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Authors: Ginny Aiken

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Priced to Move

BOOK: Priced to Move
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Priced to Move

Priced to Move

A NOVEL

Ginny Aiken

© 2007 by Ginny Aiken

Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
www.revellbooks.com

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Aiken, Ginny.
     Priced to move : a novel / Ginny Aiken.
      p. cm. — (Shop-’til-you-drop collection ; bk. 1)
     ISBN 10: 0-8007-3227-8 (pbk.)
     ISBN 978-0-8007-3227-1 (pbk.)
     1. Gemologists—Fiction. 2. Shopping—Television—Fiction. I. Title.
   PS3551.I339P75 2007
   813 .54—dc22

2007023070

Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard St., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the
things one may desire cannot be compared with her.

Proverbs 8:11

Table Of Contents

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1
00

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

It’s so not fair. Why doesn’t anyone tell you ahead of time your dream job’s going to morph into a nightmare if you stay in it long enough?

Like I have.

“C’mon, Roger,” I reason. “You can’t ask me to take off for New Delhi tomorrow. Give me a break. I just got in from Hong Kong last night.”

My boss, the oh-so-distinguished Roger Hammond, frowns. The gears in his steel-gray-haired head practically spew smoke from his warp-speed thinking. Then he smiles.

Uh-oh.

Yeah, right. Butter up the fall girl again. You know I don’t

“But that’s why it’s so perfect, my girl.” Have I ever noticed the ultrabright whiteness of his teeth? “Now you don’t need to unpack. And you know you’re the very best. No one, but no one, can compare. You’re simply the only one I can trust with this deal.” say it. You also know I cave. Especially after Roger describes, in flamboyant Technicolor, the loot I’m supposed to bring back.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for the beauty God plants under layers of plain old mud.

“Here.” Roger plunks his index finger on a fax on his desk. “Take a look at this. Sudhir Singh says the new find’s the finest vein of top-grade garnet found in Orissa to date. That’s saying a lot. We’ve bought how many of his parcels in the last few years?”

My vivid imagination paints a series of picture memories. “Have you seen samples of the new material?”

“No, and that’s why I need you in Orissa.” Roger slips his right hand into the pocket of his custom-tailored Italian suit trousers, strolls to the meager excuse for a window in his office, and pauses. He doesn’t bother to check out the view; the high rectangle features a grimy back alley.

He goes on. “Sudhir’s not about to leave this new find to bring us the goods, Andrea. Poachers, of course. And I would go, but for this . . . this . . .” His voice trails off while he waves his free hand in helplessness.

I really,
really
have to fight a laugh. “Do the words
dinner
party
escape you?”

When he turns, a red haze creeps up onto his chiseled cheekbones. “Well, you do know Tiffany. She makes such a production of everything.”

Oh yeah
.
Do I ever know the infamous Tiffany, the trophy wife. Roger treated himself to Tiffany after his first wife left him for their starving-artist pool boy four years ago. At first, he was understandably livid. Then he turned morose. By the time he’d dabbled in all the colors of emotion, the ink on their amicable (
not!
) divorce had dried. Three months later, the beauteous, extravagant, and too young Tiffany became the second Mrs. Hammond. The rest, including lavish parties and astronomical Saks, Macy’s, and Cartier bills, is now history.

I don’t remark on Tiffany.

“Well, Rog,” I say instead, my hip propped against the corner of his desk, “it’s not nice to invite the mayor and senator to din-din, then stand them up while you take a trot around the world, now, is it?”

His sigh of relief is funny—almost. “I knew you’d understand. That’s why I pay you the big bucks.”

I wish. “Does he have anything else you’re interested in right now?”

“Sudhir said something about a parcel of emeralds. But you know how I feel about Indian emeralds. They just don’t compare with the Colombian material or even that from Zambia. I’ll leave it up to you.”

Swell.
“What price range do you have in mind?”

He takes a couple of steps, then gives my shoulder an awkward pat. “I’ll trust your judgment—within reason. You know your gems. Better than I do, actually.”

Well, yeah. Roger owns a store in New York’s diamond district; I own a BS in geology and a Gemological Institute of America certificate that declares me a master gemologist. But why quibble?

“Ohh-kay, then.” I grab the fax and head for the door. “I guess I’m off to India bright and early in the morning.”

The smile blazes again. “That’s wonderful, my girl. I always know I can count on you. You’re the most valuable employee a man could ever have . . .”

I am thankful for all Roger has taught me over the years, but I still block out the effusive flattery. You see, besides that BS in rocks and piece of paper from the GIA, I also have a torn-up gut, the result of seven years’ work in the stress-filled gemstone industry. My mangled middle lies in wait until something like this stirs it up, and then that holey gut of mine starts in with a zesty hula. Like it does right after I agree to New Delhi.

So once I chow down a fistful of extra-strength Tums, I grab my Coach handbag and head home. What passes for home, that is.

Do you have any idea what rent runs you in New York City these days? No? Well, let me tell you. It’s downright bad for your health. Big Apple rents’ll take a juicy bite out of you each and every month. Sometimes I feel like I work just to keep my landlord in Jaguars and homes in the Hamptons and Bahamas.

