The Sapphire Heist

By: Lauren Blakely

(A Jewel Novel Book 2)



CHAPTER ONE

Steph wedged a fake ruby into the treasure chest, parking it next to a bright, gleaming emerald.

Fake, too.

Like Jake’s feelings for her had been. Clearly.

Clenching her jaw, she fumed as she arranged the gaudy gems inside a plastic underwater treasure chest, her mind latching on to Jake’s deception. She could barely believe the man had stolen so brazenly from her.

She placed one remaining bauble in the chest, then stood up. “It’s a real pirate’s bounty, arrr,” she said, fixing on her pirate tone, trying desperately to cover up the cocktail of hurt and frustration roiling in her heart and head.

She gestured to the chest, her last bit of prep for the midmorning Stingray City Sandbar visit to kiss and pet the sea creatures.

Her deeply tanned, longtime Caymans friend Devon joined her in the corner of his snorkel shop. “Ah, but that’s a beauty right there. Worth several thousand galleons,” he said in a pirate voice, too.

Despite the plumes of anger licking her veins, she managed a small laugh. “I’ll just go bury it in the sea now,” she said, then grabbed the box, hoisted it up to her hip, and pushed open the door of his shop. She walked along the dock, set the treasure chest on the worn wood, then jumped into the shallow blue waters.

Ah, the ocean’s caress felt good. But even it wasn’t enough to numb the pain.

Carefully, she tugged the chest off the dock, into the water, and under the placid surface.

These phony gems were worth more than the contents of her hotel safe now that Jake had pilfered her very real diamond. Handsome, charming, no-good Jake. Her blood boiled as she thought about what he’d done last night. The man had actually broken into her safe—again—and taken her precious diamond after sleeping with her. That had probably been part of his nefarious plan. Drug her up on multiple orgasms so he could make off with her big rock.

Admittedly, he was a master at delivering Os.

But she could not, should not, would not let that lessen his crime. He’d stolen the one thing she owned that was worth something. She’d been planning on cashing it in and using the proceeds as a thank-you for her mom, who’d helped rebuild Steph’s adventure tour business after her ex-boyfriend had tried to take it down.

So much for the gift.

She dragged the chest beneath the dock, then popped open the cover. The ten-cent fake gems glittered, like a pirate’s booty. The customers would surely get a kick out of discovering this pretend treasure after they smooched the nearby stingrays. She popped up in the water, her hair sleek and wet, then took a breath and climbed onto the dock. She marched to the store, annoyance powering every step she took, her lips a tight, fierce line as she flicked back to last night with Jake when they’d stumbled into her room, flush with lust and desire, finally ready to give in to all that they’d felt.

The sex had been red-hot.

Out-of-this-world intense.

Butterflies had the audacity to swoop in her belly with the memory of how he’d touched her. She wanted to throat punch her traitorous hormones for longing for that cad of a man.

That damn pirate.

She couldn’t believe that sometime in the middle of the night when she was sleeping, he’d actually sneaked out of bed, opened her safe, snagged her diamond, then took off with it after making love to her again as the dawn rose.

They’d even eaten breakfast together, and she’d shared with him the honey she liked so much. Such a little thing, but it was one more way she’d started to knock down her walls and let him into her guarded heart. She’d been played for a fool.

When she reached the screen door on the side of Devon’s snorkel shop, she yanked it open, nearly ripping it off its hinges.

“Careful there,” Devon warned.

“I will,” she said, patting the door gently in apology, then fixing on her best chipper tone. “And everything’s ready.”

She had to set aside her ire, because it was business time. Her job was to show the customers a helluva good time in the water with the stingrays. She wasn’t going to let a man get in the way of her work. She didn’t trust men. She didn’t trust love. She only trusted . . . well . . . fish. Fish were reliable; men were proving more vexing by the day. Ironic, since she’d hoped to learn the opposite on this trip. She’d come to the Caymans wanting to find a way to believe in the good in people, even when they were accused of bad, like her stepdad. But Jake’s deception only confirmed that no matter how sentimental her heart became, she would be wise to listen to her brain.

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