looked to Kat like a goddess as she held the gown against her body and studied her reflection in one of the stateroom’s floor-length mirrors.

“Gabrielle.” Kat’s voice sounded small and timid. She barely recognized the sound, but given that they were the only two people in the room, she knew she must have been the one who’d spoken. She also knew that it was far too late to go back.

“Gabrielle,” Kat said, stronger this time. She pulled the dress from her cousin’s hands.

“What’s wrong with you?” Gabrielle asked.

Kat wanted to talk about curses and emeralds and pride. Part of her wanted to scream about old cons and new cons and the perverse, twisted irony that comes with finally being the mark. But all that came out was “I kissed Hale.”

“You did what? When? How?”

“I kissed Hale. After the heist. The usual way…I guess.” She watched her cousin pick up the dress again and turn back to the mirror. Wordless. “Gabrielle?” The impatience was rising in Kat’s voice. “Gabrielle, would you please put the dress down and—”

“I’m impressed, Kitty,” Gabrielle said. “I was beginning to think you’d never take that plunge. So, how was it?”

“He left,” Kat said, the memory rushing back. “I kissed him and he went to Uruguay.”

“Paraguay,” Gabrielle corrected. “And technically he never made it out of the country.”

“He left,” Kat said again, settling on the only thing that mattered.

“He’s back now,” Gabrielle countered.

But Kat’s mind was already drifting, remembering every touch—every smile. She pulled a silk-covered pillow onto her lap, longing for her mother’s small bed in the pink room of Uncle Eddie’s brownstone.

“He’s mad at me.”

“Um…I believe I said that several days and a couple thousand miles ago,” Gabrielle said.

“I don’t even know why.”

Gabrielle spun on her good foot and eyed Kat. She tossed the designer dress onto the bed and said, “Of course you do.”

“He doesn’t like it when I take chances,” Kat said. “But I really didn’t need help with those jobs, Gabrielle. I wasn’t in that much danger, and if I’d needed help I would have…” She trailed off, studying her cousin’s expression. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” Gabrielle said with a shrug. “It’s just…did you ever think that maybe needing help and wanting Hale are two totally different things?”

Kat was the planner—the thinker—but she sat there for a long time, considering the possibility that Gabrielle might be the smartest girl in the world. Or, at least, in their world.

“Hale’s my best friend,” she said simply.

“I know.”

“I’m not sure what would happen if he became my friend.” boy

“I know,” Gabrielle said, as if she were happy that Kat was finally catching up.

The waves beat softly against the side of the yacht, and Kat felt her stomach turn as she thought about the one question she was almost afraid to ask.

“Do boys always go crazy when you kiss them?”

“Yes,” Gabrielle said simply. “But not in the way that you’re asking.”

Kat might have asked exactly what her cousin meant, but there were too many mysteries in her life—too many vaults she couldn’t crack—and only one that came with a ticking clock, so she reached for the gown.

“Gab, can you help me with—”