Thief of Hearts
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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hunter Longfellow’s best work is reporting from war zones. His other passion is tracking down art thieves. An anonymous tip leads him to three sisters who advertise the ability to match couples to their soulmates. He suspects the sisters are running an antiquities theft ring, but the only way to prove it is to join their couples-only tour to Italy. For that he needs a girlfriend. Reporter Genevieve Grey’s journalism professors called her fearless. When she discovers that the famous—and deliciously handsome—Hunter Longfellow is tracking down a story but needs a girlfriend for an undercover assignment, she jumps at the chance. He claims it could be dangerous. She doesn’t care. This is the chance of a lifetime. Will the story threaten not only her life but her heart as well?
Hunter Longfellow sprinted down a dark alley in Seattle, Washington’s Pioneer Square, in a downpour, a neon bar sign and the occasional patrol car his only light. It was a little after ten o’clock in the evening, early for the night-clubbers, but way past bedtime for the kids he’d been asked to locate. This was old Seattle, a tourist haven by day and something else entirely by night. Pioneer Square had its tall brick buildings that had survived Seattle’s earthquakes, alleyways that were something out of a Jekyll and Hyde movie, mangy cats, and people who looked out from behind closed doors. The thirteen- and fourteen-year-old kids couldn’t have picked a scarier place to hide.
On the street at the end of the alley, another patrol car eased past, slowed, and then continued on its way.
He glanced at the text he’d received from his ex-girlfriend that morning. Mary was a middle school teacher, married now and with a second child on the way. She’d wanted to know if he’d found her students. He texted her that he was closing in, then hoped he was right. He pocketed his cell as the same patrol car swept past again. Coincidence? Or were they following the same lead he had?
Mary and he had remained friends after their break-up, which surprised him, and she invited him to share all the holidays with her family that normal people celebrated. He didn’t always attend, but the invitations hadn’t stopped.
He reached the address her clues had indicated. It was the last door on his left before the alley dead-ended into a brick wall.
Time to make his move.
He tried the doorknob. Unlocked, which proved his theory that those inside were amateurs. Agitated voices rose behind the door. He calculated he had two options: enter with guns blazing and scare them out of a year’s growth, or pretend he was a lost tourist.
He chose option three—the direct approach.
He slammed the door open. It banged against the wall and sent dust and broken cobwebs flying into the air. The room was lit by a single bulb that dangled from the ceiling on a dirty cord. Three boys, ages twelve to fourteen and still dressed in their school uniforms, surrounded the Native American mask they’d stolen from the Burke Museum. They looked in his direction and froze.
He admired their choice. The wood mask represented the creator-eagle of the Makah tribe and was designed to fit over a dancer’s head. He’d promised Mary he would find the mask and return it to its rightful owners. He paused, the words “rightful owners” thundering through his thoughts. His father would have said that the hundred-year-old mask belonged with their people, not in a museum.
“Hello, boys,” Hunter said.
The teenagers’ eyes were wide, and their mouths gaped like fish gasping for breath. One boy fainted and a second shook like a Nordic wind had blown into the room. The third held his ground, a tall, beefy-looking kid with broad shoulders and a world-owes-me expression in his gaze.
Hunter didn’t need to ask why the boys had stolen the mask. Mary had filled him in on the story, as well as given him pictures of John, Cory, and T.J. One of them had had the good sense to text Mary for help. The why had involved the school bully, T.J, who Hunter guessed was the one acting like a tough guy. T.J.’s specialty was threatening kids with harming their siblings if they didn’t do his bidding.
“Get out of here, Indian,” T.J. said.
Hunter stifled a laugh. Classic bully tactics, using name-calling to push the enemy off balance. He ignored T.J. and focused on the one he recognized from the picture as John. “You okay?”