“Next time you want to play with me, learn the game.”
Cassie levels me with a predatory smirk. I glare at her attempting to look mildly annoyed instead of utterly defeated. It’s unconvincing, probably because I’m sprawled out on the floor and she’s perched on top of the desk holding Marie Antoinette’s priceless, diamond necklace teasingly out of reach.
I kick out, catching her leg with mine, and pull her off the desk. She stumbles, but doesn’t fall. As her eyes darken, I regain my footing. We both know it all depends on who gets to the window with the diamonds in hand first. Only two minutes before the police get here.
I tackle her to the ground, and the impact sends the necklace flying across the room. I make a break for it, but before I take two steps she grasps my foot. I lose my balance, my momentum slamming me into the floor. Breathless, I roll over. She presses her knee into my abdomen as she reaches for the necklace. Bracing my legs and hips, I roll us over. She rolls us back. I’m already holding the diamonds.
Flashing a smile, I slip out from under her and make my way to the window. There’s a tugging on my waist and a pleasant pressure against my neck. Leaning into the embrace, I let my guard down for one second too long. She pulls the necklace from my grip, then spins me away from her. It takes me a moment to recover. When I do, she’s already halfway out the window. She smiles at me. It carries none of the bite it had. It’s sweet, genuine, and devastatingly sad. Then she’s gone, and I’m banging my hands on the windowsill. She’s halfway across the street when I hear the sirens blaring. As I slip into the night, I consider our previous run in.
* * *
Staring at the computer screen I try to learn everything I can about Casanova’s biography. The more I know the smoother the heist will go. It’s all I can think about, and all I have thought about ever since I heard they’re after it too. I close my computer and draw a blueprint of the museum entirely from memory. I’ve already scoped the area, and calculated the police response time. I can only hope they planned their heist for tonight. After all, they need to see that I’m the one who bested them. She needs to see that I bested her. Pulling on my soft and flexible, comfortable but fitted black clothes I rerun through my plan. I release the breath I’m holding. It’s time. And I’m ready.
Slinking through the museum, I stick close to the walls and avoid the cameras. As soon as I reach the security office I kneel with my face low and work the lock until I hear the satisfying click. Once inside I pull out my tiny, unassuming device and plug it into the system. It immediately goes dark. I let out a small victorious laugh, then I remember. Finn taught me how to do that. Melancholy hits me as if a bomb had just been dropped in the room. I shake it off, and continue to my real destination.
Casanova’s Biography is in a climate controlled room all by itself in a glass case. Feeling haughtily confident I take a step in, and immediately step back out as sensors light up the room. I hear a soft chuckle behind me, and a shiver runs down my spine. My head tilts as I turn towards her. I stop before I can see her. Instead, I crawl, twist, extend, and maneuver my way to the prize. When I reach it I pause until she joins me, ensuring she can’t see me unlocking the case.
“What now?” She sneers at me in self-satisfaction. “The second you open that case they’ll know you’re here.”
“No,” I smile back at her as I slip my fingers under the glass. “They’ll know you’re here.”
I throw the lid towards her. As she stumbles back, using her arms to cover her face, I grab the book the start running for the exit. After three steps the glass shatters and Cassie screams in agony. She uses her comm to ask Tabby for help. My lips curl into a wicked grin.
Tabby passes me on her way to help Cassie. She doesn’t know that, as I’m hidden in the shadows. I slip a hand into her pocket and pull out her keys as she rushes past me. I toss them in the air and catch them again, just to prove I can, then I hear the sirens ring out.
I throw open the door of the sports car like I own it. In the rearview mirror I see Abby, and Finn chasing after me. Making eye contact with Nico as he kneels over Cassie I find myself laughing.
* * *
“Haven’t you always wanted more?”
I’m in a penthouse suite with four people I’ve never seen before. My art replicas have, apparently, caught their attention. They’re thieves. I’m supposed to be making a copy of the Mona Lisa, and up until this point I’ve refused.
“Yeah, I have.”
“This world is cruel.” Nico says while staring apathetically out the window. “If you don’t take what you want you’ll get left behind.”
I start to protest, but he cuts me off.
“You have real potential. Don’t waste it.”
I’m nodding along before I can stop myself.
“I knew it,” Cassie puts her arm around my shoulder, “you’re just what we need.”
Over the next month I find myself coming into my own like never before. We banter and joke while also discussing and contemplating. I work endlessly every day to make the perfect copy of one of the most famous paintings in history. I’ve learned to never be satisfied until Nico gives his nod of approval.
Cassie and I break into the museum together. She holds my hand as she walks me through the steps of the heist. I hold onto her as if she were a lifeline, but I can’t deny the thrill of excitement coursing through me.
“You ready?” She glances at me from the corner of her eye.
She smiles and we take down the painting. She pulls out a small knife and hands it to me. I’m shaking and sweating, but I take it and start to remove the frame. She places both hands on my shoulders and presses into my back. It’s comforting, and calms me enough to finish the work quickly. We roll up the real painting, then attach the fake to the frame and put the picture back on the wall. We run to the waiting car, and before we even get the door closed we’re zooming away. I start laughing and cheering from the high of my first heist and the beginning of a new life.
We join the others at the suite, and I’m greeted with a clap on the back from Finn, and hugs from Tabby and Cassie. Nico holds out his hands for the painting. I give it to him without a second thought.
“A word of advice,” He takes the painting from me, “don’t ever let another thief have your winnings.”
I let out an amused, exasperated laugh. “Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind. So, where are we going next?”
“It would be foolish of us to tell you that.” Cassie mutters mysteriously as she moves to stand next to Nico.
“Why? Is it a surprise?” I take on a teasing tone as I quirk an eyebrow at them.
“Not exactly.” Says Cassie, looking me in the eye for the first time since we got back. “We’re leaving now.”
“Right now?” I ask in surprise.
“We’re leaving. You’re not.”
“You’re not really cut out for this life. Go back home.” Nico smiles at me, not unkind but not friendly either.
Tears sting my eyes and my vision blurs. I don’t see them leave, but I hear the door close and I know they’re not coming back. I steel myself and furiously wipe my eyes. I’m not done yet. They’ll regret this day, I promise myself as I sit down at the table to plan my next heist. Tears stain the paper I’m reading, but I don’t care. Italy, here I come.