Authors: Emily Duvall
“I'm interestedâ¦” Her voice trailed. Jessie tried to wiggle her hand from his. Except he wouldn't let go.
“I think you have something you want to tell me.”
I want to tell you about the diamond,
is what her heart said,
but I don't know if I can trust you fully,
was the voice of her consciousness.
She looked at him thoughtfully. She could tell him about the diamond in her pocket. She could get all of her answers right here in this moment. The words filled the edge of her lipsâ¦
He loosened his hand, but kept it over hers. “I can see it in your eyes. Tell me.”
Melanie's note came to mind and she stopped. She reminded herself Melanie entrusted the diamond to her and no one else. “There's nothing to tell,” she said, sliding her hand away.
“You look like you want to tell me something.”
She leaned into the table and said something off-topic. “Would you have come back to find me at the bar? I mean if Melanie hadn't ended up in a coma.”
“I wouldn't have ever seen you again.”
Such finality in his answer. Jessie pushed the subject. “Why not?”
“Because you're engaged or involved or whatever.”
“That was last night.”
He laughed. “I'm not sure if you're for real sometimes.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
The chair rolled back and Brent got up. He walked around the desk. To her. His finger lifted her chin upwards.
A single touch set off a wave of sweet warmth within her. Her mouth longed to feel his, to get more of their first kiss.
The intensity in his eyes matched the rapid beat of her heart. He tugged her out of the chair. If her cheeks were a color, they'd be deep as the pink in the diamond on his desk.
“Twenty-four hours ago I was a happy, engaged, woman.”
“No you weren't.” He ran his hand over her jaw. “There was nothing happy about you.”
“I'm confused. That's all.”
“There's no confusion about this.” Brent lowered his mouth to hers. His lips treaded over hers. The warmth of his breath rolled in her mouth. “There's nothing wrong with how much I want you.” The tone of his voice, rough and hard, sent warmth through her belly. She closed her eyes and her mouth opened to his lips. The dryness of his lips met her soft ones. Brent's mouth became impatient. His lips sucked on hers with commanding speed and Jessie's breath quickened to keep up.
She cupped his face in her hands as his tongue swept through her mouth. She met it with her own and kissed him back, his rough stubble scratching her smooth skin. As a sharp hunger climbed between her legs and moved up, through her midsectionâall the way to her breastsâsweet, sticky wetness gathered in her private area. She groaned as Brent's hand cupped her there. Rapid breaths slipped out of her mouth, and the air grew heavy, full of anticipation.
She slid her hands up over his polo shirt and slipped them beneath the collar. Buttons scattered as she opened the neckline to her sensual invasion.
Brent forced himself flat against her and she gulped at the size of his arousal. One hand moved down over his shaft and pressed against it. He groaned again.
Jessie liked this sudden shift in power. She flickered her gaze to his and watched his reaction as she walked her fingers up the zipper placket of his jeans, pausing at the button to slip it from the hole. Her heart beat fast and loud.
She wasn't prepared for this, yet she couldn't step back. She didn't want to break away. Brent's hand moved down her front, and slid over the fleshy parts. He undid the zipper of her jeans and set loose every bit of her control. She squeezed her hand over his arousal. The wide girth sent shivers through her midsection.
“Do you want this?” he growled against her mouth.
“Yes,” she answered, unashamed of the desperation in her voice.
He moved his mouth over her lips like rapid firepower. Lips, hands, bodyâall of him moved with her. Brent didn't hold back. The taste of his lips, like water, smoothed over her. The warmth of his body touched her everywhere: her neck, her middle, down to her thighs and in between. The undeniable attraction raged.
She couldn't control herself. Her nipples stood up against her bra. Her hands moved under his shirt and up his sides as his fingers pushed her jeans and panties down. He slid his hand between her legs. He groaned as his finger slid through her moistness.
On a gasp of pleasure, her hands took over. They moved up under his untucked shirt and over the length of his abdomen. Her nails bit into the muscles she'd imagined there, and he grasped her wrists like handcuffs. He yanked her hands away, pinning them behind her back as his mouth consumed hers. She angled her mouth to match the rough, fast movement of his lips.
He took her breath away. She wanted him to take so much more. She felt helpless against the pleasure to which he forced her to surrender. The churning building inside her and the heat spreading and moving through her longed to be satisfied.
Brent ended the kiss abruptly. “Jessica,” he said, in a rugged voice. A hint of laughter rolled off his tongue, like he also was caught off guard by their kiss.
She stood there with her hands still bound by his and her forehead touching his as her breath subsided. She felt his erection against her. Her longing for more drowned out the rational part of her.
“You have to decide what you want,” he said.
He gave her the choice and she knew what she wanted. To hell with Carl and the wedding and everything else. She'd made up her mind about what would happen next. “I want you.”
He shook his head and broke away. “You don't know what you want.”
“My wedding is postponed.”
“That's not enough.”
“I don't understand.”
“I want you to be mine.”
“But you also have another guy in the back of your thoughts.”
He had her there.
Brent's eyebrows drew together. “When you make love with me, I'll be the only man on your mind. Not broken engagements; not someone from your past. Just me. Only me.”
“You sound so certain I'll fall for you.”
“Baby, you already have.”
Brent saw the defiance in her eyes. She was thinking this very second how to counter the argument. Her skin glowed. Her cheeks bloomed pink. Anger brought out color on her face, something he found sexy and hard to turn down. It took everything in him to resist those lush lips of hers. He fought against his natural-born urges as a man to not take her in his arms and carry her to his bed.
