To Love a Thief

Warner Books/ Warner Forever April 2005
ISBN 0-446-61426-2

Lily Masters has a gift for picking pockets and telling stories—skills that come in handy for surviving London's slums. She's proud of providing for herself and her lively young sister, and she's never been caught.

Well, there's always a first time.

Gideon Cole is a brilliant barrister with an unfortunate weakness for clients who can't pay. His latest charitable misstep: buying the freedom of a daring, beautiful thief. To repay the debt, Lily agrees to his proposition: pose as the object of his desire and help him snare a wealthy bride. All he has to do is transform the impudent Lily into a diamond of the first water.

But the education of Lily could cost Gideon his carefully planned future. While she plays cards with his invalid uncle and her sister charms the servants, the honorable Gideon is harboring less than honorable thoughts. For sweet, stubborn and sensual Lily has a way of slipping past a gentleman's defenses— especially when she's stealing his heart!

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To Love a Thief

xxxxxxAlice was snoring softly next to her, her grubby little doll clutched in her arms. But Lily could not sleep. She was a little too full of roast beef, a little too tired of being required to move sedately, and the silence of the house enclosed her like a great bell jar.

xxxxxxPerhaps she could light a candle and read?

xxxxxxWhat she really wanted to do was run, expend her bottled energy. She was unaccustomed to confinement; it chafed at her, banked her restlessness. She smiled a little, picturing how the servants would react if they were to discover Miss Lily Masters, Lord Kilmartin's cousin from Sussex, racing through the hallways in her big dressing gown. Would an actual emotion register on Mrs. Plunkett's face?

xxxxxxShe slipped out of bed, wrapped herself in her voluminous night robe, also on loan from Mrs. Plunkett, and lit a candle. Cupping the flame with one hand, she turned the chamber doorknob, slipped out and padded silently and swiftly up the stairs to the library, the marble sending little rivers of chill up her legs through her bare feet.

xxxxxxShe peered in; a fire was burning low there, throwing soft light and odd, uneven shadows about the room. Surely this was wrong; surely a servant should have doused the fire by now? She hesitated in the doorway, listening. She heard nothing, so she took a step in.

xxxxxxShe saw him then. His long body filled a chair, his legs casually spread, his hands cupping a small red book; he seemed absorbed in it. In a nod to comfort, his shirt was open a button or two at the neck; dark hair curled intriguingly up out of it. The firelight burnished his skin, deepened the hollows of his cheeks, revealed red glints in his lashes, much like the ones hiding in his hair.

xxxxxxEven in repose, there was something taut and expectant, perpetually vigilant, about Gideon Cole. It made Lily want to murmur to him, the way you might to a restive animal. Awareness washed her senses almost raw. How could anyone or anything be so beautiful?

xxxxxxAnd then Gideon glanced up and saw her. He went utterly still.

xxxxxxTheir eyes held for an almost absurd length of time, but strangely, it was not the least bit awkward; his face, in fact, reflected the same gentle mystification she felt.

xxxxxxAnd then, as if shaking himself from a dream, Gideon abruptly began to rise to his feet.

xxxxxx"Miss Masters—"

xxxxxx"Oh, please do not stand Mr. Cole," she stammered. "I am sorry to disturb you. I'll just go back to my-"

xxxxxx"No," Gideon said quickly. "That is to say, don't go, Miss Masters. That is to say, you needn't go."

xxxxxxLily paused. If she didn't know better, she would have said that Gideon Cole was flustered.

xxxxxxHe sat down again and closed the book he was reading, turning it over in his lap. "There's very little of any value in this library, Miss Masters. You might perhaps try my uncle's study. There's some gold plate lying about, I believe."

xxxxxxBut the goad seemed half-hearted; she smiled faintly. Perhaps he was fatigued from his day of tormenting her. "You don't consider books of value, Mr. Cole?"

xxxxxx"Some of them, yes." He paused, regarding her thoughtfully. "You enjoy stories very much, don't you, Miss Masters? Reading them, telling them?"


xxxxxx"Why do you suppose that is?"

xxxxxx"Well, very likely because they are amusing, Mr. Cole."

