No One to Trust(58)

By: Katie Reus

But when her fork dropped into her lap, she’d captured his interest in an entirely different way. She didn’t strike him as the clumsy type. In fact it was just the opposite. She moved slowly, gracefully, each movement deliberate.

At first, Thomas thought she’d simply pick up the silver and return it to its place. But then she’d dropped a knife. Neither of which returned to the table during the course of her meal.

She’d laughed with Lady Grace. Talked. Smiled. Leaned in close to whisper something before excusing herself.

And then she’d snared his breath in his chest. With one swipe of Lady Grace’s coin pouch, the golden haired woman, who looked fairer than any woman he’d ever laid eyes upon, had hardened into a criminal.

Right before his eyes.

He excused himself from his table, said goodnight to the rest of the seamen, and followed her out the French doors leading into the reception room. The woman stopped and turned around, her expression tainted with paranoia.

He stopped as well, waiting to see if she’d bolt or return to her table.

She did the unthinkable.

Smiling a coy, knowing smile as if she realized she’d been caught, the woman curtsied in his direction. More than a little perplexed, Thomas bowed in return. When he brought his gaze back to center, she was swerving around tables on the other side of the room. The nerve of that woman! To know she’d been caught red-handed stealing from a high ranking member of society, only to smile and turn away. As if he’d stand idly by doing nothing!

He charged after her, his boots thumping loudly over the Jacobian rugged floor. He followed her out the doors leading to the grand staircase and stopped when he reached the banister. Thomas peered down a corridor to his right. Peered left. Leaned over the balcony and glanced up to C Deck. His gaze shot to the deck below. There—spinning around the newel post, was a delicate, crimson gloved hand.

Moving quickly, Thomas bolted down the short set of stairs onto E Deck and hit the landing as the clock clicked over to ten. Pushing through a couple ascending in his direction, Thomas glanced around the corner, hoping for any sign of the woman in red.

Up ahead, around the next corridor leading to second and third class cabins, the swell of a ruffling red dress caught his eye.

She wouldn’t escape that easily.

Thomas picked up speed, and when he saw the soft waves of her golden hair bouncing behind her, he realized she was running.

“You there!” he called, drawing her attention. “Stop!”

She shot a glance over her shoulder, smiled, and quickened her pace, running full speed through the corridor.

This was not a game. At least not one he felt like playing tonight. Thomas hastened his step. Not wanting to scare the passengers, Thomas smiled as they passed by, making steady eye contact. But each time he took his eyes off her, she seemed to gain distance on him.

She made a right turn up ahead. Flew down a set of stairs onto F Deck. Then turned sharply around another corner and down the next corridor. Soon, Thomas was following the whipping tail of her gown. Finally, a few turns down bustling corridors later, she was gone.

With a deflated ego and a tired set of lungs, Thomas came to a stop and folded his arms over his chest. She couldn’t have gone far. She had to be around one of these turns. One of the alcoves leading to any of the third class cabins.

He waited seconds. Minutes. Dozens of men and women whisked past him speaking languages Thomas couldn’t translate, none of them aware of the game of cat and mouse that was being played around them.

As he was about to turn back, return to the dining hall and report the theft to Lady Grace and the Master at Arms, a soft sneeze sounded down the hall. Instead of dashing after her, Thomas hid in a little alcove near cabin F38.

Easier to catch a mouse with cheese than a bullhorn, he figured, and waited for the woman in red to emerge from her hiding spot. Which she did, not two minutes later.

She emerged three alcoves down, smoothing down the ruffles of her dress, tousling the waves of her honey-blonde hair. He had to admit, she was definitely the most gorgeous thief he’d ever seen in his life. She had skin like a porcelain doll, milky white and smooth as glass. A dainty neck tapered upward to a softly rounded chin, which led to high cheekbones and the most gorgeous green eyes he’d ever seen. Against the boldness of her dress, her eyes paled, but sparkled none the less.

As she walked down the corridor, deeper into third class, Thomas fished a set of handcuffs out of his back pocket. It was going to be a damn shame to arrest a woman that beautiful.

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