Read Cut Online

Authors: Emily Duvall

Cut (9 page)

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“Sure thing.” Jessie took her cue and walked over to the stairs. The unfriendly greeting he'd met her with didn't dissuade her. She'd gotten her foot in the door, literally.

She hustled up the stairs to the guest bedroom. Right away she breathed in his lingering scent, like pinecones or rain. Or both.

The bed, still unmade, made her think of how easy it would have been for him to have kissed her again. Thankfully, he maintained a distance for both their sakes.

She entered the bathroom. Sure enough, the ring sat next to the sink, right where she left it. She picked up the ring and held it at eye level. She felt nothing; not about Carl or the wedding or how she should feel. Devastation and sadness should be overwhelming her, but this…she paused and lowered the ring, was a bad sign. There was no point in wearing the ring until she could answer the question if it even belonged there.

Jessie left the bathroom and returned downstairs. The quiet
of a keyboard reached her ears. She walked over to the kitchen and found Brent seated at the long table with his laptop open in front of him. An invitation sat next to his computer. She peered over and looked.

“What is the personal collection of Salvador Alavarez?”

“None of your concern,” Brent said, snatching the paper and envelope.

“I came to ask you about this sort of thing,” she said, and slapped the ring next to his laptop.

He glanced at the diamond. “Round cut. Champagne color.” Uninterested, he continued typing. “About two carats.”

“I already know all that. I picked out this ring.”

“Then I can't help you.”

“Not this diamond—others.”

“Do you have another one in your pocket?”

She laughed. He didn't. “No,” she said, regaining composure. “I'm talking about gemstones generally. I want to learn about them.”

“Last night you felt differently.”

“I was drunk.”

“You sounded serious.”

“Can we forget about what I said or did last night?”

Brent leaned back in his chair. He eyed her carefully. “Are you planning to sell this one and you need more details?”


“Okay, what's up? Why the sudden interest?”

Jessie pulled up a chair and made up a story. “My grandmother used to let Melanie and I play with her jewelry. She owned costume jewelry, nothing real or valuable, except for this one piece. A bracelet with lots of big, green gemstones. She kept it in a safe at her house. Every once in a while she took it out and allowed Melanie and I to try it on. Not for very long, a few minutes here and there. It was a special time for us as sisters. We loved going to her house and trying on what she called ‘the real deal.' I don't know what made me think of this—maybe with Melanie in the hospital, I've gravitated towards the past; to better days. The kind worth remembering. The ones that become more prized over time. I wonder what happened to my grandmother's bracelet. She passed away and no one ever saw it again. I thought I'd ask you. Maybe the green gemstones really did have value.”

Curiosity flickered in his eyes. He ran his hand over his stubble. “The stones could have been anything. There are many different types of green gemstones. They come in all sorts of depths and hues.”

Jessie exhaled slow and hid her anticipation. He seemed relaxed. She was off to a good start. The story she told got him talking. “How many types are there?”

“Too many to list. You have your emeralds, sapphires, spinel, garnet, malachite, opals, and you get the picture. There's uncommon green stones like Alexandrite or Tourmalines. The stones on your grandmother's bracelet could have been anything. Is there someone in your family that might have stolen it?”

She got the double meaning of his statement and smiled. “I didn't take my grandmother's bracelet.”

He smirked. “You can always look up ‘green gemstones' online and see what you come up with. You might be able to find an image and compare what you remember to what's on the Internet. I can't tell you much more without seeing the piece.”

She sensed Brent wanted her to leave and she wasn't ready. “Could you teach me a little more? The subject helps get my mind off the hospital and Melanie.”

“Doctor Carl can help with the distractions. I can't.”

“Carl's gone.”

“Gone as in…”

“Headed home.” She flirted with how much to tell him and gave in to her gut feeling. “Carl wants to postpone the wedding.”

“That's between you and him.”

“He accepted a job in Singapore. If I won't go with him, we won't be getting married.”

“Sounds like you have a lot to think about.”

“I'd like to think about anything else. Please. I don't want to go back to the hotel or the hospital. I need to have my mind on something else.” She was surprised by the honesty in her voice. It wasn't fake.

He sighed. Then, “I think I can help you.”


“Yes, but I don't want to hear about you and your doctor fiancé.”

“Fine by me.”

“Follow me.”


“A place Carl can't get in your head.”

Sounds perfect,
she thought.

She left the engagement ring on the table and followed Brent down the hallway to the stairs. She was forced to look at his back and his broad shoulders. Brent had to be at least six-foot-three. A smattering of gray blended with the dark hair on his head. Her gaze angled lower and caught herself before she checked out the rest of him.

He led her past the bedroom she'd slept in the previous night and to the opposite end of the house. He opened a door, and she saw a staircase that took them to yet another level. “This house has three floors?” she asked, surprised.

“Four, actually. There's a basement too,” he replied, continuing up the steps. He stopped in front of a wall panel with a digital display. An alarm.

Jessie squinted at the small electrical box with its numbers. “Why the high security?”

“I'm going to show you my office.”

“You have an office in the attic?”

“Only Luke and my other brother, Damon, are aware of this space.”

“Not even Melanie?”

“Melanie's never been to this house.”

She had a weird feeling about this in the pit of her belly, like she was about to discover something extraordinary. She followed him around the corner. The stairs piggybacked up to a spacious room.

The attic spanned the length of the house with raised, angled ceilings overhead. A series of modern doors took up the entire right wall with a security box flush in the middle on each one. On the other side of the room she saw a table lined with a work bench, and machines like something a welder might use sat on top.

