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The Art of Stealing Kisses

(Stealing Hearts Book Two)

By Stella London

Copyright © 2015 Stella London

Cover art/design by: Perfect Pear Creative

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including emailing, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

CHAPTER 1

If life were a musical, I’d be singing a song about my happiness.

I practically skip out of my apartment into a rare day of San Francisco sunshine: nothing but beautiful Van Gogh-blue skies above and ahead. Since this is the real world though, I’m keeping myself from dancing in the street, instead expressing my joy in a slightly more normal way.

“How are you this morning?” I say brightly to a woman walking an adorable black Labrador. “What a cute dog!”

She eyes me cautiously and pulls her dog back. “Are you high?”

Maybe not so normal. “Just in a good mood,” I reply.

“Well. Isn’t that nice for you?” she snaps and moves on.

I can’t really blame her. Just a few days ago, if I’d seen me on the street, whistling as I walk with so much spring in my step I might bounce right over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’d have rolled my eyes, too. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and today, nothing is going to tarnish my rose-colored glasses.

“Taxi!” I wave at the passing traffic, smiling when a yellow cab pulls to the curb.

“Where to?” the driver asks when I get in.

“Financial district. I’m starting a new job.” A job I’ve been dreaming about for years. For my whole life, really.

“Congratulations,” he says, sounding as bored as possible.

I lean back in the cab seat, not even caring that it smells like feet, and gaze outside at the tall, gorgeous buildings lining the streets. A week ago, I had to force myself to see anything pretty in this same city as I headed into work at Carringer’s Auction House – to mop floors and get yelled at by the snootiest boss of all time. But thanks to what I like to believe is fate, a bit of luck, and a handsome stranger’s faith in my abilities, I’m on my way to an incredible opportunity as the new art consultant to one of the richest—and hottest—men on the planet. Not too shabby for someone who could barely get an interview last year.

“How’s your day going?” I ask the cabbie.

He frowns. “A dog peed on my shoes,” he says. “And now my fare won’t stop talking to me.”

“I promise not to pee on you at least,” I say. He finally cracks a smile, and I feel like I’ve done a good deed for the day.

My mom tried to teach me that what you send out into the world, the beauty you create or the negativity you unleash, will all come back to you. Karma, I guess, but to her it was always more like balance. A reminder that there’s someone on the end of every cruel word or bright smile. And today, I feel like all my own smiles and hard work over the years are finally coming back to me – the cab driver even wishes me ‘good luck’ as he drops me off in front of my new office: a steel and glass skyscraper that looks like it might touch the clouds. I’m beginning to understand what my Mom meant, and now I want my joy to ripple out to others. Maybe some of it will even reach her, wherever she is.

My heels click on the sidewalk as I bustle through the other professionals on their way to work. Just a few weeks ago, I was one of them: rushing so fast, I bumped into a stranger and spilled coffee all over his tie. But of course, he wasn’t a stranger for long. The handsome businessman turned out to be Charles St. Clair, the man who swept me off my feet and just hired me as his personal art consultant.

The elevator is sleek and shiny when I step into it, and I quickly check myself out in the silver elevator door, feeling my first shiver of nerves as I fix my bangs and smile to make sure there’s no lipstick on my teeth. I haven’t seen St. Clair since the night on my roof when he offered me the job, the heat between us sizzling on my skin. I don’t know what will happen or even what I want to happen, but I do know I want to look my best.

The elevator doors ding open, and before I can step out onto the polished wooden floors, a petite, curvy woman with cute glasses greets me. “Good morning, Miss Bennett!” She gestures for me to follow her. “I’m Maisie, Mr. St. Clair’s secretary, and I’m here to help with whatever you need. Welcome.”

“Nice to meet you, and it’s Grace, please.”

I follow her into the lobby, and though I was expecting luxury, holy cow is this gorgeous. Two leather couches face each other across a wide glass coffee table topped by a silver vase full of elegant white flowers. A shiny wood bar off to the side holds bottles of water and sodas, glasses, and a bucket of ice. Floor to ceiling windows frame the city below, the white Ferry Building with its peaked clock tower and the sparkling blue waters of the bay beyond.

“Wow.” I stand fixed for a moment, just absorbing the subtle elegance of this place and the dramatic view.

Maisie clears her throat. “Coffee?” She hands me a china cup. “One sugar, two creams, right?”

“Yes, how did you…?” I inhale the rich scent of French roast. My favorite.

“Mr. St. Clair passed along instructions,” Maisie smiles. I smile back—damn, but he’s good. She goes on, “He also said to tell you he’s on a call but he will see you shortly.” She beckons again and we’re off down a hallway, the walls lined with exquisite paintings and sketches, various styles and genres, all fantastic. “I’m to show you to your office.”

“I have my own office?” My heart does a little skip and I refrain from actually skipping down the hall. This day just keeps getting better. At Carringer’s I spent eight hours in windowless rooms, and waitressing at Giovanni’s restaurant, the closest I get to an office is an overturned empty wine crate out back to sit on during my breaks.

“Of course,” Maisie says, glancing back at me with a smile. “St. Clair has been looking for an art consultant for some time. We’re very excited to have you. Here we are.”

She opens a door into a corner office suite bigger than my studio apartment. The same million-dollar view from the lobby shines outside my window, the palm trees, the little white capped wave trails from boats skimming the waters surrounding Alcatraz in the distance. Even the gray Carquinez Bridge looks silver bathed in the golden morning light.

“Wow,” I whisper, my jaw nearly dropping. “Are you sure this is my office? There hasn’t been some mistake?” It’s happened before.

Maisie looks amused. “Mr. St. Clair said you were funny. Let’s get started, shall we?” Maisie walks over to the mahogany desk in the corner of the room and wakes up the computer. My computer. My office!

“St. Clair said to get you anything you need. If you want the name of art dealer he met at a party in Paris three years ago, or a turkey on rye no mayo, just ask and I’ll figure out how to get it. I love my job and my job is making things run smoothly, so whatever it is, I can handle it. Got it?”

     

 

2011 - 2018