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She just appears one day.

Stephen’s first wild thought is that she’s an assassin sent by Diamond Dog. But that wouldn’t be the Dog’s way with him. He’d want to finish Stephen off himself, with his own hands, drag him back to a lair in Russia for something dramatic and personal.

When he asks for her name, she pops a business card out from a pocket and flicks it into his hand.

Bang Bang. Demolitions. Confidence games. Campari.

Stephen keeps the card, until a dip in the Seine soaks his suit and ruins the contents of his pockets. He never sees Bang Bang hand out a card like that again. Perhaps it was a remnant of her previous life. Perhaps she only had the one made to give to Stephen.

He’s initially worried that Bang Bang will disrupt the team dynamic. The Brothers Bloom are, well, a duo. Have been since Bloom was born. Somehow Bang Bang doesn’t feel like an intruder. She keeps to herself, hardly speaks a word in any language to anyone, and contributes to the cons in unique and amazing ways.

Stephen never pushes with women. If they want him, he welcomes them with open arms and parted lips. If they don’t want him, Stephen tries to steer them towards Bloom in the hopes of screwing the sadness out of his brother.

Bang Bang seems largely disinterested in most people. She plays along in cons, lets Stephen loop an arm around her waist possessively while she giggles and flounces as his dimwitted arm candy. She kisses him with her lips pressed shut when it’s for a mark’s eyes.

After a few jobs, and one particularly spectacular one, things change. Bloom is off in the arms of a woman who thinks she knows him, because Stephen steered her towards Bloom with tales of their romantic childhood. Bang Bang, two Camparis in her belly and a third in her hand, pokes at Stephen in the chest. Stephen raises his eyebrows at her. Bang Bang prods him again, pushing him onto the dance floor and setting her drink aside. They dance, not for a con, not for a mark, but for each other. Bang Bang takes his hat from him, and Stephen is struck by how good it looks on her. She spins him, he spins her, and they spin and spin and spin until they’re in Stephen’s hotel room overlooking the city at night and Bang Bang is spinning out of her dress.

“Wait,” Stephen whispers. “Wait, please …” he tries to catch up to her, fumbling with the buttons on his shirt and the stupid suspenders he wore for the con.

She won’t wait. Bang Bang is a force of nature. You can’t stall an explosion, can’t delay a chain reaction. She leaps and tackles him onto the bed, still wearing his hat, knees pressing on either side of his hips. When she kisses him now, she’s open-mouthed and her tongue is hot and her closeness is electrifying.

It doesn’t change how the team works, or how the cons run. Bang Bang still kisses him with closed lips when they’re working, still teases Bloom silently, still doesn’t talk much at all to anyone. Stephen still doesn’t know where she came from, or when she’ll leave.

He hopes she’ll never leave.