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How To Catch A Crook (Crooked In Love Book 3) by Linda Verji (1)


 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Carl was sixty-something, almost forty years older than her. Everyone who passed by stared at them like she was a black sugar-baby and he was a lecherous old, white man with too much money and no sense. But that didn’t bother Tamsin ‘Sin’ Jacob. She’d hang around older men than Carl – married them even. Other people’s opinions of what she did with her body or her life had never meant anything to her.

The fact that Carl was staring at her breasts like they were a succulent pieces of chicken wasn’t a problem either. Sin was so used to men leering at her various body parts that she’d gotten used to it. If anything, she’d learnt to use those leers to her advantage, sometimes even deliberately encouraging them. Take today; she’d deliberately donned this vivid pink bikini top, which was nothing more than three small triangles and strings, so she could proudly display her girls. The goal; make as many men (and women) as possible lust for her. A man in lust was a man who wasn’t watching his wallet.

No, Carl’s age or leering didn’t bother her.

What bothered her was that thing on his head. Sin had nothing against wigs but the blond squirrel-like abomination balanced precariously on his egg-shaped skull was an insult to wigs everywhere. Even the fact that he was wearing a bathing suit that was too small for his already tiny… man thing… and had tanned himself a weird orange wasn’t enough to distract from that horrible hairpiece.

Struggling to keep her eyes from wandering up to the man’s ‘hair’, Sin smiled at him like he was a god. She gushed, “Has anyone ever told you that you have amazing eyes?”

“Thank you.” Carl’s eyes remained glued to her breasts. “You too, you too. Your eyes are very pretty.”

Resisting the temptation to remind him that her eyes were up here, she leaned forward to give him an even better view as she said, “So Carl, tell me about what you do. Your business sounds sooo fascinating.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Carl looked up from her breasts to eagerly explain, “Most people think that making and selling toothpicks is boring work, but it’s a very interesting process…”

Frankly, the whole process sounded about as interesting as watching water boil. However, every con-artist knows that the most important skill is being a patient listener. People like to talk about themselves, and if they think you care about their boring lives, they tend to be more trusting.

“So, once we’ve purchased the birch logs, we take it to the…” Carl droned on.

Though Sin listened, she remained aware of the Atlantis Hotel looming behind them. She wondered how Ten, her partner, was doing up there. Was she done?

Almost as if on cue, Sin’s phone pinged. She didn’t even need to check her phone to know that the ping meant that Ten was done, but she picked the phone anyway.

Meanwhile, Carl was still expounding on the complicated science of toothpick making. He continued, “To cut the toothpick strips we use a puncher-”

“Oh no!” Sin cut him off with a sharp gasp as she stared at her phone.

“What, what… what’s wrong?” Carl asked.

“It’s a text from my husband.” She cupped a hand over her mouth and stared at her phone in wide-eyed horror. “He says he’s on his way here.”

Carl’s jaw dropped. “You have a husband?”

“Yes.” Sin nodded. Forcing a tremble into her voice, she said, “And he’s insane. See he just got out of prison for robbery with violence and he’s crazy jealous. If he finds me here with another man- Oh my God.”

She didn’t need to say anything more. Carl shot to his feet like there were bullet-ants on his seat. Hurriedly slinging a towel around his waist, he said, “I should… I should go. I’m not scared of your husband but… but… I have a few things to do in my room. You know how it is.”

“Of course, of course,” Sin agreed but even before her words were completely out, Carl was already beating a hasty retreat. Grinning, she shouted at his back. “It was great to meet you, Carl.”

Once he was gone, she grinned and reread the message. It was a simple text that said, ‘Done’. Still grinning, she dialed Ten’s number.

The other woman picked up immediately, “Yup?”

“Carl’s on his way up to his room,” Sin informed her.

Ten chuckled. “Well, he’s in for a big surprise.”

“How much did we get?” Sin asked.

“A lot but not nearly enough,” Ten said. “We need to hit a few more rooms.”

“Really?” Sin protested. “You said this was a quick hit and run.”

“Hey, it is not my fault that the guests in this hotel are broke.”

“I know, I know.” Sin sighed. “But still… A.J and Kelly will kill me if they find out what we’re doing. I told them I was done with this kind of stuff.”

“Hey, lady, I didn’t drag you into this,” Ten reminded her. “Your crazy ass stalked me to Miami then forced me to include you in the job.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Sin sighed.

