Midnight Whispers, Book 3
- Get the recipe for Ella’s Banana Scuffins from Hidden Legacy
A jewel thief kidnapped her daughter.
Jeweler Juliana Shades has no choice but to enter a world of deception and danger.
Special Agent Lucas Vassilovich sets a trap to capture the jewel thief making a fool of the FBI.
Instead, he snares the woman who’s haunted his dreams for the past six years.
Juliana never expected to see him again, but Lucas may be the only person who can get her daughter back alive.
Even with his career on the line, he’s willing to do anything to protect her.
Will the hurt and misunderstandings between them keep them from forging the family they both long for?
If you like Gothic atmosphere, reunited lovers, and secret babies, you’ll love this romantic suspense filled with deception and danger.
“Can you repeat that?” Juliana Shades asked, her voice squeaking with sudden dryness. She could barely hear herself over the frantic beating of her heart.
“You heard me the first time, Miss Shades. I have your daughter.”
“No, she’s at home.” Juliana shook her head. Briana was safe. She had to be safe. Albert and Ella, her live-in help, would protect her. They would die before they let anyone harm Briana.
“She’s wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt with red, orange and blue jungle frogs on the front, and a purple fleece jacket.”
“No, no, no.” Juliana moaned. A strange numbness overtook her. She couldn’t feel her feet. Her knees failed her and she sank onto a padded stool in the workshop of her jeweler’s boutique. Her hand, looking for support, knocked a tray of emeralds from the workbench to the floor, but all she could do was stare blankly as the jewels scattered around her. “Not Briana, anything but Briana.”
“You can have her back as soon as you procure the Nadyenka Sapphire for me.”
Desperately trying not to fall apart, she fisted her hand until her nails dug into her palms. “But I’m a gemologist, not a thief. I don’t know where the Nadyenka Sapphire—”
“I’ll provide you with the information you need. All I require from you is an expert’s eye.”
“I’ve done my homework. You’re an expert on precious gemstones. I see here that you testified last year in a case involving diamonds, and I’m most impressed by your testimony. From what I can gather, this stone is nearly perfect. Only one facet is slightly marred by a chip, and a prong hides the minuscule imperfection.”
Why was he going on and on about diamonds? Her ears hummed, her vision narrowed to a straw tunnel, and all her senses could focus only on one thing—Briana. “My daughter—”
“Is safe with me. We’re rather having a fun time of it. She’s quite good at this Skip-Bo game. She’s beaten me twice already.”
Briana was into cards these days. She could play hand after hand of Skip-Bo. Juliana often marveled at Ella’s patience with her driven daughter. And now this man, this monster, had her precious little girl in his claws. Her hand tightened around the receiver as if she could reach through the ether and snatch her baby back to safety.
“Where are you?” she pleaded, forcing herself not to scream.
“In a safe place.”
“I want to talk to her. I need to hear she’s all right.”
“She’s perfectly content. She’s quietly watching The Princess and the Frog. I understand it’s her favorite video. And we wouldn’t want to upset her now, would we?”
“I need to hear her voice. I need—”
“Calm down, Miss Shades. Here, we’ll compromise.”
Bells tolled slow and low somewhere in the background. Rustling sounds, footsteps, the voices of Tiana and Naveen singing issued from the clear connection. All the while Juliana sent a silent, desperate prayer. Please, please, please, let this be a terrible misunderstanding, let her be home, let her be safe.
Then came the kidnapper’s muffled voice. “Briana, what shall we have for dinner?”
In her mind, she could imagine Briana pondering the question, dark ponytail sinking down between her shoulders, her blue-gray eyes gazing straight up, her mouth crooked in concentration….
Juliana held her breath. No, no, no. He couldn’t have her. Briana wouldn’t have gone off with a stranger. She couldn’t lay sprawled in front of a TV, calmly watching a video if a stranger had snatched her. Ella and Albert would never have allowed anyone to take her. And if they’d somehow been incapacitated, then Briana would have panicked. Ella and Albert were like grandparents to her. She loved them.
An interminable five seconds passed before the familiar, assured voice answered. “Macaroni and cheese. But don’t try to sneak any green stuff in there. I don’t like green.”
Oh, God, he had her. He really had her. “My baby, my baby…” She rocked back and forth on her stool, torn between hanging onto this phone connection with Briana, and running to save her. But running where? Where was she?
“Miss Shades, I suggest you stop the hysterics and listen to me.”
She pressed her lips together to keep from bleating her distress. With her free hand, she reached for the pain knifing at her heart. “I want her back. Now. Please.”
“I understand your concern. Please be assured I will take good care of her. But I cannot return her without receiving the Nadyenka Sapphire.”
“She’s just five years old. A little girl. You can’t—”
“But I already have.”
Juliana closed her eyes. Yes, he already had spirited Briana away from what she’d thought was a safe haven to some unknown place, and if she ever wanted to see her again, she would have to cooperate.
She had no choice.
Briana was worth more to her than any gem, more than ethics, more than anything. Stay calm, stay calm. “How? When? Where?”
“I want you to go home now, Miss Shades. There you’ll find further instructions. I suggest you hurry. I don’t know how long the bonds will hold your hired help captive, and it would be a shame if the police were called. You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course. No police.”
“I don’t want to harm her. She’s really quite charming for a child. But I must have the stone, and I will do anything to ensure your cooperation in the matter. Am I making myself clear?”
“I’m leaving now. I’ll get it for you. Just don’t hurt her, please.”
The monster offered no answer and the line disconnected.
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