Were they singing? Katrina thought she could feel them calling to her through the glass window. She pressed her fingers against the pane and leaned closer. Her pulse quickened. They glittered, they gleamed. Shiny brilliant sparks of light dancing in the echo of January’s morning sun.
Diamonds, oh how she loved diamonds. On her fingers, around her neck, encircling her wrists, dangling from her earlobes, wrapped in her hair. She never researched them. Didn’t know which ones were worth more than another. Kat knew what she liked. They spoke to her in lilting tones and soothing rhythms. None of the beauties displayed in the window were singing to her, though.
It was too bad she had to keep her treasures stashed away. Private. Secret. No one could know that she fantasized about finding them, then stealing them. They would call her thief, robber, criminal, burglar.
It wasn’t a new obsession. She’d had it since the day she was born. Why it was specifically diamonds she didn’t know. What she did know was that the thrill that shot down her spine when a particular diamond sang to her could not be denied.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” A woman with blonde tresses intruded on her thoughts. They were the same height, but that was the only similarity. Three-inch pink strappy sandals, a strawberry colored handbag and a beige demeanor met Kat’s eyes.
“Yes. I’d like to steal them all.”
“You and me both,” the woman replied with a toss of her hair, exposing a slim diamond encrusted necklace lacing her neckline.
Kat’s mouth went dry and her heart began pumping wildly. A gentle caress of melody seemed to run along the surface of her skin. Her body strained with the infusion of want and need.
“That’s a lovely necklace you’re wearing,” Katrina said.
The woman fingered the jewelry absently. “My husband bought this for me a few years ago for Valentine’s Day.”
“I want that one,” the woman said, pointing toward an emerald, ruby and diamond bracelet in the storefront display.
Kat’s eyes never strayed from the object of her current desire. The sound was intensifying. She could feel the heat spread from her core all the way to her fingertips, the rhythm skipping along her veins.
“May I try it on?” Kat asked.
“What?” the woman asked, reluctantly moving her eyes from the bracelet to Katrina.
“Your necklace, may I try it on?”
Appreciating the compliment, the woman released the clasp, removed the necklace and said, “Turn around.”
Kat complied, finding it impossible to hide her excitement. When the woman draped the diamonds around her neck, Katrina felt dizzy. Her breath was coming quickly and she felt the euphoria sweep over her body, inciting her senses to soar higher.
Instinctively, her hand sprang upward to touch the cool stones. She turned toward the windowpane so she could see their reflection.
“It suits you,” the woman said.
Kat didn’t hear her words. The world had slid from view. All she saw were heavenly pieces of gleaming stars. And they were hers. Not yet, though. She needed to focus. Create the diversion quickly.
“That man!” Katrina yelled, turning around swiftly and pointing across the busy street. “Did you see him steal that woman’s purse?”
“No!” the woman exclaimed, turning to follow Kat’s gaze. “Where did he go?” She searched the other side of the street, trying to peer through the unusually thick traffic. “I don’t see anyone,” she said, then turned toward Kat once again.
“Wha…” the woman’s mouth hung open in mid-air. She surveyed the sidewalk and surrounding stores. Her necklace, and the woman wearing it, had vanished.
By the time the woman noticed Kat was gone, she was in her safety zone on the South side of the bookstore heading for the parking garage on Ninth Street. She was in the enviable position of being far enough way not to be seen, but close enough to enjoy the thrill of the possibility of getting caught.
The metro bus heading toward High Street Mall pulled up and Kat boarded. She sat in the third seat on the left, next to an elderly woman who was diligently knitting what looked like booties for a baby. The women exchanged a nod of greeting.
“Are those for a grandchild?” Kat inquired.
“Why, yes, they are. My daughter-in-law is due to have her baby in about a month. Can’t let the little one’s feet get cold now can we?”
“No, we certainly can’t,” Kat agreed.
“That’s a beautiful necklace you’re wearing,” the woman said.
“Thank you. My husband gave it to me a few years ago on Valentine’s Day.”
