By: Tracy Wolff

“Not if she didn’t do it legally.”

“It’d have to be legal. She’s employed under the name.”

“Have you forgotten who her father is? With the kind of contacts he had, she could buy herself a whole new identity without breaking a sweat.”

“Isa wouldn’t do that.” But even as the words left his mouth, Marc wasn’t so sure. What his brother was saying made a lot of sense. After all, she’d lied before. Stolen before. How else could the daughter of a world famous jewel thief—a woman who had been a thief in her own right—end up teaching at the world headquarters of the Gemological Institute of America—even if she was one of the best in her field? Working there, she had access to some of the finest gems in the world—they rotated through the institute on loan on a pretty regular basis, after all.

And while she might not be a thief, her father’s reputation would be more than enough to keep the doors at GIA firmly closed to her. Unless she had done exactly what his brother surmised. Because if she’d changed her name legally, there was no doubt that the detectives Marc had hired to look for her in those first couple of years would have caught it.

“So, how’s she doing anyway?” Nic broke into Marc’s musings. “Is she okay?”

“She’s fine.” Better than fine. She’d looked amazing—healthy, happy, glowing even. At least until she’d seen him. Then the light inside her had died.

“I’m glad. Despite the debacle with her father—and despite what happened between the two of you—I always liked her.”

So had he. So much so that Marc had asked her to be his wife, despite his determination before he’d met her to never marry. It wasn’t as if his parents had set such a great example for him and Nic in that department.

“So, did you ask her out?”

“Did I—? Are you kidding me? Aren’t you the one who was just reminding me how badly things ended between us?”

“You were a bit of an ass, no getting around that. But Isa has a big heart. I bet she’ll forgive you—”

“I’m not the one who needs forgiveness in this equation. She nearly ruined all our plans for Bijoux!”

“Her father nearly ruined all our plans, not her.”

“She knew about everything.”

“Yeah, but what was she supposed to say? ‘By the way, honey, that diamond heist you’re so worked up about? The one that might bankrupt your business? I think my daddy did it.”

“That would have been nice. So that I didn’t have to hear about it from the head of our security team.”

“Cut her a break. She was twenty-one years old and probably scared to death.”

Marc frowned at him. “You’re pretty damn understanding all of a sudden. If I remember correctly, you were calling for her head when everything was going down.”

“Her father’s head,” Nic corrected. “I thought he should fry for what he did, but you were the one who refused to press charges. And who pulled every string you could to get him out of trouble. Hell, you’re still paying back favors from that whole debacle.”

Nic was right. Marc was—and the favors were often uncomfortable ones. More than once, he’d wondered what the hell he’d been thinking. Why had he worked so hard to keep Isa’s father out of prison after what the man had done? But then he’d seen her face in his mind’s eye—pale, drawn, terrified—and known that he hadn’t had a choice.

Getting up, Marc crossed to one of the two picture windows that formed the outside walls of his corner office. Beyond the glass, he had a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean as it crashed against the rocky shoreline. He studied it for long seconds, letting the roll of powerful waves calm some of the annoyance—and confusion—inside of him. Moving Bijoux’s North American headquarters to San Diego six months ago was one of his smarter moves. He’d done it because of the proximity to the world headquarters of GIA, but access to the ocean was a very nice side benefit.

“He was a sick, old man. Salvatore was dead before the year was out, anyway. He didn’t need to spend the last couple months of his life in a cell.”

“You did that for Isa, and because underneath that crusty exterior you’ve actually got a soft heart—”

“Crusty? You make me sound like I’m ninety!”

“You said it, I didn’t.” Nic’s smartphone alarm went off and he sprung to his feet. “I’ve got to go. There’s a marketing meeting starting in five minutes that I want to sit in on.”