Stealing Serenity Banner, title in the center, raised, arms of a white man bound in white rope on the left, cherry blossoms on the right

Welcome to Stealing Serenity, a stand alone, erot­ic con­tem­po­rary M/M roman­tic sus­pense. This novel­la is releas­ing one scene/day (week­days) on the blog ahead of pub­li­ca­tion. All chap­ters will be avail­able for free until the book is pub­lished, then they’ll be removed. If you sim­ply can’t wait, the com­plete ebook is avail­able now on the web­store. Paperback and Subtle Cover alter­nate com­ing soon. Expected pub­li­ca­tion: July 5th

Chapter Five

July 19, Tuesday—5:45 p.m.

1276 Howard Ave, Apt 221

Safe house 4

Phillip Bonnet, it seemed, was an influ­en­tial man. According to his finan­cials, he held down over forty mil­lion in insur­able assets. That was exact­ly the kind of dis­pos­able income that could drop three mil­lion on a pho­to­graph at auction.

Daniel picked up a junk phone and dialed a num­ber. It rang. A light Swiss accent answered on the oth­er end.

Hello, my name is Phillip Bonnet, and I have an account with you,” Daniel lied. He thumbed through his edge-worn cat­a­log of Gerard Photography Auctions.

Mister Bonnet, I’ll need to ask you a few ques­tions to ver­i­fy your iden­ti­ty,” said the Swiss accent. “Can you please tell me your date of birth?”

Daniel checked his com­put­er screen. “Seven, sev­en­teen. Nineteen sixty-one.”

Thank you, and can I please have your phone number?”

Yes, I’m not sure which cell I’ve giv­en you.” Daniel scrolled his mon­i­tor to the infor­ma­tion. “It’s either sev­en, six, one, four, three, four, sev­en, two, six, six.”

I’m sor­ry, sir. That doesn’t match our records.”

Then it’s this one: sev­en, six, one, three, two, three, four, sev­en, two, six.”

Thank you. And the last four dig­its of your account with us?”

Nine, six, two, six.”

Thank you, Mister Bonnet, how can I help you today?”

Daniel leaned back in his chair. “I’d like to take a look at activ­i­ty on my account in ear­ly February.”

Certainly, sir. Is there a problem?”

I’m not sure. Can you tell me if there were any deb­its issued on…” Daniel checked the auc­tion magazine’s dou­ble-page spread of Serenity. “On February ninth between the hours of four p.m. and midnight?”

Certainly.” The sound of keys tap­ping. “There were three deb­its, sir: Heimdall’s Steakhouse for two hun­dred and forty-three dol­lars, sev­en­teen cents; Blue Boutique for a hun­dred and six dol­lars, twen­ty-one cents; and Dairy Queen for two dol­lars and six cents.”

Daniel swal­lowed a snort. Dairy Queen? Mister rich-ass Bonnet had a cheap ice cream habit?

Do any of those sound abnor­mal, sir.”

No.” Daniel smiled into the phone. “Can you check direct deposits and trans­fers for me, please? Same timeframe.”

Two deposits, sir: Richard’s Entertainment for thir­ty-three thou­sand, four hun­dred and sev­en­ty-six dol­lars, twen­ty-two cents; and also from Richard’s for six­ty-four thou­sand, two hun­dred and nine dol­lars, eighty-three cents.”

What the hell was Richard’s Entertainment? It was cer­tain­ly pay­ing well.

Only one trans­fer for six hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars, which we called to con­firm with you before releasing.”

Daniel’s hand tight­ened on the phone. “Where was that trans­fer addressed to?”

Gerard Photography Auctions, sir.”

Bingo. Daniel resist­ed the urge to sit up in his chair; it would change the tone of his voice. “Those are all as expect­ed. Thank you.”

Would you like me to flag your account for addi­tion­al fraud obser­va­tion, sir?”

No, every­thing appears to be in order.”

Is there any­thing else I can do for you?”

No, that was it.”

Thank you for your busi­ness, Mister Bonnet. Have a good day.”

You too.” Daniel hung up and stared at the pho­to­graph in the mag­a­zine. Six hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars. About fif­teen per­cent of the sale price straight to Kearin. The auc­tion house cut. Phillip Bonnet was Serenity’s anony­mous bid­der, and he was attend­ing the gala tomorrow.

Daniel sat at his desk and won­dered how well Kearin knew Phillip. The email in his drafts fold­er indi­cat­ed it wasn’t a close rela­tion­ship and that Kearin want­ed to impress him. It was like­ly Kearin had han­dled the trans­ac­tions for Serenity him­self. Could they have spo­ken about Kearin’s port­fo­lio then?

Daniel couldn’t remem­ber any spe­cif­ic inter­ac­tions between the two men at his gallery show­ing, but he’d want­ed to leave an impres­sion on Kearin, not haunt his every step. It was pos­si­ble they’d spo­ken that night as well.

His gut churned at the thought. Daniel wasn’t a look­er by any stretch—a good thief stayed forgettable—but Phillip car­ried a cloud of dis­ap­proval like a dog’s old fart. Wasn’t any­thing bet­ter than that?

He couldn’t help but won­der. Was Kearin restrain­ing some­one else right now? A new mod­el? Was he think­ing about Phillip? Saying please in a dark whis­per like it was a choice.

Daniel’s swift erec­tion made his jeans too tight.

He sighed, press­ing his hands into the table as he looked up to change his focus.