It took all of Kat’s willpower not to let her fingers run across the string of diamonds surrounding her neck. The high usually lasted about three hours. During that time she was the happiest she’d ever been. No, that wasn’t really true. She felt most alive and happy when she was anticipating stealing diamonds.
The bus came to a stop to unload and load passengers. Kat exited and walked the eight blocks to her tenth floor apartment overlooking Lake Cassidy. She wasn’t sure why they called it a lake as it was more like a pond
Kat grabbed her mail out of her mailbox without bothering to look at it and headed toward the elevator. Once in her apartment, she tossed the mail onto the sofa and then headed for the full-length mirror in her bedroom.
Her eyes went directly to her neckline. Now that she was alone. she could squeal and let the rush of emotion flood her senses. Kat danced around playfully, watching the light reflect off the diamonds. It caused shimmering waves of sparkles to flash.
She began the strip tease slowly, deliberately. She wanted nothing to touch her flesh, except the diamonds. A pile of clothing lay scattered around her as she moved to the rhythm of this specific piece of jewelry. She had come to know that each item had its own spirit and soul. When her celebration was coming to a close, Kat headed to her walk-in closet. She bent down and carefully lifted the edge of the carpet stuffed snugly in the South corner. It pulled up easily with the fishing line hook she had attached to one section.
Once the carpet was pulled back and moved to the side, exposing a hole in the flooring and an ornate wooden box, Kat was able to retrieve the treasure box. She lifted it out, replaced the carpeting and went to sit on the bed.
Kat opened the lid and let her eyes caress the contents. There were 27 items in her collection. She remembered the story behind each and every one with vivid clarity. She wrapped bracelets around her wrists and ankles, placed rings on her fingers, clasped necklaces around her neck and draped her ears with dangling diamonds.
She laid back on her ecru waffle weave comforter and rested her head on her goose down pillows. She lifted the box high above her body then tipped it, allowing the rest of the jewels to tumble out onto her bare skin.
The feeling was sensual and intoxicating. Her hands roamed down her form, stopping briefly to squeeze the tender swell of her breasts. Her nipples were hard and ached to be pressed between a lover’s firm lips. Kat continued following the curve of her body down to her center. She delved inside her moist cavern and felt a hot flush spread across her skin. This was the sensation, the same one she felt when a diamond whispered to her soul.
With one hand exploring the curves of her body and one hand on her newly acquired diamond necklace, Kat moaned with pleasure. The jewelry that had tumbled out of the box had fallen onto her stomach and then slid to wedge themselves between her backside and the bedding. Knowing the source, Kat enjoyed the pain. It felt good. It felt right. She climaxed with the cool gems gleaming against her supple skin.
Kat didn’t know how long she laid there, lost in contented bliss. It was the pain in her lower back that finally urged her to change positions. She gathered up all the diamonds and carefully placed them back in their designated holders. Each one had a special location in the treasure chest.
With a slight sigh, she removed the final piece of jewelry -- the diamond necklace she had recently stolen -- number 28. She put it in one of the velvet-lined cubbyholes and then closed the lid.
Kat replaced the treasure chest in its secret compartment and then threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She left the clothes she discarded earlier where she had removed them. She’d pick them up later.
Back in the living room, she grabbed her mail and made herself comfortable on the sofa. Bill, junk, advertisement, bill, advertisement, junk, junk… Kat scowled when she saw the handwriting on the plain white envelope. No return address in the upper left hand corner. She needed a stiff drink before she opened a letter from Carla. She set the letter aside and continued to sort through the stack. When all was said and done she had four bills, two letters and the rest was basically junk.
Kat opened the letter from her father. He was in prison serving year number six of a lifetime sentence for murder. He had admitted to killing the man but had done so in self-defense. The jury didn’t believe him. Kat did.
She had learned a lot from her father, and not only about life lessons. Brad Johnson had taught her magic tricks -- how to make a coin appear out of thin air, pull flowers out of the sleeve of her coat and how to make objects disappear. Little did her father know that those very skills would come in handy when she chose to make stealing singing diamonds her secret career.
