Riley Cameron is the original poor little rich girl but with access to everything money can buy, she still feels something is missing.
When she visits her father’s jewellery business to liberate a favourite bauble from the office safe, she may well have found this ‘missing something’, in the form of Acting Manager, jeweller, lapidary and Dominant, Devon Scott.
Riley’s equal in all the ways that matter, Devon wants commitment not secrecy, but Riley knows if he finds out about the past she’d hoped was locked away like a tiara in a safe, she could lose something more precious than gold.
* * * * *
Universal Book Link for FAMILY JEWELS showing all available vendors.
* * * * *
No-one paid me much attention as I strode past gleaming cabinets and glass counter tops. Light bounced off nearly every surface and were I not familiar with the layout, I’d have lost my bearings in this potential hall of mirrors.
But I’d been here before, knew the entrances and exits, the routines of nearly every staff member. With any luck I’d be in and out within minutes.
“Hey, Lisa; is he in?” I asked of a short woman in a navy blazer as she arranged a diamond solitaire just so in one of the waist-high display cabinets.
“Oh hey, Riley. No he’s not, but-”
“Thank God for that.” Relief calmed the nerves roiling in the pit of my stomach. I kept walking. Lisa had probably been about to tell me he was coming in again later, or was only on a break. Well, I could do this quickly during my own lunch hour. I worked in a department store’s cosmetics department not far from here in the city centre so it was convenient.
For me anyway.
Before the devil knows I’m dead, I thought with a smirk, eyeing a display of bracelets as I squeezed past a customer. Might pick one of those up later. Cost was irrelevant. I had the means to acquire any item in the store I set my heart on.
Slipping through a door marked ‘staff only’, I adjusted my handbag on my shoulder, wondering if I should have brought something bigger. Perhaps the item I’d come to collect deserved a labelled handbag at least, rather than this cheap satchel.
But I shrugged. It didn’t really matter. At least the boss wouldn’t be there, which would make this little acquisition all the smoother. No awkward conversations, no-one pressing me to give up my job elsewhere and come work here…
“What the…?” I muttered as I reached the top of the stairwell. The office door was ajar and yet Lisa had said…
Okay, so now I wouldn’t need the spare key.
Pushing the door wide, I peered into the room, wondering if the person I was reluctant to see would be behind his desk. He surely wouldn’t have forgotten to lock up. Though the rest of the staff were in, he wouldn’t leave his office door unlocked.
He had ledgers in there, paperwork, and his laptop. He took this last item home at night in case he needed to catch up on work but unless he’d packed up and taken it with him to a local sandwich bar, it would be uncharacteristically foolhardy of him to leave the door open. Anyone could sneak in. It was bad enough that I did from time to time but he had given me a key. Bracelets, necklaces and rings had a nasty habit of going missing occasionally, but they always came back. Eventually. I was a magpie in twenty-five-year-old female human being form.
I’d even, on more than one occasion, considered leaving a cheeky ‘thank you’ note for the boss to discover when he later cared to check the contents of his private office safe. No doubt he’d have rolled his eyes, said “Oh for goodness’ sake, Riley,” if I had, but there were never any spare pieces of paper lying about. Folders lined the shelves, letters remained stacked on his desk until the time came to deal with them and if I’d torn a page out of his precious Moleskine notebook he’d have gone ballistic.
It would have been easier for him to deal with, less traumatic, if I broke into his laptop and planted a virus on it. Or maybe put a decimal point in the wrong place on one of his Excel spreadsheets. Robert Cameron was regimented to the point of obsession about keeping work-related paperwork immaculate and if I dared lay a hand on any of the ledgers, fiddle with any of the files on the shelves…
“Can I help you?” The stranger sitting behind a desk which wasn’t his own looked up and scowled. He’d been resting his head on one hand, fingers evidently tangled in his short, dark, now-ruffled hair.
“Who the- I mean, who are you?” I blurted out, staring not at his face but his forearms. I always did have a weakness for men with their shirtsleeves rolled up.
“I was just about to ask you the same thing.” He lowered the hand on which he’d been resting his head and tapped a biro against its palm with the other.
Oops. Interrupting a busy man. “Wait, you’re the new guy?”
His eyebrows lifted. “And you are…?”
“You’re gonna have to tell me your name; I wasn’t listening when-”
He cocked his head. “You’re the one who walked into my office without knocking.”
