Corbin Ford, aka the Nightwatchman, named for the antique pocket watches he leaves behind at jobs, has been in the cat-burgling business for years. His father was. His grandfather was. His mother is still one of the most renowned thieves. Corbin likes his high-profile heists, priceless paintings from private collections, artifacts from museums, but his favorite? Jewels. Sparkly, beautiful jewels. If they’re famous, better yet.
Interpol agent Luke Eldridge has one goal and one goal only: to catch the Nightwatchman. Luke’s been after him for months, but getting the slip time and again is getting embarrassing. Luke has never even laid eyes on the bastard, but he’d happily strangle him. And then arrest him.
When Luke meets Corbin, the man of his dreams, he falls hard and fast… only to catch Corbin red-handed with his hand in a jewelry case at the scene of the highest-profile murder that’s rocked the international world in years.
“WE’VE GOT something you need to see, Luke. You’d better get over here now.”
Luke Eldridge sighed into his phone. He glanced at the slices of pizza he’d just picked up from a food cart down on Camden Lock. Looked like there was more cold pizza in his future. Typical. Irritating, but typical.
“Where are you?” Luke asked. He dragged himself off his soft leather couch. It made a disgusting squelching sound. Luke turned and halfheartedly wiped the seat off. He was tired from the run he’d forced himself to take, wet, and starting to chill as heat escaped through his damp T-shirt. The last thing he wanted to do was get back into a suit and go out in the cold he’d just escaped from.
Rob, one of his oldest friends from his days in the FBI academy, who’d followed Luke when he transferred to London, rattled off a very upper crust Kensington address.
“Jesus. Is this one going to make the morning press?” Luke asked. People who lived at addresses like that tended to make the news. His job was always harder when he had a ton of panicking socialites breathing down his neck, guarding their remaining beloved possessions. He didn’t need them or the news vans hovering outside his crime scene.
“Probably. I’ll try to put it off as long as I can, but you know how it works. Just get your ass over here. Waterman’s on my dick already.”
“Sounds unpleasant.” Luke chuckled under his breath. “Does that surprise you?”
Didn’t surprise Luke either. George Waterman, their division chief within Interpol Art Crimes, was all about the high profile cases. Art, jewelry, anyone with a Lord or Lady attached to the front of their name. Even the odd Sir here and there. Cases like that were good press for the agency, he always said. Probably more like good for getting his face on the camera. Waterman was a media whore extraordinaire. Usually Luke didn’t care, but when they were in the middle of trying to open a case, it kind of pissed him off.
Luke felt it would be better to deal with the press after they had some solid leads, or, you know, someone in custody, but far be it from him to correct Waterman. He’d spent the last eight years trying to overcome the hereditary American-ness Waterman deemed a deep character flaw. If he started correcting the guy now, he might as well sign his own pink slip.
“I can be there in fifteen minutes. Waterman won’t even be done fixing his hair for the cameras,” Luke told Rob. He was already in his suit pants and shaking out his dress shirt. It felt a little stale from a long day, but he wasn’t going to put on a new one for a late evening call. If all went well, Luke would be back in his sweats and on his couch in less than an hour.
“Try to make it ten. I’m not in the mood to get my skin pulled off a strip at a time.”
He sounded like his typical sarcastic self, but the tone of his friend’s voice was different. Worried, maybe. Luke knew that tone. It rarely led to good news. “What’s going on, Rob? What are you leaving out?”
“There’s something weird about this one. Might cause us a hell of a shit storm in the near future if I’m right.”
“Are you going to tell me or are we going to play guessing games?” Luke wasn’t in the mood to play anything. All he wanted to do was eat some still-warm pizza, crawl into bed, and sleep for days—or at least until his alarm went off at six. He’d gotten way too little sleep lately. He hadn’t gotten enough sleep in years.
Rob cleared his throat nervously. “You need to see this for yourself. Just get here, man.”
Luke disconnected the call. He finished dressing, shoved one piece of his pizza onto a paper towel, and grabbed his keys. He could eat it on the way without ruining his suit. Even if he spilled, fuck it. He wasn’t going to sacrifice one more decent dinner to the cause.
THE LONDON streets were slick and dark, half frozen in the early spring chill, but at least it was quiet. The air was close to freezing, too. Unseasonably low temps, but sadly not by much. After all the years he’d been in London, the winters still got to him, cold and wet, the kind that seemed to creep all the way into the center of his chest—nothing like his childhood home in South Carolina or even Virginia, where he’d lived and worked his first few years out of the academy. Sometimes Luke missed the old optimistic years at Quantico. These days it seemed like the cold was impossible to shake. It seeped into his bones and camped out until nothing he did could warm him through.
Fuck, I’m getting old.
