Thief of hearts, p.30
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       Thief of Hearts, p.30

           L.H. Cosway
 
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I got my diploma, shook hands with the dean of the college, then continued to the other side of the stage. Looking out, I saw Andrea standing next to the other students who hadn’t been called yet. As she looked up at me, it reminded me of the first time I saw her face. I’d been gobsmacked. Her expression was one of shock, yet she’d warmly accepted me into her classroom as if seeing a git like me was an everyday occurrence. God, she’d surprised me. Sweet, strong, passionate, real. They were the first four things I thought about her. How any male concentrated in her classes was beyond me. And as she spoke to me, with kindness and encouragement, I realised I had never met anyone like Andrea Anderson before. She was incredible. Now, her gorgeous brown eyes flicked up and she caught me looking. I grinned and held up my piece of paper. She beamed back at me.

  Love you, I mouthed. I couldn’t have done it without her, none of us could have. She was the most selfless and amazing woman I’d ever known. I’d do anything for her, and I’d spend the rest of my life doing right by her because she’d saved me.

  Her smile lit up her whole face, and I could tell even from a distance that she was proud of me. In my gut I felt like the luckiest bastard in the world to be on the receiving end of a look like that.

  She glanced across the space that separated us, her expression fierce and full of affection when she mouthed back, Love you, too.

  And thank fuck for that.

  Epilogue

  Boston, Massachusetts (Not the Aegean)

  Harry Shields showed up for the night shift, regular as clockwork. He greeted his co-worker, Jerry, like usual and they completed the switchover. When Harry went to start his rounds of the museum, all was quiet. It was always quiet. The presence of so many magnificent works of art seemed to warrant the respect of silence. They hung on the walls as though in slumber, until the sun rose and it was time to be looked at by new eyes.

  Harry might’ve just been an average Joe security guard, but he also liked to think of himself as an art lover. He passed through the Blue room, where one of his favourite paintings was on display, a depiction of a bridge going over the water in Venice by the American artist, John Singer Sargent. Harry had always wanted to visit the Italian city, and he hoped that in a couple years he’d finally have enough saved up to take his family on the trip of a lifetime.

  “One day, Venezia, one day I’ll see you for real,” he muttered to no one in particular. He had a tendency to talk to himself. Sometimes he spoke to the paintings, or even the artists themselves, though he’d never admit it if asked.

  How’s it going, Raphael? Long time no see.

  Working the night shift alone for the past five years had caused him to develop a few . . . eccentricities. Yep, it was just a typical night at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

  Well, that was until he heard an odd scratching noise as he approached the Dutch room. Quickly, he pulled out his flashlight. He shone it around the space, searching for the source of the noise, but it had gone quiet again. Wondering if an animal had found their way in, a wild cat or a fox maybe, he did a brief inspection of the room but everything seemed to be in order. Just a bunch of paintings in frames. He clicked off his flashlight, then stilled. Not all the frames should have paintings. The infamous frame of The Storm on the Sea of Galilee had sat empty for over twenty-five years, ever since it was stolen alongside a number of other valuable items on that faithful night in March, 1990. He turned his flashlight back on.

  The frame was no longer empty.

  Harry let out a string of swear words his mother would’ve clipped him around the ear for when he was younger and pulled out his walkie-talkie. His co-worker Mick was currently patrolling the courtyard and gardens.

  “What is it, Shields?” he answered, sounding bored.

  “I’m in the Dutch room, and, uh, I think there’s something you need to come see.”

  ***

  Meanwhile, sailing down the motorway in a rented Ford Fusion, two best friends celebrated a job well done.

  “I can’t believe we pulled that off,” said Alfie, grinning widely over at Jamie who was smiling, too, as he focused on the road ahead.

  “Hey, you’re the mastermind in all this. I’m just the one who gave you a little push to go through with it.”

  “It’s not like it didn’t take me months and months of planning,” Alfie said with a hint of self-deprecation.

  “Oh, quit the modesty. You’re a genius, and I’m delighted to be along for the ride.”

