I wrote this a while ago and just now got around to finishing it. It's a lot longer than I intended. I sat down to write a short little one shot and it grew from 1,000 words to 2,000 to 3,000 to whatever it is now.
I don't claim to own the rights to these books, though I make no promises when it comes to Hale. I'd claim him any day...
"I don't know about this," Kat said for the fourth time in as many minutes.
"It's fine, Kitty Cat," W. W. Hale the Fifth replied, also for the fourth time. "Just try to calm down."
Even though they were rushed, she couldn't resist stopping to admire the way his brown hair fell across his forehead despite his attempts to brush it back.
"I might be able to if certain people would stop staring at my chest!" The small girl said, giving the boy sitting beside Hale a glare. Hamish Bagshaw didn't even have the grace to blush. She turned to give his brother a glare too for good measure.
"Kat," Hale sighed. He knew her well enough to know that her nerves did not stem from the stares of two teenage boys. "This is necessary for the heist. We have to get the gem, and this is the best way to do it."
"It was your idea in the first place," Kat's cousin Gabrielle put in from her seat across the room. The smaller girl glared at her too. But she had a point. It had been Kat's idea to break into the party pretending to be guests. They had to do it sometime, and what better time than when the security was distracted by a party?
"I know, I know." It wasn't like her to be nervous about these types of things, but she was already out of her comfort zone wearing this dress. She told herself it was just the dress that was causing the Bagshaw brothers to stare, but she had a feeling their stares might also be due to the fact that they had only recently figured out that she was a girl.
Angus and Hamish had volunteered to help with Kat and Hale's latest heist. Gabrielle, on the other hand, had to be roped into it by the very handsome W. W. Hale the Fifth. Her only contribution so far was the two hours it took to do Kat's hair and makeup. Kat was seriously considering letting her take over this part of the job.
After all, Gabrielle's hair was always perfectly coiffed and her makeup just right. She was glamorous and sophisticated where Kat was merely nice-looking and ordinary. Gabrielle and Hale would look great together. Ultimately, it was that fact that made Kat go through with it. As much as she hated to admit it, she would be jealous if anyone else was on Hale's arm.
"Come on, it's time to leave." Hale offered her said arm. After a second's hesitation, she took it.
He led her to the car waiting in the driveway. She didn't know much about cars, but she knew that while it stuck out here, it would be inconspicuous among the Porsches and Lamborghinis the other guests would be arriving in. So would the limo that Hale provided for the rest of their team.
Once they got to the gala, a valet offered to take the car, and Kat felt even more out of place. You would think that with a best friend like Hale, whose family had more money than they could ever spend, she would be used to it. But it wasn't something you just got used to. While her family was nowhere near poor, the opulence of the place still made her uncomfortable. Hale shook his head and tossed the keys back to Angus who was posing as our chauffeur.
He took her arm again and led her into the building.
"I hate this." Kat sighed. If Hale hadn't been such a gentleman, he would have rolled his eyes at her.
"I know." He reminded her. "But if it's any consolation, you look gorgeous."
Kat felt her cheeks burn. She wanted to blush, to smile up at him, to kiss him, but this was all too new. She didn't even know if they were "together" or not. So instead, she turned away and surveyed the room.
It had been less than a month since the Maggie/Romani fiasco, and healing had been slow for Kat. She had yet to forgive herself completely for being conned in the first place. She was still on her "honorable thief" kick, but to Hale's immense relief, she no longer insisted on doing everything alone.
"So how does it look?" He asked, slipping an arm around her waist.
"Easy." Kat grinned.
The two of them were standing in the middle of an enormous ballroom surrounded by throngs of people. The setting brought back memories of another heist and another ball where they were after the Cleopatra Emerald. Kat quickly shut those memories out. Now was not the time for them.
She focused her attention on the guards, looking up just in time to see a dashing young man wink at her from across the room. He was gone in a blink, and if Kat hadn't known better, she would think she was imagining things.