“I beg your pardon? This is not your office.”
“Yes it is; I’m the manager, sweetheart.” He rose, slowly, which made his irritation all the more present, and leaned on the desk, supported by both hands balled into fists. “Well?”
Eyeing his taut muscles, I wondered if his biceps were just as- No, Riley. Behave. You were only supposed to be here for a few minutes, remember? “Actually.” I tore my eyes away from his forearms even as I silently congratulated myself on having exquisite taste. Yes, there’s a reason you have a thing for men in shirtsleeves. “You’re the acting manager, and I’m the boss’s daughter, sweetheart.”
His eyebrows lifted. “You’re…?”
“Yes I am, Mister Acting Manager. My father’s not dead yet and even if he were, I’d be your boss. Wouldn’t that be fun?” I added with a wink. Nothing like trying to flirt one’s way out of an awkward situation, especially with a man as handsome as…oh, whatever his name was. I knew it; I was sure I did.
“Riley?” To give him his due, he didn’t blanch. He held his own, his gaze unwavering.
I nodded. “Riley Cameron. Pleased to meet you…?” I held out a hand. He didn’t take it. I hoped it was down to my presence throwing him rather than an outright snub.
“Scott?” I cocked my head. Ah, so that was it. “Nice n-”
“Dev-? Oh, I see. You were doing that Bond, James Bond, thing where you give your surname first. Right. Well, if you don’t mind…” I dumped my bag on his – the – desk and turned my back, eyeing the safe in the corner of the room acquisitively. Hitching my dress trousers up a little, I crouched and reached for the dial, the combination coming easily to mind. I’d been there when Robert Cameron had set it and was one of only two people on Earth who knew it. “Come to Mummy…”
“Uh, just a minute.”
I looked back over my shoulder. Scott, Devon Scott, now leaned on his – damn it, the – desk with one arm supporting his weight, the other hand on his hip. I made a mental note to congratulate my father on his exquisite taste in new staff members – that’s if we ever got around to calling an end to this cold war and conversed – and made a concerted effort to look Devon in the eye.
Not easy when he stood around six feet tall and I crouched on the floor across the room. Definitely not easy with eyes that dark. And that light dusting of stubble, a cross between ‘five o’clock shadow’ and ‘don’t give a shit’. Nice touch. Bet you growl like a maniac when you-
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Fighting a losing battle with my blood pressure? “I would have thought that was obvious.”
Devon shook his head slowly in the unflinching way of a man who wasn’t used to being mucked about. And mucking people about was my area of expertise. If I ever appeared on Mastermind I’d plonk myself down on the famous black chair and say “Riley Cameron. My chosen specialised subject is Headfuckery Through the Ages, with an emphasis on disrespect, irreverence and men with their shirtsleeves rolled up, John.”
“Uh, no. That’s why I’m asking.” Devon Scott stood up ere- straight and folded his arms.
Ooh, nice arms, Devon. Someone went to the school of distraction just across the road from my university of headfuckery, I see. “Helping myself to my inheritance, of course.”
“Listen, darling, you-”
“That’s so cute. We’ve only just met and already you’ve called me sweetheart and darling. Usually I make a guy buy me a drink first. Mine’s a double vodka and-”
“I think we should look into this, don’t you? After all, if you are who you say-”
I groaned, let my head drop, and grasped the edge of the safe with one hand. “Would I have the combination if I wasn’t Riley Cameron?” Lifting my eyebrows I looked back at him and caught his gaze flick up from somewhere around my midsection to my eyes again.
“Thanks,” I shot back, secretly pleased he’d been looking at my tramp stamp while my shirt had ridden up to expose a sliver of skin at the small of my back. Six words framed by strips of trompe l’oeil unfurling fabric to the left and right, the tattooist had, at my request, made it look like a ribbon unravelling to reveal something I’d first read years ago. Maybe I should have re-christened it a trompe stamp.
“Got any more?”
“None of your business.”
