Read Cut Online

Authors: Emily Duvall

Cut (6 page)

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“That's the unnerving part. Nothing else is gone. Not one of the other gemstones. We have thousands of dollars in gemstones and diamonds and nothing else is gone.”

This wasn't happening. Fury swelled within Brent. He grabbed Luke's collar with both hands. “Did you take them?”

“What's wrong with you? Of course I didn't. Back off.”

Brent dropped his hands. “Sorry.”

“There are three people who have the codes to access our vault. You, me, and Damon. Our other brother hasn't been to my house in over a year so we'll leave him out of this.” Luke straightened out his collar.

“What does the detective say?”

“Not much.”

“Does he think Melanie's assault and the missing diamonds are connected?”

Luke's gaze shifted to Brent's shoulder. “I haven't told Detective Brennan about the diamonds.”

“Why not?”

“I haven't had a chance between the time I found the vault open this morning and coming to the hospital. I'll tell him once he arrives, which should be any minute. I'll have his team take a look at the vault. There's got to be fingerprints on there. I just wanted to talk to you first.”

“To make sure I didn't take them?”

The look of anger in his brother's eyes matched Brent's attitude. What's worse was the doomed feeling that Melanie and the diamonds somehow went together. Brent never had an issue being direct and he wouldn't back down regardless of his brother's fragile state. “Do you think Melanie took them?”

Luke's jaw tensed. He glanced at Melanie as if he was trying to read her mind. “Don't ever suggest that again.”

“What about Kendra?”

“Kendra has access, on occasion, if I'm out of town and can't fill an order or give one of our clients a photo of the stones. It's rare that she has access, but I trust her and I change all the passcodes as soon as she's done. You know the drill. I'm not telling you anything new. The vault uses fingerprint technology to access. Melanie or Kendra would have to know how to bypass the fail-safe button and have access to the most current security code.”

Brent ran his fingers over the stubble on his jaw. The other people close to Luke at his home included their Aunt Stevie, the chef Latonya, a cleaning staff, and Brent's three nieces, all under the age of five and unlikely culprits. The security guard didn't go into the house and Luke had been holding most of his meetings at a business rental in the financial district, a move made because Melanie didn't want clients coming to Luke's house after she gave birth to the twins. Some of the clients still met Luke and Brent at Luke's home, but for the most part, they did business off property and once the jewelry store opened, all of their business would be conducted there.

The doors opened and a young nurse entered. “Good morning,” she said, walking over to Melanie. “How's the patient?”

“Not awake,” Luke said tersely.

The nurse paid him no attention and checked on Melanie.

Brent's gaze drifted to the waiting area, he found Jessie sitting on the couch with her gaze glued to her phone. He cleared his throat. “Not to bring up another problem, but Jessica is in the waiting area,” Brent said.

Luke looked ready to snap. “Sober this time I hope?”


“I'll deal with her later. I need a break. I'm getting some coffee.” He stalked out of the room.

With Luke gone, the room opened up to one more visitor. Brent returned to the waiting area. He wanted Jessie to know she could have a turn without Luke or himself hovering. More than that, he wanted her to care. He wanted her to break eye contact with her screen and walk away from the couch and stand in this room. He wanted her to really
at her sister. What was wrong with her? Didn't she give a shit?

He couldn't help himself. The frustration of the diamonds pushed him over the edge and she was in his path. “You are aware that your sister might die?” he said, stopping in front of her.

Jessica looked up from her phone. She leaned back and stared at him. “Don't tell me about my sister. I'll go in when I'm ready.”

“Why don't you want to see her?”

She raised her chin. Defiance exuded from her eyes. “What's it to you? Are you in love with her or something?”

“Would that make it easier for you to hate her?”

“There you go again, inserting your opinion on a topic you know nothing about.”

“I know Melanie.”

“You know nothing. Get lost.”

“Fine.” Brent nodded.