  “You’re not just along for the ride. If it weren’t for you I never would’ve had the courage to go through with it. I think I might actually be running off your bravery right now, because I’m not sure I ever possessed much myself.”

  Jamie reached across and briefly squeezed his hand. “Nonsense. You’ve always been brave. You just needed the right person to bring it out of you. That’s where I come in, being the crazy, risk-taking son of a gun that I am. Besides, you know I could never resist a good adventure.”

  “Well, I have always been a fan of your crazy.”

  They shared a smile then silence fell, miles and miles of road passing them by.

  Now Alfie frowned, the reality of what they’d just done suddenly sinking in. “Oh my God, Jamie. We just broke into a museum to return a painting that was stolen over twenty-five years ago. A painting that, if we’d returned it officially, could’ve seen us being rewarded millions of pounds for its recovery. I think we’re both insane.”

  Jamie tilted his head to the side. “Well sure, but how would we explain having it in our possession? It’s not like we could just show up with an almost four-hundred-year-old Rembrandt, and tell them that when you were contracted by an art thief to paint a replica, you actually painted two. And that when the thief agreed to give you a moment alone with the original, you swapped it with the second replica and hid the real painting under your floor boards.”

  “Well, when you put it like that I guess you’re right,” Alfie allowed.

  “Of course, I’m right. I’m always right. The FBI would have to be involved. They’d want to know who exactly this art thief was and who had the painting all these years. And since your very dear cousin is now very much in love with said art thief, your hands were pretty much tied.”

  “Andie’s going to kill me when she finds out,” said Alfie nervously.

  “Maybe at first, but once she realises the risk you took to do the right thing, to return a piece of history to its rightful owner, I’m sure she’ll find it in her heart to forgive you your deception. Besides, even when the painting’s recovery is reported on the news, it’s not like this Renfield character will have any recourse, and you said yourself that both Andrea and Stuart used false names and disguises. He doesn’t even know their true identities.”

  Alfie nodded, his confidence bolstered. “You’re right. And I spoke with Mum the other day. She wasn’t too happy about it, but I reminded her how the sale of my counterfeits provided for the lifestyle she’s been enjoying all these years. She owed me. I managed to guilt trip her into threatening Dad with informing the police about the money he hid in Swiss bank accounts before he was sent to prison. There’s far more in those accounts than he ever made from the sale of the painting, so I know he’ll keep his distance.”

  Jamie smacked him on the thigh and laughed loudly. “Perfect! I have to admit, I’m quite proud of us. Tonight we’ve done something that will go down in the history books for years to come. They’ll forever wonder who the Good Samaritans were who returned the famous painting, and we’ll know it was us. Maybe one day, when I’m old and grey, I’ll sit down and tell all my grandchildren the tale of how my best friend in the whole wide world and I embarked on an impossible adventure.”

  Alfie shot him an amused look. “Grandchildren?”

  “Don’t look so shocked. Of course I plan to have grandchildren.”

  “Yeah, but how—”

  “When you and I adopt and our little one grows up, I’m sure they’ll want to reproduce.”

/>   Alfie’s mouth dropped open in shock, his cheeks colouring themselves bright red. “You . . . and me . . . adopt?”

  Jamie feigned a horrified expression. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those awful people who hate children? Because if you are, I might have to rethink this whole being in love with you business.”

  Now Alfie could barely form words. He stared at his friend, his heart pounding wildly in his chest. Of course, he’d secretly held a candle for Jamie for years, always too afraid to tell him for fear of losing their friendship. But he never for a second imagined his feelings were reciprocated.

  Jamie glanced back and forth between him and the road. “Well, say something. Don’t leave a gentleman hanging.”

  Alfie flushed all the way down to his toes. “I love you, too,” he said in a barely audible mumble.

  Jamie grinned, well aware of his embarrassment. “Do speak up, darling. I didn’t hear a word you just said.”

  “Oh for crying out loud,” Alfie huffed. “I love you, okay. I’ve loved you since . . . forever.”