"Nick?" Kat spoke aloud into a mike hidden in her gown. "Are you ready?"
"Affirmative." The young man agreed.
"You're not a spy." Hale reminded him through his own mike.
"But I am a thief." Nick countered. "Thanks to you guys."
"If you didn't wa—"
"Boys, boys." Gabrielle's voice cut in. "It's time to mingle."
Mingle. The dictionary definition was to move freely at a social function associating with other people. Kat wondered exactly how they were supposed to do that when they didn't know a single person here.
"Gabrielle…" She started.
She was cut off by a loud shout of, "Mr. Hale! Bon soir!" She spun around just in time to see a tall, tan, gorgeous blonde throw herself into Hale's arms. She kissed him on both cheeks before backing up, and to Kat's surprise, Hale smiled in response.
"Hello again, Isabella." Hale declared, looking every inch the dashing millionaire that he was. He seemed to have forgotten all about Kat even though she was still standing right beside him.
"I didn't expect to see you here!" The gorgeous blonde gushed. Kat frowned as she realized that girl looked vaguely familiar. "What brings you back to France, Hale?"
"Oh, Monsieur Remington is an old friend," Hale lied effortlessly. In truth, Samuel Remington, the host of the party, had never met or even heard of W.W. Hale the Fifth or his dark haired companion. But Isabella didn't need to know that. "And you know I can never pass up a good party."
"Really?" Isabella giggled. "You know Remy? He's my favorite uncle."
Suddenly, Kat realized why the girl was so familiar. Almost a month ago, in preparation for their second stealing of the Cleopatra Emerald, Hale had dragged her into a little boutique in Monaco. They were immediately met by two tan, long-legged sales girls who both greeted Hale by name. Kat recognized Isabella as one of them.
"You look great, Isabella," Hale grinned.
Katarina Bishop felt her stomach heave. Was this the same boy who had gently reassured her that he thought she was gorgeous only minutes ago? The way he was eyeing the leggy blonde said differently. A horrible feeling of jealousy was clawing it's was into Kat's mind.
"Why thank you," Isabella giggled. Kat wanted to claw her eyes out. The dress the taller girl was wearing was elegant, and it suited her perfectly. It made her look like a princess from a fairy tale. In comparison, Kat felt plain and ordinary.
The way Hale was looking at Isabella only made the feeling worse. Isabella leaned into his arm, touching him as if she had done it many times before. And unless Kat was going crazy, Hale was eyeing the low neckline of the elegant beauty's dress with pleasure.
Abruptly, Hale seemed to realize where he was and remember Kat for the first time. He stepped away from Isabella and turned to make introductions. "Isabella, this is my partner in crime, the lovely Katarina Bishop." Not catching the truth of the statement, Isabella laughed.
Hale winked at Kat as if he hadn't just been flirting with someone else. Placing an arm around her waist, he pulled her close. "And Kat, this is Isabella Davies." Hale added. "You might remember her. She works at Renee's boutique in Monaco."
Her stomach still in knots, Kat pulled away from him. "I remember." She stated softly.
Hale remained oblivious, but the other girl seemed to notice the chill in Kat's voice. "I'm sorry," She remarked, faking a smile. "But I can't say the same." She turned back to Hale as if Kat wasn't there. "How have you been, Mister Millionaire?" She teased.
"Busy." Hale smiled enigmatically. "Business as usual."
Kat started to back away, but Hale caught her arm and pulled her close again. Sudden understanding flared in Isabella's eyes.
"Are you two together?" She asked curiously.
Kat and Hale exchanged glances. Music from a live orchestra filled the room and couples started to dance, and still they stared at each other. Kat tried to read Hale's expression, to search for an appropriate answer, but his face was unreadable. His hand on her arm was suddenly chafing and she wanted nothing more than to get away.
"I guess not." She said, pulling her hand from his grasp.
