Molly and the Phantom by Lynn Michaels
Originally published by Harlequin Temptation
Kindle Edition October 2010 by Lynn Michaels
This story was inspired by my cats, Molly and Phantom. Ideas come from the strangest places.
Back cover blurb
Be very careful what you wish for...
This is the curse laid on the Phantom, a 532-carat blue diamond, and the descendants of Sir Ossric of Glyco, the Scottish knight who won the stone in battle during the Crusades in Palestine in 1192 -- may they possess everything their hearts desire.
The curse includes Chase Sanquist, jewel thief, a descendant of Sir Ossric, who arrives in the tiny European principality of St. Cristobel to steal the Phantom from Molly Savard, Princess Royal of St. Cristobel.
Chase doesn't believe in the curse until weird things start to happen and Sheik Shehabi, a sorcerer-sheik descendant of the sultan Sir Ossric beheaded to obtain the Phantom, shows up at Princess Molly's birthday ball determined to kill him and reclaim the Phantom.
Molly has discovered that her uncle, the Regent, is stealing her blind by replacing the Crown Jewels one by one with fakes. She hatches a plan -- enlist Chase to steal the Phantom before her uncle can hand it over to Shehabi.
Can Molly and Chase escape St. Cristobel with the Phantom, save Chase from the curse and stay alive long enough to fall in love?
At sight of the princess in the doorway, the orchestra playing on the gallery of the branched staircase that led up to the mezzanine fell silent. The lord chamberlain had quit his post in the foyer, and now stood beside the princess. She nodded to him, and he bowed and faced the room.
"Her Serene Highness," his bass voice boomed, "Marie-Marguerite Christiana Alistrina Helene Savard, Princess Royal of St. Cristobel."
A flurry of bows and curtsies came from every corner of the room. The princess acknowledged them with a graceful inclination of her chin, raised her arms and both hands to lift her guest to their feet. The orchestra began to play "Happy Birthday."
Everyone in the room sang. So did Chase, suppressing a smile at the memory of the regal creature beside him swinging along Parabello Street in her jeans and her boots and her Chicago Bears cap.
The song ended, the guests applauded, and the princess smiled and waved. The orchestra leader raised his baton, a waltz began, and the dancing resumed.
"Would you like to dance, Your Highness?" Chase asked.
"Yes, thank you."
He led her down from the dais, took her in his arms and moved her into the steps of a Strauss waltz. Her right hand fit small and cool in his, and the chiffon of her gown felt as soft as silk against his left palm. Up close her emeralds were exquisite, the settings alone and the gold in her coronet worth a bloody fortune.
The princess titled her chin up to look at him, an amused glimmer in her eyes. "You're drooling, Mr. Sanquist."
"Forgive me, Highness. I've never danced with a princess before."
"I had no idea this piece existed." She lifted her left hand from his shoulder and touched the brooch pinned to his plaid. It was crafted from tiny shards of the Phantom, left overs from re-cutting the stone to fit the Royal Scepter of St.Cristobel. "Obviously, neither did my uncle. How did you get your hands on it?"
"You saw the parchment, Highness."
"Yes, I saw it, but I don't believe a word of it."
"Are you calling me a liar?"
"No, Mr. Sanquist, I'm calling you a thief."
He pulled her closer and smiled. "I'd rather you call me Chase."
The stroke of his fingertips on the small of her back made Molly shiver. It was nothing personal, merely an involuntary reaction, her body adjusting from the drafty foyer to the over warm ballroom.
"You needn't be so obvious," she replied, easing away from him. "I have every intention of inviting you to my apartment."
That surprised him, and excited him. His eyelashes were very thick, and several shades darker than his blond hair. They made a tiny upward leap, then swept down. A chandelier whirled by overhead, spinning beams of light from its crystal facets. On his shoulder, the brooch flashed a deep, sultry sapphire. So did his eyes beneath half-lowered lids.
"How do we give your bodyguard Diello the slip?" he asked.
"It's all arranged." Molly glanced away from him, nodding as they neared the far end of the ballroom. "Meet me here, behind the middle pillar beneath the mezzanine, at ten forty-five."
Chase looked where she nodded. The pillars were marble like everything else in the ballroom, wound with garlands of pink rosebuds and white orchids, and thick enough to hide ten pikemen.
One second the were dancing, the next Molly was spinning in a dizzy circle. A startled yelp escaped her as Chase Sanquist whirled her off the dance floor into the deep shadows beneath the mezzanine.
She felt petals crush beneath her shoulders as he pressed her up against the pillar, and a twinge in the sore spot beneath her coronet. When he spread his hands above her shoulders, she caught her breath and tasted roses on her tongue.
"You mean like this?" he asked.
Molly laughed, light-headed from the spin and Chase Sanquist's nearness. He was taller and heavier than he'd looked in the cafe. His shoulders were broader, too, but there was no padding in his jacket, only muscle in the velvet-clad arms pinning her to the pillar.
"If you insist," she said.
"I insist," he said, and kissed her.
He hadn't meant to. He'd only meant to make her laugh and keep her off balance. A mark who was never sure what was coming next was easier to mold to his purpose. So was her mouth, shaping itself to his as he slid his right arm around her and pulled her closer. He hadn't meant to do that, either.
Any more than Molly meant to put her arms around his neck, but that's where they were when he lifted his head and she opened her eyes. He looked as surprised as she felt, his eyebrows slightly raised, a pulse beating in his temple.
"I insist," she said shakily, "that you let me go."
"So do I," her bodyguard, Danny Diello, growled from the other side of the pillar.