  Pleased as punch, Jamie pulled the car over onto the side of the road. As soon as they were safely out of the way of any oncoming traffic, he grabbed Alfie by the face and kissed him hard right on the mouth. Alfie gasped, sinking into the kiss like he’d been waiting for it his entire life.

  The painting had been returned.

  He’d done the right thing.

  And now he was kissing the love of his life in the front of a rented Ford something-or-other.

  END.

  If you enjoyed Trevor and Reya in Thief of Hearts, then you might be interested in their short story, One Epic Night, which will be sent for free to all L.H. Cosway’s newsletter subscribers on Oct 14th. To ensure you don’t miss out, you can sign up to receive the newsletter HERE.

  One Epic Night

  Trevor Cross had been my best friend for the better part of the last three years. He was also the most unique and unpredictable person I knew. Being around him often felt like trying to circumnavigate a minefield, and yet, I wouldn’t change him for the world. He was addictive, destructive, frustrating, fascinating. Too full of energy to ever pin down. Our friendship had been on a steady path until one wild and epic night that changed everything. He convinced me to throw caution to the wind, to stay out until the break of dawn and embrace new experiences. I never expected where the night would end, nor how it would alter our relationship for good.

  This story is a prequel to Trevor and Reya’s full-length book, Hearts on Air, the 6th and final instalment in the Hearts series, set for release in 2017.

  **All those who sign up after Oct 14th will receive the story in a separate email.**

  Thank you for reading Thief of Hearts. Please consider supporting an indie author and leaving a review <3

  About the Author

  L.H. Cosway lives in Dublin, Ireland. Her inspiration to write comes from music. Her favourite things in life include writing stories, vintage clothing, dark cabaret music, food, musical comedy, and of course, books. She thinks that imperfect people are the most interesting kind. They tell the best stories.

  Find L.H. Cosway online!

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  L.H. Cosway’s HEARTS Series

  Praise for Six of Hearts (Book #1)

  "This book was sexy. Man was it hot! Cosway writes sexual tension so that it practically sizzles off the page." - A. Meredith Walters, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author.

  "Six of Hearts is a book that will absorb you with its electric and all-consuming atmosphere." - Lucia, Reading is my Breathing.

  "There is so much "swoonage" in these pages that romance readers will want to hold this book close and not let go." - Katie, Babbling About Books.

  Praise for Hearts of Fire (Book #2)

  "This story holds so much intensity and it's just blazing hot. It created an inferno of emotions inside me." - Patrycja, Smokin' Hot Book Blog.

  "I think this is my very favorite LH Cosway romance to date. Absolutely gorgeous." - Angela, Fiction Vixen.

  "Okay we just fell in love. Complete and utter beautiful book love. You know the kind of love where you just don't want a book to finish. You try and make it last; you want the world to pause as you read and you want the story to go on and on because you're not ready to let it go." - Jenny & Gitte, Totally Booked.

  Praise for King of Hearts (Book #3)

  "Addictive. Consuming. Witty. Heartbreaking. Brilliant--King of Hearts is one of my favourite reads of 2015!" - Samantha Young, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

  "I was looking for a superb read, and somehow I stumbled across an epic one." - Natasha is a Book Junkie.

  "5+++++++ Breathtaking stars! Outstanding. Incredible. Epic. Overwhelmingly romantic and poignant. There's book love and in this case there's BOOK LOVE."- Jenny & Gitte, Totally Booked.

  Praise for Hearts of Blue (Book #4)

  "From its compelling characters, to the competent prose that holds us rapt cover to cover, this is a book I could not put down." - Natasha is a Book Junkie.

  "Devoured it in one sitting. Sexy, witty, and fresh. Their love was not meant to be, their love should never work, but Lee and Karla can't deny what burns so deep and strong in their hearts. Confidently a TRSoR recommendation and fave!"- The Rock Stars of Romance.

  "WOW!!! It's hard to find words right now, I don't think the word LOVE even makes justice or can even describe how much I adored this novel. Karla handcuffed my senses and Lee stole my heart."- Dee, Wrapped Up In Reading

 


 

  L.H. Cosway, Thief of Hearts

 


 

 
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