xxxxxxGideon watched her for a silent moment. "Do you know why I read stories?" His words were slow, ironic. As though her answer had disappointed him. "I read them to escape the sordid, everyday difficulties of my life. To make it more…bearable."

xxxxxxLily gave a shocked little intake of breath, and her face went swiftly hot. Was he mocking her?

xxxxxxWhen she spoke again, her voice was cold and formal, signaling her intent to take command of their conversation. It shook a little, however, and she cursed herself and him for it. "Mr. Cole, now that I am here, I would like to speak to you about Alice."

xxxxxx"Alice is delightful."

xxxxxx"Yes, she is. You arranged for her to have a doll."

xxxxxx"Are you jealous, Miss Masters? Would you like one, too?"

xxxxxx"Very amusing, Mr. Cole. I grant that it was kind of you to think of Alice. But she may become accustomed to such luxuries, and as you know, her life in St. Giles does not allow for them."

xxxxxxAgain, he studied her quietly with those unfathomable eyes; she grew apprehensive. And his next words, gently delivered, stripped yet another layer from her.

xxxxxx"Does the issue lie, Miss Masters, in the fact that you cannot give her those things?"

xxxxxxLily's breathing quickened with something akin to panic. He's probably a bloody good barrister.

xxxxxx"We were happy, Mr. Cole," she hissed. "Alice and I were doing quite well before you and your bloody thirty pounds."

xxxxxx"Oh, yes. Quite well," he repeated ironically. "What if something befell you in your 'daily rounds,' Miss Masters? What if I hadn't happened along when I did? What of Alice? Do you care?"

xxxxxxIt was as though he had landed his fist in her gut. But before she could give vent to her fury, he surprised her.

xxxxxx"I apologize, Miss Masters." His voice carried a soft self-rebuke, and his hand went up to rub his brow absently, as though he wished he could erase the thoughts that had led to his words. "Truly. That was unworthy of me. I know how deeply you care for your sister. In fact, you should be congratulated on how well she has turned out. I just…I just want you to see that you should give some thought to your future. Not everyone who catches you will pay thirty pounds to free you."

xxxxxxIt was not condescension, precisely, but Lily found it infuriating nevertheless.

xxxxxx"The future, Mr. Cole? You can plan all you like, but no one can truly prepare for the future. Not even you. Despite your desperate measures and your Master Plan and your bloody thirty pounds."

xxxxxxHis expression changed then, his features tightened; her words had struck home. His lovely long fingers restlessly plucked at the arm of the chair.

xxxxxx"And why," she added, near tears, which infuriated her further, "do you care?"

xxxxxxA log, nearly devoured by flame, tipped into the lowering fire. Lily's bare feet once again felt the chill of the floor; she absently chafed one against the other.

xxxxxxAnd the silence stretched.

xxxxxxGideon shifted restless in his chair, took in a deep steadying breath, released it. "I'm not sure why I care, Miss Masters," he admitted softly. He sounded genuinely puzzled. Almost irritated with himself. "But…I do."

xxxxxxAnd then he smiled. And it really wasn't much more than a slow, rueful lift of the corner of his mouth, but there was a vulnerability to it, and a hint of defiance, as though the confession had been made reluctantly but he'd had no choice about it, really.

xxxxxxAnd God help her, that smile spiraled right around Lily's heart and tugged it nearly clean out of her chest.

xxxxxxHer anger evaporated. Lily studied him, and he met her gaze evenly; her heart tripped oddly. Something was taking shape between them; it was like standing at the entrance of a dark room, she thought, in the moment before your eyes adjust and the outlines of things become clear. She was afraid to step any farther into that room, for fear of crashing clumsily into something.

xxxxxxI could walk into his eyes, Lily thought. Happily disappear right into them.

xxxxxxGideon cleared his throat, as though he wanted to speak before she could say anything. "What sort of book were you after, Miss Masters? Perhaps I can direct you to it." His tone was gentle; a truce had been called, and something else acknowledged.

xxxxxx"Oh!" His solicitousness on the heels of her thoughts made her blush. "Would that be…would that be all right?"

xxxxxx" 'Tis a library, after all." He sounded faintly amused. "Are you fond of novels? Or perhaps of…" He faltered almost imperceptibly. "of…of poetry?"

xxxxxxOdd. It was as though he feared he was making some sort of prurient suggestion.

