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Brooklyn by Avery Gale (1)

Chapter One

Brooklyn slid effortlessly down the rough-cut rock wall of Emilio Mendoza’s palatial home. The jagged granite was the only part of the enormous structure not facing the pounding waves of the ocean. The man’s legendary paranoia led him to choose a nearly perfect location, but his ego was even bigger than his obsessive fear, and he’d overplayed the hand by installing a sub-par security system.

Proving her point, Brooklyn patted the small package secured in a well-concealed pocket along her thigh. She silently wondered what it would be like to have enough power and money, you felt it was your God-given right to steal anything you coveted, knowing law enforcement wouldn’t touch you. Not only had the locals refused to move against Mendoza when insurers insisted he’d stolen the priceless artifact, they’d actively impeded federal and international agencies’ efforts as well. Un-fucking-believable.

The sound of waves pounding against the rocky shore and the low howl of wind whipping through the palms was oddly soothing, but as any experienced cat burglar will tell you, those comforting sounds could also mask a multitude of dangers. Anything that hid the telltale signs the norm was no longer in place was a threat. As much as she appreciated the hypnotic sounds of the surf, Brooklyn tried to focus on the underlying sounds around her.

Keeping to the shadows and moving slowly, her black Lycra® jumpsuit not making a sound as she slid soundlessly through the night, Brooklyn sent up a silent prayer of thanks for her younger sister’s brilliance. London Adler’s Whisper Spray had been an enormous blessing.

As a research and development chemist, London had immediately understood the problems Brooklyn outlined, describing the sleek fabric’s tendency to be too noisy for the new sound-sensitive security systems. Six months later, London sent a bottle of spray that turned out to be a game changer. Having a kid sister who was an upcoming star in the pharmaceutical industry definitely has its perks.

Bringing her thoughts back to the present, Brooklyn wondered why men like Emilio Mendoza stole artifacts, then locked them in vaults rather than allowing their beauty and rich history to be shared with the world. She understood the monetary value of the ancient, solid gold Egyptian amulet, but if you couldn’t have the bragging rights of ownership, what was the point? And why the hell would anyone keep something so precious in a safe manufactured while Woodrow Wilson was president? Smiling to herself, Brooklyn wondered if her high school history teacher had any idea how valuable his lesson on Wilson’s implementation of safe standards had been.

“If you’re going to stash something of such significance and value, you should at least have a decent security system and vault. You should invest in something that doesn’t belong in a museum, asshole.” Realizing she’d muttered the words aloud, Brooklyn froze mid-step for several seconds.

Damn it all to dancing dolphins. She only talked to herself when she was teetering on the edge of exhaustion. Even worse, she only made mistakes when she was overly tired, and fuck Freddie Foreplay, she knew better than to push herself so far. Brooklyn had retrieved four artifacts in eight days, on three continents, and the worst part was, she didn’t understand why she felt the need to push her mind and body beyond all reasonable limits.

Despite being as fit as she’d ever been, Brooklyn was dead on her feet. The few hours’ sleep she’d gotten on the long flight from Paris to a neighboring island hadn’t been enough to erase a week without a full night’s rest. The only time she’d ever come close to being caught during a job was early in her career… before she’d learned the importance of only working when she was well-rested, and here she was pushing herself when she knew better. Not so bright, are you?

Born in Brooklyn, she was the fifth of ten Adler offspring, all named after the city where they were conceived. Oh yeah, try explaining that to your friends in junior high. Nope, nothing embarrassing about being forced to admit all the places your parents bumped uglies. What sounded like a snort sounded from Brooklyn’s left, causing her to go stock still for several long seconds. Before she realized what was happening, her vision was starting to blur, and Brooklyn had to remind herself to breathe as she swayed on her feet. She might have been named in the same way as her siblings, but Brooklyn was the only one who tapped danced on both sides of the law… something she probably needed to rethink if those pesky black dots ever moved out of her view.

Brooklyn Adler frustrated law enforcement officials at every turn and was on The Most Wanted lists in more countries than she’d even stepped foot in… a fact she continually found completely baffling. As a master of disguise, Brooklyn laughed to herself each time she slipped into countries where her picture hung on the customs’ office wall. The only person she knew who was better at morphing into someone else was her sister, Catalina, who had her own reasons for needing to disguise her appearance.

