"You really should invest in new locks, Gabriel," a woman's amused voice announced, startling him out of his intense concentration as he updated his business's web site. The sudden shock made him leap to his feet, nearly colliding with the desk chair as he spun around to face the unexpected visitor. Heart pounding, he took a relieved deep breath as he recognized who had picked the door locks and bypassed his security system.
Standing in front of a display case was a slender brunette attired in a red mini-dress that left little to the imagination, thigh-high boots and a matching scarf.
"Amanda! Don't you ever knock? Maybe even, oh, I don't know, call ahead, warn me you were coming?"
She favored him with a smile. "Now, where's the fun in that? But, really, Gabe, you need better locks if you're going to live where you store all this rare and expensive stuff."
"Yeah, well," he pointed out, "you have to admit, they're better than they were the last time you were here." He stared at her, considering what he knew of her, then asked, "You aren't planning on robbing me this time, are you? Because if you are, then you're too late– I sold the jewelry yesterday."
"Now, now, just because you know I sometimes acquire things– "
Gabriel crossed his arms. "You're a thief, Amanda. Don't try to whitewash it; we both know better. No one else would have taken sheet music with a love letter scrawled across it and done it in such a way that nothing else was taken."
Amanda pouted momentarily. "It was mine," she said indignantly. "Granted, I lost it for a few years, but still. Mine."
Gabriel shook his head. "All you had to do was ask. I would have -"
"Sold it back to me," she interrupted tartly. "Really, darling, I can't believe the things you'd consider selling back to me."
"I have to make a living, and since it doesn't always pay for me to know who owned it last.." He shrugged. "Hard to know what's yours and what's not. You are, as far I can figure out, not as young as you appear to be."
She pouted prettily, and Gabriel had to control the knee-jerk reaction to give in to whatever she wanted. She'd already tried seducing her way out of trouble once. Not for the first time, Gabriel wondered what else she was capable of doing, whether he'd have any merchandise left to sell if he let her have her way, and whether she'd be worth the risk. The part of him that was still very much driven by his hormones urged him on, but the other part– the one that had been running a very successful Internet-based business for the last nine years – said a very emphatic "no."
He caught her staring at him, and realized he'd been silent too long. Clearing his throat, he asked, "So what brings you here?" he asked in his best businesslike tone.
"I have something to sell you, if you're interested." She pulled out a medium-sized wooden box from her oversized purse and handed it to him.
Gabriel opened it up. Faint perfume mingled with the indescribable scent of something old wafted through the air. Inside the box, cushioned against faded silk, was an ornate diamond-and-sapphire crown. Stunned, he stared at it.
"No way," he breathed. "How'd you get this? I've only seen this in pictures– it's been lost for centuries. No, wait, on second thought, I don't want to know how you got Marie Antoinette's crown. I know enough about you to know you don't always pay for everything."
"Are you trying to imply something, sweetie?"
Gabriel snorted. "Only that you're a thief with a long history. Did you know some guy claimed he saw you in the 1940's? I don't believe everything I see on the 'net, but he swore he had proof. He certainly had enough to make me wonder just how old you are - and I really don't think the Amazing Amanda and a WWII spy could look that similar, all genetics aside. All I know for sure is that you don't seem to know the meaning of a locked door."
Amanda looked indignant. "I do so know the meaning of a locked door; it's just that keys are just forever getting lost."
"Uh huh, and you never have time to knock." It didn't escape Gabriel's notice that she didn't argue the thief label. Mentally, he shrugged; he dealt in rare and unusual objects, and as long as there was a buyer willing to pay, he was willing to not ask too many questions on how it came into his inventory. Still, he found himself wondering, as he had on the previous occasion Amanda had crossed his path, just why she continued to be a thief. She was intelligent, talented– for it took skill and planning to defeat the kind of locks he had on his doors - beautiful, and there wasn't anything he could see to prevent her from being successful at something more legitimate.
So, interested?" Amanda asked, dragging his mind away from his musing, and they haggled over price for a few minutes before concluding the deal.
"You always bring me the most interesting stuff," Gabriel commented as Amanda prepared to leave. "You got anything else in that magic closet of yours?"
Amanda smiled. "If you're looking for something specific, tell me what you're looking for." Her tone was as abruptly businesslike as she'd waltzed in.
"And pay you a finder's fee?"
"I'll think about it," Gabriel promised.
"Don't think too long, sweetie," Amanda warned him. "I might not be around when you call." She kissed his cheek and leaned into him in a way that clearly said she knew what to do with her body. He inhaled sharply, unable to help himself, and caught her pleased smile before he watched her sweep out as breezily as she'd entered.
For a long moment, Gabriel stood there, trying to calm his libido.
"Damn. That woman is dangerous," he muttered, and turned up the volume on his stereo. He was going to have to drown this frustration in music, but first - he had to make sure he still had inventory to sell.
Sighing, Gabriel did a quick visual inspection to ensure Amanda hadn't palmed anything, and swore when he realized she'd managed to steal a brooch said to have belonged to Abigail Adams. He swore again when he realized she'd done so and had managed to reset the display case's alarm.
Picking up his phone, he dialed the police. For a moment, he wondered if he should bother Sara with it, and then decided against it; she worked homicide, and this wasn't really worth her attention. Gabriel knew, too, that she'd probably lecture him on the million reasons why he ought to get out of the rare antiquities business, and that she'd be right, but he loved it. It had made him rich, gotten him out of his parents' house, and at twenty-one, he had a full warehouse, a thriving business, and a life he was proud to call his own.
By now, Gabriel knew better than to deal with thieves, liars, scoundrels, and femme fatales, but the nature of his business meant he sometimes did. He really didn't want the lecture his detective friend was bound to give him once word got around to her, but he figured delaying it would allow him time to come up with a better excuse than "I wasn't paying close attention." Somehow, he didn't think that one would fly.
Acquisitions by Raine Wynd
Disclaimer and Notes: Top Cow Productions owns the Witchblade characters and concepts, Panzer/Davis, the Highlander: the Raven ones. Resurrected from my "on hold" file for the crossovers100 LiveJournal community challenge, prompt #48: Diamond.