Enter the Thieves’ Gambit Challenge to win an ARC!
Get in. Steal the password. Win an ARC.
Welcome to the Thieves’ Gambit challenge! Enter the challenge to win an ARC of Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis, a cinematic heist thriller where a cutthroat competition brings together the world’s best thieves.
UPDATE: All ARCs have been claimed and the gambit is now closed. But please feel free to play along to test your heist skills below!
Ready to enter the gambit? Here’s what to do:
- Read the excerpt below
- Click the link at the bottom to answer five questions about the excerpt
- If you get each question correct, you will receive the password!
- Email that password to email@example.com. The first 10 people to send in the correct password will receive a physical ARC of Thieves’ Gambit!
Scroll down to get started!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. US Residents, 18+. Ends August 5, 2023. See Official Rules at https://bit.ly/3rNLAcM
Welcome to the privately owned Museum of Historical Fashions, just outside Cannes, France. Tread lightly…security is tight.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little excited, waiting in the vents above the thirty-foot drop into the gallery. My fingers itched, ready to get my hands on something hot.
I spent the last of the museum’s open minutes redrawing my mental map, running through all the exits. Two main entrances, four emergency doors. Two staff entrances around back. Then there was the ventilation system. I traced the pattern of them over my palm, thinking of the seventeen different entrance and exit points I’d noted. Keeping quiet in the vents until the museum closed wasn’t my first idea. It’d have been better if I could’ve left and then slid back inside through one of the emergency exits, but I didn’t know what the guards’ rotations looked like, and risking coming face-to-face with a flashlight beam was not smart.
I’d watched the patrons drain out, security do their first check, and the lights darken, leaving only the low lights rimming the display cases. The museum was closed.
Security was doing walk-throughs in twenty-minute intervals. I had twenty minutes to get my target and dip. Fifteen to be safe. Always assume you have less time than you think.
It’d take two hours to get from Cannes to Marseille, with the help of a hijacked car. That left sixty minutes for me to get a target and get the hell out.
Below, behind a waist-high glass case, was Plan A. A mask that curved into a crescent moon under the eye from a nineteenth-century Parisian opera. As far as I knew, I was the only one of us going for it.
I’d spent the last hour before shimmying into the ventilation system scouting out the competition. Mylo was going for a pearl-beaded neck ruff, allegedly worn by Elizabeth I. Interestingly, he was using some sort of laser pen, making little incisions in the metal locks around the glass. For a while, I thought he might be bold enough to try and swipe the ruff while the museum was open, but once he got a good idea that his tool could cut through the metal, he seemed to leave it alone. For the moment.
Lucus had somehow gotten his hands on one of the guards’ uniforms, and when I first saw him in it, I imagined some half-dressed guy hog-tied and left behind a dumpster somewhere. Last I saw, he was pretending to do a walk-through of the gallery that held the lipstick set used by Vivien Leigh. Lucky prick—blending with the guards was probably the easiest way to get your hands on something, but since I wasn’t a six-foot intimidating white guy, that plan wasn’t going to work for me.
Kyung-soon took way too many selfies with a certain diamond-encrusted music box. For Noelia, I knew she wanted Marie Antoinette’s slippers. I might have gone for them too if she weren’t here. She even waved at me when we passed in the Treasures of Versailles gallery. Adra had been floating around that area as well. Fingers crossed Adra would catch on to the fact that she was being used and betray Noelia first, knocking her out of the game for me.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t peg what everyone was going for. Devroe went completely MIA after our chat. And Taiyō? I hadn’t seen him for hours. That was fine. As long as I knew what someone wasn’t going after.
Plan A—the mask below. This gallery was locked with a keypad, so the only viable entrance was this drop from the ceiling. There weren’t any flight attendants around to sneak codes to us, so I doubted anyone would be getting through that lock faster than I could make my landing, grab the mask, and be out through the emergency door down the hall.
Plan B—the Empress’s Ring. A million-dollar cluster of rubies and gold only a couple of galleries away. If I went back through the ventilation system, it would lead me right above the display case, sitting in the middle of crisscrossing red-beamed heat sensors. I have no problem flexing and twisting through a grid of sensors, but they were annoying enough to make this Plan B.
And finally, Plan C. If all else failed, I was shimmying all the way through these vents to the lobby and making my way into the heart of the museum to swipe a pair of ivory fans. Going deeper into the museum on foot was a risk, so hopefully it wouldn’t have to come to that.
My pulse quickened as I kept my attention below, waiting for a flicker of movement and the perfect time: 7:20. It would take twenty minutes for security do another walk-through.