“I’ll take that as a yes, then. Riley could have given the combination to a friend and-”
“Riley didn’t.” I stood without having unlocked the safe and smoothed down my work uniform. Black fitted polo shirt, black dress trousers (indecently tight, necessitating the wearing of a thong to avoid the dreaded VPL) and a pink, pocketed half-apron for somewhere to store bits and pieces while I was giving someone a makeover like tissues or cotton balls. My head spun and I told myself it was down to rising too fast, causing a drop in my blood pressure, but that was a transparent lie. The way this guy was looking at me made it rise, not fall, and his jump from asking about my ink to telling me off in one breath left me playing catch-up, conversationally. “I don’t let anyone even try the Princess tiara on when I have it; I’m hardly likely to give them the combination to a safe where I keep it in between times, am I?” Straightening the waistline of my shirt, I wondered how much of my tattoo he’d seen, if he’d been close enough to read the words.
“If you are who you say you are-”
“You owe me an apology, I reckon,” I said quietly.
“-then you won’t mind if I call your father, will you, Miss Cameron?”
I rolled my eyes. “Do you have to? He’s the last person I want to speak to.”
“I was going to do all the talking.”
“Let me guess. You’re used to that?”
He lifted the handset of the cordless desk phone and pointed at me. “You.” Then the floor. “Stay.”
“Stay? What do you think I am? A dog or something?”
He swept his gaze down over me, taking his time to truly look at me this time. I shivered. Before, he’d looked at me in surprise, then irritation. Now it was something else entirely.
“No.” I could have sworn his cheek, no longer marred by a jaw clenched in anger, dimpled for a millisecond. “Definitely not.” He dialled the number without looking it up, having already committed my father’s mobile to memory.
While he waited for Le Grand Fromage to answer, I crouched again, fiddling with the dial on the safe door. I looked over my shoulder, gratified when Devon’s jaw clenched again, even more so because it wasn’t my face he looked at. Result.
Maybe he caught my smirk. Maybe he just wanted to give his boss his full attention. He turned his back while I got on with my safecracking mission.
“Robert? Yeah, Devon. No, no, nothing’s wrong. I, uh…There’s someone here who claims to be your daughter Riley? She’s determined to get into the safe and I thought I’d better…Hmm? Well…”
Devon paced, phone cradled between ear and shoulder, hands on hips, while I freed my shiny, shiny booty.
“Ah, there you are. My precious.” I held the Princess tiara, a simple gold diadem studded with diamonds, a teardrop suspended at the crown, in both palms.
Having shown it enough respect and appreciation, I crammed it onto my head, not bothering to arrange it or my hair in anything like a becoming manner, and stood.
“Long dark hair? Well yeah, but I’m a bloke. I don’t- Um, all black. With a pink apron thingy…” Devon jumped when I kicked the safe door over and shot me a look of narrow-eyed annoyance. “Oh…” Those narrowed eyes widened. “I see. Right, well…She’s opened the safe now anyway and- the Princess tiara. I don’t know. So…you want to speak to her?”
“Um…” I took a step back as if scared of the phone, turning my head away like a toddler in a high chair refusing to eat their greens.
“No, doesn’t look like…” A chuckle, and I wondered what my father had said. “Okay. Well, sorry to have bothered you. I thought it best to check. Right, okay. I’ll see you then. ‘Bye.” Replacing the handset, Devon cleared his throat. “Well. It appears you are Riley Cameron.”
“I could have told you that, Sherlock. What was so funny, anyway?”
“Hmm? Oh.” Devon’s hands went back to his hips and I didn’t know what I found most fascinating – those, or the fingers curved over them. “When you declined to come to the phone, Robert – I mean, your father said, yes, that sounds like the little madam.”
“Hmm.” I wondered if he’d said it in a tart tone of voice or with laughter. Whichever way, Devon had responded as if it were a joke, which was probably for the best. “So.” I adjusted the tiara. “How do I look?”
Devon swallowed. I didn’t envy his position. Asked for his opinion on the boss’s daughter’s appearance by the ‘lady’ in question herself. “Like a Princess, I suppose.”
“Ah, you finally accept I am the heir presumptive?”
“It would appear I must. I described you, Robert said that was you, added that you’re a little madam, so-”
I snorted with laughter. “Yeah. Like he’s perfect…”
Devon looked down at the desk and cleared his throat.
“I’ll be off then,” I said, reaching for my bag. “Ciao.”
“Wait. You can’t-” He met my eyes again. “You can’t just walk out of here with that thing on your head.”
“Where else am I supposed to wear it?”
