Ours to LoveA Wicked Lovers novel featuring billionaire brothers
Jayne Ann Krentz
A prolific writer with an impressive string of New York Times bestselling titles to her credit, Jayne Ann Krentz uses three different pen names for each of her three "worlds." As Jayne Ann Krentz (her married name) she writes contemporary romantic suspense. As Jayne Castle (her birth name), she writes futuristic/paranormal romances. And the pseudonym Amanda Quick is used for her historical romances. When she isn’t writing, she works tirelessly as one of today’s most ardent advocates of the romance genre. "The romance genre is the only genre where readers are guaranteed novels that place the heroine at the heart of the story," she says, "These are books that celebrate women’s heroic virtues and values: courage, honor, determination and a belief in the healing power of love."
Dreamlight glowed faintly on the small statue of the Egyptian queen. The prints were murky and thickly layered. A lot of people had handled the object over the decades, but none of the prints went back any farther than the late eighteen hundreds, Chloe Harper concluded. Certainly none dated from the Eighteenth Dynasty.
“I’m afraid it’s a fake.” She lowered her senses, turned away from the small statue and looked at Bernard Paddon. “A very fine fake, but a fake, nonetheless.”
“Damn it, are you absolutely certain?” Paddon’s bushy silver brows scrunched together. His face reddened in annoyance and disbelief. “I bought it from Crofton. He’s always been reliable.”
The Paddon collection of antiquities put a lot of big city museums to shame, but it was not open to the public. Paddon was a secretive, obsessive collector who hoarded his treasures in a vault like some cranky troll guarding his gold. He dealt almost exclusively in the notoriously gray world of the underground antiquities market, preferring to avoid the troublesome paperwork, customs requirements and other assorted legal authorizations required to buy and sell in the aboveground, more legitimate end of the trade.
He was, in fact, just the sort of client that Harper Investigations liked to cultivate, the kind that paid the bills. She did not relish having to tell him that his statue was a fake. On the other hand, the client she was representing in this deal would no doubt be suitably grateful.
Paddon had inherited a large number of the Egyptian, Roman and Greek artifacts in the vault from his father, a wealthy industrialist who had built the family fortune in a very different era. Bernard was now in his seventies. Sadly, while he had continued the family traditions of collecting, he had not done such a great job when it came to investing. The result was that these days he was reduced to selling items from his collection in order to finance new acquisitions. He had been counting on the sale of the statue to pay for some other relic he craved.
Chloe was very careful never to get involved with the actual financial end of the transactions. That was an excellent way to draw the attention not only of the police and Interpol but, in her case, the extremely irritating self-appointed psychic cops from Jones & Jones.
Her job, as she saw it, was to track down items of interest and then put buyers and sellers in touch with each other. She collected a fee for her service and then she got the heck out of Dodge, as Aunt Phyllis put it.
She glanced over her shoulder at the statue. “Nineteenth century, I’d say. Victorian era. It was a period of remarkably brilliant fakes.”
“Stop calling it a fake,” Paddon sputtered. “I know fakes when I see them.”
“Don’t feel bad, sir. A lot of major institutions like the British Museum and the Met, not to mention a host of serious collectors such as yourself, have been deceived by fakes and forgeries from that era.”
“Don’t feel bad? I paid a fortune for that statue. The provenance is pristine.”
“I’m sure Crofton will refund your money. As you say, he has a very good reputation. He was no doubt taken in as well. It’s safe to say that piece has been floating around undetected since the eighteen eighties.” Actually she was sure of it. “But under the circumstances, I really can’t advise my client to buy it.”
Paddon’s expression would have been better suited to a bulldog. “Just look at those exquisite hieroglyphs.”
“Yes, they are very well done.”
“Because they were done in the Eighteenth Dynasty,” Paddon gritted. “I’m going to get a second opinion.”
“Of course. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.” She picked up her black leather satchel. “No need to show me out.”
She went briskly toward the door.
“Hold on, here.” Paddon rushed after her. “Are you going to tell your client about this?”
“Well, he is paying me for my expert opinion.”
“I can come up with any number of experts who will give him a different opinion, including Crofton.”
“I’m sure you can.” She did not doubt that. The little statue had passed for the real thing since it had been created. Along the way any number of experts had probably declared it to be an original.
“This is your way of negotiating for an additional fee from me, isn’t it, Miss Harper?” Paddon snorted. “I have no problem with that. What number did you have in mind? If it’s reasonable I’m sure we can come to some agreement.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Paddon. I don’t work that way. That sort of arrangement would be very damaging to my professional reputation.”
From Dream Eyes by Jayne Ann Krentz. Published by arrangement with Putnam, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Jayne Ann Krentz, 2012.
There was nothing like the drama of a deathbed scene to expose the skeletons in a family’s closet. You never knew what would fall out when you opened the door, the nurse thought. Lifelong conflicts, absolution, regret, long- held grudges, enduring love or unrelenting hatred, whatever had been hidden for decades or generations was suddenly made visible at the end.
The night- shift staff was gathered at the nurses’ station, drinking coffee, snacking on vending- machine munchies and speculating on the sexual orientation of the new orthopedic surgeon, when the dying man’s son arrived. Emotions in the small group ranged from cynical to relieved.
They had all watched patients die without family at the bedside. It happened more often than most people realized. Everyone who did this kind of work understood that family dynamics were often convoluted and messy and sometimes downright evil. There were often very good reasons why relatives turned their backs on a family member who was dying. And there was no getting around the fact that the patient in 322 was seriously wasted not just from the cancer but from years of hard living and major addiction issues.
“Knox probably wasn’t anyone’s idea of a great father,” the orderly said. “Still, it’s about time someone from the family showed up.”
The middle- aged nurse watched the visitor disappear through the darkened doorway of 322. Ten she checked the computer file.
“He signed in as Knox’s son,” she reported. “But there are no relatives listed on the chart.”
One of the orderlies popped a handful of potato chips into his mouth. “Guess it’s safe to say it’s not a close family.”
Lander Knox knew what the crowd at the nurses’ station was thinking. The prodigal son shows up at last. It amused him, but he had been careful not to let his reaction show. He understood that humor was not appropriate to the occasion.
He had learned long ago to fake the correct emotional responses for a wide variety of situations. His acting talent was worthy of an Oscar. He had gotten very good at pretending to be one of the sheep. He moved among the weak, emotional, easily duped creatures that surrounded him like the wolf he was.
He had considered taking a moment to charm the staff at the nurses’ station. It would have been simple to give them a clever story about how he had been on the other side of the world in a war zone when he got word that his father was dying. He could have told them that he had spent three days without sleep trying to get back before the end. But it wasn’t worth the effort. He was planning to stay only a few minutes, just long enough to take his revenge.
Shadows pooled inside room 322. The machines hummed and hissed and beeped like some high- tech Greek chorus heralding the inevitable. Quinn Knox’s eyes were closed. He was hooked up to an IV line.
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