xxxxxx"I don't know much of poetry. Though I've a book of Shakespeare's works."

xxxxxxGideon smiled faintly, and then he tilted his head back, his eyes on the shadowy ceiling; the firelight gilding this throat. " 'The sun's a thief, and with his great attraction, robs the vast sea…' " he murmured.

xxxxxxLily's heart gave an astonished kick. Hearing those familiar words in this place, in his voice… She waited. But he didn't seem inclined to continue.

xxxxxx" '…The moon's an arrant thief, and her pale fire she snatches from the sun…' " she encouraged softly. She could have recited the rest to him, but she wanted to hear it in his voice.

xxxxxxInstead Gideon slowly lowered his head and regarded her wonderingly. "You know it."

xxxxxxLily nodded.

xxxxxx"It's beautiful," Gideon admitted, after a brief silence. He sounded almost…shy.

xxxxxxLily hated to ruin the moment for him, but she couldn't resist an opportunity to make a point. "And it's all about how everything is a thief."

xxxxxxGideon laughed a surprised laugh, and she laughed, too, because she couldn't help it: he had a wonderful laugh. It was full of the boy he must have been, and she wished he didn't ration it the way he seemed to. Their eyes met again, lingered; faint smiles curved both of their mouths, and Lily could think of nothing to say.

xxxxxxAnd then, as if freed by the laughter and darkness and firelight, Gideon's gaze began, gradually, to lower. It followed the length of Lily's bare throat, went to the loosed hair spilling over her chest, dropped to her waist, where a cord wrapped twice around her closed her robe. Slowly, slowly, his eyes traveled the curve of her hips, down her thighs, down her calves, to where her bare feet touched the floor. A most deliberate and thorough and unsubtle perusal.

xxxxxxAnd as surely as if his open hand were skimming over her bare skin, gooseflesh rose beneath Lily's robe; her skin felt stung with heat, her breath came short. Again, that sense of lamplight blooming below her belly, spilling into her veins.

xxxxxxAnd he was only looking at her.

xxxxxxI'm out of my depth with this man.

xxxxxxHe'd pulled at her like a swift current from the moment he'd locked his hand around her wrist on Bond Street. And Gideon Cole was not a Nick, who could be kissed out of curiosity and pushed away and forgotten. If Gideon Cole were to deign to reach for her now, she knew there would be no knees or elbows. She would come to him. And promptly be swept under. It was terrifying, really, how quickly pride and reason had deferred to the urges of her body in the presence of this man.

xxxxxxGideon returned his eyes to her face, his expression again decidedly unreadable. And now Lily understood: Gideon's Cole's thoughts were most active when his expression was least readable.

xxxxxxShe was reminded of a story in her French book: a man and a woman made love as they watched one another in a mirror, mindless with, pleasure. And Lily thought…I would love to see Gideon's Cole's face when he makes love… to be the person who makes his eyes change…who makes him lose himself in pleasure...

xxxxxxGideon drew in a long breath, as though steadying himself. "Miss Masters. I think you should return to your chambers now."

xxxxxxHis tone acknowledged a danger to them both.

xxxxxxAnd wordlessly, in silent agreement, Lily spun about and padded quickly out of the library.

 ~end of excerpt~

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These are excerpts from reviews...visit these terrific websites (links provided) and periodicals to read a review in its entirety.

TOP PICK! 4 1/2 stars!

“Long’s sprightly My Fair Lady/Cinderella story is endearing, delightful and unforgettable. Designed to warm your heart and titillate your senses, this is a must for anyone who loves laughter wrapped in tears.”

—Kathe Robin, Romantic Times BOOKClub Magazine


A Top Pick from Romance Reader at Heart!

