One of the best things about being a writer is meeting other writers. I met Sandra Brown Rarery at my very first Chesapeake Romance Writers Meeting in 2001, and we've been writing friends (and personal friends) ever since. So it is my great honor to have her guest blog here today. So, without further ado, let's gone on with...
Thief of Hearts
by Sandra Brown Rarey
Mindy polished several pieces of jewelry and rearranged a turquoise display. Then she slid the glass door shut and keyed the lock. She did this every morning, making the rounds from the silver rings and bracelets through the watches and around to the gold and platinum precious stone items. When she finished the last display case she tucked a stray strand of mousy brown hair behind her ear and stepped into the center of her U-shaped 9 to 5 world. Her home away from home for the past ten years.
At precisely nine o’clock, her employer, Mr. Bolivar unlocked the front door. He was the first half of Bolivar and Bolivar Jewelers. The second half was Mrs. Bolivar. Poochie Bolivar, and she had only been Mrs. Bolivar for three years. Mr. Bolivar had gone through two previous wives since Mindy began working for him. The wives changed, the gold leaf scripted sign on the window remained the same. Part ownership of the store apparently passed from wife to wife. It had finally landed on a woman with a generic pet name, masterpiece nails and ever-changing Rihanna hairdos--a self-centered piece of fluff whom Mr. Bolivar worshipped.
She harrumphed at herself under her breath. Her feelings were simply sour grapes. Poochie might behave like she was a bit dense, but Mindy figured any woman who could use her natural assets to turn a successful man into Jell-O was smarter than she.
Moments later the first customer of the day made an entrance. A man, who entered in a swirl of snowflakes that he dusted from his overcoat.
The man meandered around, pausing in front of the Movado watches, and then the gold nugget rings, which she personally thought were pretentious. Mindy watched every step, every movement he made. She was mesmerized. This was no ordinary man. This was a god. A movie star. The most handsome man she had ever seen. Every few minutes he looked up and caught her gaze, responding with a smile that made catch her breath. She was embarrassed to be staring, but couldn’t turn away.
“Can I show you that ring?” she managed. Her voice was way too squeaky for her comfort.
“It’s nice,” he responded with a half smile that let her know he, too thought it was pretentious. “But I’m not here to shop for myself.” He stepped up to the display case that held her most valuable items, but he studied her instead of them.
Ideas of romance and happily ever after swirled through her brain. The kind of thoughts that she had not had for a decade. This is a man I could love, she thought. How foolish. He’s here to shop for another woman. He must be married. Men don’t come into jewelry shops to browse. It is past Christmas, so he’s here to buy a gift for an anniversary. Or maybe he is looking for an engagement ring.
He pushed his hand through his hair. “Lovely,” he murmured in a voice that was low and intimate.
She felt her face turn hot right up to her hairline. Her hand went to her throat
Only then did he look down at the jewels twinkling against their black velvet bed. His attention didn’t remain on the necklaces and earrings. It returned to her. He asked her about the local area, commented on the weather and held her in conversation until he made her laugh. The smile lines and crinkles at the corner of his eyes gave her a sense of his personality. His charm made her feel young again. He asked her name, then told her his name was Daniel Greene.
“I’ve enjoyed talking to you so much, Mindy, I almost forgot why I came here.” He pointed to a sapphire and diamond pendant.
|Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor|
“Yes, I’m aware of who she was.”
“Our sapphire is 24.4 carats. The original was over 200 carats. It was designed by Cartier.”
He didn’t blink when she mentioned the $44,700.00 price. “And that ring,” he said. “They look perfect for what I have in mind.”
“The ring is an exact replica of her engagement ring.”
“Could I ask you to put them on? I would like to see how the pendant lays and how it might look on a woman.”
She was never supposed to open the one display case with the double lock without Mr. Bolivar’s presence. But for some reason, she didn’t want this man to know she didn’t have that authority. She opened the top lock, and then the bottom lock with a second key kept in the cash register. She would model the pieces, then replace them in the display. If he truly wanted to purchase them, she would bring Mr. Bolivar in for the transaction. He would never know she broke protocol.
Mindy slipped the glittering ring on her finger. Her extended hand showed a remarkable 20 carat emerald and diamond creation. Its value could buy her a luxurious new car. The ring was showcased on fish-belly white fingers tipped with short, bare nails. Poochie’s last manicure flashed through her thoughts--a series of constellations, made of miniscule pearls set against obsidian skies and a gold quarter moon on her pinkie. The desire to curl her fingers into her palms was almost overwhelming. It dissolved when he touched her hand, turning it slightly until the sunlight through the window sparked off the emerald. His fingers slid away with obvious reluctance. Did she imagine that little squeeze?
