Mid Week Tease: Two to Tango #MWTease
Happy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with another wonderful Mid Week Tease, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. I’m still doing teasers for Two to Tango, but this week we’re going to feature a not-so-hot scene after Rory makes two very big mistakes, only one of which is breaking into a sociopathic Russian mafia member’s home.
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Rory MacLellan, aka the Highlander, is one of the most successful interstellar art thieves out there. He’s careful, professional, and plans his heists down to the microsecond. Surprisingly, he also has a conscience. So when he runs into a suicidal museum worker during his latest job, he has no choice but to stun the man and rescue him from certain death.
Dmitri Grigoryev was an up-and-coming exoarchaeologist until a disastrous dig left his career in tatters. Hungry, broke, and about to be laid off from the only job he’s been able to find in the last three years, he never expected a dashing thief to come along and ruin his suicide by saving his life.
With interstellar police on their tail, Rory and Dmitri reluctantly join forces for a major heist. But will their simmering attraction get in the way, or pull them even closer?
The world slowly reformed around Rory, brightening from black to a murky grey. He blinked, trying to lick his lips, and winced from the sudden pain that blazed in his jaw. “Ow.”
“Welcome back, Mr. MacLellan.”
Neck creaking, he looked up. A statuesque woman with silver hair swept up in an elegant coif stood in front of him, her dark blue evening gown quite out of place against the plain cinderblock walls. “I’d expected you to be awake by now. I was starting to wonder if Drou has lost his touch.”
She glanced at a huge mountain of a man who stood to her left. He glared at Rory, one hand dropping to the shockrod attached to his belt. “But now that you’re awake, we can get started,” she added.
Rory forced his brain into gear. He was strapped to a chair in a smallish rectangular room that looked like it was somewhere in the mansion’s basement, judging from the damp chill in the air and the block wall construction. More concerning were the tools, both surgical and construction, that hung neatly on wall racks, and the metal rolling tray loaded with unpleasantly sharp shapes. A series of surgical lamps were suspended overhead, and the floor was plain concrete with, yes, a drain in it.
The downward glance confirmed he was naked. Oh, fuck me with a mass driver. This is gonna get ugly.
He cleared his throat, forcing a smile despite the shards of agony it caused. “Madame Grishov, I presume?”
Her head tilted. “Indeed. You can imagine my surprise, Mr. MacLellan, when I was informed by my house AI that someone had penetrated the defenses. Most thieves are smart enough to avoid my home, unless they’re suicidal or truly stupid. And from what I understand of your reputation, you are neither.”
Rory tried to dredge up some charm. “You flatter me, madame. It’s a shame you had to leave the ballet early — I wasn’t counting on that.”
“Yes, neither was I. Especially as it’s been a rather busy week and I was very much looking forward to the performance.” Madame Grishov removed her black satin gloves, revealing hands peppered by age spots but with obvious strength in them. She handed the gloves to Drou, who handed back a pair in black leather. “So I’m afraid you’re going to have to entertain me tonight, Mr. MacLellan.”
As she pulled on the new gloves, Rory could see the flat lead pads sewn into the palms, and the blunted chrome studs mounted over each knuckle. He fought to hold onto his smile. “You know, this really isn’t necessary,” he said quickly. “I’m fully aware I invaded your privacy, and I need to pay for that — let’s say, 100,000 credits? I’m sure we could reach a satisfactory amount if we put our minds to it.”
That earned him a faint, wintry smile. “I’m sure we could,” she said calmly. “But where’s the fun in that?”
Her arm went up and back. He had just enough time to brace himself before she backhanded him. Pain exploded through his face, and he swallowed a shout.
An openhanded slap on the other cheek violently rocked his head to the other side, the small lead plates in the glove lending agonizing power to the blow. Blood filled his mouth from where his teeth had gashed into tender flesh. Grimacing, he swallowed what he could, and let the rest of it drool onto his chin. Maybe if she sees blood, she’ll be happy.
Her eyes lit up at the sight. Oh, shit. Wrong kind of happy.
“Would it help if I said I was sorry?” he managed.
“Not really. I already know you’re sorry.” She gripped his chin hard, forcing his face up. “But I do admit to some curiosity. Obviously you were here to steal the Lady of Kazan, since we found the duplicate in your carryall.” Her grip tightened, and for a moment he wondered if she was going to break his jaw. “But it isn’t nearly as valuable as other items in my collection, items that would be much easier for a thief to carry. So I have to wonder why you went to all the trouble of breaking into my home and risking an extremely prolonged and creative death in order to steal that particular ikon.”
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