The Devil's Thief (The Saint’s Devils #1) - Samantha Kane
June 5, 1817
The faint, metallic screech sounded as loud as thunder in the oppressive silence of the dark bedroom. Julianna froze, silhouetted by the moonlight against the back wall, the sudden noise stealing her breath away.
“Unless you care to be shot this evening, I wouldn’t move from where you’re standing.” The deep voice was quiet but firm and it came from the shadows of the big bed.
Julianna remained still as a statue, her mind awhirl. For a moment all was silent, but then she heard the bed sheets rustle and the mattress groan. She cast her eyes toward the bed, afraid to move even an inch. She could see from the man’s outline that he was now leaning against the headboard. His arm appeared to be resting on his upraised knee, but it was too dark to tell whether or not he was actually holding a gun.
“You’re probably wondering if I do indeed have a gun,” he said nonchalantly, and Julianna had to suppress a gasp. How did he know?
She closed her eyes and pursed her lips in annoyance at herself. Of course he knew. It’s what any halfway intelligent person would be thinking if they were discovered in her position.
“Let me reassure you that the answer is yes.” His reassurance was hardly necessary, since she had already concluded that to be the case. In her experience, gentlemen were alarmingly odd, at least in most respects, so it was no surprise that this one apparently slept with a gun. Given his wild and reckless reputation, it would perhaps be more surprising if he did not.
He snorted inelegantly from the bed, which amused Julianna in spite of the dangerous situation she was in. In that moment he didn’t sound at all like the Honorable Mr. Alasdair Sharp to whom she’d recently been introduced, but very much like an annoyed schoolmaster.
“Stand up, for God’s sake,” Mr. Sharp ordered from the bed. “You look like a caricature of a thief, hunched over and creeping along the wall.”
Julianna started to straighten and she heard another rustle from the bed.
“Slowly,” Mr. Sharp admonished, and she froze again for a moment before straightening very, very slowly. “And now you must tell me what you found so irresistible in my bedroom in the middle of the night.”
Julianna heard the amusement in his voice and it irritated her. So he found her amusing, did he?
The slight weight in the secret pocket of her shirt burned into her side like a brand as she faced him. “Let me reassure you that it was the Stuart Pearl I found irresistible,” she retorted, “and nothing else.”
As soon as she spoke she could have bitten off her tongue. Why, oh why did she always open her mouth before thinking things through? Surely he would recognize her now.
“You’re a woman,” Mr. Sharp exclaimed in shock.
Julianna closed her eyes in despair at her own foolishness. If she had kept her mouth shut, he wouldn’t have figured that out so quickly, maybe not at all. She was dressed in black trousers and shirt, her hair pinned up. In the dark she was certain she could pass for a man. The waning crescent moon outside barely gave enough light for him to see her. Even though her outburst had given away her sex, she refused to confirm it by answering him. She was lightheaded with relief that he did not seem to recognize her voice.
“I thought you looked a little short for a man,” he mused, “but I imagined that you were an apprentice thief or some such thing. It never entered my head that you might be a woman.”
Julianna had to press her lips together not to make a disparaging comment about the contents of his head. It wouldn’t be wise in this situation, although it was her natural inclination. It was clear he had no idea who she was, and while fortuitous, it was also quite aggravating.
“Cat got your tongue, Miss Thief?” he asked, and Julianna began to shake. She was not afraid of him—rather, she was afraid that she was losing control of the situation and of herself.
He shoved the covers aside and rose from the bed, and she almost squeaked in alarm. He was naked. The pale moonlight flowing through the open window fell across the floor at an angle, and as he stood next to the bed, the light shone on his very naked body, illuminating him from his flat stomach to his bare feet.
His face was still covered in shadow, but