Cat Burglar in Training
glance toward the kitchen. Three shadowed silhouettes stood at the window, peering out at us. No surprise there. “Dinner?” I repeated, stalling.
    “Yeah, you know. Man. Woman. Table. Food.”
    Longing to experience a slice of normal nipped at me. The man knew I had a child, and he was still asking me out. The cynical devil who’d taken up residence in my soul shrieked loud warnings. He thinks you’re desperate . A surefire bet for some fun in the sack.
    “I’m sorry, I can’t tonight. I have…a meeting.” I managed to meet his gaze without hesitation. Part of me knew gentle discouragement was the right way to respond. He presented too many problems.
    “I know it’s short notice. Another night?”
    “Are you still going to the Harlequin Ball?”
    “Yeah, I’m going.”
    My gaze drifted to his sensuous lips. I found myself leaning toward him, attracted like a magnet to metal. Mortified, I froze in place. “I’ll see you there.”
    “That’s a promise.” His words whispered across my mouth, and he moved in, closing the slight gap between us. Warm lips covered mine, and all logical brain function ceased.

Chapter Eight
    “You were kissing him!”
    “Give the man a prize,” I snapped. Father took a deep breath, no doubt ready to lay down the law about what good cat burglars did and didn’t do. I was in no mood for lectures. “Sit. Please.” I gestured for Ben and Hannah to take seats in front of the desk beside Father.
    After deliberation, I’d decided to have the meeting in the office, and I wasn’t above using subtle power plays. I sat at the other side of the huge oak desk, a blank paper pad in front of me and a pen in my right hand ready to take notes.
    “Right,” I said. “A list of bills. Hannah?” She handed me a wad of invoices. I flicked through them, trying not to wince at the totals. The mobile phone bill was particularly high. “Ben?” He handed over four invoices. “Father?”
    Sullenly, he handed over a pile of invoices. One or two looked as if he’d rescued them from the rubbish. I studied them, partially anesthetized to the amounts now. “Is this all?”
    “Yes,” Father said.
    “I can’t see an invoice from Beauchamp.”
    Father muttered under his breath and climbed to his feet. He stomped from the room.
    Theatrics.
    Just what I needed. I ignored the distant slamming of doors and pulled out a calculator. The office remained silent apart from the rustle of papers and the tap of calculator keys. The final total seared my eyeballs. I blinked to clear my vision. Same total. I thumped the cancel button and started again. Meantime, Father clomped back into the office.
    “Here.” He shoved a flimsy sheet of paper at me.
    A statement.
    The zeros wavered in front of my eyes. Aghast, I sent an accusing glare at my father. “This is more than half a million.”
    “Interest.”
    “Tell me you’ve made progress investigating the garden thefts. We need the reward money.”
    “Not as much progress as you’ve made with the cop. I thought you’d marry Seth. He’s a wealthy solicitor. He could help us with our debts.” Father’s tone bordered on snide—a sulky child having a temper tantrum.
    “There’s nothing to stop you finding a rich bride,” I countered sweetly.
    Father’s provoking tone signaled opinions from others in the room. They seemed to think the winner in this competition would be the one who shouted the loudest.
    I ignored the verbal knives to concentrate on forming a plan to keep Oakthorpe and my family out of trouble. My family was important to me. Very important. Even if they argued, told me I was stupid, and stomped about muttering and cursing, I knew when things were bad they’d be there for me in a heartbeat.
    I coughed loudly to restore the peace. When this failed, I held my fingers to my lips and let out a piercing whistle. Each of the terrible trio turned to gawk at me, their mouths hanging open in imitation of gaping clowns like the ones in the

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