"Wonderful." Isabella declared, satisfied. "Then what is stopping you from asking me to dance, Mr. Hale?"
Hale's eyes, devoid of any readable emotion, never left Kat's. His expression faltered and a look of hurt flashed across his handsome face, but before Kat was even sure that she saw it, it was gone and Hale was turning away.
"So?" Isabella prompted.
"I would be delighted." Hale replied chivalrously, taking her hand. With that, they were gone, just another well-dressed couple amid a vast array of dresses and suits.
And Kat was alone.
"Oh, Kitty." Gabrielle's voice echoed in her ear. "What did you do?"
Okay, maybe she wasn't alone. But right now, she'd rather be.
"We can start whenever you're ready, Simon." Kat, pretending as if she hadn't heard her cousin, called to the boy seated approximately a hundred yards away in the gardens of the great mansion. Thankfully, said boy hadn't been paying any attention to the events of the past few minutes until Gabrielle poked him.
"Have you ever thought about stealing anything besides art and gems?" Simon's voice blared through the speaker. "Because this guy has some pretty cool things here. Like these cameras—"
Kat heard a loud pop through her earpiece, and Simon winced.
"Ow! What was that for?" He demanded.
"You weren't paying attention." Gabrielle snapped.
"Oh yeah… sorry Kat."
Through the earpiece, Kat could hear her cousin muttering something about how she was the one who deserved an apology. Three minutes and forty-seven seconds later, Simon had finished his job. And broken his personal record, he happily informed Kat.
He had hacked through the mansion's security system like a pro. The weight sensitive plate that the gem was sitting on was now as useful as a pile of bricks, as were the cameras which were on loop for the next four minutes. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the half a dozen guards stationed at each of the three entrances and the others spread throughout the room.
Just then, there was a loud shout from the middle of the room. "Thief! Thief!" A distressed man, who Kat knew to be Nick shouted. "That man stole my watch!"
The polished man standing a few feet away scoffed, "The watch I have on my wrist is worth more than any trinket you could possibly own, boy."
"Yes!" Nick shouted. "That's because it's mine!"
"Do you know who I am?" The older man demanded. People were stopping to stare and a few of the palace guards headed their way. Another man standing nearby realized that he was missing his wallet and began to shout too. He had been too busy to notice Nick bump into him and slip a hand inside his coat pocket.
Distraction number one: check. Now, for distraction number two.
On the other side of the room, a woman let out an ear piercing shriek as an army of cockroaches swarmed around the hors d'oeuvres. Several more guards hurried in their direction. Kat felt a smile drift over her face as chaos began to ensue. Nick's little number had given the Bagshaws just enough time to release the bugs without being detected.
Distraction number two: check.
More cries of "Thief!" began to spread as others nearby noticed things missing. Other cries of "Bugs!" and screeches of terror were filling the room as well. Amidst the chaos, Kat saw the majority of the guards jump into the melee in an attempt to calm the crowd. The remaining three guards kept their eyes peeled for danger. Kat edged closer to them unobtrusively. She was dreading the next part, but deep inside, she knew it was necessary.
Standing only a few feet away from the guards, she collapsed. It wasn't pretty. And it wasn't delicate. But then again, she wasn't Gabrielle.
A pair of strong arms caught her and a masculine voice whispered, "I've got you, Kitty Kat," before calling, "Guards! Help! My girlfriend just fainted!"
Kat's felt her heart thud loudly as he said the words, even though she knew they were only part of his script. She was glad that her eyes still closed, because it saved her from having to meet Hale's. She knew if she looked at him right now, her heart would ache. She felt the world tip as Hale scooped her into his arms and carried her toward the guards. "Is there anywhere that I can take her?" Kat could hear his heart beating in his chest as he spoke. "I think the excitement was a little too much."
The guard hesitated for a moment before reluctantly saying, "Follow me, sir."