He walked away before he made any more mistakes. For starters, he didn't accept the random bit about her grandmother's bracelet. The proof was on her face as she'd told him that lame story. The fact that she suddenly took up an interest in diamonds made him distrust her motives all the more. Jessie was a liar. She knew how to do it well. And he wouldn't let her get away with it, not with him.
The most valuable piece of the Abbott tiara was a green diamond. And it was missing. Up until she walked through his door, he had no idea where to begin to look for it. Now he sensed Jessie was either hiding the very thing he needed or knew about the diamond's whereabouts. If she had one of the diamonds, then she might know the location of the other six. Or maybe she had all of them. He would have to find out what she knew. But first, he'd get her to trust him.
The situation required a calculated approach going forward. It was possible Melanie had tipped her off somehow. The question of
stumped him. The Cahill sisters didn't communicate. According to drunk Jessie, they remained on bad terms. Melanie refused to allow Jessica into her life. That should make the situation easy to solve. Instead, their rift further complicated the entire scenario. All of the pieces didn't fall where they needed to be. His only tip was Jessica showing up at his door asking for an engagement ring she didn't want to wear.
What he had told her during their kiss, he meant. He did want her. He just wanted her to want all of him. The engagement between Carl and Jessica didn't bother him. A lot could change between two people in a short amount of time. Experience taught him that. Her ability to be honest with herself did intrigue him. She was a beautiful mess and he should stay away, except he'd kissed her, and he wanted more. It was as simple as that.
He picked up his phone and called Daniel. The rogue, ex-military, ex-gemstone hunter was the man he needed to discuss this with.
Daniel answered in his clipped, South African accent,
The sound of loud music beat across the airwaves. “Where are you?” Brent said in a loud voice. He glanced over at the archway leading to the foyer to make sure Jessie wasn't coming down the steps.
“I'm out. What's up?”
“Jessica Cahill paid me a visit.”
“No; something else.”
“What did she want?”
“I'm not sure, but I think it's about the diamonds.”
“You have a lead?”
Someone shouted. Brent pulled the phone away from his ear. “Possibly.”
“You think Miss Cahill has them?”
“Yes, I do.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Follow Jessica. Get into her hotel room. Have a look around.”
Daniel cleared his throat.
“Melanie never mentioned anything to me about a sister.”
“They had a falling out.”
“What makes you think Jessie has what we need?”
“I have my reasons. She asked me a question about green diamonds. Fine if you're in the market for one.”
“Maybe she wants to buy one.”
Brent laughed. “She doesn't.”
“I'll have a look around her room.”
“Hotels have safes.”
“Those have never been a problem for you in the past. Do you still have your contacts in the hotel industry?”
“Use them. I'll send you a message next time she's at the hospital.”
“I'll wait until I hear from you.”
Brent put his phone away. The
on the steps announced Jessie coming down the stairs. The loudness of her steps increased the closer she got to the kitchen.
“Hey,” she said, appearing in the archway.
Brent held out the engagement ring to her. “You don't want to forget this again.”
She took the ring. She seemed nervous as she smoothed over her hair. “About upstairsâ¦”
He walked over to her and leaned against the wall frame. They stood close enough for him to see the flecks of dark brown in her eyes framed by long lashes. “Save your breath if you plan to tell me that was a mistake.”
“How did you know what I was thinking?”
“Because I know you.” He put his hand underneath her chin and forced her to look at him. “And with me, it's never a mistake.”
“I think it's best if I leave.”
“Where will you go?”
“To the Palace of Fine Arts.”
His eyebrows raised. “Interesting choice.”
She swallowed hard. “I'd like to see the last place Melanie went. To retrace her steps and try to get in her head. I want to see for myself.”
“Will that help you be able to talk to her?”
She shrugged. “I don't know.”
“I'll go with you.”
“You don't have to.”
“I have a car and I know how to get there. If you don't mind a detour first.”
“I don't want to hold you up from your day or from seeing Luke.”
“Luke's a big boy.” He needed her to say yes. He needed to give Daniel time to get to her hotel room. Brent put on the charm. “Considering what happened to Melanie there, it'll be safer if you're not alone.”
A weak smile crossed her lips. “Okay, you can come with me.”
“Good; let me get my keys.”
Brent walked away. He did grab his keys, and he also shot Daniel a text. They were in the clear and the timing couldn't be better.
They got into his SUV. Scratches and tears ran across the leather seats from years of use. The radio didn't work. The drawer across from the passenger seat didn't quite close.
“You're a smoker,” she commented, taking in a whiff.
“Cigarettes will kill you.”
He laughed. “There's a lot that will kill me first.”
Brent drove the car away from the curb. The street angled downward the moment he passed the speed bump in the road.
“In medical school we worked on cadavers of smokers. You should see their lungs.”
He remembered the embarrassment she tried to hide at the hospital when Carl announced that she used to be in medical school. He wanted to hear from her on the subject. “Why did you drop of out of medical school anyway?”
“I didn't want the initials M.D. after my name bad enough.”
She laughed. “Just like that? Everyone else pushes the subject. My mother, Carl, even my friends think I'm blowing a huge opportunity.”
“It's your life.”
“What about you? Does Luke give you any flak about dropping out of gemstone hunting?”
“I retired, and no, he didn't.”
“You said you needed a change of pace.”
“Does that include settling down like Luke?”
“Why? Are you looking to marry me now?”
She rolled her eyes. “No.”
“Anything else you'd like to know?”
“I don't know; you went to college, and then what, became a gemstone hunter?”
“I didn't go to college.”
“Don't go snobby on me. You're not exactly at the top of your career game.”