Making her first million two weeks after her eighteenth birthday, Brooklyn had racked up fifty more in the years since. She might be the bane of law enforcement agencies’ existence, but she was the beloved golden child of insurance companies all over the world. She’d long since passed the point where she no longer needed to work, and despite what some people might believe, she wasn’t still working for the money. Hell, it wasn’t even about the rush of adrenaline more powerful than any drug. It was simply about being the best and setting right at least a few of the many things wrong in today’s world.

Luke Grayson leaned back against the smooth rock wall surrounding the Mendoza estate and sent up a silent prayer he had enough time to get Brooklyn to safety before the storm brewing offshore wreaked havoc with his well-laid plans. He had no intention of being trapped in a hidey hole on this small island with Brooklyn Adler during a damned tropical storm. The only thing he’d ever known the tiny bundle of stealth to be frightened of was thunderstorms—and they rendered her virtually helpless.

Watching as Brooklyn slipped silently down the wall, Luke wondered if she’d sensed the shift in the weather because he saw her foot slip on one of the irregular stone blocks, causing her to reach wildly around her for something to hold on to. The damned woman was usually poetry in motion, but she was definitely off her game tonight. They’d been friends since their freshman year in college, and even though she knew he was a gifted empath, Brooklyn had no idea how deep his connection to her had become over the years.

Opening his mind, Luke felt a wave of fatigue crash over him. The sensation was so intense, Luke worried his knees were going to fold out from under him. Brooklyn’s exhaustion piled atop his own was staggering. He’d been awake almost continuously since the first hit lit up his laptop like a fucking Christmas tree three days ago. It was the first ping hitting one of dozens of alerts he’d set up on both the regular and dark webs.

At first, the information about Brooklyn was sketchy—referring to her abstractly enough, he’d wondered if he was simply being paranoid, but as other users began interacting, it became more and more obvious he’d been right. The final post referred to her as BB, a tag name she’d gained after her first retrieval when someone at the insurance company she’d worked for let it slip a beautiful burglar had retrieved the missing golden mask, saving his company a multi-million-dollar payout.

The company she was working for tonight had a leak—no, it was more than a leak, it was a fucking blowout. Somebody had sold Brooklyn out by mentioning she’d be recovering the amulet. Whoever was chatting was obviously unconcerned they’d essentially signed her death warrant. Despite the distance between them, Luke had immediately opened his mind to hers, and as soon as he knew the details of her next job, he’d shut down the link. If there was one thing he’d learned about Brooklyn in the years since they’d become friends, it was how spooked she could become if she thought he was listening in on her thoughts.

Tonight, he kept the link open long enough to send her a subtle warning and direct her in his direction. Luke smiled when he thought about how annoyed she’d be to learn he could push suggestions into her mind. Before he could fully retreat from the link, he felt her fear a split second before a dark presence steamrolled into his mind. Brooklyn was only a few feet from him, but he didn’t dare shift positions to get closer for fear more movement would attract attention.

Brooklyn was moving so slowly, he wondered at times if she was moving at all. Watching her creep forward at a snail’s pace when the breeze rustled the palms lining the enormous house was as fascinating as it was frustrating. The moon was playing a dangerous game of hide and seek, threatening to give away her position at any moment. Back tracing the malevolent energy, Luke was finally able to spot the men lurking in the brush.

The seconds that followed were some of the longest and most terrifying of Luke’s life. He’d heard the members of the Prairie Winds teams talk about how time slowed during a crisis, but he’d never fully believed their descriptions. Opening his mind to the men searching for Brooklyn, he knew as soon as they raised their weapons despite not being able to see them. Both men saw her at the exact same moment, the separate retorts of their guns virtually indistinguishable.

Pulling Brooklyn against his chest, he felt her jerk in his hold as a white-hot streak of searing pain bled from her mind into his. The fiery burn lashed her upper arm as another tore into the flesh of her upper thigh. Wrapping his arms around her, Luke pulled Brooklyn back into the small alcove leading to the gate he was certain she’d been planning to use. The heavy metal gate reminded him of those found in old cemeteries and monasteries depicted in the old movies the two of them used to binge watch on cold New England weekends while in college. Jesus, what’s up with my fascination with movies all the sudden. Fucking focus on getting the hell out of here. There will be plenty of time for classic movies when we get to New Mexico.