The stone row houses slipped past, nestled together, dark on the outside like everything else, interiors shining and cheery against the insidious, creeping chill. Everyone who knew better was inside somewhere, enjoying dinner, relaxing with the people they loved. They weren’t alone. He’d figured long ago his hopes for being one of them had probably passed. Luke loved his job, it was his life, but some nights he wouldn’t mind a break. Luke bypassed their unit’s Westminster offices in favor of going straight to the scene. He didn’t need anything but what he had on him. Hopefully he’d be in and out in time for the late news.
PARKING WAS typically a nightmare in residential areas of London, especially with most people home out of the rain, but he maneuvered his way into a spot only a block and a half away from his destination and called it a miracle.
It was easy to tell which house was the target. The small drive was crammed full of official-looking vehicles, lit brightly, and festooned with crime scene tape. His unit had made quick progress of blocking it off. Scotland Yard was there too. Leland Chapman, one of the detectives Luke had had a few unpleasant run-ins with, was standing out front with Rob, probably getting into it with him over jurisdiction, a routine yet annoying squabble. Luke walked a little faster so he could rescue Rob. Rob didn’t deserve to get his blood pressure up over nothing. The beef really was between Chapman and him. They’d rubbed each other the wrong way since day one.
“Leland,” Luke murmured when he got there. The tension was thick, and Rob’s face had turned a bit red in the cold. Yep. They’d been arguing.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Rob said pointedly. “Get up here before Leland fucks up the scene.”
“I know how to do my job. This is my city,” Leland said.
“Interpol’s been on this case for years. Call your director if you want. He’ll fill you in. This is ours.” Rob dismissed Leland and turned for the white stairs into the townhouse.
“Were you blowing smoke up his ass?” Luke asked quietly. How the hell could Rob know who had rights to the case? It was only a few hours old.
“Nope. We were flagged right away. Come upstairs and you’ll see why soon enough.”
The outside of the place was imposing, tall, and narrow, pristine even in the wet, cold dark. Luke trailed Rob up the slick stairs, more than a little curious about what had his oldest friend acting so strangely.
“Remember our training at the academy?” Rob asked.
Why’s he bringing that up? Luke didn’t think Rob could read his mind, know that he’d been thinking about the good old days earlier—times when he thought in black and white and everything seemed so obvious.
“Of course. I’m thirty-eight, not a hundred.”
“Right, old man. You’re getting a little fuzzy around the edges.”
Luke elbowed him. “You’re six months older than me.”
Rob smiled and gestured for Luke to follow him into the house. They wound their way through an opulent but cramped hallway, up two flights of stairs carpeted with Persian runners and flanked by creepy portraits that leered at him in the dark. The stairs seemed never-ending after a long day and an even longer run, but Luke trudged on. Finally they stopped on the third floor and turned into what must’ve been a master suite. At first glance it looked like nothing was out of place: the bed neatly made, carpets vacuumed to perfection, lamp on and glowing against taupe and silver damask wallpaper. But then Luke looked into the en suite bathroom and saw it. Inside a gold-leafed wardrobe was a small safe, cracked open and yawning empty except for two very, very noticeable details.
No fucking way.
Hanging over the door of the safe, glinting dully in the lamplight, was an antique pocket watch. Underneath it, stark white on the carpeting, was a scrap of paper barely big enough for the six typed lines on it.
Wind moves harsh on Autumn wings
Blue as heart and flowers to the stone
Rend love from love
and ash from earth
’Til God’s seed is shriveled and spent
Empty and wasted with regret
“That’s Ezra Covington. Nineteenth-century American poet. I’ll be shocked if it’s not.” Luke didn’t have to look it up. He didn’t know the poem but knew the pattern of what they’d found better than he knew his parents’ faces. A cleaned-out safe, an old watch, and a Covington poem on a scrap of linen paper, typed out on an antique Underwood typewriter, just like always. But it couldn’t be. Not after so much time.
Rob nodded. “Yeah, we had Morgan do a search for that verse as soon as we got to the scene to confirm. It’s a Covington poem. You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Fuck,” Luke whispered.
“Yup, that’s pretty much what I’m thinking.” Rob looked equal parts amused and concerned. “Could it be him?”
Luke sure as hell knew why Rob had taken a momentary stroll down memory lane. He remembered every detail they’d learned, down to the color of the rugs in the crime scene photos—missing jewelry, art, antiques, never found, nobody caught. The only things that linked the crimes were the damn antique pocket watches and the thief’s weakness for Covington’s poetry.
