I Regret Nothing by JB Trepagnier

 

Chapter 1

Rei

I

threw my keys on the counter and collapsed on the couch. I spent all day scouting security in the museum. I had it down pat. I could make my move any day now. This just went against every single ounce of training from my mentor—don’t steal anything you intend to keep. Don’t leave evidence lying around your house. Only steal for paying clients.

This had served me well so far. I didn’t even shoplift my clothing and food anymore. I paid for it with the money I earned stealing for other people. And I was fucking good at it. They even gave me a nickname on all the most-wanted lists I was on. I was called the Silver Fox by everyone who wanted to arrest me, but they didn’t have a single shred of evidence to connect me to anything except a stray fox hair I left behind by mistake.

That was against my training, but I was a little proud of that nickname and that little tidbit I left behind. It didn’t pull from the root, so they couldn’t DNA test it. All they could tell was that it came from a silver fox. The human police thought I had a pet fox, and the magical police thought I was a fox shifter.

Honestly, I didn’t know what the fuck I was, but I knew I wasn’t a shifter. My mentor was a wolf shifter who took me in when I tried to pick his pocket. Hauser could have snapped my neck for trying to steal his wallet, but he liked my spunk trying to steal from a master thief in the first place. I had no way of knowing that when I tried to take his wallet. I just saw a lot of cash in there when he was paying for coffee.

I didn’t need the cash. I was in college with a job and could pay for my rent and food. There was just something exciting about getting in trouble. I couldn’t act out in college, or I’d get expelled and lose my job. But stealing totally filled that hole, and the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.

Until I tried to steal Hauser’s wallet, I never even fathomed it blowing up in my face. Hauser knocked me out and threw me into a van. I woke up tied to a chair in some remote cabin. I still remembered it. I woke up to an enormous man sitting in front of me, just studying me.

“Your technique is sloppy,” he said.

I was utterly shocked. Everything I had done to lead me to that point was flashing in front of my face. He kidnapped and could have easily killed me, but he brought up my technique instead? I was in danger, but I was still me. I tried to shrug with my hands tied behind my back.

“You’re the first to have caught me.”

He just leaned back in his chair.

“I won’t be the last either if you keep doing it like that. Stealing wallets is just so basic, and I can tell from your scent you aren’t even remotely basic,” he said, his eyes flashing amber.

I realized the deep shit I was in. I tried to keep my stealing limited to humans, so I didn’t piss off the supernatural community. At the time, I thought I was just a fox shifter, and there were plenty in that community who would see me as prey. The first time I fucked up, it had to be a wolf shifter who had no problem hunting foxes.

“Are you going to kill me?” I squeaked.

The wolf just studied me.

“Why would I do that?”

“Because of what I am and what you are?”

The wolf leaned forward on his elbows and studied me.

“And what do you think you are?”

“Just a fox shifter. Please, if you let me go, I’ll never steal from you again.”

The wolf let out this little growl.

“Sweetie, you don’t smell like any fox shifter I’ve ever met. You smell more like this demon I met once. But we can work with this. Hell keeps to themselves, and not many people have met a demon. If anyone asks, you’re just a fox shifter. How would you like a job?”

I glared at him. I thought he was lying to me. I was just a fox shifter.

“I have a job.”

“Then why did you try to steal my wallet, girl?”

I shut right up because I didn’t have a logical explanation for stealing from him. I just wanted to. I saw his money, and I liked the thrill of seeing if I could get away with taking it. The wolf saw right through me.

“You didn’t need my money. You just like it. I can offer you a job that pays way more money than you’re making now and will ever make in your entire life. And it’s much bigger mischief than picking pockets. This is theft on a much bigger scale. The stakes are higher if you get caught.”

I should have said no. I should have learned my lesson about stealing and gone back to my classes. But honestly? That sounded a lot more fun than my computer science degree and having to spend eight hours a day behind a desk utterly bored.

“I’m interested,” I said.

And that was how I became a master thief. I apprenticed under Hauser and learned from the best. I stole from museums, banks, rich people. Whoever could afford my services. And I did it through a website where people mostly posted handmade goods. My shop pretended to sell bath items, but each listing meant something. Most of the soaps were bank heists. The bath bombs meant museums. The bath melts were when you wanted me to steal from someone personally. There was a listing for a custom item where anything went.

