Story Excerpt
Stealing His Warrior's Heart

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And we have a winner.

Níximon Aeglos smiled slyly as he pushed away from the stone wall he had been leaning against as he scanned the crowd, effortlessly sliding into the bustling throng of people moving about the marketplace. He hurried to catch up with his mark, knowing the well-dressed man ahead of him would have what Nix wanted.

Determining who was an easy mark and who was not was an art form, one that Nix had mastered many years ago. He had perfected his technique over time, becoming quicker, stealthier, better. He could pick someone's pocket in under three seconds, take a pocket watch in two, and then disappear into a puff of smoke in one.

Blending in to his surroundings was the first thing he had learned. He was non-descript. Even if someone saw him lift a watch or a coin purse, no one would be able to describe him. Nix worked very hard at appearing uninteresting.

The simple clothing he wore was a big help. Many people wore bright vivid colors to stand out in a crowd. Nix wore earth tones, browns and tans and creams. People tended to look past him to the more brightly colored outfits, which was exactly what Nix wanted.

Nix weaved his way through the crowd, keeping his eyes on his target as much as he could while scanning his surroundings. As good as he knew he was, there was always someone better. And there were always soldiers patrolling the marketplace looking for troublemakers and anyone else that broke the laws set down by their king.

Being a thief might not be a legal or moral occupation, but it put food in Nix's belly and kept a roof over his head, at least on most days. His upbringing didn't come with treasure chest full of gold coins, unlike the man he was tracking.

It was obvious from the fine silk of his white tunic and the perfect stitching of his black leather pants and vest that the man came from a rich background. He wouldn't even miss the coin that Nix planned to lift from him.

After making sure there were no eyes watching him, Nix moved in closer to his mark. As he caught up with the man, he couldn't help but appreciate the way the black leather hugged the man's ass and thighs like a second skin.

Whoever sewn those leathers deserved an award.

From the backside, the guy was gorgeous enough, and Nix bet he was just as stunning from the front. It was really too bad that Nix needed the coin this man could garner him. If he didn't need the money, he'd consider giving up thoughts of stealing from him and just invite him to the alley for a little fun.

Alas, as gorgeous as the man looked, the sword at his side dissuaded Nix. In his experience, not only did soldiers not take kindly to being propositioned for a little fun in the alley, they tended to believe they were better than the average man on the street.

Nix wanted nothing to do with them, no matter how hot one of them might be. Slightly saddened that things had to be that way, Nix slid up closer behind his prey. He carefully checked his peripheral vision, making sure no one was watching too closely and no patrols were in sight.

Once he was sure that the coast was clear, Nix moved in. He waited for just the right moment, watching as the man started to weave his body, turning one way then the other as he moved through a thickening crowd of people.

Just as someone started to bump into the man, Nix slid his small bladed dagger through the leather straps holding the man's coin purse. He was turning away before he even finished cutting them.

Once the small black leather bag was free, Nix slid it into the hidden pocket on his vest. He casually walked away, plastering a look on his face that he had perfected through the years, the one that said he was innocent of anything and everything.

And that would have worked great…if he wasn't suddenly grabbed from behind and dragged into the closest alleyway. Nix grunted with pain as he was slammed into the hard stone wall, his cheek scraping along the uneven plaster holding the gray stones together.

Hot, heavy breath beat down on the nape of Nix's neck, sending his heart beat soaring. Nix could feel the buttery softness of leather brushing against him as his hands were pinned against the stone wall.

He had a pretty good idea who had him. He just couldn't figure out how he had gotten caught. The whole process had been flawless. He knew that. He had done it a hundred times in the past. There was absolutely no reason that he should have been caught.

And yet, he was.

Now, Nix just had to figure out how to get free.

Nix quickly went through his options. He could play innocent and cry about being bullied. He could play innocent and get angry that he was being accosted. He could give the guy a boon and admit what he had done, again crying or getting angry.

Or he could just stand there with the gorgeous man pressing him into the wall.

"Stealing is wrong."

Nix groaned as his body reacted to the deep voice rumbling behind him, warming, heating, arousal making his skin tight. Maybe he should consider asking if the guy wanted to have a little fun in the alleyway.

Nix's lips twisted in a wry smile. "I don't know what you're talking about." Nix could barely believe his words and he was speaking them. Sometimes he even amazed himself. "You must have the wrong guy."

"No, I have the right guy." Nix's eyebrows shot up when he heard a hard sniffing noise near his ear. Was the guy actually sniffing him? "It was you in the marketplace. I could hear you walking behind me. I could smell you."

Nix's denial plan was starting to come apart right before his eyes. He really seriously needed to come up with a different game plan. It looked like it would either be crying or getting angry.

"Of course I was in the marketplace, you idiot. That's where you grabbed me."

Okay, anger it was.