"I knew when I read Julie Anne Long's first offering, THE RUNAWAY DUKE, that she was an author destined to become a favorite of mine. I wasn't wrong. What a delightful love story she writes in TO LOVE A THIEF, a romance that sparkles with touches of My Fair Lady woven inside a Cinderella fairy tale (minus the wicked stepmother and stepsisters). If ever there was a charmer of a romance, TO LOVE A THIEF takes the cake. It's fun, witty, filled with a colorful cast of characters, and simply pure romantic escapism at its best."
—Nancy Davis, Romance Reader at Heart


"Julie Anne Long's TO LOVE A THIEF is a wonderfully written, fun, sexy story of finding love where you least expect it. The characters are richly detailed and the plot is exciting and lively. The secondary characters add charm and this reviewer hopes to see Alice and Kilmartin in their own books in the future. The setting is detailed enough to allow the reader to see it clearly without taking over the story. I found myself not wanting to turn the last page, and I hated to see it end. Historical fans are going to love this fast-paced story set in England. Julie Anne Long has found a place on my keeper shelf, and added her name to my "must buy" list of authors."
Wendy Keel, The Romance Readers Connection


"What an amazing book! Julie Anne Long has only published one other book (The Runaway Duke, now on my TBR pile), but she writes like a master. I love a good romance story, but I love a book even more when it is well written. Long's prose and allusions are wonderful....To Love a Thief may be one of the most wonderful Pygmalion stories yet to come out of the romance genre. Julie Anne Long may be a newer author, but she is someone not to miss! "
Cybil Solyn, Rakehell


A Perfect 10 from Historical Romance Writers!

With this latest novel by the author of RUNAWAY DUKE, Ms. Long proves that she is not a one-book wonder... as she writes a totally charming and wholesome tale that will leave the reader sighing in great contentment. Her depiction of Lily, smart, strong and compassionate was brilliant and well quite literally, this ‘thief’ will steal your heart. While Gideon kept up the pretense of wanting so much to triumph with his ‘master plan’ the author softens your view of him with a deft hand that captures him in a perfectly poignant mood. I confess it brought tears to my eyes. In addition, she supports the story with a wonderful cast of secondary characters that will enchant the reader in this wonderful new entry. I highly recommend both this book and this author to be put on most romance lovers ‘auto-buy’ lists."
Marilyn Rondeau, Historical Romance Writers


4 1/2 pink hearts!
"...a perfect blend of romance and humour. It's magical
and engaging, a treat for anyone that believes fairy tales can
come true."

—Laurel, The Mystic Castle


"From the first page, readers can empathize with the inner struggle Gideon faces as he chooses between what he should do and what his heart tells him to do. Lily is a delightfully complex character who can be a vixen and an innocent at the same time. The passion between them is beyond breathtaking. The secondary characters are multifaceted and enjoyable, including the self-centered Lady Constance Clary.

If you are seeking a novel that will leave you breathless with its laughter and passion, look no further. TO LOVE A THIEF is the best of the best."
—Edith Morrison, Senior Reviewer, Romance Reviews Today


"Julie Anne Long has written a delightful tale of whimsical subterfuge, giving her readers an amusing glimpse into the often unfathomable complexities of the London ton. Gideon and Lily are perfect foils for one another, and through them Ms. Long demonstrates a gift for witty prose and sparkling dialogue. I look forward to reading more from this author!"
—Paula Myers, Reviewer, Fresh Fiction


5 Cups!
"Ms. Long has created a delightful tale of intrigue and a real page turner....This a truly great read and a definite keeper. I will recommend to all and cannot wait to read more."
Lynn Sawyer, Coffee Time Romance







~ Rita Finalist, Best Short Historical Category

~ Holt Medallion finalist, Best Short Historical Category

~ Bookseller's Best Award Finalist, Best Short Historical

~ Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award Finalist, Best Historical Love and Laughter


  Where did you get the idea for TO LOVE AT THIEF?
  Hmmm...not entirely sure, except that I do know that some of the themes that cropped up as I was writing THE RUNAWAY DUKE continued to intrigue me. For example, the choices or rationalizations people make in the name of survival (I'm thinking of Cordelia, DUKE's villainess): what would make an essentially good person—say, Lily Masters from TO LOVE A THIEF—choose to do something most of us consider "bad"—for instance, steal? I was mulling that, and the character of Lily Masters, a scrappy pickpocket, sort of popped fully formed into my head. As for Gideon...well, we've all known people who've commited their lives to pursuing what they think they want, or what they think they should want...and I liked the idea of bringing a relentlessly ambitious man (Gideon) face to face with his own deepest, barely-acknowledged desires—which of course have nothing to do with his ambitions—and forcing him to deal with them. :)
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