Fired Up: Book One of the Dreamlight Trilogy (Arcane Society Series #7)by Jayne Ann Krentz
The New York Times bestselling author delivers a story of a curse that spans generations-and the love that can heal it.See more details below
The New York Times bestselling author delivers a story of a curse that spans generations-and the love that can heal it.
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Dreamlight glowed faintly on the small statue of the Egyptian queen. The prints were murky and thickly layered. A lot of people had handled the object over the decades, but none of the prints went back any farther than the late eighteen hundreds, Chloe Harper concluded. Certainly none dated from the Eighteenth Dynasty.
“I’m afraid it’s a fake.” She lowered her senses, turned away from the small statue and looked at Bernard Paddon. “A very fine fake, but a fake, nonetheless.”
“Damn it, are you absolutely certain?” Paddon’s bushy silver brows scrunched together. His face reddened in annoyance and disbelief. “I bought it from Crofton. He’s always been reliable.”
The Paddon collection of antiquities put a lot of big city museums to shame, but it was not open to the public. Paddon was a secretive, obsessive collector who hoarded his treasures in a vault like some cranky troll guarding his gold. He dealt almost exclusively in the notoriously gray world of the underground antiquities market, preferring to avoid the troublesome paperwork, customs requirements and other assorted legal authorizations required to buy and sell in the aboveground, more legitimate end of the trade.
He was, in fact, just the sort of client that Harper Investigations liked to cultivate, the kind that paid the bills. She did not relish having to tell him that his statue was a fake. On the other hand, the client she was representing in this deal would no doubt be suitably grateful.
Paddon had inherited a large number of the Egyptian, Roman and Greek artifacts in the vault from his father, a wealthy industrialist who had built the family fortune in a very different era. Bernard was now in his seventies. Sadly, while he had continued the family traditions of collecting, he had not done such a great job when it came to investing. The result was that these days he was reduced to selling items from his collection in order to finance new acquisitions. He had been counting on the sale of the statue to pay for some other relic he craved.
Chloe was very careful never to get involved with the actual financial end of the transactions. That was an excellent way to draw the attention not only of the police and Interpol but, in her case, the extremely irritating self-appointed psychic cops from Jones & Jones.
Her job, as she saw it, was to track down items of interest and then put buyers and sellers in touch with each other. She collected a fee for her service and then she got the heck out of Dodge, as Aunt Phyllis put it.
She glanced over her shoulder at the statue. “Nineteenth century, I’d say. Victorian era. It was a period of remarkably brilliant fakes.”
“Stop calling it a fake,” Paddon sputtered. “I know fakes when I see them.”
“Don’t feel bad, sir. A lot of major institutions like the British Museum and the Met, not to mention a host of serious collectors such as yourself, have been deceived by fakes and forgeries from that era.”
“Don’t feel bad? I paid a fortune for that statue. The provenance is pristine.”
“I’m sure Crofton will refund your money. As you say, he has a very good reputation. He was no doubt taken in as well. It’s safe to say that piece has been floating around undetected since the eighteen eighties.” Actually she was sure of it. “But under the circumstances, I really can’t advise my client to buy it.”
Paddon’s expression would have been better suited to a bulldog. “Just look at those exquisite hieroglyphs.”
“Yes, they are very well done.”
“Because they were done in the Eighteenth Dynasty,” Paddon gritted. “I’m going to get a second opinion.”
“Of course. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.” She picked up her black leather satchel. “No need to show me out.”
She went briskly toward the door.
“Hold on, here.” Paddon rushed after her. “Are you going to tell your client about this?”
“Well, he is paying me for my expert opinion.”
“I can come up with any number of experts who will give him a different opinion, including Crofton.”
“I’m sure you can.” She did not doubt that. The little statue had passed for the real thing since it had been created. Along the way any number of experts had probably declared it to be an original.
“This is your way of negotiating for an additional fee from me, isn’t it, Miss Harper?” Paddon snorted. “I have no problem with that. What number did you have in mind? If it’s reasonable I’m sure we can come to some agreement.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Paddon. I don’t work that way. That sort of arrangement would be very damaging to my professional reputation.”
