His Ex's Well-Kept Secret

By: Joss Wood



“I have a photo of them. Could you look at it?” Piper asked.

Jaeger nodded and sighed when Piper bent over to pick up her bag. The cotton robe delineated her heart-shaped bottom, revealed the backs of her thighs. He felt his boxers tighten as his junk moved up to half-mast. The urge to sink into her heat was strong.

Relax. You’ll have her again. Once more, or twice, before they went back to real life.

Piper walked back to him and sat on the arm of his chair, her fingers dancing across the screen of her phone. She passed it to him, and Jaeger looked down at the burst of blue on black velvet.

His heart stopped momentarily and his hand shook as he placed his glass on the table in front of him.

Jaeger enlarged the screen and focused on the biggest of the cut stones. The quality of the photo wasn’t great, but the color was breathtakingly brilliant.

“Where did you say these came from?” he asked. Tell me again that you think they’re from Kashmir because, hell, you may be right.

“Through a great-great-uncle on my mother’s side. He was a soldier in the British army. Family legend says they come from Kashmir.”

Yes!

Be cool, Jaeger told himself. If it sounds too good to be true then it usually is. But the color and her family history suggested there was a possibility of these stones being real.

“What else do you know about the original owner?”

“Just what I told you,” Piper said. She tapped her screen with the tip of her finger. “Well, what do you think? Could they be real? I’ve taken them to other gem dealers who say they aren’t.”

Of course they would say that. She was young and pretty and an easy mark. They’d make her a token offer, resell the gems and make a freakin’ killing. “Stay away from dodgy dealers,” he muttered.

“But do you think they could be worth anything?”

Maybe she’d been in Ballantyne and Company because she was thinking of selling them. If they were genuine, he was definitely interested in buying. He slid his habitual I’m-not-impressed expression onto his face—his excitement tended to inflate prices—and handed Piper a casual smile. “I don’t know. It’s really difficult to tell from a photograph. Let me look at them when we’re back in the States. Can you send me the photo?”

“Sure.”

Jaeger rattled off his number, and within twenty seconds he heard the beep telling him the photo was on his phone.

“I really hope they aren’t real,” Piper stated, her expression glum.

Now there was a statement he’d never heard from a prospective seller before. “Why on earth would you not want to be the owner of a collection of stones worth, potentially, a lot of money?” Jaeger demanded.

“Because then I’d feel morally obligated to sell them to help my...to help someone out of a financial jam.”

“You have people in your life who owe millions?”

Piper wrinkled her nose. “They’re worth as much as that? No, tell me they aren’t!”

“They could be, possibly, if they are Kashmir sapphires. But don’t bank on it,” Jaeger warned

“Maybe I should’ve just taken the first offer I received. A grand a stone.” Piper muttered.

Ten thousand dollars? Jaeger felt sick. Although he was trying to remain calm, trying not to overreact, he knew, somewhere deep inside him, that he’d might’ve made the discovery of a lifetime. If they were real, then hers were special stones.

“Will you promise to bring them to me, in New York? No one else?” He couldn’t let the stones slip through his fingers.

Piper nodded. “Sure.”

“I’ll call you to set up a time.”

Piper swung her legs around and placed the balls of her feet on Jaeger’s bare thigh. Their eyes met and sparks flew.

Seeing desire flash and burn in her eyes, he slid his hand between her thighs, sighing at the smooth, warm flesh. He opened his mouth to ask whether he could see her again like this, not just at Ballantyne, when they both returned to New York. Then he frowned. Why her and why now?

For more than a decade, since his early twenties—after crawling out of the deep, dark mine shaft that grief and loss tossed him into—he’d seldom pursued a woman beyond three or four nights. He didn’t want to raise expectations, didn’t want any of his very temporary lovers to think there could be a chance of them becoming permanent fixtures in his life. He’d worn permanence once. He’d—briefly—been a father, and when his daughter Jess died, he’d lost his lover, too.

Permanence now felt like an itchy, scratchy, ill-fitting coat.

Why was he thinking about losing his baby girl and the woman he’d once loved while he was with this sexy stranger? He’d thoroughly enjoyed his easy conversation with Piper, loved her offbeat sense of humor and, hell, the sex was off-the-charts amazing. Three damn fine reasons he couldn’t see her again when they both returned to the city.

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