Date Published: 1/29/2016
Orphan. Runaway. Thief.
Since the moment I was ripped from my mother’s womb, I’ve been an outcast amongst my own kind. The Sidhe might possess magical Gifts, unbelievable wealth and unfathomable power but I don’t want a thing to do with them. I ran away from their lands in the Highlands of Scotland when I was eleven years old and I’ve never looked back. I don’t need a Clan. I’ve got my own family of highly skilled thieves who mean more to me than any Sidhe ever could.
Unfortunately for me, the playboy heir to the Moncrieffe Clan has something I desperately need. To get it back, I’m going to have to plunge myself back into that world, no matter what the consequences may be. I suppose it’s just as well I have sense of humour. I think I’m going to need it.
By bestselling author Helen Harper, Gifted Thief is the first book in the Highland Magic series.
From Chapter One
You have to do bad shit to get ahead. Taylor had told me that a million times and for a long time I’d bought into it. After tonight, however, things were going to be different. A new leaf and a new me. That was what I was planning.
I’d been thinking about it for a long time but since I’d received the letter in elegant, handwritten script demanding my appearance at the Sidhe court, I felt I had no choice but to step up my plans to vamoose out of the city. I didn’t want anything to do with those bastards. Not unless it meant ripping them off. Frankly, I’d rather head down to the Lowlands – and the Veil – than venture near the Clanlands.
At least Taylor had promised that my final hurrah was going to be a straightforward job. ‘In and out,’ he’d said. ‘The place will be empty.’
‘You know I’m leaving after this one,’ I reminded him. Not that it was likely it would have slipped his mind but with Taylor sometimes certain points bore repeating.
‘Of course, of course! As if I could forget.’ His eyes took on a knowing look that I chose to ignore. ‘You’ll miss it though. You won’t get many thrills from tramping around the countryside.’
‘It’s not tramping around the countryside. It’s mountain rescue. I think saving lives will be thrilling enough.’
He grimaced at that. ‘You’ll be bored.’
I simply smiled back. We’d had this conversation often enough in recent weeks. My mind was made up and even he couldn’t change it.
‘I’ll always be here,’ he said. ‘If you do want to come back, that is.’
I hugged him impulsively. ‘I might not come back to work but I’ll always come back. You’re my family.’ I meant every word. We’d had a few rough times over the years but who hadn’t? Taylor had been there for me when no-one else was, even if his motives weren’t always pure. I worried about him more than he’d ever know.
He looked abashed at my heartfelt words and ran an awkward hand through his hair. It was no longer the carroty mop he had when I first met him all those years ago. Now it was more silver, far closer in colour to my own locks, which still drew curious looks and the odd question about my ancestry, even amongst the Clan-less underbelly. For the most part I shrugged them off.
It was a very long time since I moved in Sidhe circles. I crossed the road to avoid passing close by any of my kin, no matter how distantly related they were. And one of the reasons I was leaving Aberdeen was because they’d contacted me.
It wasn’t that I was afraid of what they might do if they got hold of me, although that was a part of it. I just wanted a quiet life. My childhood with the Sidhe was little more than a distant memory; in fact sometimes I felt as if it had happened to someone else.
I ignored the gossip mags and whispered rumours about what each Clan was up to. I lived in the underclass, far away from them. I didn’t care whether Aifric remained Steward and was therefore still in charge, or which man Tipsania Scrymgeour was currently stepping out with. I didn’t even care that her father, the Bull, appeared to be making more money than Bill Gates. The Sidhe could spend their days worrying about politics, jockeying for position and doing whatever they could to rise above other Clans. I only cared about me and mine. And none of mine were Sidhe. Or Clan.
I tested my kit, adjusting the harness at my back to ensure it was secure, and skirted round the back of the building. It might be the middle of the night during a bank holiday weekend but I still needed to be circumspect. It would be sod’s law if I got nabbed on the very last day I spent as a career criminal. Tapping my forehead three times with my index finger to signal to my waiting crew, I gave one last look around then sprang up.
My fingertips curled easily around the first ledge. Despite the typical Scottish chill, I was barefoot. It made it far easier to gain purchase on the smooth glass surface of the towering bank. I also admit that I rather enjoyed it when I glanced down and caught a flash of the sparkly nail varnish adorning my toenails. It felt appropriate for this job; we were, after all, going after some more sparkles ‒ albeit of the more expensive kind.
Clambering up with fluid, nimble ease, I made fast work of my ascent. Beads of sweat were only just appearing on my brow when I reached the assigned floor. Piece of cake. I tightened my grip with my left hand, using my right to reach behind and unclip the glass breaker that was hooked to my belt.
It was a nifty piece of kit, designed to help trapped motorists break out of their cars. While I’d never heard of anyone actually using one to save their own life, I found mine particularly useful. It was a gift from Taylor when I graduated from simple manipulation tactics and dull look-out posts to full-blown thief. The others might scoff at its hot pink colour but I’d had it for seven lucky years and it had never let me down. I might wear black to stay camouflaged against the night sky but that didn’t mean that everything I carried had to be boring monochrome too.
Leaning back as far as I could, I swung it into the centre of the pane of tinted glass, shattering it instantly. Thanks both to the glass breaker’s and the window’s design, all the shards of glass fell inwards just as I wanted.
Flashing a satisfied smile to my inner thief, I heaved myself inside with a leap, landing far enough in to avoid catching my skin on any of the dangerous broken pieces. I pivoted round and grinned, curtseying at the now-gaping hole. Then I checked my watch. Less than ninety seconds from pavement to entry. That was impressive, even for me.
Without wasting another minute, I unclipped my harness and tested the nearby wall. The plaster seemed sound enough so I pulled out my tiny drill, made a hole in the wall and carefully inserted the climbing wire. I gave it an experimental tug; it would hold. Less than thirty seconds later, I was lowering the rope out of the window and whistling down softly.
After teaching English literature in the UK, Japan and Malaysia, Helen Harper left behind the world of education following the worldwide success of her Blood Destiny series of books. She is a professional member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and writes full time although she still fits in creative writing workshops with schools along with volunteering to teach reading to a group of young Myanmar refugees. That’s not to mention the procession of stray cats which seem to find their way to her door!
Helen has always been a book lover, devouring science fiction and fantasy tales when she was a child growing up in Scotland.
Helen currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with far too many cats – not to mention the dragons, fairies, demons, wizards and vampires that seem to keep appearing from nowhere.
You can find out more – and learn how to get a FREE copy of Corrigan Fire – by visiting Helen’s website: helenharper.co.uk