“You call yourself a professional? You’re nothing but a two-bit private investigator who happens to dabble in the antiquities market. If I’d known that you were so unknowledgeable I would never have agreed to let you examine the piece. Furthermore, you can bet I’ll never hire you to consult for me.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, of course, but maybe you should consider one thing.”
“What’s that?” he called after her.
She paused in the doorway and looked back at him. “If you ever did hire me you could rest assured that you would be getting an honest appraisal. You would know for certain that I could not be bought.”
She did not wait for a response. She walked out of the gallery and went down the hall to the foyer of the large house. A woman in a housekeeper’s uniform handed her the still-damp trench coat and floppy-brimmed hat.
Chloe put on the coat. The trench was a gift from her Aunt Phyllis. Phyllis had spent her working years in Hollywood . She claimed she knew how private investigators were supposed to dress because she’d known so many stars who played those kinds of roles. Chloe wasn’t so sure about the style statement, but she liked the convenience of the numerous pockets in the coat.
Outside on the front steps she paused to pull the hat down low over her eyes. It was raining again, and although it was only a quarter to five, it was almost full dark. This was the Pacific Northwest , and it was early December. Darkness and rain came with the territory at this time of year. Some people considered it atmospheric. They didn’t mind the short days because they knew that a kind of karmic balance would kick in come summer when there would be daylight until nearly ten o’clock at night.
Those who weren’t into the yin-yang thing went out and bought special light boxes designed to treat the depressive condition known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder.
She was okay with darkness and rain. But maybe that was be cause of her talent for reading dreamlight. Dreams and darkness went together.
She went down the steps and crossed the vast, circular drive to where her small, nondescript car was parked. The dog sitting patiently in the passenger seat watched her intently as she came toward him. She knew that he had been fixated on the front door of the house, waiting for her to reappear since she had vanished inside forty minutes ago. The dog’s name was Hector, and he had abandonment issues.
When she opened the car door he got excited, just as if she had been gone for a week. She rubbed his ears and let him lick her hand.
“Mr. Paddon is not a happy man, Hector.” The greeting ritual finished, she put the satchel on the backseat and got behind the wheel. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing him as a client of Harper Investigations anytime soon.”
Hector was not interested in clients. Satisfied that she was back, he resumed his customary position, riding shotgun in the passenger seat.
She fired up the engine. She had told Paddon the truth about the little Egyptian queen. It was a fake, and it had been floating around in the private market since the Victorian period. She was certain of that for three reasons, none of which she could explain to Paddon. The first was that her talent allowed her to date objects quite accurately. Reason number two was that she came from a long line of art and antiquities experts. She had been raised in the business.
Reason number three was also straightforward. She had recognized the workmanship and the telltale dreamlight the moment she saw the statue.
“You can’t rat out your own several times great grandfather, Hector, even if he has been dead since the first quarter of the twentieth century. Family is family.”
Norwood Harper had been a master. His work was on display in some of the finest museums in the Western world, albeit not under his own name. And now one of his most charmingly brilliant fakes was sitting in Paddon’s private collection.
It wasn’t the first time she had stumbled onto a Harper fake. Her extensive family tree boasted a number of branches that specialized in fakes, forgeries and assorted art frauds. Other limbs featured individuals with a remarkable talent for deception, illusion and sleight-of-hand. Her relatives all had what could only be described as a true talent for less-than-legal activities.
Her own paranormal ability had taken a different and far less marketable form. She had inherited the ability to read dreamlight from her Aunt Phyllis’s side of the tree. There were few practical applicationsalthough Phyllis had managed to make it pay very welland one really huge downside. Because of that downside, the odds were overwhelming that she would never marry.
Sex wasn’t the problem. But over the course of the past year or two she had begun to lose interest in it. Perhaps that was because she had finally accepted that she would never have a relationship that lasted longer than a few months. Somehow, that realization had removed what little pleasure was left in short-term affairs. In the wake of the fiasco with Fletcher Monroe a few months ago she had settled into celibacy with a sense of enormous relief.
“There is a kind of freedom in the celibate lifestyle,” she explained to Hector.
Hector twitched his ears but otherwise showed no interest in the subject.
She left the street of elegant homes on Queen Anne Hill and drove back downtown through the rain, heading toward her office and apartment in Pioneer Square .
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