He picked out a chair on the other side of her. The one directly behind her to be exact. Each time she moved her back she brushed against his. She grumbled and huffed. They both readjusted so as to not touch. Brent couldn't get comfortable for reasons not having anything to do with Jessica. His diamonds were gone. They should have been the safest at Luke's. Now they could be anywhere, with anyone. Yes, he'd sold them to another client. But that was before he'd known he needed them back. He didn't think the father of his ex-girlfriend would come looking for them and demand them back. He didn't want to think about the deal because he shouldn't have been in this situation in the first place. Now he was stuck in the middle. It felt like standing in quick sand. Everything seemed to get worse, not better. Nothing felt certain or easy. Brent made a tight fist with his hand and let out an onerous breath.

Where the hell
are my diamonds?

Brent needed to do something. He couldn't sit and wait. He texted Daniel. Jessica shifted and her back rubbed against his. She scoffed and moved seats.

“I see you finally graced us with your presence,” Luke said, holding a cup of coffee.

Brent stood and motioned to Jessica. “Ahem.”

She looked up. “Luke,” she said with a chill in her eyes.

“We meet again,” he said, and drank his coffee. “Unless you can't remember meeting me last night.”

She skipped the bait and changed the subject. “Where's Melanie's doctor?”

“I'm not sure.”

“Okay, I'll ask another question. What was my sister doing out alone at a tourist place late at night?”

“I don't know.”

Jessie's lips curled in satisfaction. “You don't know where your wife was late at night? Where were you? With some other woman?”

Luke didn't budge.

Brent grabbed Jessica's hand and yanked her to his side. “This isn't the time.”

“Yes it is. He needs to answer my question.” She allowed Brent to keep his hand on hers.

“I don't owe you anything. Not even an explanation.” Luke shook his head. “I have nothing to hide.”

“We'll find out, won't we?” Jessie took a step forward. “What about my nieces? I want to see them. They need family around.”

“They have family.” Luke's lips twisted into a grin. “The kind Melanie wanted her children to be around.”

“I'm still her sister.”

“On paper.”

The low blow hit Jessie. Brent saw the glitch in her confidence. He swore she held back tears. It's the first humanness he'd seen in her since they met.

She wrenched her hand free from Brent and ran over to the man holding a bouquet of flowers at the entrance to the waiting area. The force of her body collided with his and almost knocked over the figure with the lanky body. A man all skin-and-bones with a gaunt face and thinning hairline. Brent watched Jessie wrap her arms around this other man.

Brent looked away. A frustrated breath skimmed past his lips.

“Christ, she fights worse than Melanie,” Luke said, and ran his hands through his hair. His gaze followed Brent's. “Who's that?”

Brent waited to see if she'd looked back at him. Eyes don't lie. Their kiss didn't either. She'd felt that kiss every much as he had. The guy ran his hand down the length of her elegant back. Her demeanor perked up and she hugged him again. Aggravation ran down Brent's chest. Selfish desire ran through him coupled with an irritation he couldn't quite place. “My guess is Carl, her fiancé.”

Chapter 5

Carl's breath reeked of caffeine and mint. It's all he drank. The sharpness of his bony body she'd gotten used to over the years. To let him hold her was like hugging a telephone pole. There was no warmth or comfort. She inhaled the pungent smell of the roses and lilies. “These are beautiful,” she said, stepping back.

“They're for your sister,” Carl said.

“It's thoughtful. Thank you. I didn't expect you to arrive so soon. My mother isn't even here yet.”

“I can only stay a couple of hours. My flight leaves at noon. I couldn't get out of my shift tonight.”

She could see the lack of sleep in the circles under his eyes. “You have no idea how difficult last night was for me. It means everything to me that you're here.”

A weak smile formed at his lips. “Any updates on Melanie?”

“Not yet. I guess no news is better than bad news.”

“Tell me her vital signs,” he quizzed her like a teacher to a student.

“I haven't been in her room yet and her doctor is with another patient.” Jessie peeked at Melanie's room. Her sister's face appeared red and swollen, with bandages and tape covering up portions. She saw the tube in her nose. “She's getting oxygen.”

“I assume she's had a CT scan.”

“I don't know.”

