Gaslights flared to life around Abel.
He spun. The talisman hung against his shirt as he reached for his Bennett. Romy watched him with more than a hint of curiosity on her face, eyes illuminated by the lamps.
“What are you doing? Dammit, Romy, I almost had heart failure.”
She came closer, running her hand along the back of a tooled leather settee. “I found it odd that you professed to be a fan of my father's, yet you left before congratulating him. It had crossed my mind that you were using me to get to him.” Her eyes flickered over the maps. “I see I was wrong.”
He sighed. “I wasn't using you. I didn't even know you were related until you mentioned it. Nothing personal, but I have business to take care of here.”
“So you said. What kind of business?” Her movements were casual, but deliberate. Tucking her hands behind her back, she pushed her breasts out.
He raised his eyes to her face. “The kind that doesn't involve women. You wouldn't understand.”
Ignoring the jibe, she came closer. Her eyes locked on his necklace. “What's that around your neck? A fossil of some sort?”
His hand flew to the pendant and stuffed it back down his collar. “Nothing.”
“As someone who's seen a lot of nothing, I can tell you without a doubt it's something. Full of secrets, aren't we, Abel?”
Her lower lip slipped out in a pout. Strawberry red and glistening with the dew from her soft tongue, it tempted him to put the card down and grab her. She stopped inches from him, turned her eyes on his face and smiled so radiantly he forgot what he was doing.
He barely noticed her fingers loosening his string tie, unfastening his collar, and examining the necklace. His gaze dropped down to her low-cut dress. Her stomach flattened against his hips. The ridiculous skirt bunched against his legs. She swayed just enough to entice him further. Choking back a groan, he struggled to raise his eyes again.
She turned the trinket in her fingers. “It's pretty, but not a fossil. A...dear me. A fang of some sort if I'm not mistaken.”
She looked up at him. Regaining his senses, he retreated until he bumped into the map cabinet. Abel cleared his throat. “You are mistaken. It's an old rock I found in Texas. There's nothing here for you to see. In fact, you should be downstairs luring in a husband.”
Her brow furrowed. “You're a terrible liar. It's a barb or fang, though I can't place what kind. Not like anything I've seen before unless it's prehistoric. It doesn't appear to be a fossil, yet it's so large.”
The fang wasn't the only thing in the room that fell under that description. The borrowed trousers were getting uncomfortably tight. He prayed she wouldn't notice.
His retreat didn't keep her from coming at him again. She plucked the fang from his chest and watched it gleam in the light as it dangled from the leather. She ran her finger from the top to the pointed tip. “There is a curious crack in it. What is it made of?”
His mind raced to catch up with the conversation. “Obsidian.”
“I doubt that very much. It's too light. I dare say it would fetch a handsome price on the market if it were a genuine artifact.” Blue eyes widened then narrowed, as she looked between him and the maps he'd lifted out of the drawer. Her coyness fell away like leaves in the fall. “You're a treasure hunter. You found out that Papa is going to search for the Diamond of Uktena, but you plan to steal it first.”
He snatched the fang from her fingers. “Why would I want to steal a—” He gave up the pretense. “First of all, it isn't stealing if it isn't in anyone's possession. Second, I'm not a treasure hunter.”
“Then why did you break into the party? Why are you sneaking around Christensen's house and why are you trying to hide the necklace? And it is stealing if you're going to sell a priceless artifact to the highest bidder on the black market.”
Her curls bobbed with each question. He frowned. “I don't need a lecture from some little chit whose daddy is the biggest treasure hunter in the world.”
Romy poked a finger into his chest. “Take it back. He's an archeologist and an adventurer. When he finds valuables he turns them over to the proper authorities.”
He pushed her finger away. “I'll bet you a thousand dollars he's not going to do it this time.”
Her eyes narrowed into slits, half-hidden behind a thick fringe of lashes. “You're wrong.”
The Treasure Hunter's Lady
The Sky Pirate's Wife
The Turncoat's Temptress