Needing a drink before opening Carla’s letter, Kat headed for the closet selecting her favorite pair of blue jeans and a black tank top, along with a pair of red high heels, as her club attire. The Dirty Mother was only a mile away. It was Kat’s favorite blues club. She had fallen in love with the saxophone the first time she heard it played by her grandfather. Something stirred in the core of her soul when she heard the smooth notes pour out.
Kat grabbed her red blazer and gave a final glance at her reflection in the mirror before locking the door and heading to the bar.
It was late afternoon but the music could be heard half way down the block already. It was never too early for the blues. The sign out front boasted that Charles “Chicky” Donaldson would be featured later on tonight. Kat had all three of his CDs and had just been listening to Tears in a Storm that very morning.
Kat felt her muscles relax upon entering the club. Stale cigarettes, bad cologne, Jack Daniels and illicit conversations seemed to have left imprints on the joint. She felt comfortable, like she could let her hair down and be herself. It was one of the few places where she felt real, like she didn’t need to hide.
Her eyes scanned the room, a bit surprised to see so many people on a lukewarm Sunday afternoon.
“Hi, Randy,” Kat replied, moving toward the barstool closest to where Randy was standing. He always looked good enough to eat and she was happy to say she had enjoyed the pleasure on numerous occasions.
Randy leaned over the counter and gave her a kiss that was a few seconds too long, hinting at his desire to rekindle their romance. Kat ignored the length and promise of the kiss and pointedly asked, “How’s Becka?”
Randy knew he had just received the verbal equivalent of a slap in the face. It was true, he had a girlfriend the entire time he had been enjoying Kat’s physical charms, but they had never defined their relationship as exclusive.
“She’s okay. How are you?” Randy replied, returning part of his attention to drying the glasses on the counter.
“Couldn’t be better.” A lot of things could be better. Did he really expect her to lay her problems out on the surface to be pawed through and dissected? Her job at the travel agency was fine. Her relationship with Jared was fine. Money, fine. Physical health, fine. Emotional state, fine. Spiritual life, fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Only none of it was fine. She had spent her life doing what was expected, playing the good daughter, good friend, good employee.
Maybe that’s why her secret life meant so much to her. It was something she felt passionate about. The urge inside her swelled to such a height that it could not be denied. She was feeling something for a change. The monotony of her life was so overwhelming and she didn’t know how to change it. She had been running on autopilot for so long now, she didn’t even know where the manual switch was any more.
Randy placed a shot of tequila in front of her. Kat frowned. She didn’t normally drink tequila. Randy knew that. “It’s from the guy at the end of the bar.” Randy nodded his head in the man’s direction.
And so it begins. She had a love/hate relationship with being hit on in bars. Sometimes it was fun to enjoy the game, other times it was just an annoyance and an intrusion. She wasn’t sure which area this encounter was going to fall into.
The man was dressed casually in jeans, a white shirt under a coal sports jacket, and tennis shoes. He had deep blonde hair and, as he moved closer to join her on a vacant stool, Kat found his eyes to be an emerald green. He had a cute little cleft in his chin and a sexy scruffy stubble of beard hair. Kat loved to feel that coarse hair graze her thigh when a lover was tantalizing her clit with their tongue.
“Mason. You?” the man asked.
“Katrina. Man of few words?”
“Why use ten words when two will do?”
She liked him immediately. His voice was rich and warm. Kat called it radio voice. Not just the generic good easy to understand radio voice, but the kind where you don’t even care about listening to the commercials because you can’t wait to hear that charming voice again.
“Fair enough,” Kat replied, then downed the shot. “Thanks for the drink.”
Mason motioned for Randy to bring another shot, but Kat intervened, “Actually, tequila’s not really my thing.”
Randy watched the interaction curiously. He poured a shot of Jack Daniels and set it in front of Kat.