While the Bagshaws and Nick contributed to the ever-growing trouble in the ballroom, Kat and Hale were lead to the nearest hallway and shown to an elaborate bedroom down the hall. "I can take it from here," Hale assured the guard, gently letting Kat's body slide out of his arms and onto the bed.
The guard seemed reluctant to leave them alone, but finally, he exited the room. As soon as the door shut behind him, Kat's eyes fluttered open. "Hello, Sleeping Beauty." Hale smiled. "How was your nap?" Kat immediately relaxed when she realized he wasn't going to try to discuss the Isabella incident.
"Sleeping Beauty is about to pull a Cinderella." She smirked. Speaking into her mike, she continued, "Simon, how are we doing with the cameras?"
"They're up and running again." He informed her. "I can disable them if you want, but it won't take long for someone to notice. "
"Five minutes, maybe." Simon estimated. "And that's only if they're really bad at their jobs."
"That will have to do." She took a deep breath and steeled herself for the mission ahead.
"Now all we have to do is get the gem, get it past half a dozen guards, and get out of here with none the wiser." Hale remarked dryly. "Piece of cake."
Everyone ignored him.
A few stealthy steps and some technical difficulties in the security department, and they would be close enough to touch the goal of the night. It was the Delhi Purple Sapphire, and it was only twenty yards away. Kat knew from the blueprints of the place that the gem was inside a specialized safe three rooms down the hall. From their research, they also knew that inside the safe, the gem sat on a weight-sensitive plate. Of course, Simon had already disabled the plate a while ago. On top of these safety measures, the room was guarded by five men.
Kat climbed to her feet and quickly and efficiently pried the covering from a conveniently placed air vent. "Close your eyes." She ordered Hale before pulling a stylish cat-suit out from among their belongings. Assuming he had done as she asked, she started to strip off the dress.
"What are you doing?" Hale demanded. Apparently he hadn't listened.
Kat jerked the neckline of the dress up and blushed scarlet. "You really don't think I can climb through air vents in thing, do you?" She returned. "Now close your eyes!"
Muttering something unintelligible, Hale complied. By the time he opened them again, Kat was long gone. Still muttering, he sat down on the bed to wait.
It didn't take Kat long to climb through the vents. She might not always land on her feet, but she did have a few other cat-like qualities. Speed and stealth were among them. She dropped into the dimly lit, abandoned room, trusting that Simon had disabled the lasers as well as the cameras. Her safe-cracking skills had the door opened in minutes, despite the fact that it was one of the most expensive safes that money could buy.
Then, she saw it. Simmering and beautiful, the purple stone sat on a dais in the center of the giant safe. "The plate is still off, right Simon?" She whispered, praying that her luck would hold out and the guards outside of the door would be compelled to stay there.
"Yep." Simon assured her.
Without a moment's hesitation, Katarina Bishop scooped up the Delhi Purple Sapphire and disappeared into the air vent, taking time only to close the safe and secure the screen over the vent once again. She surprised a slightly-annoyed Hale only minutes later as she sprung out of the vent. "Time to go." She grinned, holding up her prize. And go they did. Soon, Kat was once again dressed in her beautiful gown and the two of them were safely out of the mansion.
"See?" Kat grinned. "What did I tell you?"
"It was easy." Hale conceded.
"Yep." The two of them were wandering through the maze of garden surrounding the majestic home, looking for the place where they were supposed to meet Simon and Gabrielle. "Hey, Simon." Kat called. "How are we doing with the cameras?"
"As far as I can tell, no one noticed." The voice of their tech genius answered. "I set them back up once you two got into the gardens."
"Good." Kat approved.
The light from the moon illuminated the maze of gardens as Kat and Hale strode through them. In the dim light, Kat could make out beautiful flowers surrounding them. If she weren't on the job, she would have stopped to admire the glowing buds.
