As she walked in the shop, though, she saw that Arthur was busy helping a customer. Her nerves were frayed but she meandered about casually, pretending to look at the pieces he had on show.
Nerves made her stomach roll. How, exactly, was she supposed to go about this? She’d never tried to get rid of a stolen piece before. She didn’t even know where to start.
“Talia,” Arthur said when he saw her. “What a surprise. Come join us. Have you heard the big news?”
She made her way across the room uneasily. “What big news?”
“The Harringtons were robbed last night. This is Detective Riley Kinkade. He’s working the case.”
Talia’s systems began shutting down one right after the other. First, her air caught in her lungs. Then her heart lurched to a stop. Her muscles went lax and she nearly dropped the briefcase. “Robbed?” she said in a quiet voice.
Kinkade. Detective. Case. Her eyes slowly turned on the man who’d been standing so quietly to the side. Her gaze caught him at shoulder level. Nearly frozen with trepidation, she forced herself to look up into his face. Dark brown eyes looked at her contemplatively.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“You’re next on my list.”
List? She was on the list already? Reflex made her take a step back.
She never knew what happened next. She either caught a heel on the Oriental rug at her feet or her knees gave out. Whichever, she went flying backwards.
The detective had the reflexes of a tiger. Moving swiftly, he caught her about the waist. Her free hand latched onto his shoulder and, for the briefest of seconds, time stood still.
His dark gaze locked with her amber one and Talia felt him looking right into her soul.
He knew, she thought frantically. He could see.
Their bodies were sealed together from chest to knee, and she fought back her panic. There was no escaping now. His muscles felt like hot steel under her touch. His stomach molded against hers and a rock-hard thigh had slipped between her legs. As she clung to him helplessly, she felt another part of his body stiffen against her hip.
Her eyes widened and he let out a soft curse.
“Are you okay?” he asked, slowly bringing her upright.
No, she wasn’t okay! Danger signs flashed inside her head. She was not okay.
“Ma’am?” he said again.
“I’m fine. Just clumsy.” She tried to take a step back, but winced at the sharp pain in her ankle.
His hands at her waist stopped her. “Let me take a look.”
Before she could clear her thoughts, he crouched down in front of her. His hand slid down her calf toward her ankle and a wild exhilaration ricocheted through her. Looking down, all she saw was the top of his head. A reckless part of her wanted to thread her fingers through his thick, brown hair and hold tight.
“I’m sorry, Talia. I should move that rug,” Arthur said. “I keep tripping over it myself.”
Her head snapped to the side. She’d forgotten there was anybody else in the room! “It wasn’t the rug. It was my fault. Don’t worry. I’m fi—”
Her words broke off sharply when the detective slid her shoe off her foot. The action felt as seductive as if he’d just slipped off her panties. She was thrown by her reaction but that didn’t lessen it in the least. Her knees went weak again and she reached out to brace herself against the man’s shoulders.
His gaze slid up her body slowly and she suddenly realized how short her skirt was. If he leaned only a few inches forward, his face would be in her crotch.
“How’s that feel?” he asked.
“What?” she said in a haze.
“Your ankle,” he said with the hint of a smile on his lips. “Does this hurt?”
He pressed against the soft tissue on her inner foot. The touch should have been impersonal but zaps of electricity shot right up her leg to her core. Talia felt her pussy twinge. “No, no pain,” she said unevenly.
“How about that?” His fingers deftly touched her anklebone.
She pressed her lips together. She tried to pull her foot away but he glanced at her and she stopped. She couldn’t afford to raise his suspicions.
Watching her closely, he slid his thumb to the bottom of her foot and pressed firmly against her arch. Oh, God! Her fingers tightened reflexively on his shoulders as arousal hit her hard. He might have missed the small sign but there was no way he could miss the curling of her toes.
“Everything looks good down here,” he said, clearing his throat.
He slid the shoe back on her foot and slowly stood up. She thought she heard him say “real good” under his breath but she couldn’t be sure. She’d already taken two steps back.
The man was dangerous.