Home > The Sapphire Heist (Jewel #2)(3)

The Sapphire Heist (Jewel #2)(3)
Author: Lauren Blakely

“So much,” she said, then sighed, the contented sound of a Disney princess after she’s caught a glimpse of Prince Charming. His radar went off before she even said the next words.

“He is so handsome. I think I might be in love with him already.”

Jake cringed as he walked past an ice-cream shop. “Let’s not jump the gun on the romance, Kylie. Let’s focus on the schoolwork.”

“I know. I will. But it doesn’t hurt that he’s dreamy.”

Jake shook his head, cursing himself for having picked a tutor she wound up crushing on. Next time, he’d need to hire a nun to teach her science, because now he had to get his little sister to focus on school again, not boys. Some days, it was exhausting taking care of her and doing his best to surrogate parent her from afar. He wondered what his dad would say. How his mom would handle this. What would they do when the baby of the family wound up distracted by boys? He wished he knew, but it was now up to him and his oldest sister, Kate, to make sure the younger kids made their way safely into adulthood.

“I’m sure it doesn’t, but let’s talk physics. Tell me what’s going on,” he said firmly, refocusing her on the task at hand.

“I have a test tomorrow. The tutor is going to study with me this afternoon, so I’m hoping that’ll help.”

“Yeah, me, too. But listen, Kylie. You can’t just stare into his eyes and let him hypnotize you with hotness. That’s not going to help.”

“You’re one to talk. How’s your island hottie?” she asked, needling him as only she could.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said with pretend stoicism.

“Ha. Deny all you want. You can’t fool me.”

“Never could,” he muttered playfully. “Back to you. You’re going to focus on studying, ’K?”

“I will. I promise,” she said, and Jake knew his little sister was trying, but hell, she was trying him, too.

But that was just the way it was. She was his complicated girl, and it was his job to see her through. That’s what his dad would have done. When he finished with Kylie, he checked his screen to see if Steph had tried to contact him. Then he rolled his eyes at his own pathetic actions and promptly reprimanded himself. He was seeing her in an hour. He could totally wait. He needn’t act like some lovesick fool, staring at his screen to see if his woman called.

His woman?

He smacked the side of his own head.

Get it together.

Last night was just sex.

Steph was just fun.

Their time together was only temporary. She was not his.

He shoved the phone into his pocket, and the metal case clanged against metal. Hitting the edge of the little trinket he’d lifted from her hotel. He didn’t want anything to happen to that goodie.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

“The ruby is gorgeous. It looks so real!”

Splash.

“Check out the emerald. I wonder what a real one that size would be worth.”

Rubber fins slapped the crystal-blue waters as a pair of curly-haired sisters from the quartet of thirtysomething couples in the stingray group freestyled their way to the treasure chest. The chest gleamed with fake riches under the dock, fifteen feet away from where Steph and Devon dug their toes into the sand and watched the couples in their private tour group having a blast.

Steph bumped a wet fist with Devon. Their customers were getting a kick out of the make-believe treasure. The two women pretended to paw at it as they neared the box of oversize fake gems, the kind of chest that would fit right at home inside a fish tank.

“Never gets old,” Devon mused.

“Wouldn’t it be something to really find a chest full of jewels in the sea,” Steph said as the sun warmed her shoulders and deepened her tan. “Maybe even diamonds. Maybe modern-day swashbuckling pirates are hiding all their jewels here in the ocean.”

She wished the hunt for the diamonds were as easy as making a beeline underwater for gems. Grabbing them, taking them home to Miami, converting them to cash, and repaying those whose accounts had been skimmed. Now she had to grapple with mounting evidence against her stepdad, as well as her own frayed hope that someone else was behind all those e-mails that seemed to damn him. Maybe even Isla. The only way to find out was to find the jewels.

“Buried treasure is just an old wives’ tale,” Devon said quietly.

“I know. I just wish sometimes it were true,” she whispered, fiddling with her treasure chest necklace that her mom had made for her, remembering the night Jake had brushed the pads of his fingers against it as they’d walked on the beach and she’d told him about her parents—about the father she never knew and her deep and abiding love for her mom. She shivered from the memory of how sweet his words were that evening, how gentle his touch. A sad wistfulness descended on her. She’d really liked the guy. He’d been fun and forthright, witty and sharp, and caring. He’d had such a wonderful heart . . . or so it seemed until he stole her diamond this morning, even though some of the messy details of the theft nagged at her brain.

She chased away thoughts of him as the sisters admired the gleaming blue sapphire at the top of the pile of gems. The sister in the purple bikini grabbed a fake rock.

“Everyone loves a sapphire,” the purple-bikini sister declared as she held up a huge blue rock, the sun glinting off its surface. “I’ve never understood why diamonds are worth more. These are much more stunning.” She gazed intently at the phony gem, studying it from all angles.

“It’s so gorgeous,” the other one chimed in. “It looks priceless.”

“It does,” the purple-bikini sister said.

Steph straightened her spine, awareness zipping through her. That simple action of holding the sapphire reminded Steph to keep her eye on the prize.

Sapphire. Eli. Diamonds. Money.

She needed to stop alternating between anger and sadness over Jake. This trip was never about a man. It was about a mission—a chance to right a wrong. She was meeting Jake in less than an hour, and she had to figure out how to play the angles with him. Not moon over what might have been. Besides, this was all for the best. She was at odds with Jake, and her brain had known all along to keep a distance from him.

Twenty minutes later, she and Devon said good-bye to the group from the doorway of the snorkel shop.

“Hope you enjoyed your time in the water,” Devon said.

“We had an amazing morning. The stingrays alone were worth the trip, but you made it so much fun with the treasure chest,” the purple-bikini sister said as she fastened a tie around her wet hair.

“Here. Take the sapphire,” Steph said with a smile, placing the bright-blue stone in the woman’s hand when she finished knotting her strands.

The lady clutched the rock to her chest as if it were a true prize. “I’ll take it back to Idaho and say I uncovered it in the Stingray City Sandbar,” she said, then waved as they departed.

Steph set to work straightening up the shop and putting away gear on the shelves. “Thanks again for letting me do the tour with you,” she said to her buddy. Her own tour started in three more days. She was guiding a group of tourists on a dive through some of the nearby wrecks not far from shore, then out on a longer excursion dive to Little Cayman, sixty miles away. There, on the north side of the island, were some of the best dive spots in the world, including the Bloody Bay site with a wall so deep it was nearly vertical, making for a spectacular dive. She loved that spot and couldn’t wait to visit it again.

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