I loved every single thing about it. Hauser was more like a father to me than my adoptive father had been. He told me more about who and what I was. I was raised in America, but my adoptive parents refused to tell me from which country I had adopted. I knew I had to be Asian, even if my hair was pure white, and my eyes were violet, but they wouldn’t tell me where my ancestors came from. If I asked, they would just tell me I was American and to drop it. They wouldn’t talk about my birth parents at all.

They were human, and I had to keep it this big secret from them that I could either turn into a full fox or sprout ears and a tail and become way more agile. I guess we were all keeping secrets. Hauser didn’t do that to me. I believed him now when he told me I smelled like a demon, and we were trying to find out what kind. The closest we could figure, I was a Kitsune, but I didn't know how I ended up topside being raised by humans.

That was still a heavily guarded secret. Both of us advertised my services as a fox shifter. Most of the supernatural community who would have looked down on me as prey were now lining up for my services. I apprenticed with Hauser for ten years, and I’d been on my own for five. I still talked with Hauser every day, and he was up my ass about this heist I planned. He should be calling soon to talk me out of it.

There he was.

“Please tell me you’ve decided to call this off, Rei,” he said.

“I can’t, Hauser. That amulet was taken from a witch coven a century ago. It ended up in the hands of a private collector until he died, and his family donated it. It’s supposed to summon your ancestors. We’ve hit a dead end looking into my background. I need to know how I ended up here instead of in Hell with my family.”

“We should have found a witch when we still had the chance,” Hauser growled. “You wouldn’t have even been thinking about this if we summoned another demon and just asked.”

“Yeah, but someone set fire to all the greenhouses that grew what they needed to do that and destroyed all the seeds. The only people that would have reason to do that are demons. I don’t think they like being summoned. One of them could have killed all of us.”

“Not you. They wouldn’t have killed you, Rei. I would gladly die for you to get your answers and not rob that museum.”

“No! I don’t even want to think about you dying. I won’t get caught, Hauser. You taught me well. I’ve been casing the place for three weeks. I know how to get in and out, and I know how to disable their security without them knowing.”

“This is a bad idea, Rei. What are you going to do with it after you have it? You can’t keep it at your place when you’re done with it. You know better than to have stolen goods at your place. You can’t sell it either because this is going to make the news. Covens everywhere got upset when it was taken from the witches and into the hands of that collector. Do you know what would happen if you started approaching covens to sell it to them? They’d come at you to get it from you. They’d rat you out in an instant over that artifact if it meant getting their hands on it.”

“I know the risks, Hauser. I’ll find someplace to hide it that doesn’t lead back to me.”

“If you pull this off, the supernatural community will know. There are only four thieves out there that could pull this off. I’ll protect you, but you know the other two. They’ll rat us out.”

I just laughed. I’d thought of that part too. I’d planned this down to a T.

“Yeah, but one of those thieves is a witch without a coven. They’ll go to Venus long enough for me to contact my ancestors and get it somewhere safe.”

Hauser sighed.

“Put your demon side away for a minute. I taught you better than that. I know we don’t like Venus, but you know what they will do to her before they give up it wasn’t her, right?”

“She has it coming after what she did to you when you took that job together. She stole all the money, you nearly got caught, and she stole the loot for another buyer, leaving you with a pissed off client after your hide. You got your ass beat by an entire clan of Vampires three times. I give zero shits about sending angry witches after her. She earned it when she betrayed you.”

“Do you remember how I stopped you when you wanted to visit her and beat her ass? I’m hoping to do that now.”

“Will you just trust me, Hauser? I’ve planned everything. I won’t get caught. Nothing about this will tie back to me. I even have my hiding place planned after I do the ritual. You taught me well. Trust me that I can handle this.”

“Fine, Rei. I’ll support you on this because I know how much you want these answers. Promise me after this, it’s business as usual. No more stealing unless it’s for someone else.”

“Pinky swear, Hauser.”

“Do you need any help? You usually don’t anymore, but the stakes are higher this time.”

“Come over with a beer and celebrate with me when I get home? If all goes as planned, I’ll be back at two in the morning.”

“I’ll even cook you a steak like old times.”

I groaned. Hauser did amazing things to meat. This was it. Tomorrow, I was getting that amulet and finding out why humans raised me.