Stone Cold Seduction - By Jess Macallan

Chapter One

The worst day of my life began with a double mocha, extra whipped cream. I burned my tongue, spilled whipped cream on my black top, and then dumped the whole thing when I tripped while walking up the stairs to my second-floor apartment. It got worse. Like a bad country song, I broke things, lost things, ran over things, and hurt things—mostly myself.

If it had stopped there, I could have slept it off with a little help from a bottle of cabernet. But, naturally, it didn’t.

Now, a little past one in the morning, I’m balancing on a stone ledge outside a building that doesn’t belong to me, trying to get away with gems that don’t belong to me. An employee who does, sort of, belong to me, has just opened the nearest window and casually said hello.

Being caught stealing by my newest employee—who happens to be a hottie—tops my list of Worst Situations Ever.

Yes, I’ve had better days.

My name is Elleodora Fredricks—Elle for short. I’m not a fan of my name, especially because it comes from my paternal line. By day, I’m a small business owner, the proprietress of an organic soap store. By night, a cat burglar. I’m moderately talented at both professions. In my defense, I do my part to spread good karma. I donate pet food and blankets to the local animal shelter, I collect donations at my shop twice a year for the food bank, and the only person I ever steal from is the biggest son of a bitch in town.

My father.

I typically refer to him as the jerk who mistakenly donated DNA. He never earned the title of dad. It’s safe to say we have father-daughter issues.

A small bead of sweat slid down my jaw and disappeared into my collar. It was a cool October evening, but a combination of nerves and leather had me perspiring. Face first, I pressed my weight against the building and gripped the decorative stone that surrounded the window. It had rained earlier, so the stone was slick, but the swirls and pattern in the stone made it fairly easy to grip, despite the rain.

The ledge under my feet was another matter. The eight inches of concrete I balanced on were not nearly enough to make me feel safe from the potential five-story drop. Heights made me queasy, but the gorgeous man staring at me from the window I’d just crawled out of unnerved me.

For starters, he hadn’t taken his eyes off me. For a brief moment, I wondered why I’d listened to Teryl and worn the black catsuit. I was a walking cliché for cat burglars, clinging to a ledge with gemstones hidden between my breasts, wearing a freaking black leather catsuit. I’d only wanted to blend into the shadows and avoid leaving a scrap of identifiable clothing behind. Teryl had sworn the neck-to-ankle black one-piece made me look dangerous and sexy.

Teryl was a liar.

However, Teryl is a liar who also happens to be my best friend, and a key component to this failure of an operation. He’s the one and only informant I have inside my father’s business. Without him, I wouldn’t have access to any of the information I need to stay one step ahead of dear old Dad. Too bad Teryl was striking out tonight. Big time.

Excuses to explain my position to my hot employee began to run through my mind, but as quickly as they formed, I dismissed them. It was as bad as it looked. Catsuit, theft, and all. Tonight’s cache included fifty-two carats of flawless Paraiba tourmaline gemstones. It really doesn’t hurt my father’s bottom line—he’s loaded—but it keeps him distracted. More importantly, it prevents him from murdering any more innocents. The money goes back to the families of those who weren’t so lucky, and to the small few who’ve survived, but wished they hadn’t.

Breathing deeply, I prayed for strength and slowly turned my head to look at Jaxon West, otherwise known as Jax. I’d hired him two months ago to help with deliveries, shipments, and all-around handy man tasks.

The man was hot, sweaty, bring-the-roof-down sex poured into jeans.

Jax stood a solid six feet tall, with broad shoulders, a tapered waist, and every inch of him threaded with muscle. His hair was cut short and an honest-to-God black. It’s so black, it has a gorgeous blue sheen in certain light. And then there were his eyes.

Oh, his eyes.

They’re a steely, flint gray. I swear, at times I’ve seen them shimmer with streaks

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