• Title: To Catch a Thief (Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High, Book 133)
  • Author: Francine Pascal
  • Released: 1997-07-07
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 0553570676
  • ISBN13: 978-0553570670
  • ASIN: 0553570676
From the Inside Flap In Book Two of the three-part miniseries, are the girls prisoners of love?

Elizabeth Wakefield is furious. She was swept off her feet by Prince Laurent de Sainte-Marie--the most romantic guy she's ever met in her life. But that certainly isn't the problem. The problem is Antonia, his fiancÚe! And Antonia's mother, the Countess di Rimini, will do anything to keep Elizabeth away from the prince--including locking Elizabeth and her twin in a dungeon!

The countess has another reason for imprisoning the twins. Jessica Wakefield stole her precious emerald! Or so the countess believes. Jessica is enraged by the accusation--and miserable about being separated from her brand-new boyfriend, Jacques Landeau. She swears she'll find out who framed her...but will the truth break her heart?

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. "Where are we going?" Elizabeth asked as they crept into a small, enclosed garden.  Its high stone walls were covered with dark climbing vines.  Just inside the iron gate a pair of stone lions flanked the  entrance.  A grassy path curved into a shadowy jungle of flowering bushes.

"Trust me," Laurent said reassuringly.

Elizabeth felt giddy with a sense of adventure as Laurent led her farther into the garden.  The air was perfumed with honeysuckle and rose, and the wind whispered through the tangled dark foliage.

They came to a white stone shed that seemed to glow like a ghost in the moonlit night.  Laurent reached for the latch on the wrought iron door and pushed it open.  It swung inward with an ominous-sounding creak.

Elizabeth gulped.  "We have to go in there?" she asked nervously as she peered into the black interior.

Laurent rubbed the back of her neck.  "It's perfectly safe," he assured her.  "I've been sneaking through these tunnels since I was a child."

"I'm glad I wasn't your au pair," Elizabeth muttered dryly.  Steeling her courage, she followed him through the doorway.

Elizabeth was immediately engulfed in blackness.  She felt her way along a cold, damp wall, skimming her fingers over the bumpy ridges in the stones.  With her sight disabled, her remaining senses grew sharper.  The echo of their voices and footsteps into the distance told her they were in a cavernous tunnel of some sort.  She sniffed the air and noticed it smelled like wet dirt and chalk.

"These tunnels were built in the twelfth century," Laurent explained.  "They were used by the royal family to escape the invasions of their enemies.  In the time of the French Revolution noble families hid down here from the mobs, and during World War II the Jews found refuge from the Nazis."

'Wow!" Elizabeth exclaimed.  "There's so much history in here.  I wish these walls could tell us everything."

"I'm sure there is more than anyone knows," Laurent said.  "Imagine all the rendezvous en secret--secret meetings--that have taken place over the years." He chuckled.  "These walls could tell better stories than the American soap operas."

Elizabeth laughed.  "As long as they don't tell on us."  She flinched as her fingers slipped across a patch of slime on the wall.

The tunnel gradually widened enough for her and Laurent to walk side by side.  "How did the Chateau d'Amour Inconnu get its name?" Elizabeth asked.  "It means unfamiliar or unknown love, doesn't it?"

'Yes," Laurent replied.  "There is a legend of sorts."

'Well--," Elizabeth prompted, gently squeezing his hand.  "I hope it's more exciting than the one about how Cendrillon got her name," she added jokingly.

Laurent said nothing for several seconds.  "Long ago a prince fell in love with a young maiden," he began at last.  "But their love was doomed.  And things for them ended badly."

"What happened?" Elizabeth asked, intrigued.

Laurent cleared his throat.  "The prince married another; the maiden turned into a bird."

"That's it?" Elizabeth protested, laughing.

"It's a worn-out story and not so interesting to me.  I prefer modern times."  He lifted their entwined hands to his lips and placed a soft kiss on her wrist.  "And modern love stories."

Chuckling, Elizabeth made a mental note to ask about the legend at the chateau.  One of the servants could probably fill her in on the missing details.

The passageway narrowed again.  "We're almost at the end," Laurent told her.

Elizabeth sensed the floor rising at a steep incline, forcing her leg muscles to work much harder.  She also noticed faint, luminescent patterns on the walls.  "I can actually see something," she said.

"There are open panels near the ceiling in this part, which allow in the moonlight," Laurent explained.

He reached for her hand and guided her around a corner.  "Here we are," he said.

Straining her eyes, Elizabeth noticed the faint outline of a small door several feet from the ground.

"That's strange," he suddenly murmured.  "It's not locked.  This entrance is usually kept bolted shut.  Someone must have used it recently."

As Laurent opened the door a wedge of light filtered into the darkness.  Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief.

Laurent glanced at her over his shoulder, his eyebrows raised.  "You doubted me?" he teased.

"Not for a minute!" she countered.  "But I'm not cut out to be a mole.  I'm from southern California--born in sunlight."

He laughed at that, then poked his head through the doorway.  "All clear," he whispered.

Bracing his arms on the ledge, Laurent hoisted himself up through the opening, then reached down to help Elizabeth.

She crawled through the doorway and found herself crouched beneath a dusty staircase.  She noticed the familiar brown-and-tan tiles that covered the floor.  "This is the servants' wing," she whispered.  The rooms she and her twin had been assigned were just up the stairs.  Elizabeth flashed a broad smile at Laurent.  "I'm truly amazed."

"I'm amazed also," he said, his voice low and sexy.  "By you, Elizabeth."

She saw the passionate look in his eyes.  Her mouth went dry.  Laurent moved closer and slowly pulled her into his arms.  "This night with you has been so special," he said.  "If only..."

Holding her breath, Elizabeth waited for him to continue.  Instead he lowered his lips to hers for a deep, powerful kiss that seemed to go on and on.  Elizabeth felt as if their hearts were beating together, as if their souls were entwined.   I'm really and truly in love, she thought.  With a prince!

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