Claimed(3)

By: Tracy Wolff


All it had taken was a glimpse of her gorgeous red hair, her warm brown eyes, from the small window embedded in the classroom door to throw him right back into the seething, tumultuous heat that had characterized so much of their relationship. He hadn’t cared about the president of the college, hadn’t cared about the future he had so carefully mapped out for Bijoux, the family company he had sacrificed so much for through the years. He hadn’t cared about the workshop GIA had hired him to teach now that he had moved Bijoux’s headquarters to the West Coast. To be honest, he hadn’t cared about anything but getting into that classroom to see if his mind was playing tricks on him.

Six years ago he had kicked Isa Varin—now, apparently, Isabella Moreno—out of his life in the cruelest manner possible. He didn’t regret making her leave—how could he when she’d betrayed him so completely?—but in the time since, he had regretted how he’d done it. When he’d come to his senses and sent his driver to find her and deliver her things, including her purse and cell phone and some money, she had vanished into thin air. He’d looked for her for years, simply to assuage his conscience and prove to himself that nothing untoward had happened to her that night, but he’d never found her.

Now he knew why. The very passionate, very beautiful, very bewitching Isa Varin had ceased to exist. In her place was this buttoned-down professor, her voice and face as cool and sharp as any diamond his mines had ever produced. Only the hair—that glorious, red hair—was the same. Isabella Moreno wore it in a tight braid down her back instead of in the wild curls favored by his Isa, but he would know the color anywhere.

Black cherries at midnight.

Wet garnets shining in the filtered light of a full moon.

And when her eyes had met his over the heads of her students, he’d felt a punch in his gut—in his groin—that couldn’t be denied. Only Isa had ever made his body react so powerfully. So instantaneously.

He’d ditched the GIA president as soon as he could, then had rushed back to make sure he caught Isa before she could slip away. And still he’d almost missed her. Not that he was surprised. She did come from a long line of cat burglars, after all. He knew from experience that nine times out of ten, if she didn’t want to be caught, she wouldn’t be.

As he waited for her to speak, he couldn’t help wondering what he was doing here. Why he’d caught up with her. What he wanted from her. Because the truth was, he didn’t know. He knew only that seeing her, talking to her, was a compulsion he couldn’t resist.

“Hello, Marc.” She raised her face to his, her voice and countenance as composed as he had ever seen them. He felt a brief lick of something deep inside—a feeling that made him uncomfortable for the simple reason that he couldn’t identify it. So he ignored it, concentrating instead on her as their gazes met in a clash of heat and memories.

One look into her eyes—dark, endless pools of melted chocolate—used to bring him to his knees. But those days were long gone. Her betrayal had destroyed any faith he might have had in her. He’d been weak once, had fallen for the innocence she could project with a look, a touch, a whisper. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. He would satisfy his curiosity, find out why she was at GIA, and then he would walk away.

As he stared down at her, those same eyes were alive with so many emotions he couldn’t begin to sort them all out. Her face could be as unemotional as she wanted it to be, her body as ice-cold as it had once been fiery-hot, but her eyes didn’t lie. Isa was as disturbed by this chance meeting as he was.

The realization had something relaxing deep inside him and he felt the power shift sizzle in the air around them. She’d once had the upper hand in their relationship because he’d trusted her blindly, loved her so deeply that he had never conceived that she would one day betray him.

But those days were long gone. Isa could pretend to be the straitlaced, boring gem professor all she wanted. He knew the truth and he would never be stupid enough to let his guard down around her again.

“Hello, Isabella.” He made certain his face showed only sardonic amusement. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yes, well, I go where the jewels are.”

“Don’t I know it?” Deliberately he glanced at the wall across from them, where one of the most expensive opal necklaces ever created was displayed behind glass. “The president tells me you’ve been teaching here three years. Yet there’ve been no heists. You must be slipping.”

Her eyes flashed furiously, but her voice was controlled when she answered, “I’m a member of the GIA faculty. Helping to ensure the safety of every gem on this campus falls in my job description.”

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