Ian Maguire is determined to stop Meg Davenport from following in her father’s footsteps. He was, after all, a thief. But considering Ian learned everything he knows from Meg’s father, he may not be able to convince her otherwise, not even when they both end up over their heads in the biggest heist of Ian’s unlawful career. In trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?
List Price: 12.99
Page Count: 432
Trim Size: 5 1/2 X 8 1/4
Release Date: June 2012
Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family, or dreams of a future that includes anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.
Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet. But are they both in over their heads? And in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?
A young lady of impeccable decorum never appears outside her home unchaperoned, uncoiffed, ungloved, or unhappy. —Madame Marisse’s Handbook for Young Ladies
Along the Upper Post Road, Connecticut
Freezing rain pelted Meg Davenport. Though her cloak was thoroughly sodden, along with the hem of her gingham skirt, she refused to think about her misery. This is my last chance. All the blasted rain in the sky won’t stop me now.
A glimmer of warm hope stirred inside when she peered ahead instead of watching her own slippery steps. People, horses, carriages. She’d jumped from the back of a farm wagon nearly a mile ago when it had turned off the main road, and here at last was her first destination—the roadhouse near the train station.
Meg hurried into the modest one-story building, squeezing through the crowd but keeping her hood so low that she could barely scout an opening in the room. Though she wanted to, she wouldn’t dare remove her wet cloak. She’d promised herself not to take any risk of being seen, at least not until reaching safe anonymity in the thick of New York City.
So she clutched her travel bag to her chest and pressed on, hoping to find a spot against the wall. She didn’t worry her satchel would be grabbed as much as she feared that dropping it would mean certain trampling in an effort to retrieve it.
It was warmer in here than waiting outside for the train; there was no doubt about that. But the smell of the place almost sent her back out anyway. Besides the odor of smoky wood from a fireplace and burnt onions from the kitchen, smells of many other sorts came from those who, like her, had sought shelter from an icy April rain. Such smells as Meg had never, in all her fourteen years, been subjected to. Unwashed bodies simply weren’t tolerated, even among the school staff with whom Meg was rarely allowed to mingle. How long would she have to wait for the train to take her on the next leg of her journey?
Journey. The word tripped her thoughts. Flight was more fitting. Fleeing to New York City, where she would be free to do as she pleased, dress as she pleased, eat as she pleased, talk to whomever she pleased. In short, free to be whomever she pleased. She’d saved enough allowance money from her father to be entirely independent, at least for the few days it would take her to find employment.
Finding a spot near the fireplace to dry out her cloak would be impossible, judging by the cluster of people already doing the same amid the flicker of firelight casting them all in silhouette. So she followed her nose instead, hoping a place nearer the kitchen might provide preferable odors to those from the press of people. Warmth from the stoves would dry her cloak just as nicely.
Whatever sustenance the roadhouse offered held little appeal to Meg. She’d eaten a full breakfast shortly after setting out, of cold but tastily spiced beef on the same pure-white bread she’d enjoyed ever since Mrs. Hale had been hired as head cook some years ago. Her specialty was baking. A hard-cooked egg and a flaky blueberry muffin had followed, all washed down with the tea Meg managed to carry in a pouch she’d stolen from one of the school’s liverymen. The container had an odd scent to it when she’d first added her tea, something along the lines of the peach cordial that was kept under lock and key. But as Meg had taken her first sip from the pouch, she hadn’t minded the flavor the tea acquired from whatever dregs were left behind.
Meg still had a bit of food left. Another sandwich, a sourdough biscuit, and some of the most flavorful cookies served by the exclusive Madame Marisse’s school for girls. They were, in fact, created from a recipe each girl was awarded upon graduation, to be given to whatever kitchen staff awaited her. A signature teatime addition only alumnae of Madame Marisse’s were known to serve. If Meg had a mind to, she could probably sell the ones she’d wrapped in a napkin to any one of the roadhouse patrons and make enough money to buy a full meal right here and now.
But she only clutched the bag closer as she found a free place by the wall and pulled back her hood just enough to assess her surroundings.
Her gaze froze on a familiar figure. Mr. Pitt, the oldest, grouchiest liveryman who ever lived. The very person from whom Meg had stolen the pouch she’d used for her tea.
She was ready to bolt when she realized he hadn’t seen her. She heard some of his words through the din of the crowd because he was speaking over the noise himself.
“About this height.” He held up a hand, just below his own rounded shoulders. “A girl. Fourteen. Blue eyes. You wouldn’t miss that—the eyes, I mean.”
But the woman he addressed, wearing an apron and a servant’s cap, only shook her head, then moved away with a mug-laden tray balanced on her palms.
Meg pulled the hood lower again. Blast her eyes to make her so easily identifiable—just like her father’s. Blast him, too. It was his fault she had to run away. He was the one who made sure she stayed in that blasted school.
Blast, blast, blast. It was a word Madame Marisse had more than once reprimanded Meg for using.
Blast . . . everything.
The door through which she’d entered was on the other side of Pitt. There must be another way out . . . perhaps from the kitchen. But no sooner had she slid into the kitchen than a woman raised her voice, shouting nearly into Meg’s ear. “You can’t be in here, dearie. Have a seat, and we’ll serve you as soon as we can.”
Then the serving girl ushered Meg out, making sure the door swung closed behind her.
Meg stole another glance at Mr. Pitt. He was already looking around; even if he didn’t see her face, she knew that when he spotted a girl of the right height, cloaked and alone, it would mean the end of her dreams. Her heart pounded and heat rushed to her limbs, preparing to transport her away.
But she froze; too many people made running impossible.
The nearest table offered barely a single spot of clear space, and there was no empty chair in sight. Meg crouched at its side as if she were part of the group seated. She could see only a portion of the table itself, too afraid to pull back her hood to see the faces of those she joined.
“Mama! Who’s that?”
Meg spied the child next to her, who pointed one wobbly finger her way.
“Shh! Hush!” Meg tilted her head back to see beyond her hood: other children and adults—parents, no doubt, and grandparents, too—all staring at her. Clearly she needed to speak. “I—I wonder if you would permit me to join you?”
Her perfect diction did little to impress them; she saw that immediately. She must appear to be the invader she was, though this was hardly a private table.
Perhaps she could crawl under the table—
But it was already too late. A hand from behind cupped her elbow while another pulled back her hood.
“Don’t you think you’ve gone far enough this time, Miss Meg?”
Perhaps if the room hadn’t been so crowded, Meg might have sprinted away. Perhaps if Mr. Pitt hadn’t such a strong hold on her arm, she might have succeeded.
Or perhaps if she thought she could get away—though every previous attempt to escape had failed as well—she might have resisted.
But today’s venture had been her best effort, and she’d promised herself it would be her last. Her heart—the very heart that had thrummed at the thought of escape—now sailed to the lowest corner of her being. Trapped.
She’d gotten farther than ever before; there must be something to be said for that, anyway.
Chapter One takes up Meg’s story four years later, just after her father dies. Ready to prove him wrong for having shut her out of his life, Meg dares to adopt his thieving ways even though that’s exactly what he lived to protect her from . . .