Chapter One

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Connor Kavanagh crinkled his nose against the stench of sweat and stale cigarette smoke permeating the interior of the getaway van. He made a show of checking his shoulder rig, then pretending he had an itch, slid a hand along his calf to confirm that his Glock 27 was safely tucked into his ankle holster. He wanted to put the Bank Bandits in jail, but he didn’t want to die doing it. He had a life to get back to. A life that hinged on the success of his mission today. And on Lily forgiving him.

The van stopped. Rourke Walsh, the leader of this band of deadly misfits, cleared his throat. “Ready, ladies?”

Connor looked around. The van had pulled into a parking spot just in front of a Bank of America. What the hell? He eyed his partners in crime. None appeared concerned. “Aren’t we supposed to hit the CitiBank on Jackson?”

He glanced at Owen, looking for confirmation, but his friend kept staring at the back of the driver’s head. Something was going on, something bad.

Rourke grinned. “You know what they say, once a conman always a conman. Think of this as a test. I got a buddy scoping out the CitiBank. Cops show up there, I’ll know we can’t trust you.”

Christ! As soon as Rourke’s informant caught sight of Captain Morris and his team, Connor was a dead man. He’d have lost four months of his life, his reputation as a cop, even his fiancée, for fucking nothing. He glanced at Neil sitting beside Rourke. Maybe he could use what he knew about Neil to drive a wedge between them. Keeping his face blank, Connor swallowed and shook his head. “Bad move, boss. You better hope they have the same type of safe as our original target.”

“You’re the big expert. According to Owen you can get into anything.” And Owen would know. They’d grown up in Mount Greenwood, a predominantly Irish-Catholic neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Both their fathers had died young and they’d felt honor bound to help their struggling mothers put food on the table anyway they could. Stealing the occasional gallon of milk from the convenience store had led to bigger jobs and put them in the eye of men like Rourke. Connor’s reputation as a top-notch safecracker and Owen’s knack for always knowing the best spots to hit were the only reasons either of them had survived adolescence. Connor almost felt bad for using his friend to infiltrate the Bandits. But Owen had made his choices. They both had.

Connor shook his head at Rourke’s ignorance. The man was an expert strategist, but he had no appreciation for a cracksman’s skills. “A bank vault isn’t like your woman's legs; it won't open with just a kiss and a poke. It requires some teasing, some stroking, the right tools, and a man who knows what to do with them.”

“You’d better have the skills to back up that mouth, Conman. Prove you’re not just a can-opener.” Rourke waited for Connor to nod before continuing. “You and Owen take the lead. Get the people on the ground. Frank and me, we’ll follow. Neil, watch our backs. Shoot anyone who looks like trouble. Terrence, bring the car to the employees’ side door and wait for us there.” His eyes lasered on each of them. “No fuck-ups. Let’s go!”

They pulled the stockings over their heads and picked up their weapons. Connor slipped the backpack containing his tools on his shoulders, and when the van door slid open, he and Owen jumped out. A brisk March wind tugged at Connor’s trench coat, threatening to yank it open and reveal the MP5 he held hidden inside. The day’s cloudy gray skies reflected his mood as they sped across the oddly empty sidewalk.

In the distance, he heard the cheering of a crowd. Brows furrowed, he pushed open the entrance door to the bank and came face to face with a cardboard leprechaun. St. Patrick’s Day. The bank was only a few blocks from the parade route where all the Irish and Irish wannabes in the city of Chicago were lining along Columbus Drive, shivering in the cold lake air and drinking gallons of beer and whiskey. Last year, Lily had insisted on attending both the river-dying ceremony and the parade, and he’d had a blast snuggling with her under a Bears blanket to keep her warm.

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