A Cardiff Novel Book 2
Amelie tossed and turned, twisting the bed sheets up and around her legs, right there, where she wanted him. But he hadn’t touched her yet, not in this dream. She wanted him to, so badly. A soft moan escaped her parted lips as he moved toward her and as in all the dreams before this one, she ached for him…
“Do not be afraid of love.” He pulled the robe from her shoulders. It swished to the floor in a whisper of silk.
She should protest—she did not know him. Instead, she sighed with the cool night air against her bare breast.
Warm hands drew her close, a comfort as much as a command. When he wrapped his arms around her, the bedroom walls fell away. She smelled the sea and the wind whipped around them.
She dug her fingers into his back and remembered…the way he nipped her neck when he sank into her, his deep, satisfied grunt when she clung to him, how he pinned her down, holding back the release until she thought she would die if he didn’t let her come right now…
She did know him. He was her capitaine. She molded herself against him and his chin dipped to rest on her head.
When he pulled back, a thick, black forelock winged away from his forehead. Full lips turned upward into dimples and moonlight shone in his eyes. “My love.”
She rubbed her nipples into the curls sprinkled across his chest and finally, he lifted her and laid her down on the water’s surface. His body, all hard planes and angles, pushed her down. She wrapped her legs around him atop a swelling wave.
He murmured approval as he cupped her buttocks, lifted her hips and drove into her all in one deft motion.
“We are one.” He said against the column of her throat as he rammed into her.
The night rose and fell on her sighs.
He impaled her, took her breath away as she clung to him in the ocean spray. Their limbs slammed together as he tossed her about on a wild ride. The dark waves crested, carrying them away as the night shattered…
Amelie kept her eyes closed and licked her lips. It felt real; he felt real. Too soon, consciousness chased her fantasy away.
She sat up, staring across the bedroom at the pre-dawn outside her window. She turned on the bedside lamp and a golden halo sprayed the room. “Just a dream.”
Her nipples still tingled in arousal. She pulled off the chemise.
He stood outside her bedroom window, watching her, his square jaw slack with need. His tanned skin glowed in lamplight…
Amelie pulled the chemise to her breast and turned off the lamp. She got out of bed and crept across the room. She stood as close as she dared to the cool glass pane.
He was gone.
Don’t be ridiculous. Of course, he had never been there, couldn’t have been there. The dream had shaken her up.
Abandoned, she watched the purple sky lighten to pink. As the sun climbed above the wintry clouds, the dream, and her capitaine, dimmed inside of her. It faded from her consciousness as quickly as the street lamps winked out over Central Park thirty-six stories below.
She had called him capitaine.
Was he captain of a ship? Why had he called her Jacqueline?
North Yorkshire, England – February 1988
A deafening clap of thunder rolled off the River Wharfe and over the green.
Roman Cardiff glanced out the bay window toward his mother’s gardens. In a long ago summer, he saw sun-drenched trellises thick with roses in every hue. This afternoon the gardens were awash in umber, heralding a storm’s approach.
Khan opened one chocolate brown eye from where he lay in front of the fire, but couldn’t keep it open.
“You’ll have to roam the halls today, old boy.”
The Great Dane’s massive chest was a sleek, black mountain that rose and fell.
Roman arched a brow at James, who stood grinning in the doorway.
“It’s Dylan, sir, and,” James glanced at his watch, “it’s…”
“…noon.” Roman said curtly. “I was off by a few hours, you old dodger.”
“Three, exactly,” James said.
“And now I owe you a bottle of…”
“I believe we settled on the 1959 Bordeaux, sir.” In all seriousness, James folded his hands behind his back.
“Is that right? Have you no shame?”
“None whatsoever, sir.”
“Very well, then.” Roman picked up the phone on his desk as the butler retreated. “Blast it, Dylan, couldn’t you have rung earlier? You’ve just cost me a rare vintage.”
“Sorry to disappoint, but I was on a call. Besides, you shouldn’t be gambling with the private stock anyway. You know James doesn’t dream when he sleeps, he draws up detailed inventories of the cellars.”
Roman started flipping through the jewelry catalogs on his desk. “I should have known, but I haven’t had much sleep myself, something that’s never stopped you from calling me at the crack of dawn before.”
“Nine o’clock is hardly the crack of dawn. The reason I am calling so late today is that I received a call from Emil Garamonde of Bijou. He wants to set up a meeting to discuss our German design plant,” Dylan said.