She was seriously contemplating doing it anyway when she heard footsteps hurrying towards them. Hale's eyes met hers in panic as they realized that they were about to get caught. Seizing the first idea that came to mind, Kat reached up and pulled Hale's face down to hers. They appeared like any other couple sneaking away from a busy party for a little alone time, and their discoverer rushed past them with little thought.
But Kat and Hale were no longer paying attention to the intruder. Kat was lost in the euphoria of the moment as she realized that Hale was kissing her back! His lips moved gently over hers, surprisingly soft in their search for fulfillment.
Finally, they broke apart.
"Wow." Kat said happily.
"Wow is right." Hale agreed. "But Kat—"
The garden was completely silent as Kat waited with bated breath for Hale's next words. Was he finally going to say it? Was he going to give her some hope that they could be together?
Neither of them realized that it was a bit too quiet. They had forgotten that five other people were connected to the same conversation via earpiece. In their respective rooms, Nick, Simon, and Gabrielle all listened curiously. The Bagshaws, however, were currently distracted by the roaches in the ball room.
"It's… it's nothing." Hale said dismissively. He went to wrap an arm around her, but Kat pulled away.
"Nothing?" She asked with a frown. "Was that girl nothing?"
Hale eyed her confusedly. "That girl? You mean Isabella? Kat, she's just an old friend. Nothing more, I promise." Kat didn't believe him. Belatedly realizing this, Hale let out a laugh. "You… you thought…!" He laughed even harder, gasping for air. "Poor Kitty Kat." He grinned. "That's why you were so upset. You were jealous."
Kat's stomach was twisting itself into knots again. This time, it was for a completely different reason. She was beginning to feel very irrational and stupid.
"I'm not jealous." She snapped. "And it's not funny."
"Au contraire, Kitty Kat." Hale grinned. "It's hilarious."
Kat scowled at him. "I'm not crazy, Hale. I saw the way you were looking at her."
"How was that?" Hale wanted to know.
"You hugged her." Kat offered up the first thing she thought of.
"I hug you all the time, Kat." Hale pointed out. W.W. Hale the Fifth was nothing if not intelligent, so he was stuck wondering how exactly he had missed Kat's obvious insecurity. "Plus, she threw herself into my arms."
"Yes, but you enjoyed it." Kat accused. "And you couldn't take your eyes off of her. Especially her chest."
Hale cocked an eyebrow. "Really now?"
"Yes." Kat said, determined to prove that what she said was true. "And when she asked if we were together, you didn't say yes!"
"We're not together, Kat." Hale reminded her. She stepped back as if he had just slapped her.
"I'm fully aware of that, Hale." Kat replied. Hale had never seen the cold, pained look that spread across her face before and suddenly, he wanted to take everything back.
"Kat—" He tried to speak.
"No." She snapped. "Its fine, Hale. I understand that you don't want me. I should have figured it out after you refused to kiss me back the first time. Or after you left for Paraguay. But apparently, I was too dense to see it." She steadily backed away from him. "Well, now I do. So, I'm going to go away and leave you alone."
"Uh-oh." Hamish's whispered voice came through their earpieces. "Mommy and daddy are fighting… Again."
Kat didn't hear him. All she could hear was the sound of her racing hear as Hale moved towards her.
"Isabella may be attractive," Hale admitted. "But there's one problem, Kat. She's not you." He moved even closer to her and took her into his arms. This time, Kat didn't try to run away. "I only ever wanted you, Kat. I don't know how you can't see it." She wanted so badly to believe him, to think that this could all be real.
As Hale leaned forward to kiss her, Kat's heart felt like it would burst.
"Um, Hamish." The other Bagshaw brother whispered, "I don't think they're fighting anymore."
"Then what are they doing?" Hamish asked curiously.
"I think…" Angus started, "They might be…"
"Boys, shut up!" Gabrielle hissed, afraid Kat or Hale would notice.
But they were both too far gone to notice anything but each other.
"Oh my God!" Hamish shouted suddenly. "They're KISSING?"