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Maddie flicked over the page of a dog-eared graphic spy thriller and burrowed deeper in her office chair, her red Converse hightops propped on an open drawer containing scientific articles, chunks of quartzite and the odd gemological tool. God, she would love to be kick-butt Modesty Blaise coming face to face with that big ape-man Delicata. Wham! Blam! Look out ma’am! She would look so hot in black leather.
At her elbow, twenty million dollars worth of pink diamond glowed in a tiny pool of light beneath the stereomicroscope.
Whirrr. Click. The cuckoo bobbed out of the clock with a mechanical chirp. One o’clock. Maddie closed her book and tossed it in the drawer. Scooting her chair up to the microscope she pushed her glasses up her nose and peered through the stereo eyepieces. Strands of wavy brown hair escaped her ponytail and fell past the shoulders of her Geology Rocks! T-shirt. Tomorrow the gem would go on display in her Aunt Grace’s jewelry shop. Until then, it was Maddie’s to drool over.
She rotated the zoom knob to deepen the focus, moving through layers of facets in the heart-shaped diamond. The Rose was huge for a fancy pink–28.2 carats. And flawless, not a feathery fracture or a mineral inclusion anywhere. The cut was stunning; the edges clean and sharp, the pavilion carved to the perfect depth to reflect light internally so that sparks of iridescent fire scattered deep within its heart sparkled out of the crown.
The sheer sensuality of the jewel held her captive. The deep cranberry color, intensely saturated, was as rare as it was seductive. Maddie lost herself in the lush pink glitter of facets so numerous they resembled the petals of a real rose. A deeply pleasurable sigh escaped her lips.
“Did you know that the Contessa Antonia Licciardo circa 1750 could reach orgasm simply by looking at a beautiful gem?” a deep and cultured English male voice enquired from directly behind Maddie.
“Jesus H. Christ!” Maddie jumped, spinning around on her wheeled chair so fast she almost tipped over. A man loomed above her. A tall, dark-haired intruder in an impeccably tailored charcoal suit. Her heart racing, she gasped, “Where the hell did you come from?”
“London. Oh, you mean just now? Through there.” With a slight movement of his well-groomed head, he indicated the electronically-locked state-of-the-art security door leading onto the alley.