To catch a thief…or fall for one?
All Nick Norton wants is to stay on the straight and narrow…and never get caught stealing again. Then he lays eyes on her: Stella Peretti—100 percent sexy and absolutely irresistible. Especially when he sees her smooth moves lifting a two-karat diamond. Nick realizes he’s found the sparkling woman of his dreams—one so perfect for him it’s almost criminal.
The Shimmy Shimmy Bangs are master jewel thieves who are planning the heist of the century. And Shimmy leader, Stella, isn’t about to let anyone—even if he is a hunky, tatted-up studmuffin—get in her way. But when two of her girls are put out of commission, Stella realizes that Nick isn’t just a red-hot distraction. He might be the answer to her pilfering prayers.
Now, Nick and Stella are putting everything on the line for one last job. But when two thieves have this much chemistry, it’s only a matter of time before somebody’s heart gets stolen.
Two hours later, I was standing in a department store in Palm Desert, wearing gray dress pants, a pair of Italian loafers that squeaked when I walked, a light blue button-up shirt, and . . .
When she’d picked them out, I’d said, “Oh, fuck no,” but as she stood in front of me outside the men’s dressing room, buttoning them into the slacks and making helpless groans and moans, I knew I didn’t have the strength to tell her no for real. At this rate, I’d be buying dipped fruit and suspenders for the rest of my life, and honestly . . .
I was psyched about it. When I turned to check myself out in the mirror, I realized the suspenders didn’t look so bad. Not at all. They looked sharp. Old-fashioned in the right way, like out of Peaky Blinders. But I was an ex-con who weighed 275 pounds and drove a motorcycle. I couldn’t be wearing suspenders, for Chrissake.
“It’s a big ask, Stella,” I said, eyeing her as she riffled through a rack of dress shirts. Over her shoulder was a dog carrier bag she’d brought with her, pink-and-white with black paw prints. Priscilla had nodded off and was slowly sliding down into the bag, her lip stuck on the top edge.
Stella froze with one finger perched on a hanger hook as she chewed an enormous chunk of apple, moving it around in her mouth so that it expanded the inside of her cheek. “I know,” she said, with her palm covering her overstuffed mouth. “But just look at you.”
As she said it, a woman approached, pushing a stock cart. When she glanced in my direction, she promptly drove the cart right into a mannequin, and its arm popped off. That, in turn, knocked over a second mannequin, which knocked over a third. Everything the lady did just made it all so much worse. I stepped in to stop the domino-mannequin effect, while Stella stood next to the shirts with a big told you so smile on her face. The woman clutched an arm and a foot, and stared at me, as I tried to reposition a mannequin in a fuzzy track suit on its stand.
“Oh sir, that ensemble is very nice!” she cooed, with big Bambi eyes. Her gaze went from my tattoos to the suspenders, to the pants, and back again.
“You like it?” I asked as I rolled up my sleeves.
The woman gulped. “I do. Very much. Very much.”
Stella circled back around a table covered with dress shirts, and I saw that in her hand she was holding a fedora—like a stylish hipster sort of thing. Not my jam at all.
“Oh no you don’t,” I growled, teasing her, trying to snatch it out of her hands. But she pressed her body up against mine, and instinctively I pulled her into me. She took advantage of me being a fucking sucker for her body, and put the hat on my head. Her eyes lit up, and she leaned back in my arms. Then she said to the salesgirl. “What do you think?”
The salesgirl didn’t even speak. Just dropped a plastic mannequin arm and smiled. Stella made a long, adorable, “Mmmhmmmm!” as she slipped from my grasp, and headed off toward cocktail dresses.
Once I’d changed, and made was sure the woman wasn’t going to knock over another row of mannequins, I followed along behind Stella, weaving and dodging between racks and displays. Stella held up a stunning little black dress, classy and with a slit up a side that was mouthwatering even on the hanger. But then, behind her, there it was. The dress. Little black dresses were fine, but we were going out on the town for our first real date, and that dress was the one. A showstopper. So I shook my head at the black one in her hand, and Stella rumpled up her eyebrows. She put the dress back on the rack, plunged her hand into her purse, and emerged holding the apple on its stick. She took a bite, and stuck it back in its bag, and turned her attention to a strapless red number that would’ve looked great on her, no doubt. But still, it wasn’t the dress.
I tickled her side to get her attention, and when she turned to me, I pointed behind her, at a two-story atrium. The mannequin was set up on a round platform, with a spotlight on it, next to a piano that wasn’t being played. The dress was nothing but rhinestones, with thin jeweled straps coming up from a plunging neckline.
Stella hooted and approached the dress while laughing and shaking her head. “I can’t possibly wear this,” she said, and ran her fingertips over the jeweled front. “I’m not sure anybody can wear this.”
“Oh yeah,” I said as I circled her. “You most definitely can.”
I took the first dress off the nearby rack and held it up. The tag said XS/S. Seemed about right. I held it out, imagining her in it. The very idea made me start to get hard. I let it dangle from my finger and waited for her to take it.
She grabbed the size tag of the dress I was holding. A huge laugh shot out of her mouth, echoing around the marble foyer. “Oh you,” she said, shaking her head, and then grabbed the dressed marked M/L. She took the dog bag off her shoulder, and I transferred it to mine. Priscilla was out cold, snoring softly. I gave her tummy a little scratch as Stella headed off to the ladies’ fitting rooms.
While she was gone, I picked out a gorgeous light-pink teddy for her, and a pair of black panties that had a red ribbon up the back, corset-style. I was thinking through what it’d be like to pull that ribbon off with my teeth while she had them on when my phone buzzed in my pocket.
I don’t think I can pull this off.
Let me see.
I look like I just got Bedazzled.
Let me see.
I feel like my phone case.
Let me see.
Or like a disco ball.
Let me see.
Or like the rhinestone aisle at Michaels.
Stella . . .
I can’t wear a bra OR panties!
You’re getting the fucking dress.
Bestselling author Nicola Rendell loves writing naughty romantic comedies. After receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. Nicola’s work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. Her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady, but she’s totally okay with that. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.
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