Becoming Dante(3)

By: Day Leclaire



 Gabe had been twenty when his mother became ill and, desperate for money to care for her, he’d sold the fire diamond necklace to Matilda Chatsworth. The money had also provided him with a start in life. Despite knowing he’d had no choice but to sell the necklace, he’d always hoped to buy it back. It had taken him a long time to realize why it had become so vital to have it in his possession once again.

 Eventually, he’d been able to acknowledge what the necklace represented—the symbolism it held for him, one that continued to burn in his heart. It stood for the man who’d created him. The family that had rejected him. And the mother and sister who had always been there for each other, through the good, the bad and the unbelievably ugly.

 Unfortunately, by the time he had the financial wherewithal to purchase Heart’s Desire, Matilda refused to sell. Even when he’d married her granddaughter Jessa, the necklace remained just out of reach, a promise, but never a reality. What he didn’t get was why, after all these years, had Matilda decided to give her wayward granddaughter the necklace instead of selling it back to him? Why would she turn on him like that, especially when she’d despised Kat for betraying Jessa?

 Gabe focused on Kat, aware she’d become an obstacle in his path, one he’d do anything to remove. A blistering fury lapped at his control. “You have it?” Just those three words, but they contained an emotional history that spanned his entire life. That went to the very core of who and what he was.

 Kat hesitated and answered indirectly. “My grandmother contacted me recently, asked me to return home. She’s not well. She promised to give me the necklace after she...” Something painful shifted across her expression before vanishing. “Afterward.”

 “In that case, come see me when you actually have it. Now if you don’t mind...” He jerked his head toward the door. “I’m busy.”

 “I’m afraid there’s a little more involved than that.” She glanced around, her gaze coming to rest on the nearby wet bar and her voice acquired a husky quality. “Is it possible to have some water? I’m dying of thirst.”

 “Planning to play the role of grieving granddaughter over the impending loss of your grandmother, Kat? Complete with crocodile tears, I have no doubt. Sorry, sweetheart, not buying it.”

 He caught a flicker of pain before her expression closed over. “Any tears I shed over my grandmother will be real. After my parents died when I was five, Gam raised me. I owe her more than I can ever express. But you don’t have to worry about my breaking down in front of you. I never cry. Ever.”

 Gabe didn’t bother to beat around the bush. “How much? How much for Heart’s Desire?”

 She didn’t so much as twitch. “It’s not for sale.”

 He shot to his feet, swearing beneath his breath. “You’re a piece of work, you know that? First you sleep with Benson Winters, Jessa’s former fiancé. Now you’ve found a way to wriggle back into Matilda’s good graces and get your hands on that necklace. Why? What’s your game?”

 Her response came just as promptly. “This isn’t a game. It never was.”

 He honed in on the bottom line, at least what he considered the bottom line. “I’ll pay you full value for the necklace. More than full value. Money is no object.” As usual, when it came to that damn necklace, every business skill and tactic he’d learned over the past decade vanished like mist beneath the rays of a hot summer sun.

 “My price isn’t money.” She waved the discussion aside as though it were of little consequence and offered a cool smile. “I believe you were going to get me a drink?”

 Damn, damn, damn. He’d spent no more than five minutes with the woman and she’d already managed to demolish years of effort to curb his emotions, to keep them walled off and under tight control. It had to be because he wanted her. Because she belonged to him. He stiffened in disbelief. Dear God, what the hell was happening to him?

 Without a word, he crossed to a wet bar. “Flat or sparkling?”

 “Flat.”

 “Ice?”

 “Thank you. It would make a nice change.”

 “That’s right.” Ice sang against crystal. “You’ve been hiding out in Europe for the past five years.”

 “I haven’t been hiding,” she instantly protested.

 Interesting. It would appear he’d managed to hit another hot button. It surprised him that a woman like Kat didn’t have her weaknesses better fortified. “Bull. You hightailed it out of the country within days of the news breaking that you were having an affair with your cousin’s fiancé, senatorial candidate Benson Winters. And you’ve stayed out of the country ever since, not even returning when Jessa and I married, let alone for her funeral.” He handed her the glass, noting with satisfaction that it trembled ever so slightly in her grasp. “But the minute you figure out how to get your hands on Heart’s Desire, you manage to find your way back to Seattle.”

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