Two years ago, Sin had been incarcerated after a con-job had gone sideways. After her release from prison (where she’d met Kelly and A.J), she’d promised that she wouldn’t do anything that would get her thrown in again. However, making promises was easier than actually keeping them, especially when a friend was involved. When she’d discovered that Ten needed help, instinct had forced her to butt in.

Like Sin, Ten wanted to go straight, but that was easier said than done. Ten’s adoptive father, Casper, had recently dragged her into a job that involved robbing a museum. A day before the robbery, Ten had backed out of the job. Though Ten’s expertise was critical to the robbery’s success, Casper and the rest of his gang had insisted on going forward with the job. End result; things had gone sideways and two of Casper’s team members had been arrested.

The other people involved in the job blamed Ten for the failure and their subsequent arrests. If she’d held up her end of the agreement, they said, the job would’ve gone off without a hitch. They now wanted her to give them the money they would’ve earned had the job been successful.

Of course it was unreasonable. But logic wasn’t a strong suit of most criminals.

Now Ten had two options. Refuse to give them the money and get a bullet in her face. Or pay up. She’d chosen option number two. Unfortunately, she didn’t have that kind of money. Worse she couldn’t even borrow it from her sister, A.J, because A.J didn’t even know that she was still taking contracts. Hence today’s escapades.

“How much more do we need?” Sin asked.

“About twenty grand more.” Ten’s voice echoed over the phone.

“Okay, let me find a fat goose and I’ll text you their room number.” Sin’s gaze swept over the pool-area already looking for the aforementioned ‘goose’.

“I’ll be waiting.” Ten ended the call.

After squaring her shoulders and taking a deep breath, Sin rose to her feet then strolled to the edge of the pool. Smoothly, she dove into the water. The sun-warmed water engulfed her then dripped down her face and body when she rose at the other end of the pool. While acting like she was catching her breath, she assessed the people resting on towels and lounge chairs around the pool.

Her eyes settled on an older woman. Covertly, Sin took in the woman. The handbag by the woman’s seat was new, expensive looking and even had the Dior logo on it. However, even from this distance, Sin could tell that it was a ‘Made in China Town’. Nope. She quickly shifted her attention from the woman.

Sin’s gaze settled on her next target; a twenty-something man with two bottle-blondes flunking his seat and giggling at his every word. His watch looked like a real Rolex. His sunglasses? The real deal. When he picked up the keys to his Ferrari and waved it at the girls, Sin knew she’d found her goose.

Grinning, she turned around and dove back into the water then swam back to the other side of the pool. Getting rid of the giggling opportunists swarming around her mark would be no problem. They were amateurs – like children trying to race against an Olympic medalist.

What strategy should I use to get his attention? Sin wondered as she emerged dripping wet from the pool. She was aware of several men (and women) ogling her as she strolled back to her pool lounge but they didn’t matter. The only man who mattered right now was Mr. Ferrari. With any luck, he’d noticed the seductive display she’d put on as she exited the pool and would be ripe for an approach.

Should I be subtle and send him a drink or should I go all balls out and stroll over there to ask him if we’ve met him before. Hmm

Even as she mulled over her game-plan, Sin couldn’t help noticing the slender brunette who’d settled on the seat that Carl with The Bad Wig had just vacated. Unlike the swimwear-clad vacationers lounging around the pool, this woman was dressed in an all-white suit. Perfectly coifed hair, pantsuit looks like it’s tailor made, designer bag, original Louboutins… The woman was obviously loaded.

Mark changed, Sin immediately decided as she edged closer to the brunette. A woman like this would likely have a diamond necklace or two in her room. The woman barely noticed Sin even when she settled right next to her. Her full attention was on the conversation she was having over her cell-phone.

Frustration pulsed in the brunette’s voice as she bit out, “Are you insane? Do you expect me to sleep with you so Baron can keep his job?”

Sin’s eyebrows immediately shot up. Well, this was interesting. Trying to act like she wasn’t eavesdropping, she turned her back on the woman as she toweled herself off.

The person on the other end of the phone-call said something to which the brunette sighed. “Come on, Worth. Why are you being like this? Baron, my husband, is your brother. Why would you do this to him?”

Oooh, snap! Sin’s jaw dropped. So the guy on the other end of the line was Rich Brunette’s brother-in-law, Worth, and he was trying to get her to sleep with him so his brother could keep his job? Wow! Men were such dogs.

Sin discarded her towel, put on her sunglasses then settled back into her seat to listen to more of the conversation.

“Yes, I know he’s your step-brother.” Disgust dripped from Rich Brunette’s voice as she continued, “That doesn’t make what you’re doing any less vile.”

