Tess Gerritsen: Thief Of Hearts aka Stolen

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Tess Gerritsen Thief Of Hearts aka Stolen
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    Thief Of Hearts aka Stolen
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Thief Of Hearts aka Stolen: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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He was a gentleman bandit, she was a cat burglar. And they caught each other in more ways than one. But their desire was as strong as their distrust, and Jordan Tavistock began to fear that Diana Lamb was more than just a thief of hearts.

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Tess Gerritsen

Thief Of Hearts aka Stolen

© 1995

In memory of Jim Heacock

“In thy face I see the map

of honor, truth, and loyalty.”

– William Shakespeare

Henry VI, Part III


Simon Trott stood on the rolling deck of the Cosima, and through the velvety blackness of night he saw the flames. They burned just offshore, not a steady fire, but a series of violent bursts of light that cast the distant swells in a hellish glow.

“That’s her,” the Cosima’s captain said to Trott as both men peered across the bow. “The Max Havelaar. Judging by those fireworks, she’ll be going down fast.” He turned and yelled to the helmsman, “Full ahead!”

“Not much chance of survivors,” said Trott.

“They’re sending off a distress call. So someone’s alive.”

“Or was alive.”

As they neared the sinking vessel, the flames suddenly shot up like a fountain, sending out sparks that seemed to ignite the ocean in puddles of liquid fire.

The captain shouted over the roar of the Cosima’s engines, “Slow up! There’s fuel in the water!”

“Throttling down,” said the helmsman.

“Ahead slowly. Watch for survivors.”

Trott moved to the forward rail and stared across the watery inferno. Already the Max Havelaar was sliding backward, her stern nearly submerged, her bow tipping toward the moonless sky. A few minutes more and she’d sink forever into the swells. The water was deep, and salvage impractical. Here, two miles off the Spanish coast, was where the Havelaar would sink to her eternal rest.

Another explosion spewed out a shower of embers, leafing the ripples with gold. In those few seconds before the sunlike brilliance faded, Trott spotted a hint of movement off in the darkness. A good two hundred yards away from the Havelaar, safely beyond the ring of fire, Trott saw a long, low silhouette bobbing in the water. Then he heard the sound of men’s voices, calling.

“Here! We are here!”

“It’s the lifeboat,” said the captain, aiming the searchlight toward the voices. “There, at two o’clock!”

“I see it,” said the helmsman, at once adjusting course. He throttled up, guiding the bow through drifts of burning fuel. As they drew closer, Trott could hear the joyous shouts of the survivors, a confusing babble of Italian. How many in the boat? he wondered, straining to see through the murk. Five. Perhaps six. He could almost count them now, their arms waving in the searchlight’s beam, their heads bobbing in every direction. They were thrilled to be alive. To be in sight of rescue.

“Looks like most of the Havelaar’s crew,” said the captain.

“We’ll need all hands up here.”

The captain turned and barked out the order. Seconds later the Cosima’s crew had assembled on deck. As the bow knifed across the remaining expanse of water, the men stood in silence near the bow rail, all eyes focused on the lifeboat just ahead.

By the searchlight’s glare Trott could now make out the number of survivors: six. He knew the Max Havelaar had sailed from Naples with a crew of eight. Were there two still in the water?

He turned and glanced toward the distant silhouette of shore. With luck and endurance, a man could swim that distance.

The lifeboat was adrift off their starboard side.

Trott shouted, “This is the Cosima! Identify yourselves!”

“Max Havelaar!” shouted one of the men in the lifeboat.

“Is this your entire crew?”

“Two are dead!”

“You’re certain?”

“The engine, she explodes! One man, he is trapped below.”

“And your eighth man?”

“He falls in. Cannot swim!”

Which made the eighth man as good as dead, thought Trott. He glanced at Cosima’s crew. They stood watching, waiting for the order.

The lifeboat was gliding almost alongside now.

“A little closer,” Trott called down, “and we’ll throw you a line.”

One of the men in the lifeboat reached up to catch the rope.

Trott turned and gave his men the signal.

The first hail of bullets caught its victim in midreach, arms extended toward his would-be saviors. He had no chance to scream. As the bullets rained down from the Cosima, the men fell, helpless before the onslaught. Their cries, the splash of a falling body, were drowned out by the relentless spatter of automatic gunfire.

When it was finished, when the bullets finally ceased, the bodies lay in a coiled embrace in the lifeboat. A silence fell, broken only by the slap of water against the Cosima’s hull.

One last explosion spewed a finale of sparks into the air. The bow of the Max Havelaar-what remained of her-tilted crazily toward the sky. Then, gently, she slid backward into the deep.

The lifeboat, its hull riddled with bullet holes, was already half submerged. A Cosima crewman heaved a loose anchor over the side. It landed with a thud among the bodies. The lifeboat tipped, emptying its cargo of corpses into the sea.

“Our work is done here, Captain,” said Trott. Matter-of-factly he turned toward the helm. “I suggest we return to-”

He suddenly halted, his gaze focused on a patch of water a dozen yards away. What was that splash? He could still see the ripples of reflected firelight worrying the water’s surface. There it was again. Something silvery gliding out of the swells, then slipping back under the water.

“Over there!” shouted Trott. “Fire!”

His men looked at him, puzzled.

“What did you see?” asked the captain.

“Four o’clock. Something broke the surface.”

“I don’t see anything.”

“Fire at it, anyway.”

One of the gunmen obligingly squeezed off a clip. The bullets sprayed into the water, their deadly rain splashing a line across the surface.

They watched for a moment. Nothing appeared. The water smoothed once again into undulating glass.

“I know I saw something,” said Trott.

The captain shrugged. “Well, it’s not there now.” He called to the helmsman, “Return to port!”

Cosima came about, leaving in her wake a spreading circle of ripples.

Trott moved to the stern, his gaze still focused on the suspicious patch of water. As they roared away he thought he spotted another flash of silver bob to the surface. It was there only for an instant. Then, in a twinkling, it was gone.

A fish, he thought. And, satisfied, he turned away.

Yes, that must be what it was. A fish.


“A small burglary. That’s all I’m asking for.” Veronica Cairncross gazed up at him, tears shimmering in her sapphire eyes. She was dressed in a fetching off-the-shoulder silk gown, the skirt arranged in lustrous ripples across the Queen Anne love seat. Her hair, a rich russet brown, had been braided with strands of seed pearls and was coiled artfully atop her aristocratic head. At thirty-three she was far more stunning, far more chic than she’d been at the age of twenty-five, when he’d first met her. Through the years she’d acquired, along with her title, an unerring sense of style, poise and a reputation for witty repartee that made her a sought-after guest at the most glittering parties in London. But one thing about her had not changed, would never change.

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