But it's time to leave that life behind.
She has plans, and they all hinge on one final heist.
Stealing from a stealer. Taking what she needs for her future.
Only one thing stands in her way.
And it comes in the form of the man who broke her heart.
Will taught her everything she knows, including how to go on after your world falls apart.
Now it's time for her to show him what she's capable of.
Will left everything that mattered to him behind to keep Tru safe.
Protect her from the very life he brought her into.
He thought without him she would walk away. Stop the madness he thrived on for so long.
But Tru didn't stop.
She's in deeper than ever before, caught up in a game she only has half the pieces for.
So he has to protect her again.
But seeing her again reminds him how perfect they were together.
How perfect she is.
He left her behind once.
He won't be so selfless this time.
***This title was previously published as Ring Tru, book 1 in the Thick as Thieves series***
Release date: January 1, 2021
Print pages: 145
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Thick as Thieves
Janice Whiteaker, Jemma Westbrook, Josie Watts
It had been years. Five of them to be exact, but right now it didn't even feel like five minutes.
Because of that voice.
It cut into her like a knife through butter on a hot day, making her melt and bleed at the same time.
She took a sip of her champagne, forcing the bubbles down her throat, before slowly turning to face the man standing behind her.
"Will." Tru fought to keep her face blank, to hide old feelings screaming to be acknowledged. She wouldn’t give him that satisfaction.
"What are you doing here?" Will’s voice was hushed, and his eyes betrayed him in a way only she knew, darting around the room and the crowd surrounding them before landing squarely on her collarbone, or to be more specific, the hundreds of carats sparkling across her décolletage.
She smirked, doing her best to seem unaffected by the situation. And by him. "I would ask you the same question, but considering the way you're looking at my neck, I'll assume I already know."
An arm snaked around her waist. "Bill, I see you've met my lovely companion Gertie."
Will's grey eyes went cold as he nodded to the man holding her close to his side. "I have." His gaze came back to her, lingering a second before moving away.
"Keep a close watch over her too. She is one of my most precious possessions." Ezra leaned into her side and kissed her cheek, his lips rough and dry as they rasped against her.
Tru took a deep breath, ignoring the way her skin crawled under his touch. This was a job. Maybe not a job like most people had, but it was her job. She was here for one reason and one reason only. To gain some financial security the only way she knew how.
By stealing someone else’s.
Will tipped his head in a single curt nod, the barely perceptible earpiece he wore peeking out with the change of angle. "I'll be sure to do that Ezra."
Ezra clapped Will on the back. "Good man." He turned to Tru and held out the crook of his arm. "I have some people I want you to meet my dear."
Tru smiled as brightly as she could manage considering the sudden and dramatic turn her life, and more importantly her future, had taken in the last few seconds. "Of course." She took Ezra’s outstretched arm and followed him across the overcrowded ballroom, swinging her hips ever so slightly, relishing the knowledge that this time the only man she'd ever loved had to watch her walk away.
How the tables had turned.
Ezra patted her hand where it rested in the crook of his arm, the mottled dark spottiness of his skin standing out against the smooth paleness of hers. “Are you having a nice time Gertrude?”
“It’s a lovely party.” She squeezed Ezra’s arm in a calculated show of affection as they approached a group of men in bought tuxedos sipping from tumblers that cost more than her first car. Hell, probably more than her current car.
At the sound of his voice, the group of middle-aged men turned, almost as a whole, to face the man old enough to be their father. One of them stepped forward and took Ezra’s hand in a firm-gripped shake. His suit was cut a bit tighter, with a more modern line than the others. The black hair on his face was clipped into a neat beard. He held himself in a way that made his perceived power and wealth an obvious footnote to file away in her memory.
“Amadeus.” Ezra swept his arm in her direction. “Meet Gertie.”
Tru cleared her throat, trying not to choke on the pet name he’d given her. She needed to keep her focus on the men in front of her and the image she had to portray. Rich men doing bad things were suspicious not just by nature, but by necessity. These men needed to believe she was simply an innocent woman, and maybe even a little bit stupid, or it could end badly for her. Very badly.
Tru dipped her head in a small nod and held her hand out, planning to give him a soft handshake. Instead, Amadeus gripped her fingers tightly and dragged her hand to his lips. She resisted the urge to snap them away, tolerating the hot, slightly damp feel of his mouth raking over her knuckles.
Not surprisingly, Ezra didn’t seem to notice the liberties his associate was taking and continued introducing the rest of the men in the group. All were in their mid-thirties and forties, all were impeccably groomed, and each one clearly believed himself to be the most successful man they knew. But, if their names were any indication, Rembrandt, Kennedy and Leonardo were nothing more than trust fund babies doing their damndest to live up to the expectations burdened upon them by parents too rich to even come up with an original name.
