copyright 1998 by Conner McBride DISCLAIMER: Usual disclaimers and copyright apply... **** Laura pushed her unruly brown waves back from her face. It was unusually windy today. Secretly, she wondered if she would run into Nick. He'd been awful nice to her, and well, she liked the way he treated her---like she counted for something. She shifted her backpack to her other shoulder. They had all been allowed to go off on their own today since Atila the Nun was stilled layed up with a cold, so Laura had decided to go exploring on her own. She walked on the small stone bridge curving over the Seine, stopping to lean on the cold stone and look into the water, grinning as she saw a fish jump up. Harry was brooding over his cafe au lait at the small outdoor bistro. Daniel had literally kicked him out after breakfast, growing both amused and annoyed at Harry's petulant silence over the girl's trickery. Secretly, Daniel admired anyone who could be that convincing. Harry, for his part, was slightly annoyed at losing the best heist in months. His lips curled in an appreciative smile. That, and losing such a precious jewel to that little slip of a thing and her rich snot of a partner. What he wouldn't give for a chance to seduce that jewel out of her! He took a sip of his coffee, grimacing. It was cold. He started to signal to the waiter to get a fresh cup when he saw a familiar looking creature on the little stone bridge overlooking the Seine. His blue eyes widened in surprise. She was standing there looking down into the water, laughing at something, as sweetly naive and innocent as you please. The waiter came walking over. "Oui, Monsieur?" Not even looking at him, Harry dropped money into his hand as well as a tip which would allow the waiter a nice expensive vacation to Switzerland. Ignoring his profuse thanks, Harry got up and headed straight towards the bridge, slowing down his walk to observe her. She was small and frail-looking. In fact, she looked more child than adult, barely fifteen. She was dressed in the same type of clothes he had seen her wear last night: gaudy, mismatched, bohemian, and unmistakably American. He grimaced in distaste as his eyes took in her tye-dye tee shirt and broomstick skirt and the too-large fringed leather jacket. Not what he would want in a partner. The girl looked like a street urchin, gauche and unrefined. Absolutely of no notice whatsoever. Harry smirked at the sheer genius of it. No one would ever notice her except in contempt, which is why she would be the last one anyone would suspect of being a thief. He'd give Nicholas LeCavalier that. The man was sheer genius in his reasoning. She turned her face to look in his direction. Harry's heart lurched. Those liquid dark eyes, like glowing fires, seemed to bore straight through him. He licked his upper lip, wodering again what she was to LeCavalier. The innocent enjoyment on her face stopped him in his tracks. For a second, he wrangled with his conscience on deceiving her. Then he thought better of it. That little minx and her aristocrat partner had snozzled him out of a bloody two million dollar finder's fee. /Besides, I'm planning to have a ripper of a time getting the Rajah's Star back./ His eyes wandered wandered down her thick mane of chestnut waves. /An absolutely ripping time./ *** Laura nibbled thoughtfully on her croissant, watching the soft ripples of water down below. She wrinkled her nose. It was unusual to be wearing a jacket in early June, but Nick had said last night the city was supposed to have a mild summer. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man lean on the side of the bridge. Her natural curiousity got the better of her, mainly because he seemed so downcast. She tried to observe him unobtrusively. He was absolutely gorgeous! /What is it with this city and why don't any of the guys in LA look like this? He's as hot as Lee and Nick combined!/ She blushed at that thought. Nick was old enough to be her uncle and Lee, well, Lee was just Lee and the closest thing to a brother she'd ever had. This guy however! He was like Cary Grant, all savoir faire and charm. She turned around as a group of children and some nuns walked past on their way o school. A little boy stopped to stare at her, his thumb in his mouth. Laura stuck out her tongue at him, causing his small face to scrunch up in laughter and smiles. A nun came and took him by the hand to lead him back to the rest of the children. She patted Laura on the shoulder as she passed, the little boy in tow. He giggled and gave a funny three-fingered wave to her, which Laura immediately returned. She stiffened as she heard amused laughter behind. Whirling around, she found herself face to face with the guy she had been watching. Up close, she could think of no word to describe him other than beautiful! His eyes were the most perfect shade of blue she had ever seen. Laura blushed at his laughter, knowing he had seen her consternation. "What d'you want?" she snapped. His ocean eyes twinkled merrily. "What? Can't a person have a bit o'laughter?" /Adorable little kitten. I wonder where you keep your claws.../ "Not at me!" Laura huffed. He walked up, leaning next to her. "My, aren't you a hot-tempered, vain little creature! What makes you think I was even paying attention to you?" Harry grinned at the high color which came into her cheeks. "Well...," Laura stammered, trying to find her way through his rather twisted logic. She threw her arms up in aggravation. "Is there anything that amusing around here? No! So what else could you laugh at?" Amused at her slight tantrum, Harry shook his head. LeCavalier must have his hands full to put up with this spirited young woman...or was it girl? Her dark eyes were blazing. Harry was surprised to find himself more than a bit captivated. She didn't act like a thief; in fact, her wide eyes were guileless and uncalculating. She was also too headstrong, that much he could see. Impulsively, he took her hand, planting a kiss on it, causing her to blush again. "I was not laughing at you. Forgive me if you thought I was; I would be remiss to make fun of someone so lovely." Now even the tips of her ears were red. Laura pulled back her hand like it was on fire. What was it with European guys? She didn't get this much attention from guys back home, and yet in two days, she had had two guys treat her like a princess. /'Course, Nick treats me like Lee does, like his little sister, but still.../ Still indeed. This one released her hand and leaned against stone bridge, making no attempt to move, studying her. Laura felt like he was peering into her soul. Harry was transfixed/ How old was she? Fourteen? Fifteen? A thought occurred to him. Maybe she was Nicholas LeCavalier's little sister, though she was as small and dark as he had been tall and blonde. No, no man would include a child in con jobs. Would they? No, she had to be his partner. For one, she had an American accent, and the Baroness had said LeCavalier was French. /Bloody hell, mate! You don't even know her name!/ He put on his most charming smile, intending to win her over. "So, obviously you're American." "No sh&! Sherlock! Dig deeper Watson!" She shot back sarcastically, her full mouth curving into a wry smile. Harry was once again stunned into silence. Usually be this time, he had women eating out of the palm of his hand. This little witch, however, wasn't the least bit impressed. He smiled slightly. She was going to be a challenge, and oh how he loved impossible challenges!