Mason caught the exchange between the two. “He seems to know what you like better than I do.”
“I’ve known him longer.”
It was odd sitting next to someone who didn’t have a lot to say. Kat downed three more shots of Jack before Mason uttered another word.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a travel agent,” Kat replied, beginning to feel that generous heating of her blood that Jack always gave her. She promised herself she wouldn’t drink another shot. Four was her limit and she wasn’t even counting the tequila. “But that’s not what I like to do.”
“What do you like to do?”
“Steal diamonds,” Kat blurted out. “I like to burgle.” She burst into a fit of giggles fueled not only by her desire to keep her words light but by the lack of inhibitions alcohol created.
“I can teach you how, if you’d like.”
Kat sobered immediately. She eyed him, trying to figure out if he was teasing or being serious. “You’re a burglar?” she finally asked.
“I know a lot about thieves and stealing. It runs in the family.”
Randy didn’t like the look of the man Kat was talking with. He came on too hard, too fast. Katrina seemed to be enjoying herself and that just pissed him off even more.
“Hey, buddy, count it up,” Don said, throwing a towel at Randy. “Your shift is over in ten minutes.”
“Yeah, okay.” Randy sat the towel on the side counter and removed the tray from the cash register so he could take it to the office and balance it.
“See ya later, Kat.”
Kat’s temperature was rising. She didn’t know if it was the alcohol or the proximity to the man sitting beside her. Either way, it was time to ditch the blazer. She wanted to grab an ice cube from behind the counter and run it across her flesh. That was something her alter ego would do.
“You okay?” Mason asked, noticing the flushed look on Katrina’s face.
“It’s warm in here.” Kat removed her blazer under Mason’s watchful eye. Since the barstools didn’t have backs, Kat laid her jacket across her lap. She hoped she wouldn’t spill anything on it as it was dry clean only.
The tattoo on her upper left arm caught Mason’s attention. He rubbed his thumb across the design and Kat felt the room sway and her pulse quicken.
“Nice tat, Kat.”
Katrina smiled and tried unsuccessfully to suppress a giggle at the rhyme. She had gotten inked with an original design by Bentine eight years ago. The tattoo was formed with black ink and portrayed a rock being split in half with a lightning bolt. Pouring out from the center of the stone were shimmering crystals of light against the smooth interior. Kat had always liked the idea that magical secrets were hidden inside the rough exterior of a rock.
He hadn’t moved his thumb and now his entire right hand was gently holding her arm.
“I think it’s time for me to hit the road,” Kat said, deciding that escape was her best defense at the moment. Not that she needed a defense. Mason hadn’t done anything untoward. “It was nice to meet you, Mason. Thanks for the drinks.”
“That’s it? A bit of conversation and a drink and now we’ll just go our separate ways?”
Kat licked her lips and then curled her top and bottom lip inward, making it appear as if she had no lips at all. It was a nervous habit she had begun in childhood and couldn’t seem to eradicate.
“What did you have in mind?” she countered.
“Okay. How about Wednesday?”
“Tonight.” Mason met her gaze directly.
“I have plans tonight,” Kat lied.
Mason was going to challenge her, push her a bit, then changed his mind. “Wednesday it is, then. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
“I’ll meet you at the restaurant at seven.” The cat and mouse sport continued.
Mason was intrigued. He hadn’t expected to like Katrina Johnson. She was beautiful, of course, but he knew that from viewing photographs of her. What would she think if she knew that he already knew her address, phone number, e-mail address and much, much more about the sultry brunette?
Better not to scare her, he thought. Let her think she’s won this round, then she’ll stay in the game. “Jackson’s Cove on the waterfront. Do you know it?”
“I know it.” Everyone knew it. It was one of the most expensive places to eat in town. Mason must be an awfully good thief to afford to eat there. “I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mason said, then watched her walk out the door. He reached for his cell phone and called JJ. “Green light. We’re meeting Wednesday night.”
“Does she suspect anything?” JJ asked.
“Not a thing.”