Heart of the Steal by Avon Gale and Roan Parrish
Release Date (Print & Ebook):
July 11th, 2017
Responsible, disciplined William Fox channeled his love for art and his faith in the rules into being an FBI Art Crimes agent. Right and wrong, justice and injustice—the differences are clear, and Will has spent his career drawing a line between them. Maybe his convictions have cost him relationships, but he’s not willing to compromise what he knows is right. Until the night he meets Amory Vaughn.
As the head of his family’s philanthropic foundation, Vaughn knows very well that being rich and powerful can get him almost anything he wants. And when he meets endearingly grumpy and slightly awkward William Fox, he wants him more than he’s wanted anything. Vaughn is used to being desired for his name and his money, but Will doesn’t care about either.
When Vaughn falls back on old habits and attempts to impress Will by stealing a painting Will admires, their nascent bond blows up in his face. But Vaughn isn’t willing to give up on the glimpse of passion he saw the night he took Will apart. Before Will knows it, he’s falling for the man he should have arrested, and Vaughn has to realize that some things can’t be bought or stolen. Love has to be given freely. But can a man who lives by the rules, and a man who thinks the rules don’t apply to him, ever see eye to eye?
Heart of the Steal is a standalone romance with a happy ending. It features a Southern gentleman who thinks he’s always right, a buttoned-up FBI agent who secretly likes his buttons unbuttoned, and wall sex. And desk sex. And picnic blanket sex.
“Hey, what’s your favorite kind of cookie?” I asked Vaughn, thinking I could make him feel cared for. Make him feel like I really did belong here.
“Hmm? Oh. Well, I’m not sure.” Vaughn chewed on the end of a pen distractedly, a gesture so unlike him that I found it charming.
God, if I stopped to think about how much time I spent smiling around Amory Vaughn, I’d probably freak out. It was just that I’d never liked anyone quite so much. Which scared the hell out of me.
“I had some brandied fruit tartlets at a tea in London,” Vaughn said vaguely. “Do tartlets count as cookies?”
I had no idea. “Nope.”
Vaughn wrinkled his nose and stared up at the lofted ceiling. “Those pine nut cookies with rosemary your sister served at the gala were very good. People still ask me for the recipe.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “They were good, yeah, but seriously, they can’t be your favorite. That wasn’t that long ago.”
“Well, I’m very sorry, Agent Fox, I didn’t realize your question came with so many codicils.”
I rolled my eyes, but hearing him call me Agent Fox after what happened in his study back in Falls Church made my cock stir. “Your favorite cookie, Amory. This shouldn’t be that hard.”
“Green tea shortbread?” I could practically see him running through a list of Vaughn Foundation function desserts.
“When was the last time you had those?” I demanded.
“I can’t recall. Why? Are you asking me for a cookie alibi?”
I laughed. “No, I just meant…your favorite cookie can’t be something like green tea shortbread.”
“It’s like…” I waved my hand. “The cookie you ate when you were a kid. The ones you always hoped would be waiting for you when you got home from school. You know.” Then it struck me that he probably didn’t. From what I’d heard about Amory’s childhood, he probably had mostly eaten cookies at Vaughn Foundation functions. His parents seemed to have treated him like a business partner since the time he could walk.
“My mother always served Venetian butter cookies at parties. Everyone loved those,” he said vaguely. He was staring out of the window at the rain and didn’t meet my eyes.
I didn’t think that was the answer. In times like these, I wondered how lonely he must have been as a child. Who took this long to answer a question about cookies?
Someone who never got to have anything just for himself.
Every single answer he’d given me was something other people chose, something other people found delicious.
“Yeah, but Amory.” I made my voice soft. “What was your favorite?”
He bit at his lip, and darted a glance up at me, then looked away. This time when he answered his voice sounded different. “Chocolate chip.” He still wouldn’t look at me, like he was afraid what my argument with that answer might be.
“All right, then,” I said softly, feeling a surge of emotion. “Chocolate chip it is.”
I changed into jeans and grabbed my jacket, and when I kissed him goodbye he still wouldn’t quite look at me. At the corner market a few blocks down I grabbed the ingredients I needed, got half soaked on the walk home, and changed right back into my pajamas before going to the kitchen.
I caught Vaughn looking at me a few times, but he never said a word. I put a dozen cookies in the oven, wrapped the rest of the dough in Saran Wrap, and put it in the freezer. When he was there during the week, he could bake some more.
I placed two freshly-baked cookies on a plate on the counter. Vaughn stretched and his sweater rode up so I could see the muscles of his beautiful torso shifting as he reached toward the ceiling. He padded over, slid onto the barstool and looked at the plate. I couldn’t read his expression as he bent slowly over the counter and inhaled the smell of fresh-baked cookies. But his eyes flew to mine and there was something open there. Something raw and unmanaged and just for me. He picked up a cookie and slowly took a bite, like he was afraid of what it might taste like. Then he closed his eyes with a smile that passed through appreciative and landed on happy as he ate the rest.
That was the face of a man enjoying his favorite cookie. Green tea shortbread. Honestly. “They’re good, then?”
“They’re delicious,” he said, opening his eyes. He snagged the second cookie—which I’d put there for myself—and dug in. “Is this a Fox family recipe?”
I blinked. He had to be kidding. The empty bag of chocolate chips with the recipe printed on it was right there on the counter. Then I realized that Amory Vaughn had probably never eaten a chocolate chip cookie made from the recipe on the back of store-bought chocolate chips in his life.
I turned to get myself a cookie, suddenly at a loss for words. I had a million memories of helping my mom, my dad, my grandparents and my sister make these. Being ten and making them with friends at a sleepover, just to eat the cookie dough. “It’s…your standard recipe,” I said, clearing my throat and nonchalantly whisking the empty chocolate chip bag into the trash.
“Well, now you know what my favorite cookies are,” Vaughn said, and smiled at me so sweetly it made my heart pound.
About the authors:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.