Lover in the Roughby Elizabeth Lowell
Reba Farrall was lost until a kindly old gentleman took her under his wing and helped heal her shattered spirit. Now her dearest friend is gone, leaving her with a half-interest in a California gem mine. But when Chance Walker—a daring adventurer who's in pursuit of priceless uncut stones—steps into Reba's life, her world is turned upside down. In the… See more details below
Reba Farrall was lost until a kindly old gentleman took her under his wing and helped heal her shattered spirit. Now her dearest friend is gone, leaving her with a half-interest in a California gem mine. But when Chance Walker—a daring adventurer who's in pursuit of priceless uncut stones—steps into Reba's life, her world is turned upside down. In the blistering heat of Death Valley, Reba and Chance confront a sizzlingattraction. But when danger surrounds Reba, their hope for a future together is threatened—unless Chance can protect the only woman he'll ever love.
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Ms. Farrall," Asked The photographer, do you want the white jade dish next to the baroque pearl cluster or the ivory sculpture?"
Reba Farrall walked gracefully over the dry streambed toward the photographer. Angular gravel grated beneath her flat-heeled sandals. She stopped behind the photographer, bent and looked through the camera lens. Absently she pushed aside wisps of honey-blond hair that had escaped from the casual knot she wore on top of her head. She straightened and flipped through the papers on her clipboard, trying to look professional and competent when all she wanted to do was steal away for a few minutes and cry.
"Group eight?" asked Reba, her voice higher and harsher than its normal contralto.
"Yes," said the photographer, consulting her own clipboard.
Reba looked back at the precious objets d'art resting on the ledge of natural marble. Pale marble walls rose on either side of the dry streambed, walls polished by water and time into flowing curves and hollows. Bands of cream and pale yellow, gold-grey and eggshell wove through the walls, giving depth and subtle texture to the satiny stone. Above the marble rose steep, deeply eroded hills of vermilion and black and chocolate, volcanic rock so new that the sun hadn't had time yet to bake out the intense colors.
Mosaic Canyon's contrast in textures was fascinating. Polished marble walls that would be the envy of any castle were juxtaposed against the jagged debris of past volcanic explosions. Bent, broken, canted on edge, the banded marble strata were almost shocking in their smoothness. The subtly untamed stone was an excellent foil for the tranquil, highlycivilized curves of the white jade dish. The baroque pearls, however, didn't quite fit. As for the arching, intricately carved ivory bridge ...
"Do the dish alone on the marble. Try the baroque pearls in one of the hollows," said Reba, pointing to one of the many holes that pocked the marble, creating natural handholds and footholds up the face of the eight-foot wall. "I think the ivory bridge will do better contrasted against the darker mixture of marble and volcanic rocks in the streambed."
The photographer's assistant arranged the jade and pearls and ivory, adjusted the lighting, and stepped aside. The photographer squinted through the lens, readjusted the white parasols and reflective panels and began to shoot.
Reba watched with a patience that went no deeper than the mist of perspiration on her skin. She knew that her desire to lash out at the people around her was irrational. The photographer was excellent. The guards were as unobtrusive as men carrying guns could be. The two insurance agents had stayed out of the way. The various assistants and gofers had been more help than bother. Except for Todd Sinclair, everyone was doing exactly what was expected. And, in a way, so was Todd. He was being every bit the crass boor that he had been while his grandfather was alive.
With a silent cry Reba turned away from the sight of the beautiful objets d'art that Jeremy Bouvier Sinclair had collected during his long lifetime. A month hadn't given her enough time to adjust to Jeremy's death. Even at eighty he had been erect, alert, his eyes bright and quick. In his precise, elegant French, he had introduced her to a world that she would never have found alone.
The half-century gap in their ages had not prevented a mutual understanding that was as rare as the materials they worked with. Never having known a father, Reba had given Jeremy a daughter's love. He had returned that love, taking a parental pride and pleasure in her growth from a rootless young divorcee to a sophisticated, accomplished collector of natural objets d'art. He had given generously of his immense knowledge of gem minerals, cut gems and art created from precious materials. He had taught her everything and accepted nothing in return but her delight when they found something exquisite to add to his collection.
When it had come time for Reba to make her own way in the world that he had opened to her, Jeremy had given her his blessing. His unqualified confidence in her skill, taste and honesty had gone out along the gem grapevine. In a milieu where a person's integrity was his only bond, Jeremy's support had been a priceless asset . . . but still not a tenth so valuable to her as his love.
And now he was dead.
"Ms. Farrall?" said the photographer in the voice of someone who has repeated a question several times. "Should we go back to the mouth of the canyon for the Green Suite? I don't think those shades will do well against the marble. Perhaps the salt flats or the dunes?"
"Hey, sweet stuff," called Todd before Reba could answer. "Wake up! The lawyers are gone. There's nobody here to impress with your great grief for the old goat."
Reba looked at Todd with golden-brown eyes that were as clear and hard as the cinnamon diamond Jeremy had given her for her thirtieth birthday. The ring glinted fiercely as she clenched her fist, then relaxed it. Today was the last day that she had to put up with Todd Sinclair, yet it wouldn't be the last time that she would wonder how a gentleman like Jeremy could have given rise to a toad like Todd.
Ignoring him, Reba turned to the photographer. "The dunes, I think." She looked at her watch. "Take a break, everyone. We'll meet at the dunes in half an hour."
She waited while people packed up equipment and began walking back toward the mouth of Mosaic Canyon. When the last person vanished around a bend in the canyon's marble walls, she closed her eyes and fought the welling tears. She had more work to do.
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