Tell him, sister, Sin silently cheered her on.

Rich Brunette paused for about a minute to listen to whatever bullshit Worth was spouting before snapping, “Yes, sleeping with you would be vile.”

Truth, Sin subtly nodded. This Worth-dude was a real piece of work, wasn’t he? Trying to sleep with his brother’s wife? Where they do that at?

“Where am I?” Rich Brunette snorted. “Like I would tell you that!” A moment later, her snort turned into an outraged gasp. “How do you know I’m in Miami?” Panic contorted her freckled face as her gaze swept the width of the pool-area as if searching for her errant brother-in-law. “Did you follow me from Portland?”

Oh no, he didn’t. Sin sat up slightly so she could look around too to see if the bastard had turned up here.

“Then how do you know I’m here?” Rich Brunette didn’t even wait for his response. She gritted out, “You’re psychotic. Leave me alone, Worth. Seriously! Leave me alone.”

And with that she ended the call. With a frustrated huff, she tossed her phone onto the side table between hers and Sin’s seats.

“Wow!” The woman pinched the bridge of her nose. “Wow.”

Now, Sin wasn’t one to get involved in other people’s business but…. Okay, fine, she’d been known to stick her nose into business that wasn’t hers on more than one occasion, but in this situation, who would blame her. Rich Brunette obviously needed a shoulder to cry on.

Sin took off her sunglasses as she turned to face the woman. “Are you okay?”

“Huh!” The woman turned in her seat to face Sin. Her eyes still held a glazed look as if she couldn’t quite believe the conversation she’d just heard.

“Are you okay?” Sin repeated. Pointing to the lady’s phone, she added, “You seemed to be having a hard time there.”

The woman’s gaze lowered to the phone then back to Sin. With a sigh, she said, “Ah, you heard my conversation with that psycho.”

“Mm.” Sin nodded.

The woman sighed. “I need a drink.”

“My treat,” Sin cut in before the woman could call the server over. Sin raised her hand and a moment later, a server strolled over.

Both ladies ordered a drink. Once the server was gone, Rich Brunette introduced herself. “I’m Claire.”

“Tamsin,” Sin returned with a smile. “But everyone calls me Sin.”

“Sin. Interesting name.” The lady was quiet for a while before she mumbled, “What is wrong with men?”

“So many things,” Sin quipped. “Where do we start?”

Her quip was enough to draw a reluctant smile from Claire. However, the smile soon faded, and she asked, “What would you do in my situation?”

Sin snorted. “Kick his balls.”

“Wish I could do that but I can’t.” Claire settled back in the lounge and closed her eyes. “He holds my husband’s professional life in his hands.”

It took a little prodding, but Claire finally revealed the root of her dilemma.

The errant brother-in-law, Wentworth Ransom III (even his name sounded like the kind of name a dickhead might have) also known as Worth, was the son of Wentworth Ransom II. Senior, as everyone called Worth’s father, was a property magnate and the current Chairman of the Ransom Group of Companies (RGC). Claire’s husband, Baron, had come into the Ransom family when Senior had married his mother after Worth’s mother’s death.

Though Baron had worked at RGC for over fifteen years and was now Senior’s second-in-command, it still counted for nothing. The fact that he wasn’t Senior’s biological son was like an anvil over his head, making his future in the company precarious. Worth, despite never having worked a day in RGC, owned a good percentage of the Group’s stock courtesy of an inheritance from his late grandfather. He also held considerable sway over RGC’s Board of Directors.

“He’s now threatening to get the Board to fire Baron if I don’t sleep with him,” Claire finished.

“That bastard!” Sin exclaimed. “Who does that?”

The other woman sighed. “I don’t even know how to deal with him.”

“Why don’t you-” Sin paused when her phone beeped. A brief glance over her screen showed that it was a message from Ten asking her if she’d reeled in a mark. She ignored the message and turned back to Claire. “Why don’t you tell Baron what he’s doing?”

“That will only make the matter worse.” The brunette explained, “Baron might do something stupid and get himself really kicked out of RGC. RGC is all he has…”

“…and Worth knows that,” Sin finished. Sharp anger threaded through her. What kind of man played such cruel games with his family? Wow! That bastard.

Sin made her decision in that moment. Her voice firm with resolve, she said, “You know what? I think I can help you.”

“You can help me?” Claire’s eyebrows rose and hope flashed in her eyes. “How?”

“I have my ways.” Sin smiled as she sent a text message to Ten.

New target acquired.

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