Flustered, she draped the necklace around her neck as she watched her reflection in an oval mirror. She fumbled with the clasp. He hooked it for her, his warm touch lifting her hair slightly and brushing her neck. The sapphire nestled in her cleavage, mesmerizing her. It vibrated slightly from her heartbeat. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“You’re beautiful.” His breath stirred her hair as they studied the necklace together in the mirror. “Your own radiance makes it shine.” His hands caressed her shoulders. When he withdrew, it felt like he took all the heat from her body.
She leaned back against him. But he wasn’t there. He’d stepped away. The friendly look on his face had turned serious and detached. “I’ll take them both. Could you gift wrap them while I get my bank card from my car?”
Mindy felt so cold goose bumps rose on her arms. She rubbed them. He’d been playing with her. Flirting. For what reason? He certainly didn’t try to talk her into a discount. She watched him head for a white Lexus parked in front of the store. What should she do? She couldn’t begin to gift wrap them yet. She had to replace them in the case, lock it and call Mr. Bolivar to complete the sale. She twisted the ring off her finger.
“Were you planning to purchase that in installments?”
The arrogant tone startled her. She dropped the ring onto the glass countertop and turned to face her employer. “No, I . . . I . . . “
Mr. Bolivar picked up the ring. He set it carefully in it‘s satin nest, snapped the lid shut and pressed the gold catch that sealed the ostrich skin box. “I see you unlocked the display.”
“I’m sorry, sir. But, he’s going to buy the ring and the pendant. I was getting ready to call you up front.”
“Who is ‘he’? And where is the pendant?”
Her hand flew to her throat. It was bare. She looked down in horror. The sapphire was gone! She whirled around to face the storefront. The glass window wavered in her vision like lake water on a windy day. The room tilted. The white Lexus had disappeared.
* * *
Four months later, Mindy munched a sandwich as she strolled a pathway bordered with lush, blooming shrubs at a resort in
. She had lost her fifth sale this week. Folks simply weren’t buying timeshares with the enthusiasm they once had. At this rate she would soon have to get a second job. Williamsburg
A man stepped in front of her, blocking her way. She gasped. “You!” The crook with the velvet voice. What nerve the scoundrel had to show his face to her. “If it isn’t Mr. Greene, although we both know that isn’t your real name. What can I do for you today? Help you steal a condominium, or a timeshare? Or maybe you have your sights on something smaller, like the landscaping.” She jabbed her finger towards a brilliant red azalea.
“I have my sights on you.”
“I just bet you do. How did you find me?” And what did he want? Her heart thumped so hard she could hear it.
“I have my ways of finding things I want.” He put his finger beneath her chin and tilted her head until their eyes locked. “And people.” His finger slid down to press against the pulse at the base of her throat.
She jerked away and fumbled in her purse for her cell phone. “You’ve made a big mistake, mister. I’m calling the police.”
He relaxed into a casual slouch. “You could. But wouldn’t you rather come with me to Nice?”
“Nice?” she gasped. “
“We could visit
Cannes, spend some time in . I’ll take you around the world, show you things you thought you’d never see.” Monte Carlo
That voice . . . It mesmerized her. It made her think of crumpled sheets and hot, hot nights.
“That would make me an accessory to a crime.”
“You know what crime,” she growled. He wasn’t going to make a fool of her again. “Grand theft. You ripped that necklace off my throat and made a fool of me. You cost me my career. I was interrogated like a common criminal. I had to endure being investigated. I was on the news,” she choked. “Mr. Bolivar is still not convinced I wasn’t in on it. If the insurance hadn’t paid off, I might be in jail, waiting to go on trial.” She angrily punched 911 on her cell.
His response was a smile. “I didn’t steal the sapphire, Sweetheart. You misplaced it.”
“I misplaced it?” she sputtered.
“9-11. What is your emergency?” The tiny voice seemed to come from a great distance.
“Um hum.“ His attention went to the pulse in her throat. “That will look lovely with a black velvet dress.”
Mindy didn’t have to look down. All of a sudden she felt the weight, the warmth, the life of the sapphire necklace.
“One of those little numbers with no straps and hardly any material. I can see you now, hanging on my shoulder at a roulette table in
.” He leaned into her and whispered, “The women will hate you.” He straightened. “The men will be jealous of me. We can be in Monaco this time tomorrow.” He fanned out a couple of plane tickets. “From there it is just a short flight to Nice.” London
“9-11. What is your emergency? Hello?“
About the author: Sandra Rarey writes contemporary and historical romance and paranormal romantic comedy. She writes romance because she loves love. It is the root of human hope and the foundation for almost all of the classic tales ever told. It is the lure that pulls us together and the tie that binds us forever.
Read more about her work at: http://srarey.bravehost.com/