His Ex's Well-Kept Secret

By: Joss Wood

“Three?” Piper asked.

So three was what she needed. For what?

“Maybe two,” Jaeger said, pretending to think about her offer.

Again, there was a flash of disappointment in her green eyes. God, such beautiful eyes. Eyes that tempted him to cut her a check for the full three mil and then kiss her senseless before ripping off her clothes.

“Can I think about that?” Piper asked, placing her thumbnail between her teeth.

Jaeger slowly rolled up the velvet, capturing the gems inside. “Sure, but I’m not making the offer today, Ms. Mills. Or tomorrow.”

Because, despite the party in his pants, he wasn’t a novice dealer who could be swayed by a pretty face, a rocking body and sad, possibly desperate, eyes.

Piper’s luscious mouth fell open, and he wondered what she tasted like, whether her lips were as soft and plump, as sweet, as they looked. He knew her smile would be dynamite. He wanted to see it, feel it on his skin. God, Ballantyne, get a frickin’ grip.

“But...but...you said—”

Jaeger stood up and placed his hands on his desk, leaning down so their eyes were level. “I’m not making a million-plus offer on gems I know next to nothing about. I do that in the field when I have nothing to rely on but my gut. But I’m not prepared to do that now when I don’t need to take the risk.” Jaeger stood up and pushed his hand through his hair. “I’ll make you a solid offer after I’ve done some research—”

“What type of research?” Piper asked, obviously frustrated.

“We use various databases, including those set up by Interpol and the FBI, to check whether any similar gems are reported stolen. I want my siblings to look at the stones.”

“How long will it take?”

Jaeger shrugged. “As long as it takes.”

“I can always take them to Moreau’s.”

Ballantyne and Company’s biggest competition.

“That’s your prerogative, but you won’t,” Jaeger said, watching her eyes, watching frustration chase fear through all the green. “You won’t because you want me to buy these stones. For some reason you want me to have them. Why?”

Piper tried to dismiss his statement, but he saw the flash of agreement in her eyes. Why did he think there was so much more happening here than her wanting to sell the stones? He felt like she had a story and he was part of it.

“You have two weeks to make me a solid offer,” Piper told him, picking up her bag and pulling it over her shoulder. “After that, I start shopping around.”

Jaeger nodded. “I need your contact information. If you’ll give me a little time, I’ll enter the details of the stones into our database and print you a receipt, stating that they are in our custody.”

“I’ll give you my card. Just send the receipt. I know you won’t steal them or swap them.”

Her instinctive trust in him made him feel warm.

“All I need is for you to keep my name, and the fact that I have these jewels, confidential. Can you do that?”

Why was she so concerned about privacy and confidentiality? Could these sapphires be stolen? God, he hoped not. If they were, he’d have to report her, and he did not want to see Piper arrested and jailed for handling stolen property.

The only thing she should handle was him.

Jaeger gave himself a mental punch to the head. It was time to act like an adult, a partner in Ballantyne and Company, like the hard-ass gem hunter he was reputed to be.

“You did hear me say I’ll be running these stones through the Interpol and FBI databases, didn’t you?”

Piper’s only response was a searing look. Shaking her head, she pulled a business card out of her bag and handed it over.

Jaeger looked down at the card and flicked the edge with his finger. “You’re an art appraiser?”

Piper shook her head. “You really did take my words to heart, didn’t you?”

Jaeger frowned. What did that odd comment mean? From the moment she’d walked into his office, he’d seen half-formed statements on her lips, in her eyes. She’d start to speak, but then she’d bite the words back, acting as if there was something she needed to say but wouldn’t. What was going on behind those pretty eyes?

Mind your own business, Ballantyne. She’s a client, nothing more.

But there was definitely something odd about the very gorgeous Ms. Mills, Jaeger decided as he watched her walk across his office and yank open the door. She turned back to look at him and lifted her index finger to point at him. “I’m trusting you to look after my stones. Trusting you, after everything that’s happened, is a very big deal for me, Ballantyne.”

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