France, 1942. The world is at war. The Nazis have stolen the infamous blue diamond, Le Coeur Bleu, intending to barter it for weapons that will destroy the Allies. Jewel thief Hunter Smith is given a choice; help the French Resistance steal back the diamond and avenge the death of his best friend, or stay locked up in an English prison. He chooses revenge.
Resistance fighter Madeleine Bertrand’s husband died when he was betrayed by Hunter Smith. How can she now pretend to be married to the arrogant American? How can she betray Jean Philippe’s memory by her passionate response to Hunter’s kisses? Neither is prepared for the maelstrom of attraction that erupts between them. To survive they must uncover the mysteries of the past and conquer the dangers of the present. But first Madeleine must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband and the Resistance or with the greatest love of her life.
Pentonville Prison, London, April 1942
Down the hall, the heavy iron door creaked open, then closed again with a clang. Footsteps echoed on the stone floor, growing louder as they approached his prison room. When the footsteps suddenly stopped, Hunter Smith opened his eyes, surprised. In the eighteen months he’d been in this God-forsaken place, no one had visited him, not his so-called friends, and certainly not his parents.
He turned his head. A neat little man in an impeccable black suit and bowler hat waited patiently for the guard to unlock the barred gate of his cell.
“Please wait behind the outer door. I’ll call you when I’m ready.”
“If that’s what you want, Guvnor.” The guard shrugged, relocked Hunter’s cell, and retreated beyond the iron door with a clanking of keys. When the door had banged shut behind him, the little man spoke again.
“I have a proposition for you.”
Hunter sat up, wincing as his feet touched the floor and his back protested in pain. The lumpy, too-short cot caused him no end of aggravation. “Is that so?”
“I want you to steal a diamond for me.”
Hunter couldn’t restrain a burst of mocking laughter. The irony of his request would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.
“You want me to steal a diamond?” He rose and swept an arm around to encompass his prison cell. “I’d love to accommodate you, sir, but I’m afraid I’m a bit indisposed at the moment.”
The man surveyed the room, wrinkling his nose in distaste as his gaze met the bucket in the corner that served as Hunter’s toilet. “If you agree to my request, I can have you released.”
Hunter’s heart rate tripled, but he kept his face neutral. He’d do almost anything to get out of this hell hole. Anything but steal another diamond.
He resumed his prone position on the cot. “I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time in coming here. I’ve turned over a new leaf. Seen the error of my ways.” He flung one arm over his eyes. “Besides, I’m a lousy thief. That’s how I ended up in here. I’m no longer interested in stealing jewels.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Hunter waited to hear the man call for the guard, waited for the footsteps that would signal he had left the cell, but all remained silent. He lifted his arm and opened his eyes. The little man stood patiently, waiting. Hunter rose to his feet once more.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Alastair Campbell, and I am the head of the Special Operations Executive.”
“Bully for you.” Hunter had no idea what the Special Operations Executive was, but despite himself he was intrigued.
Campbell read his mind. “The SOE sends operatives to France, where they make contact with the French Resistance. We supply the Resistance with arms and two-way radios. The information they’ve supplied us on the movements of the Nazis in occupied France has been invaluable.”
“Perhaps if I were British I might be interested in joining your little band of merry men. But I’m not British, and I’m not interested.”
Arms folded, Hunter stared down at Campbell. His best efforts to intimidate the much smaller man were having little effect. Campbell smiled indulgently, like a kindly head-master at a stubborn and not very bright student.
“I’m well aware of your American citizenship. I’m also aware that you’ve spent a good portion of your life living in France and that you speak perfect French.”
That he’d lived in France wasn’t exactly a secret, but the idea that someone had gone to the trouble to find out unsettled Hunter. What else did he know about him?
“Dropping into occupied France to have tea with the Resistance doesn’t exactly sound like a good career move. I hear the Nazis don’t take kindly to spies. I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your lovely offer.” Again Hunter lay on his cot and closed his eyes, waiting for Campbell to leave.
“Not even for Le Coeur Bleu?”
Hunter’s eyes snapped open, his blood pounding in his ears. “What do you know about The Blue Heart?”
“Only that it is one of the most famous and rare diamonds in the world, over 30 carats, and said to be flawless.”
Hunter rose from his cot and paced his small cell, heart racing. “Ah, finally something you don’t know. Le Coeur Bleu has a small flaw, an inclusion visible only with a jeweler’s loupe.”
Campbell inclined his head. “My mistake. I bow to your superior knowledge of the stone.”
He met Campbell’s calm stare. He doubted this man ever made mistakes. “What else do you know about the diamond?”
“I know the diamond is reputed to have magical powers. Some even say it is cursed.”
“You don’t really believe in magical powers, do you?” Hunter scoffed.
Campbell lifted one shoulder in a delicate shrug. “Perhaps, perhaps not. Do you think your friend Jean Philippe Bertrand believed in magic?”
All the air rushed out of Hunter’s lungs and he struggled to breathe. “What do you know about Jean Philippe?”
“That he came into possession of Le Coeur Bleu and was murdered for it by the Nazis.”
Hunter dropped heavily onto his cot, shock and pain turning his knees to water. Snippets of the telegram he’d received from his best friend a few weeks before his arrest flashed in his head. Need to buy Heartstone times two from Jewish refugee. Desperate. Send cash. Hunter had immediately wired JP the money to buy the Heartstone, the name by which Le Coeur Bleu was sometimes known. He never heard from Jean Philippe again. In all the months of his captivity he’d clung to the hope that Jean Philippe was safe. But now that hope was dashed.
“Dead? You’re sure?”
“Yes. The SOE is very well connected in France. I can assure you, your friend was killed for Le Coeur Bleu.”
Guilt flowed through Hunter’s veins like a poison. If he hadn’t sent the money, JP wouldn’t have had the diamond and the Nazis would have had no reason to kill him.
Campbell stepped closer to Hunter’s cot, determination glittering in his eyes. “I’m giving you the opportunity to avenge your friend’s death. Will you take it, Mr. Smith?”
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About the Author
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense Seeing Things was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.jananarichards.com, and you can sign up for her newsletter here