Now. I moved the grate aside and lowered my legs through the opening first, keeping a good grip on the inside of the vent. I swung lower until only my forearms were supporting me. Then my hands.
Common knowledge for traversing high spaces is don’t look down, but that’s advice for people who are trying not to fall. No time to be afraid. Mom wouldn’t be hesitating. Mom would’ve already jumped.
Something across the room clicked. I regripped just before I fell, barely managing to keep hold of the vent. Was security coming back early? No way could I get into the ceiling quick enough to hide.
The lock on the door clicked again. A beep, then a scratching sound and another beep.
My meteor bracelet sat heavy on my wrist, reminding me that, if worse came to worst, I could fight.
I took a shaky breath, getting ready to let go. Okay, bring it.
The door slid back, but the light of a guard’s flashlight didn’t follow. A shadow slipped inside instead.
The figure, casual and confident, kept close to the wall as they crept into the gallery and headed straight toward the case with my mask. I knew that stride.
I made out Kyung-soon, too, peeking inside. She held a small, blue-lit screen with thin wires connecting it to the keypad outside. Her too? I thought she was going for the music box.
My blood was pulsing, and not in the thrilling way I was used to feeling on heists. I glared down, hoping he could feel my fury.
As he reached the mask, Devroe glanced up.
We locked eyes. His brows rose. My fingers gripped even tighter. Here I was, dangling from the ceiling like Mardi Gras beads stuck on a power line. As if this was the most entertaining thing ever, Devroe waved.
I could die, right here.
My face was on fire. So much for Plan A. Getting into a hand-to-hand fight with Devroe was not on my to-do list. Even if it was, what were the odds his new partner, Kyung-soon, was just going to watch?
Still absolutely delighted, and like he’d read my mind, Devroe reached into his vest pocket, leaving some type of small multitask tool atop the glass case, then took a few steps over so he was standing right under me. And in the most frustrating, look-I’m such-a-gentleman display I’d ever seen, he held his arms out to catch me.
I really hated him.
I heaved myself back into the vent, thinking way too much about how I looked as I was doing it.
Despite an urge to scream, I kept my calm like a professional. So he got the mask. Whatever. That was why I had Plan B.
On to the ring.
Red beams zigzagged across the ring’s gallery. Thankfully, they were visible. I had no red-light glasses.
It was only a ten-foot drop from the ceiling. I could land right in front of the case, then use a case to climb back into the vents.
But nothing could be easy, apparently.
For the second time that night, a figure moved at the edge of the room. I froze. Fresh panic dug into my chest. This was not happening again.
The lithe figure flipped and rolled, maneuvering around the sensors like it was a dance.
I’d done my due diligence scoping everyone out. She’d made it pretty clear she was going for the Marie Antoinette shoes. Had it been a setup?
Frozen in fury for the second time in half an hour, I remained silent as she reached the case underneath me. Something gray nestled in her ear. Earbuds? The little blue light on the side was on. Someone was talking to her. I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“No, I’m here now,” Noelia said in that whisper-quiet yet perfectly clear voice only a proper thief could master.
From her blazer pocket, she retrieved what looked like a thin silver credit card with an edge so sharp I might cut my eyes just looking at it. I frowned. Was she going to do a shave job? It was safer than the shatter job I was planning—cutting a clean line through the top of the case let you put the box back together, no one the wiser—but it also took too long.
Why did I get the feeling it wasn’t going to take her that long?
She slid her blade along the glass like a hot knife through butter. Plan B—gone too. On to Plan C?
And if Plan C was gone? What then?
If Noelia didn’t go for the shoes . . .
I glanced back down. Noelia had gained a pale brown messenger bag, hung across her torso. Something dainty and pink poked out of the corner of the bag.
No way, were those . . . ?
She shifted, leaning forward to trim away the other side of the glass, and the toes poking up from the corner of the bag became clear.
The Marie Antoinette shoes.
My mind raced as I watched her. She already had one target; why was she going after this one? For Adra? Why hadn’t Noelia dumped her the second she got what she wanted?
That little voice murmured inside her earpiece again. I suspected I knew who was on the other end, which annoyed me even more.
Not moving her gaze from her work, Noelia answered. “I figured it would be. If you’re in the area, you should go for the music box too.”
My heart stopped. The music box—another target from Count’s list? How many targets had they gotten already?
I dug my hands into my braids. This was a disaster.
Why was everyone so quick to team up?
I should’ve accepted Devroe’s offer.
The sweep of a flashlight shone in from the corridor. Noelia swooped back, twisting through the sensors and pressing herself against the wall. The guard passed with only a flick of his flashlight inside, sparing the room only a glance to make sure the sensors were still in place.
