New Year’s Eve, 2045. Self-made billionaire Victor Melek is hosting the most glittering party in the city and preparing to announce his engagement to his unfaithful girlfriend.
Enter the Raven, a thief with a very peculiar talent, who threatens to steal his art treasures and his heart. In fact, she flies away with them...
He blinked and shook his head. But she still stood there, wide-eyed, gazing straight at him.
And fuck, she was beautiful. Without the mask, she displayed broad cheekbones and deep-set eyes, the effect undoubtedly pleasing to the eye in an unusual, piquant sort of a way. She wore no makeup on her soft, almost transparent skin. Slender and curvy in all the right places, her breasts full and perfect with dark, enticing areolas and plump nipples begging to be kissed. He wasn’t sure what hammered at him most: her beauty, or her metamorphosis from a bird to a woman. A feather floated in the air in front of her.
“Did someone spike my drink?” he asked. “Hell, did I spike my own drink?”
“Oh dear. You weren’t meant to see that.”
“The view’s just fine,” he said. He knew his eyes were devouring her body but couldn’t seem to make them stop. Which might have been why his brain had given up working.
Two impossible events: the vanishing of five of the new miniatures, the shape-shifting of his sexy pirate. The connection arrived with a clunk.
“I want them back,” he said in his hardest voice. “All of them. Now.”
Her chin tilted upward. “Or what? You’ll call the cops and tell them—on New Year’s night—that your miniatures were stolen from a locked penthouse room by a pirate who turned into a raven? Insurance isn’t going to like that story either.”
His jaw tightened, and he advanced on her purposefully. “I don’t need the cops to catch you, do I?”
Her soft, naked arms were cold under his grasping fingers. He pushed them behind her back, in classic hand-cuffing pose, but she made no effort to escape. In fact, after a moment when she held herself rigid and he glared down into her face, trying to stop his anger evaporating into inevitably rising lust, she relaxed, pushing into his hold and snuggling against him, as if for warmth.
“Oh no, you can’t play that card twice,” he said with bitter cynicism.
“Why not?” she said huskily. “You like it.”
“I like my miniatures more,” he said firmly. “And I refuse to be robbed under my admittedly inebriated nose.”
“Why?” she asked, lifting her head from his shoulder to gaze up into his face as if she really wanted an answer.
He shrugged, then wished he hadn’t, since the motion rubbed his chest against her breasts, sharpening the clamouring of his blood. “I like my miniatures.”
“Yes, but what good do they do you? You stuffed them under the bed. You take them out to gloat whenever you remember. Sure, you like them. But they don’t make you any happier than your other possessions.”
“I see.” He regarded her with fascination. “So you’re stealing from me to make me happy? I had the oddest idea it was to make you happy.”
“Well, it will do me good,” she admitted, “though that’s not the same as happy.”
“How will it do you good?” he enquired. There was a tiny mole on her shoulder. He couldn’t resist brushing his fingers over it. Her shiver felt like an involuntary response to his caress, but he refused to fall for that. She was playing him.
“It’ll feed me and my brothers and sisters for a couple of weeks.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, I’m not falling for that! How gullible do you think I am?” Irritated, he tried to push her away, meaning to hold her only by one arm to control his raging lust if nothing else. But she clung to him, her arms sliding around his neck as she pressed herself to him. Her breasts rubbed against his shirt, her nipples hard and sexy; her hips fitted over his, cradling his straining erection.
“You don’t like the truth, do you?” she whispered.
“You wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped you in the face.”
“I’d know it if it kissed me,” she said huskily. “Maybe you would too.”
He stared at her, hearing only the rapid beats of his heart. Her liquid eyes were warm and soft and just a little desperate. And yet the odd notion came to him that there was more truth in her thieving little soul than in the rest of his invited guests put together. Including Briony.
It was a ploy, of course, like dancing with him to steal the bedroom key. And yet, on impulse, he dipped his head and captured her lips.
Her fingers curled in his hair, and she opened to him like a flower. She tasted like he imagined nectar, sweet and heady, and the feel of her responsive lips under his drove every other thought from his mind. When he found her tongue, it tangled with his, drawing it into her mouth.
He flattened his palms against her naked back, caressing her from shoulder to buttocks, pulling her harder against him, and she emitted a tiny moan as she pushed back, nudging him, surely towards the bed.
“I’ll still give you over to the cops,” he promised with a hint of desperation. “This doesn’t mean I’ll let you go.”
“You won’t need to,” she said, and seemed to dip in front of his eyes. Without warning, he held only air. A bird flew under his arms, its wings flapping loudly towards the bed.
Victor lunged after it, but it already had the gold pendant fitting in its beak. Struggling, it lifted off the bed, flashing past his head and across the room to the open window. Why in hell had he not shut the window?
Because he was drunk, and this whole situation was impossible. Bolting after the raven onto the balcony, he imagined he could still feel the rush of displaced air caused by her wings. But he couldn’t see her anywhere.