Prince Charming

There was no room for mistake in thievery. Annabelle knew it, her mother knew it, and her mother before her. Theft was a trait so rooted in their bloodline, it was considered second nature, a sixth sense.

Anna glided around the ballroom balcony. Spacious with black tile and a high ceiling, it overlooked the floor below, filled by people with a desire to be bureaucratic. _Such simpletons_, her ex-husbands voice echoed through her. _They don’t know where predators lurk, too high on their own ecstasy to think one could be under their noses._

It’s better that way, easier. She could slip in and out of the classless event without so much as a second glance. Anna wasn’t textbook pretty, but she was textbook intelligent. Her blonde hair was chopped unevenly at the chin, and she had regular brown eyes. Regular in her mind, anyway. Her mother would tell her she has the eyes of honey, real, raw honey, but her mother was delusional. _Years of living in various lies have side effects on the brain. _

Each mission she wore a different wig, different style of clothes, different makeup, even a body suit if it fit the mission. She was the best of her team, even informally won “Swindler of the Year”, from which she channeled her pride.

Her superior, Marcell, had instructed her to swap the codes of the Palace gates that were being carried by ——. With the codes, her team could infiltrate the Palace and attempt on the Queen’s life. A revolution was underway, and these aristocrats had no inclination, no instinct that people could be opposing them. Too easy, she thought.

Her red satin gown touched the floor, and her black wig was a bob combed straight, same as her natural. She had no jewelry besides a red, ruby necklace that was once her grandmother’s. She never asked her grandmother where it was from, though she guessed it was a heist. Anna thought of it as a good luck charm, her grandmother was a legendary embezzler.

She wore blue contacts covered by a black masquerade mask, a dark hair and light eye contrast that draws men in like a siren, lest her call for them. It was also the rumored opposite of what Viscount Rosemont enjoys. The Viscount, loyal team member but part of the Queen’s court. He claims allegiance to the team but a man’s word is only as good as his greatest weakness; power.

Anna swiftly moved along the crowded balcony railing, scanning the floor below for the tall, dark haired Viscount. Lord Rosemont was but a fly in a room full of light, a room full of girls. He could not resist, almost as much as a potential political partner. He practiced every old trick in the book, some ladies calling him “Prince Charming”.

She felt for the folded papers tucked into her bra. Grabbing them had been easy enough, attention was quickly diverted when alcohol was involved. The missive was to be quick, soundless, _invisible_. _The best thiefs are mice, little fox_. The team had begun to call her _little fox_ a few holidays ago, after she let the team lead know of her opinion of him. “She’s cheeky,” they said, “she’s cunning.”

All she had to do was leave through the back exit, the last step and her mission would be complete. She wasn’t tempted by the drinks or the men, she was never tempted. _Temptation is for the weak_. She wanted the Queen’s head, not head from a sorry aristocrat.

The exit was on her floor, the second floor, and the door was shadowed by a neon exit sign above it. There it is, her extract point. Once she got through the door, there would be—

“Nice to see you, _little fox_,” a deep voice bellowed from behind.


Her ex-husband.

He was so close she could feel his breath on her ear. She turned, meeting him in the eyes.

“Lord Rosemont,” she dipped in curtsy. “Always a pleasure seeing you.”

The side of his mouth curved into a smirk. Alexei had taunted her as a smuggler, it was no job for a woman. He was always outspoken about the Queen’s court, having grown up in the commons, he held little respect for high society. She never asked him how he gained a Lordship, but she assumed it had to do with his “gathering of intelligence”.

“I’ve missed you Anna. Why don’t we smoke? We can catch up, share secrets.” He winked. His face screamed desire, but his eyes showed separate motives. The team was unable to prove him as a double agent, but Alexei was released from duty regardless. Anna denied the rumors for months, even after their divorce. But standing there in front of him made her believe in them.

“Of course,” Anna smiled, allowing herself to take his arm, aware of the codes tucked to her chest.

They stepped through wide, arched glass doors that lead to an outdoor patio overlooking the courtyard. Nothing but an acre of green below them. She had never slipped details, was always careful around others.

“It’s true,” Alexei said.

“What’s true?” She blurted, instantly regretting it.

“What’s true, _little fox_?” He asked, cocking his head to the side. He squinted his eyes, a movement so small she almost missed it. He was taunting her, that much she knew.

One by one, remnants of the last few months came flooding back. How he refused to talk about his Lordship. All the days he didn’t talk about work, claiming “confidentiality”. Somehow knowing Secret Service when they complete missions around the royals. _Getting separated from the team_.

“You. Working for the Queen,” she turned away from him, eyeing the surroundings for signs of a trap. She felt stupid, played, _clueless_. She was supposed to be cunning, sly, on top of her game. How could her own lover play her like a fiddle?

Alexei’s eyes lowered in amusement. He gave her an unnerving smile, every alarm going off in her head. She had to get out of her, and _fast_.

“Finally. I was starting to think I’d given you too much credit,” he said.

“You never gave me _any_ credit.” She bit back. Why was she entertaining him? She needed to get _out_.

“Blah, blah. Doesn’t make a difference now, does it?” Two men stepped from seemingly nowhere onto the patio. Anna’s breath caught. She could jump, it would only break an arm, maybe a leg. But she would evade whatever deception Alexei has planned for her.

She took a step toward the patio railing, the stone freezing against her palms. She looked over the ledge, and back at the men gaining on her.

“Where are you going, _little fox_? We haven’t even gotten to the good part yet,” He stepped towards her. “Hand me what you found.” The codes. He knows she has the codes.

She gripped the ledge, the air fighting her and she hopped on it. Before they could reach for her she slipped off into the darkness below. She landed with bent knees and fell to the ground, quickly regaining her stance. She felt for the papers tucked to her chest and took off, thankful for her training on running in heels.

The team was right, her mother was right. Alexei was the double agent all along. But he had not gotten her. She would live to fight another day.

The revolution was waiting.

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