His footsteps faded, and Noelia said, “All clear. Yeah, better him than Quest, though.”
It clicked. She didn’t want me to get past this phase.
My blood boiled. Was she really that pissed about me stealing her jobs? It was her fault; she was the one that started this beef all that time ago. This wasn’t just a game, and this wasn’t me getting arrested on the line. Mom’s life depended on this.
Noelia wasn’t going to take her from me.
I jumped from the vent.
Noelia startled, instinctively stumbling back through the laser grid. Perfect. A few seconds to get ahead is all a good thief needs.
I slid the top of the glass aside and plucked the ring out of the case. Noelia reached for me, but I twisted through the lasers toward the other wall. She might have chased, but a light returned at the end of the hall. With a silent huff, she stumbled back, pressing herself into her wall just as I pressed into mine. We watched each other, holding our breaths while the light neared.
The guard shined the flashlight inside again. My heart raced. Exactly what was going to happen if this dude strolled in here and saw us, I didn’t know.
A long-lost memory bubbled to the surface. A mirror of right now, but with a much younger me and a younger Noelia too, in pajamas, in the kitchen at ski camp, looking for butter cookies when we were supposed to be in bed. We hadn’t gotten caught then.
I watched Noelia. Was she remembering that too? She had to be, something in me felt it.
Her expression dug into a grimace. Guess it wasn’t a happy memory for her. Why would it be? It was all an act back then.
Satisfied, the guard carried on. I pinched the ring between my fingers. Did she hate every memory she had with me? Maybe I could find one I knew she hated.
I suddenly remembered a game we used to play, seeing who could slap their hand over a Starburst on the table first. She always lost, and every time she’d fume. The winner got to flick the loser in the forehead.
As the guard was leaving, I flaunted the ring at her, then angled my fingers and flicked the air, as if she was right in front of me.
Just like back then, she turned ten different shades of red. I grinned.
Noelia, however, was not amused.
She slipped her hand back into her blazer, retrieving the blade she’d used to trim through the glass case. Game on.
Noelia dove into the web of lasers first. I flipped in after her, ducking and weaving through the beams. It was a deadly dance, but I was a touch faster.
I snapped my bracelet toward her. She ducked, but managed to snap-kick my hand with the ring at the same time. It tumbled from my grasp. I swooped in to retrieve it. She kicked my hand away.
I ground my teeth in frustration.
Noelia slashed at me; I tried to snap my bracelet into her soft spots. We both dipped and weaved around the lasers, playing the deadliest game of limbo trying not to set off any sensors.
Her blade swiped inches from my eye—too close. I needed to disarm her. On my next attack, instead of going for the ring, I snapped my bracelet around her wrist and yanked it between two of the beams. My foot slammed into her torso, then into her hand. Her blade flew up and across the room. No more slicing and dicing for her.
A grimace twisted her face. Too bad, so sad. My weapon wasn’t so easily lost, and I managed to swipe up the ring too.
My meteor bracelet was still wrapped around her wrist. Before I could release her, she grabbed the links and used them to wrench me toward her. She strained for the ring, but I yanked my arm away.
In the back of my head, seconds were counting down. When was that guard going to come back? We couldn’t do this forever. I needed to get her attention off me, just for a second.
My gaze dropped to the frilly tips of the Marie Antionette shoes peeking out of her messenger bag. I grabbed one and kicked it into the back of the gallery. Noelia instantly loosened her grip on my bracelet. What was she going to do, keep scrapping with me or go after her actual target?
I knew what the smart option was, and so did she.
With a little growl, she let go and hopped back in the direction of the slipper. I darted off the other way, rolling out of the web of lasers just as a flashlight beam rounded an adjacent corridor. Looked like Noelia was going to be stuck there for a while.
Before the guard turned into the hallway, I dipped into the Treasured Fashions gallery. Past a runway of centuries-old corsets and satin gowns, there was a main hall leading to the lobby. From there I could get to an emergency exit. As long as I steered clear of heavy footsteps and flashlights, it would be a breeze from here to Marseille and the next phase.
Right as I turned the corner into the main hall, a hand gripped my arm. I froze, feeling a sharp point sink into my neck. I drew a quick breath as my attacker pressed harder. My heart jumped. My brain screamed to use my meteor bracelet, but I knew one wrong move and my throat would be slit.
Slowly, I put my hands up. This wasn’t a guard, and it wasn’t Noelia. Who?
Keeping a hand on my arm and the sharp blade tight to my neck, the figure moved out of the shadows. A blue blinking earpiece caught my eye.