Tru took a deep breath and tried to keep her cool. Until this moment, she’d only met Ezra’s golfing buddies and the occasional family member who showed up unannounced under the pretense of a visit, which almost always turned into a plea for funding.
Now, staring at the group of men Ezra chose to surround himself with, Tru realized the game was much more than she originally thought. These weren’t simply rich men doing bad things. These men were much worse and infinitely more dangerous. These were rich, stupid men, doing bad things to prove themselves to their parents and everyone else who dared to doubt their abilities.
Tru glanced at Ezra as he laughed and drank with the men, wondering just how much he actually knew about them. As she watched, trying to read Ezra’s interactions, the hair on the back of her neck stood at attention. Someone was watching her.
She didn’t need to look around to know who it was. She could feel his intensity from across the room, burning into her skin like fire.
Maybe more like a rash.
Tru stepped closer to the group and closer to Ezra’s side. The men started to laugh at something the older man said and she laughed along with them. Will was not going to rattle her. If he thought he could just waltz in here and take away everything she’d worked so hard for again, he was about to find out how wrong he was.
She wasn’t the same woman he knew five years ago. The one who cried for months when he abandoned her in the hospital without so much as a ‘fuck you I’m out of here’. The woman he was staring at so intently was no one Will knew and the faster he figured that out and went on his merry little way, the better.
For both of them.
Ezra was past his prime and no one would ever accuse him of being the sharpest tool in the shed, but even an idiot would be able to figure out something was going on, went on, between Tru and Will eventually. Especially if Will continued to look at her the way he was now.
The lies they established had to stick or it would put them both in danger. Tru needed to be nothing more than a ditzy, beautiful girlfriend of convenience and Will had to be…
Tru saw Will out of the corner of her eye, propped into a corner, his head tipped low as he spoke to the man standing beside him. Oh God, he was working security?
This was getting worse.
Will nodded, straightened, and with one last glance her way, walked out of her line of sight. Tru’s shoulders dropped as the tension she didn’t realize was building left along with her ex-husband.
“Are you alright dear?” Ezra leaned into her ear. His hot breath smelled of alcohol and Poligrip. God, she was working way too hard for this shit.
“I’m just a little tired I think.” Almost as if on command, an involuntary yawn crept out.
“Why don’t you go on up to bed then?”
Tru stifled another yawn. As much as she wanted to stay at the party and take it all in, she was suddenly, overwhelmingly exhausted. “I think I might do that.”
She pecked Ezra on the cheek and said her goodbyes before making her way to the large double doors that led to the wing of the house where her bedroom was located. It took more than a few minutes as she tried to be as gracious as she could muster up. The last thing she needed was for Ezra to kick her to the curb because his friends didn’t like her. She’d worked too hard these past four months to lose it all now.
Finally, the noise of the ballroom began to fade as Tru made her way down the darkened and empty hall. She leaned against the stair banister to unhook the ankle strap of her pumps while opening her mouth wide, trying to stretch out the cramp left by puckering up for enough air kisses to stun a Frenchman.
“Leaving so soon?”
Tru jumped and spun around. She hadn’t heard him coming toward her. Her eyes narrowed as realization set in. He’d been trying to surprise her.
And unfortunately, it pissed her off.
“What are you doing here? This is a private area.” The words came out clipped. For a moment, Tru almost forgot to care what he thought of her and why it mattered.
Amadeus raised his eyebrows. “Is it now?” He turned to look down the long deserted hall toward the open, unattended ballroom doorway. “No one told me.”
Taking a deep breath, she straightened her posture, trying to regain her composure. Whether she liked it or not, what this man thought of her did matter. Possibly a lot. “You startled me.”
He took a step closer. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Tru raised an eyebrow, holding her ground as Amadeus advanced on her. “Startled. You startled me.” She hooked an arm over the stair banister and shifted her weight to a more relaxed position. One that would give the appearance of coolness without compromising her ability to sidestep quickly if needed. Hopefully that would be the most this interaction required.
“Were you in search of a powder room?” Regardless of the image she was trying to portray, Tru wasn’t a stupid woman. Amadeus was in this hallway for one reason and one reason only and she would be nipping that in the bud immediately. She pointed in the direction from where she’d just come. “They are back through the ballroom and out the doors on the opposite side.”
“Have you and Ezra known each other long?”
Tru fought the urge to rub her temples. Hopefully this guy didn’t hang around much because he might turn out to be a pain in her ass. “We’ve known each other for about four months.” She propped her hand on her hip and waited.
“How did you meet?”