“Really? Well, I shouldn’t be surprised that the heir of Bijou is getting into the act. I’ve already told his father Michel they can’t afford the German outfit.”
Dylan chuckled. “I’ve told his operations man the same. Emil was undaunted by the price when I mentioned what it will cost to run the materials plant. You haven’t said anything to the Garamondes about the refurbishments, have you?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“I have the impression that they know exactly what we’re up to,” Dylan said. “The German plant is just the type of operation to get a faltering jewelry design company like Bijou back on its feet. But if the Garamondes can’t have the plant, it’s too close for comfort. I think they’d rather see it gone. As it is, the plant is taking a huge bite out of Bijou’s interests. I’m already getting calls from the Garamonde camp promising defection. Word is they are desperate.”
“A state I’m certain they are used to by now,” Roman said. “We’re not even operating at full capacity yet. It will only be worse for the Garamondes when the new equipment is up and running. And after that fiasco last year on patent ownership, I wouldn’t go to bed with the Garamondes on this even if the deal meant billions. That old cheat Michel Garamonde tried to skate on the heels of our ad launch. It took Simon the balance of the year to kill Bijou’s campaign. Why, the man did everything but use our logo. Now the Garamondes want a handout.” Roman took a breath, just long enough for Dylan to get a word in.
“He did vow revenge. Now it seems he won’t take no for an answer. I think we should take this seriously, Roman.”
“Simon is on it. If Michel Garamonde tries anything, he can spend the rest of his money in court.”
“Not much of that left, I hear,” Dylan said. “By the way, I’ll admit I was shocked by your wanting to do away with the tried and true jewelry designs, but after seeing your proposals I’ve put my heart attack on hold. I think you’ve got something. I want you to know I back you a hundred percent on this.”
“But I’m still the rogue heir, eh?”
“That you will always be, but ten years with Uncle Giles, and the last two more prosperous than the rest…he was right; the business is in your blood, cousin of mine. He would have been very proud.”
Roman picked up another catalog. “Yes, Dad did love a good show. Looks good on paper, I suppose. Now if I could just get the ball rolling.”
“If that is a cry for help, it’s falling on the wrong ears. I’m just the nuts and bolts man.”
“All that work on cut and color and-damnation-the design group doesn’t even come close.” Roman flipped a page in a catalog of garish jewels. He tossed it into the trash bin next to his desk with a sigh. “And I’m no help, riding blind. I don’t have a name to put to what I envision.”
“Don’t worry; those instincts of yours will let you know when you’ve found the right fit.”
He pushed his feet off the desk and a black leather-bound portfolio dropped to the carpet. “All this traveling doesn’t help much. I’ll soon be off again, for meetings in New York.”
Khan’s ears lifted, though he kept his eyes closed.
The diamond necklace in the cover photo of the catalog was a large teardrop cradled in intricate scrollwork. The teardrop hung from a delicate gold pendant. Matching earrings encased in the same flawless design.
“I asked if you are going to be on the call tomorrow,” Dylan said.
“Of course. It’s early, right?”
“Yes, the crack of dawn, as a matter of fact. It starts at nine.”
Roman shrugged. “If you can do it, I can do it.” He was reading the cover of the portfolio when he hung up the phone.
Amelie Laurent. A designer for Penrods in New York. Penrods was a small but well-run design house with an impeccable reputation.
He flipped through pages filled with a striking mix of antique and modern, bold-cut jewels. To have wrought such fluidity from the stones was true artistry, and something else…the woman knew her jewels.
It was as if she knew his jewels, but that was impossible. These designs were rather like the romantic pieces in his private collection, jewelry that had been in the family for over two hundred years.
The Cardiff Jewels were rarely out of the vault, and, as far as he remembered, had never left the premises. Yet, Ms. Laurent’s diamonds, rubies and sapphires winked off the glossy portfolio pages in an identical glittering story of love and passion.
Whoever she is, she is an old hand at the craft, to be sure.
What he’d been searching for these past months was not ahead, but in the past, in Ms. Laurent’s bolder, more vibrant cuts.
His chuckle was hearty enough to lift Khan’s head. The dog gave him an accusing stare.
He grinned at Khan because Dylan had been right; those instincts of his told him he had indeed found the right fit.
“James,” he called from the door of his study.
“Call Penrods in New York and set something up.”