They’d studied it for weeks back at the academy, even though the FBI hadn’t been involved in every aspect of the case like Interpol had. It was the reason he and Rob had gotten so close. They’d shared an interest in the old case. Expensive, sometimes priceless jewelry, art, artifacts stolen from high-risk locations and the location marked every single time with two things: a verse of poetry and an antique watch. Rob and Luke had pored over the pictures and reports as trainees, hours and hours of theory and discussion. It had been an obsession back then. He’d shoved it away, figured it was impossible to solve a case so cold.
“I can’t believe it,” Luke said. “It just… no. Agility alone would rule him out. And he’s been inactive for so long. Why start again now?” Luke pressed fingers into his eye sockets and rubbed. He tried to make sense of what was a very clear crime scene with a huge red arrow pointing with flashing lights in one direction only.
IT WAS goddamn impossible, is what it was. The Nightwatchman had already been gone a few years when Luke had studied him at the academy. Luke did some mental calculations. Twenty years. It had been a little over twenty years since he’d surfaced. The FBI and Interpol and always assumed it was a man. He’d have to be in his late fifties at least if their old profile had been correct. Luke tried to wrap his head around it.
“You think we have a copycat?” Rob asked.
Luke was still trying to process the perfect details on the scene, the sheer improbability of what he was looking at. The thought of original versus copycat was about sixty steps ahead of where he was. “I don’t know, man.”
“But I thought the full details were never released to the public. The watches, yes. After all, it was the press who dubbed him. But the Covington poems? Nobody should know that part.”
Luke turned, surprised to hear another voice in the room. “Thanks, Kelly.”
He’d been so shell-shocked by the watch and the poem, he’d barely noticed her walk into the room. She was fresh on the case, didn’t have the extensive background that he and Rob had. It might end up being an advantage. Less preconceptions. Still, the Nightwatchman case was legend. “If we have a copycat here, they have insider knowledge somehow.”
“Let’s get Scotland Yard back in here to process the scene,” Luke said. “I need time to think.”
HE’D ALWAYS felt like a spider, scuttling through the underbelly of the city, unseen until he was nearly gone, an oily black streak in the corner of people’s vision. He was meant for the dark corners. Meant for the night.
Corbin Ford had had a long life of skating along unnoticed by most. It should’ve been something that bothered him. It would bother most people. But he liked it. Liked that the woman who might smile condescendingly at him at the bank, then forget he ever existed, could be the same one he divested of everything of value hours later. It felt like an inside joke, one he never planned to share with anyone. He belonged on the outside looking in. He was comfortable there, had been for thirty-five years.
He was a shadow, and like one, he moved silently through the city.
A taxi drove past and sent up a huge spray of water. He managed to jump out of the way of the plume fast enough he barely got any on his coat. He’d paid enough for the damn thing. It’d be annoying to get it ruined. Sure, he could afford to replace the coat and buy hundreds more just like it, but it didn’t mean he wanted to.
Corbin swore under his breath and moved closer to the buildings.
It was still damn cold for March. Damn cold period as far as he was concerned. He tightened his jacket against the bitter chill and wrapped his black scarf tighter around his neck. Black jacket, black scarf, dark jeans, and black shoes. He fit in in the city. Nobody would notice anything unusual about him.
Corbin knew he shouldn’t have been there, so close to the scene. It was stupid to stay and watch the house swarm with police and agents, but he’d needed more satisfaction somehow. The clink of Lady Dalton’s emerald earrings and the thick, heavy ruby-and-diamond necklace weren’t enough for him anymore. He’d spent nearly an hour with the jewels earlier, trying to get the same feeling he used to get from a particularly good haul. He’d touched the gems and weighed them in his hand. Even when he’d put them away in a safe far better than the one he’d fished them out of, there was barely a spark. No heavy dark thrill. No excitement. The rest of her things weren’t worth more than a moment’s examination. He’d stolen them for the resale cash, not any particular pleasure. The emeralds were different. So was that necklace. At least it would’ve been in the past.
Corbin felt like he was broken.
In retrospect, that was probably why he’d done it. Why he’d left the watch and the poem for the authorities to find. Interpol was there; they had to be. He hadn’t seen them, but leaving his father’s old trademark was a sure bet to get them called. No more was Corbin “a rash of high-end burglaries.” No. He’d just become a singular and quite important someone. A thief who was supposedly long gone.
The little missing thrill, the one he’d tried desperately to get from cold jewels and heavy gold, wound its way up his back when he thought about the Interpol agents finding his adopted calling card. He smiled into the dark.
Corbin’s phone rang. He checked the caller ID with a groan. Wouldn’t do any good to ignore her. It never worked. He impatiently swiped a freezing finger across the screen.
“Mom. How’s the weather in Palm Beach?” he asked. He waited for the hammer of her anger to drop hard and heavy right on his head.
“Corbin, what have you done?” she hissed. “Are you out of your goddamn mind?”