Brent walked over to one of the panels. He punched in a number. The red light on the box beeped and he placed his index finger on a scanner. The light turned to green. “Take a seat at the table,” he said, nodding to a desk on which there was what appeared to be a microscope.

Jessie did as he asked. She couldn't help herself and asked him, “There must be thousands of dollars in equipment in here and you live in

“My neighborhood is unassuming, low key, and in general, I like this house; my home away from home. The neighborhood is changing for the better. A couple of years from now this section of town will have some of the hottest properties.” He pulled out a long box with a gold lock. “This should take your mind off everything.”

Brent sat down across from Jessie and placed the box between them. His knees brushed hers.

“Luke and I keep the gemstones divided between our houses. At least, that's how we used to do our business. All of these will be moved to the jewelry store once the vaults there are installed and working. We can't let the stones remain at our residences any longer. The security risks are too high. Plus, once Luke got married to Melanie, it became clear a business like ours can't run out of a home. Melanie sped up what I'd been pushing him to do for years.”

“You needed to make Trace Elements a business with a storefront.”


“Your sister came along at the right time for my brother and for our company. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. She helped move our business forward. A company like ours needs a face and a brand. We can only get by from word-of-mouth for so long. We need one place to house our product and sell our gems.”

“Did you really work for D & F Diamonds?”

“I did.”

“But you came back to work with Luke?”

“It was time.”

“Aren't you sad that you had to give up your career?”

“I didn't really give it up, I changed my role. I had to. I won't be young forever.”

The sincerity in his voice disarmed Jessie. “Where will you get the gemstones from if you're not out there getting them yourself?”

“From one of our retailers, like everyone else. There are two such companies we buy from. The largest players in the diamond industry are Chadwick's of London and their competitor, D & F Diamonds.”

“Did someone make a mistake in naming the company D & F? It makes me think of the letter-grading system in school. You know, ‘A' is a pass and ‘F' is a fail.”

“The letters D and F represent the grading color scale of a white diamond—actually, the lack of color if you want the fine details. The less color of a diamond, the higher the rating. D, E, and F are colorless. They always have a higher value.” He grinned at her and continued, “The title D & F represents their impeccable standard. The work I did for them taught me a lot more about the industry than I ever learned from my brother or on my own. I wish my year-long contract could have been extended, but that wasn't possible.” Brent opened the box in front of her. “What do you think about these?”

Twelve diamonds sat in a row. White brilliance set against black velvet. They mesmerized her. She put her hand on her throat and took in the sight.

“My sentiments exactly,” he said and placed the box on the table. “This is how I take my mind off stuff.”

“I can see why.”

His gaze traveled from the diamonds up to her eyes. “I don't want you to hate diamonds. I want you to respect them.”

“You're making a good case so far.”

“There are four aspects of a diamond. The cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.”

“Every girl knows that.”

“You mean every girl lucky enough to own a diamond. Some people go their entire lives without affording one.”


“The four C's are important, but they've been reduced to a really good ad campaign. Here's what you don't know. The most important factor of a diamond is the cut. It's the only controllable part of a diamond. Diamonds are found whole. Then they are cut. Understand?”

Jessie nodded.

Brent selected one of the diamonds and held it up. “A cut determines how light reflects back to the human eye.” Brent flipped the diamond over, to the pointed tip. “This part is called the pavilion. If the pavilion is cut too shallow, light doesn't reflect as well. If the light doesn't reflect with full potential, the beauty of the diamond won't be seen. She won't be able to shine. And the value goes down.”

Jessie couldn't tear her eyes away. These babies made her champagne engagement ring seem dull.

“The second most important factor in the value of a diamond is the color. There's colorless, which I already covered. Near colorless includes G, H, I, J. Luke and I don't buy a diamond less than a G or an H.” He chose another one and dropped it to her hand. “Emerald shape, F color, cut well, and with few inclusions, or flaws.” Brent opened a second box. “Have a look.”

This time five breathtaking gemstones sat in a row. Jessie's heart beat fast. Each one resembled the one in her pocket, except smaller. They held the same shape too. The square with the slight rounded edges. She tried not to lose her control. In a calm voice she said, “What are those gems?”

“Jessica, these are more than just gemstones.”

Her gaze met his. “They are?”

“They are colored diamonds.”

She swallowed over a lump in her throat. Right then she knew.

Melanie left me a green diamond.


“From my own private collection. I cut them in this very room. When I first started working for Luke, I had to learn all aspects of the diamond and gemstone world on my own. I found a family in South Africa with four generations of family members who still cut diamonds by hand. I spent two years working for them, paying them, and learning whatever I could about the trade.”

She listened, but kept her eye on the colors in front of her: dark pink, light pink, two yellows, and a blue like the sky. Sweat formed on her palms. She rubbed the tops of her legs.

Melanie left
me a diamond. A big one. This
makes no sense.

Nothing did.

“White diamonds draw the biggest crowds,” Brent said. “The diamond industry is like any other market. Keep supply low and demand high. Diamonds of different colors are hard to come by.”

Jessie reached out to touch the yellow one. “What about green diamonds? Does one with that color even exist?”

Brent held her a gaze. He saw through her. She could feel it in his reaction to her question.

“Green diamonds do exist. They aren't common. In fact, they're exceptional. Only a few people ever come to see one, even in my line of work.”

She pointed to the chart taped to the desk. The words read:





The chart looked like something do with colors, but she was more interested in the shape and looked back to the diamonds in the box. “What shape are these diamonds? They are all the same.”

“The diamonds are all cushion cut. They're the best for colored diamonds. This particular cut allows the diamonds to show the depth of their hues. The more intense the color, the higher the value and the rarity.” Brent's hand crashed down hers. The patience in his eye waned. “Why are you really asking me about diamonds?”

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