As always, the subway jostles me the whole ride long. That motion joins the gyrations of my twitchy digestive system, and together they—
bam!
—kick it all up a notch. Gotta love that Emeril, you know.

When I reach my stop, a sea of humanity shoves me out onto the platform. Every morning and every evening I spend a good chunk of time in prayer over that platform. Well, not the platform itself, but rather the track. There’s nothing there to keep a girl from getting crammed off the narrow platform and flung down onto the rails just as the next steel behemoth belches in.

Not a pretty picture.

Then there’s what passes for my apartment. You can’t do a whole lot with five hundred square feet of space. I’m sure that my petite pad has a posh past as a dressing room in the vast apartment home of a well-to-do Roaring Twenties flapper. Now? Let’s just say that Murphy and his famous hide-in-the-wall bed save me from the hassle of inflating an air mattress on the floor every night.

Brrriiinnng!

I run inside that expensive cubbyhole of mine and yank the receiver off its cradle before my caller can hang up—I’m call-deprived, you know.

“Hello?”

“Where you been these last ten days, sugarplum?” My Aunt Weeby’s homey southern-flavored voice flows over me like a balm.

I drop my Coach bag on the floor, then I wince. That bag didn’t cost me chump change. But my daddy’s sister trumps Coach any day. “Hang on. I just walked in.”

I throw the deadbolt, slip the doodad into the chain lock’s slot, then turn the tab in the regular doorknob before I feel safe enough to relax. That’s when I flop back on my diminutive armless slipper chair—all I could fit in my “living room” after I placed a love seat against the one wall—and finally smile. “Aunt Weeby!” How come when a two-year-old dubs a relative something too cute, it sticks forever? “It’s so good to hear you. How’ve you been?”

“No, no, no. That’s not how we play this game. I asked first. You tell me, and then I’ll tell you. So where you been?”

“Hong Kong, remember? It’s almost the end of June. The gemstone show ended only day before yesterday.”

“That’s right. My, my, my. Time plumb flies by too fast when you move into the Metamucil and Centrum Silver lane.” She clucks her dismay. “So, tell me now, did you get yourself any a’ them chopstick thingies? You gonna teach me to use ’em? How ’bout any pretties? You get yourself anything special?” Aunt Weeby is a world-class shopper.

“Nope. Prices were outrageous this time around. I didn’t even buy a whole lot for Roger. He wasn’t any too happy with me, but there was nothing I could do with the budget he gave me.”

“So what’s the hottest stone a’ the moment?”

I shrug and toe off my classic black pumps. Aaahhh . . . “It depends on who you ask. The big four are always . . . well, big.” My mind ticks off the list: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.


Phhhht!
I know that, sugarplum. I don’t wanna hear about the usual. I’m after hearing about new and fabulous finds.” I tell her about my trip, which, to anyone but me, sounds exotic and exciting. Me? I just relive the exhaustion. But Aunt Weeby’s Aunt Weeby. So while I describe the goods I saw in exquisite detail, I leave out all mention of my adventures with the cab driver who hit another cab on the way to the hotel from the airport, the subsequent argument—midstreet, mind you—my lost suitcase, the emergency room visit for my torn-up gut, and my overall sense of burnout.

Aunt Weeby tends to worry about me. I strive to prevent that worry.

“So why don’cha tell me what kinda fun things you gonna do tonight in that Big Apple a’ yours?” she says when she’s had her fill of gemological tidbits.

Fun things? Me? “Uh . . . I’m about to wash my underwear so I have enough clean, since Roger’s sending me to New Delhi. I leave tomorrow.”

Dead silence.

Then, “You sure that’s wise, Andie?”

“I happen to like my undies clean.”

“That’s not what I mean! It’s that deli thing. Is it wise?”

“Hah!” I say before I can stop myself. “Wise doesn’t enter into my job. Wisdom’s not why Roger pays me, as he says, the big bucks.”

More silence.

Uh-oh.
I know my father’s much older half sister and my dearest friend in the whole world too well. My little outburst has plunked me square in the middle of trouble.

“Aunt Weeby? You still there?”

“’Course I’m here, Andrea. I’m not the one Roger’s sending to some new deli. Can’t that boy get hisself his own lunch? And you really should have enough clean undies to get ya through a week. I’m sure that mama a’ yours taught you much better’n that. Besides, where else would I be but in good ol’ Louisville?”

“It’s New Delhi,
India
, Aunt Weeby.” What am I doing, trying to explain? Somewhere in that brain of hers she knows what I mean, but she plays the ditz when it works in her favor. What I have to do is change the course of our typically loony, hopscotching conversation. “And you could always be off somewhere junking with Miss Mona.”

“Now, Andie, you know better’n that. We don’t go junking at all. What Mona and I have done is refine the art of flea market shopping. You have no idea what kinda treasures some stump-dumb folks are so blind they can’t even recognize. Why, the last time Mona and I took off, we found a . . .”

And now she’s on a roll. Aunt Weeby’s descriptions have even more detail and far more color than I’ll ever manage to put in any of mine. And that’s just fine.

But then, “So now we’ve talked out all that other hoo-hah, how’re ya doing, sugarplum?”

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