Looks Are Deceiving won
 the Bronze Medal for Best Romantic Suspense
 in the 2010 Readers Favorite Contest !

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Looks Are Deceiving
Nothing looks the same after this.

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The Wine Thief 

 

She watched his suspicious green eyes roam the cocoa-and-white living room appreciatively. "Greg's got some pad here."

His vision fixed on the cases of wine stacked beside the airport-lights sound system and flat-screen TV embedded into the wall. One would've thought the electronics would draw a thief's eye.

This one pointed the gun at the cases of wine, then back to her. "That's what I'm looking for."

"You're holding me at gunpoint for wine? Some alcohol problem you have."

The man cast her an angry snarl. "Shut up. Don't be a problem, and you won't get hurt."

"I can do that," she replied, keeping her hands in his sight as not to illicit a bullet. No reason to earn a gunshot wound. She was about to take his gun away, anyway.

Over the man's shoulder, Elissa spotted the front door easing open, and she saw Greg stick his head in. He eyed the man, then slid back noiselessly behind the door. His sudden appearance changed everything.

Now Elissa wasn't sure how to keep everyone from injury.

The stranger ordered her, "You're going to pick up those cases and put them in the trunk of my car."

Elissa shook her head, gambling, now hoping to exclude his gun from the action entirely, avoiding any physical struggle altogether. He'd need to put down the gun to pick up the wine. "I can't lift them. I tried earlier."

Her assailant gave her a nasty grimace. "What do you mean you can't lift them? They can't be over thirty pounds."

She shrugged her shoulders, taking in his posture, sizing up his every move, an eye out for some advantage she could exploit or an unexpected aggressive motion. "I have a bad back. I'm bound to drop a case and shatter the bottles."

Clearly frustrated, the man tucked the gun into his holster on his belt, exactly what she needed him to do. Then he grabbed hold of her upper arm and hauled her over to the window where he ripped the pull cord from the glass door's mini-blinds. In his rough handling, she spotted Greg skulking through the front door to duck behind the island of the kitchen.

The wine thief shoved her to the floor at the metal-and-glass coffee table, and he wrapped the cord around her wrists without a fight from her. She focused on keeping her assailant's attention on her so he wouldn't pick up the small sounds of Greg passing over the tiled kitchen floor.

"You know, you can get help for the alcohol problem," she said, watching over the gunman's shoulder as Greg surfaced on the other side of the island and slipped into a door beyond.

"I know a few places you could get help. You just really have to commit to it-"

"Shut up."

"Got ya, shutting up."

Having tied her rather insecurely to the table, the armed man then grabbed hold of two of the stacked cases, one atop the other, and he hauled the cases outside. Wordless, she watched Greg slip from the bedroom, a Glock-22 semi-auto in his hand, and he sneaked back into the kitchen to press himself against the refrigerator, shielded by an entranceway wall.

Elissa took a deep breath and thought up a quick prayer. Why would someone, an armed someone, show up at a home to steal three cases of wine, passing up the nicest home theater system she'd ever seen?

When the man stepped back into the house for the third case, he passed the wall Greg hid behind. In one smooth motion, Greg stepped into the hall and pressed the muzzle to the back of the man's head.

"Don't move," Greg told him, stopping the man cold, and the look of surprise on the gunman's face was profound. "And I won't shoot you. Move a muscle, and your brains are going to be my new decorating scheme."

***