His mother rarely disappointed. It was hard not to laugh. Just that much made the excitement he’d been missing thrum through his veins once again. He never would’ve thought he’d need the recognition; he’d always said the jewels, the paintings, the rare books were the only things that made his heart pitter-patter. He guessed he didn’t know himself as well as he thought.
“I see news travels fast. Did you two hire a new guy to hack into Interpol’s system? You know you can just text me if you want to know what I’m up to. I will answer if I’m not too busy.” He flicked his hair out of his face. “That way you won’t be responsible for someone else’s arrest. You know I hate when we rope other people into our family squabbles.”
Corbin knew exactly how to pull every one of his mother’s strings. Her vast annoyance radiated the entire way across the Atlantic. Corbin didn’t know why it was so fun to antagonize her. He loved his mom to death, but still he grinned into his phone.
“Why did you stir up a hornet’s nest that’s been buried for years?” His mother was trying to control her considerable temper. He hadn’t had so much fun in months, if not far longer. It was way past time.
“I was bored?” He shrugged. “It wasn’t exciting anymore.”
“I think you need to come home. Steal a few paintings from some galleries in town. Cool your heels. I’m working on a four-man job in Beverly Hills that I think you—”
“Florida’s not home for me, Mom. And I’m not moving to California. Ever. I think I’m liking it here. The rain’s growing on me.” He’d landed in London a few months before, got his bearings, found a place to live, then got to work. It took planning to do what he did. Preparation. He was damn good at it, but it was still complicated.
His mother made a strangled noise on the other side of the line. “I could have Jeremy sic Interpol on you. Make you run so fast you won’t have time for any more ridiculous stunts.”
Corbin let himself laugh out loud. “You could, but you won’t. Tell Jeremy hello for me. I think I’m still a few points ahead. Especially after tonight. That was definitely a level up. He’d better do something big if he doesn’t want me to leave him in the dust.”
They were both good thieves—they’d learned from the best, after all—but Corbin was just the tiniest bit smarter than his older brother. He liked to lord it over him from time to time, just like Jeremy rarely lost an opportunity to point out that he was their father’s favorite son. It was dysfunctional as hell, but it was their relationship, and they both loved it the way it was.
“You need to get out of there before you get caught.” His mother was nothing if not repetitive if there was something she really wanted him to get into his thick skull. And Corbin was about as interested in listening as usual.
“I’ll leave like I always do… when I’m tired of this scene.” Corbin looked around at the gloom and rain and slick, dark stone. He’d get tired of it eventually. London was exciting, but the weather sucked. He sensed palm trees somewhere in his future. Cannes maybe. Rio. Somewhere sunny with miles of beach and even more careless rich people for him to play with. “And I won’t get caught. I never do. I’m going to stop for some dinner, Ma. I like the curry here. Have a good day, and give Dad a hug for me.”
Corbin hung up before his mother could tell him exactly what his father thought of him abruptly deciding to fill his very large and famous shoes. Corbin had been stealing for years, nothing that could be linked to a single person. He didn’t even stick to a single type of haul, though the shine of stones always made him the most happy. Corbin was tired of floating beneath the radar. He hadn’t been lying. It had gotten boring. He had plenty of money, enough that he could’ve done what his father had at his age—retire to a beach house and grow organic oranges. That life wasn’t for him. Corbin thought he had too much of his mother in his blood. She’d never be done, and neither would he.
THE GAME was about to begin, and he couldn’t wait.
First, let me just say, HOLY CRAP YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK! Ok now that I have that out there, I can tell you about this book! I love those kinds of books that you know are gonna be good when you start it, and this is so one of those books!
Luke has been after the Nightwatchman, renowned jewel thief, for what seems like forever, and he would like nothing better than to capture him and put him away for good. Luke meets Collin and his priorities change, now he wants to nurture his relationship with the man of his dreams, funny how life can give you two things at once!
Collin didn't plan on falling for Luke, and he didn't plan on getting caught either, but how can he convince Luke that he is the man who loves him over everything else? I love the dynamic between these two, and I really like them as a couple!
Can these two make it work even though they are from two different worlds? There is also the pesky matter of a murder to solve, and you won't believe how that turns out!! This one will grab your attention and keep it till the end, believe me!
You have to grab this ones and dive in friends, you will be happy you did! Thanks MJ, for giving us a book that will keep us entertained and guessing to the end!!
I loved this book! It's excellent, even better than I had anticipated. Judging by the blurp, I thought it was going to be just a bit of fun, but it's actually quite deep with themes like forgiveness and commitment. The setting is awesome and – even though the plot is just okay – this a largely character driven book anyway. Both Corbin and Luke are relatable and there is some lovely tension between them to keep things interesting. Their relationship is also quite touching. The only slight issue I had was with the ending. It's hopeful but bittersweet.
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