“You- Look, Robert said it was okay for you to take it, but good God, Riley, you can’t go waltzing out of here into the city centre on a Friday lunchtime with a tiara worth that much on display. Your father would never forgive-”
“He knows what I’m like. I look after my pieces. He doesn’t mind, not really.” I shrugged. “Besides, it’s mine. I only keep it here because I don’t have a safe at home. He’d only whinge if I chucked it in a dresser drawer and didn’t-”
“I don’t fucking blame him!”
“Language, Mr Scott. A lady might be offended.”
“So what are you going to do with it? Wear it at work this afternoon?”
“No. I’ve got my own place in Costello Street. I’ll run home, leave the tiara there, grab some lunch, back to work, Bob’s your uncle.” My city centre flat was only a block or two away and perfect for lunching at home on workdays and meeting up with my friends for pre-weekend pub crawls. I loved living so close to the centre of the action, as much as I loved no longer living with my parents. Well, I was twenty-five after all and had taken up on my own years ago now.
“You’re going to leave the tiara at home while-?”
“It’s only for a few hours until I go out this evening.”
“Where are you going? Who with?”
“You’re the party police now, are you?”
“I’m a jeweller and lapidary. I’m conscious of the proper care and ownership of such valuables.”
Say it again, Devon. Tell me your job title. Lapidary. Lapidary. Did you ever look in the mirror and see what your tongue does when you say lapidary, lapidary, lapidary? “And I am a jeweller and lapidary’s daughter. I well know how to take care of such valuables, especially as I own them.”
“Damn it, I really don’t-”
“I’m going to a bar with some friends and I want something shiny to wear. Do you find that acceptable, Sir?”
Devon jerked, as if I’d shocked him. Within a second, though, he pulled his self-control back over him like a cloak. “Why not pick the tiara up after work?”
“Because I’ll be in a rush to get ready and there was less chance of running into Daddy dearest at lunchtime.” I shrugged. “If that’s the inquisition over with…?”
“You don’t want to speak to him? Or see him?”
“Nope.” I pulled the tiara off, trying not to mess up my artfully messed-up ponytail even further and crammed it into my bag.
“I’ll be off then. I need to get something to eat before I go back to work.”
“But wait, what about the…?” Devon pointed at my handbag and his gaze followed it as I arranged the bag strap on my shoulder. “When will you bring it back?”
“Tomorrow. Or Monday if I’m too hung over at the weekend.”
His eyebrows lifted. “Just. Don’t lose it.”
“I haven’t yet, Devon. I know what I’m doing.”
“I’m sure you-”
“Well.” I sighed heavily to punctuate the mood and move it to something lighter. “It’s been an absolutely delight meeting you, old chap, but I must be off now. I have work to do and I’m sure you do too. When do you take over here?”
This was the flagship store and Robert, my wonderful father, was concentrating most of his business efforts on the upcoming opening of another link in the Cameron’s chain in the next town over. This place being well-established and more than financially viable, he’d worked hard to find a manager for it to act in his stead while he babysat the newer place. It still wasn’t decided whether the new guy’s permanent place would be here or there, but for now, only Robert was good enough to oversee Cameron’s mark two. He’d been flitting between the two places, project managing there, training the new manager here and while he’d occasionally mentioned this and that, I’d turned a deaf ear. All I knew was that the new manager was called Devon Scott; nothing about start dates and takeovers.
Nothing about how good-looking he was.
“Could be as early as next week. I’ve got everything in hand, so-”
“Except the boss’s daughter,” I said. Shit. “Uh, I meant the fact I walk in here like I own the place, which I suppose I do, genetically. You know what I meant.” My cheeks burned and bang went any chance of maintaining my devil-may-care attitude.
Devon laughed. For the first time since I entered the room, he’d genuinely laughed. And when the sound died away, its shadow remained in the hint of a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. No, he hadn’t bested me but damn if I hadn’t put my foot in it and done the job for him. “Yes. The fact it’s your life’s ambition to emulate Raffles? Although I suppose you’d say you can’t steal what’s already yours?”
“Precisely. Where would be the fun in that? Well.” I hitched my bag strap up again though it didn’t need it. I was uncomfortable but that was in no way down to the strap digging into my shoulder. My restlessness had more of a connection to the way Devon looked at me. “I’ll be back next week to bring the bling back.”
“I look forward to it.”
Something in his voice made me meet his eyes. Something I saw there made me wish I hadn’t.
Without another word I backed away, pulled the door shut behind me and walked down the stairs, carrying a tiara and a faint twist of anticipation.