This one wasn’t great at taking a hint. Obviously she’d have to make things a little more clear for him. “Look, I’m not feeling very well and need to go to bed. Maybe Ezra and I can schedule a lunch for all of us to socialize.” Tru picked up the heavy satin skirt of her pale yellow dress and had her foot on the first step when Amadeus’ hands gripped tight around her hips.
“Maybe I can come to bed with you. I’m sure I could manage to make you feel better.”
That was it. She tried playing nice but her patience wasn’t just thin.
It was emaciated.
Tru brought her elbow back into his ribcage, hard.
“What is wrong with you?” She spun around to put both hands on Amadues’ hunched shoulders and shoved the already unsteady man backwards, watching as he landed on his ass on the silk Persian rug at the bottom of the staircase. “You’re disgusting.” She spun on her heel and started up the stairs.
His voice called behind her. “Says the woman fucking a geriatric.”
Tru kept moving. Turning around now would only bring her more trouble than satisfaction.
She’d given the guy too much credit thinking he could eventually be a pain in her ass.
He was already a pain in her ass less than an hour after meeting him.
Tru stomped down the hallway, her heavy steps barely making soft pats in the plush carpet covering the floors. She huffed, blowing a wayward strand of hair out of her eyes. “Damn it.”
Now she had to find a way to explain the situation to Ezra without causing herself any more grief. That was the key to success in times like this. A ready story.
She gripped the handle of her bedroom door and shoved the heavy wood with her hip. The thing had a tendency to stick, making it difficult and noisy to open. It gave way suddenly, making her stumble and catch the thin heel of her shoe on the hem of her dress, bringing her down in a pile of satin, slips, bobby pins and diamonds.
Lots of diamonds.
Tru smiled up at the turquoise swirls of the mermaid mural on the ceiling as she fingered the jewels around her neck. The evening had been everything she was hoping for in spite of the hassle with Amadeus.
She rolled her eyes and used her foot to kick the heavy door closed just in case he’d recovered and decided to give it another go. Finding her sprawled out on the bedroom floor might give him a second wind.
She sat up and unhooked her shoes for the second time tonight. This time they finally made it off her feet. Tru wiggled her toes, trying to work the feeling back into her pinkies. One would think a designer who charged thousands of dollars per shoe would be able to find a way to work some comfort into the equation.
Going up on her knees, she hiked the hem of her dress up to her waist before standing. As soon as she was upright, Tru pulled down the zipper and let it drop to the floor. It felt amazing to take a deep breath for the first time in hours and she took full advantage while scratching at the skin covering her ribs. The bodice of that dress was tight enough not only to almost smother her, but also to leave a crease pressed into her flesh beneath each and every seam and fold, making the skin of her stomach look almost as wrinkled as Ezra’s ass.
“Geriatric fucker?” She should have kicked Amadeus in the nuts. If Amadeus thought all seventy-five-year-old men just went around fucking without a care in the world, he was going to have a rude awakening one day.
Tru opened the top drawer of her mahogany chest and pulled on a gauzy sleep shirt before walking to stand in front of the full length mirror to admire the jewels still draped across her collarbone. If fucking Ezra was an option, she’d probably have had this thing around her neck months ago. Fuckable men were much easier to work with. Easier to motivate.
Easier to control.
She turned side to side, watching the light reflect off thousands of facets. The necklace was beautiful. No, it was more than that. It was breathtaking. Exquisite. She’d seen it when Ezra brought it in and decided that one way or another, she was going to leave here with this necklace.
Which meant she had to stop admiring it and get to work. Ezra would be here first thing in the morning looking for it and Tru needed to be sure Gretchen had everything she would need before the necklace was locked back up and out of her reach.
Tru unclasped the necklace, surprised at how light she felt as its heavy weight left her shoulders. She stretched it out on the black velvet board she’d laid on her bed making sure each full carat, tear shaped diamond that made up the chain was visible. After lining the ruler up, she began snapping pictures making sure every aspect of the piece was documented, taking careful attention with the 100-carat canary diamond at the center of the piece.
She sent the pictures to her email then immediately deleted them from her phone. Once that was done, she tucked her velvet board and ruler into the pocket hidden in the back of a heavy wool coat hanging in the closet.
As she flipped off the overhead light a noise outside pulled her to the window. Recognition registered almost instantly and she pressed her hand into her stomach trying to smother the flutter that came with it.
It was Will, roughly escorting a man in an expensive tux, still slightly hunched over, to his waiting car. He shoved Amadeus into the back passenger seat before shutting the door and watching as the glossy black sedan quickly drove away.
Then he turned, his face immediately tipping to look directly at her window. She froze. He probably couldn’t see her but any move she made would certainly give her away. So she stood in the dark, staring back at the man who left her. The man who ruined her life and took away everything she had.
The man who might be here to do it all again.
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