“How can you not know?”

Jessie shook her head. “Nobody will tell me anything.”

“She's your sister.”

“If only I could speak with her doctor and he can tell me she's going to be okay.”

Carl changed from fiancé mode to physician. All facts, no emotion. “A doctor's job is to report the facts and the prognosis. You should know, after all you got far enough along in medical school to understand Melanie's doctor has an entire floor full of patients to care for. He's working hard behind the scenes. A second-by-second update won't help Melanie or any other patient. They don't speculate or tell you what you want to hear.” He clapped her on the elbow and glazed over Melanie's room. “If you'd like, I'll talk to the doctor.”

“I hoped you'd say that.” Relief rippled through her at not having to explain to the doctor how she quit medical school. She kept that part of her life hidden, even as she understood the concern over Melanie's blood pressure, oxygen levels, and all the machines hooked up to her body. Three years she devoted herself to a career she didn't want to pursue and Carl's eyes still filled with hope every time he mentioned medical school and her name in the same sentence. She saw that light in his eyes now. Somehow, he would turn this into another reason for her to get back on the path of becoming a doctor.

Jessie's gaze shifted to Brent standing several feet away from her. A fuse lit under her skin. To remind herself how attracted she was to Carl, she pulled her face to his and tried to kiss him.

“What are you doing?” Carl said in a touchy voice. “This isn't the time or the place.”

The annoyance in his voice stung. The desperate beat of her heart wasn't like her either. She didn't feel good about a lot right now.

Carl nodded to someone behind her. “I think those men want to talk to you.”

She spun around.

“Who are they?” he said.

“Technically, the one on the right is my brother-in-law, Luke. The other one I haven't seen since my brother's trial.”

“Well, who is he?”

“Luke's brother.”

“Those are the gemstone guys?”


Carl mocked them. “They work in an industry overwrought with fraud and huge mark-ups.” His fingers reached down and he took her hand. Confusion stretched over his face. “Speaking of diamonds. Um, Jessie?”


“Where exactly is your engagement ring?”

Panic infiltrated. Jessie wrenched her hand up to her face and confirmed for herself. Her hands went to her pockets, then she started to look in her purse. The answer came before she had a chance to look very hard. Red-hot guilt overcame her. Before she could answer…

“I'm Brent Harrison,” he said, shaking Carl's hand. “Melanie is my sister-in-law.”

“Doctor Carl Hughes,” her fiancé answered with a subtle tone of self-importance.

Jessie watched Brent with wide eyes.

The bathroom. It must be in Brent's bathroom!

She put her hand behind her back.

“I'm Doctor Carl Hughes,” he repeated to Luke a split second later. “I'm more than willing to talk to Melanie's doctor—”

“That won't be necessary,” Luke cut him off.

“I'd like him to talk to Melanie's doctor,” Jessie said.

“The answer is no.”

“If you don't mind my asking, what tests has her doctor done on Melanie?” Carl said.

“She's had a CT scan and an MRI,” Luke answered. “The main impact was on the left side of her head, right above her ear.”

“The brain can have somewhat of a delay in reaction to the trauma,” Carl said, tapping his fingers against his chin. “Is there swelling on her brain?”

“There was some initially, but the doctors alleviated it with surgery. They haven't mentioned it since last night.”

“Is her body responsive to the doctor's physical examination?”

Luke looked on the verge of telling Carl to go to hell, but instead he said, “No.”

Jessie knew this wasn't good. She looked at Luke and she felt sorry for him. “I'd like for Carl to see her,” Jessie said.

“I won't allow it,” Luke interjected and stopped Carl. “He's not immediate family.”

“He's not family, but Carl has known Melanie for some time,” Jessie said. “Even before she ran off with you.”

Uncomfortable laughter escaped Carl's mouth. “Not to worry, Jess. I agree with Luke and I respect hospital rules. I am not family. I apologize,” he said to Luke and Brent and continued to explain, “Jess knows how I feel about protocol. Don't let her fool you either. She used to be a medical student. She understands these situations can be sensitive.”

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