The Exiled Jeweler: a contemporary romance novel (The Rosa Legacy Book 2)

BOOK: The Exiled Jeweler: a contemporary romance novel (The Rosa Legacy Book 2)
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The Exiled Jeweler,
Copyright Susie Warren

Published by Susie Warren

Cover design by The Killion Group

Interior layout:
www.formatting4U.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from the author at [email protected]. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

For more information on the author and her works, please see
www.SusieWarren.com
.

 

ISBN: 978-0-9903290-5-3

 

This book is also available in print from online retailers.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Emilia Berceto knew her meticulously constructed world was about to fall apart. Receiving an early morning call that the Los Angeles Times released a story exaggerating the impending collapse of her family’s jewelry empire had her panicking. Her thoughts were going round and round, spinning out of control from the embarrassment of having the dire financial issues of her family’s business hitting every tabloid and industry newspaper this morning. How could her father and uncle let this happen? In a distracted daze, she walked to her shop in the old beach community of Treasure Island, near St. Petersburg, Florida. The early morning sun was rising, causing a slow heat to permeate every aspect of the tight-knit business area but she remained unaware of the beauty and warmth of the day.

Her dyed red hair was scraped back in a long ponytail and her face was free of any makeup. She didn’t make eye contact with anyone as she walked past other shops that were opening for the day. Those who owned businesses in the area knew she was a famous jewelry designer who sought a safe haven in their protected small town and they respected her privacy.

She knew the company had lost a significant amount of market share in recent months but she had been working long hours to compensate by winning high end commissions. In her short career, she had sold designs to royalty, celebrities, and the extremely wealthy. If she could have a few more months then she would be able to turn things around. But she knew the negative press coverage would cause her celebrated commissions to evaporate overnight. She needed the tradition and legacy of the Berceto name to convince buyers that she was reputable and trustworthy.

Clutching her coffee cup, she let herself in through the back door, careful to lock the steel door behind her. She opened her shop by appointment only. Limiting access to a few wealthy patrons allowed her to live in obscurity and focus on creating exceptional and finely crafted pieces.

Emilia inwardly cringed remembering the reference in the article to her own scandal that shocked and devastated her parents four years ago. She had agreed to exile herself to Florida for a period of time so they wouldn’t have to face the embarrassment or humiliation of the naked photographs.

The solitude in the shop early in the morning usually encouraged her to focus and think about her designs. But today she was too distraught to enjoy the quiet. Turning on Madama Butterfly, Emilia took out several trays of precious gems from the vault. The value of the inventory required elaborate security measures, but truth be told, it also fit in with her desire for complete privacy.

As she made her way through the shop, she avoided the plate glass windows in the front of her store. Often window shoppers would try and peer into her shop, even early in the morning. If they were inclined to try and come in, the lack of door handles and the clearly visible sign ‘by appointment only’ would deter them. Emilia didn’t feel comfortable dealing with the public, she knew that, given the opportunity, they would infringe on her privacy and portray her as a strange recluse or an eccentric wild child.

Focused on her latest creation, Emilia used a magnifier to check each element of the necklace she was working on. She searched for any hidden flaws. Her shoulders relaxed and she drew a breath in as she realized the work from the previous day was perfect.

Arranging the platinum pieces she crafted the day before, she went through the process of positioning the halogen lights and magnifying glasses allowing her intricate work. The necklace was for an A-list celebrity who wanted something spectacular for an upcoming awards ceremony. The value was high enough that her shop manager had set up an armed guard service to collect the piece at the end of the week. With the commission nearing completion, she worked methodically and blocked out outside pressures and worries.

These days her artistic control and skill brought her a certain amount of joy. While lost in her work, her past mistakes held no power over her. For a period of time each day, she felt useful and competent. It was only when she allowed other thoughts to come in that the loneliness and despair would takeover.

After working for a couple of hours, she stretched her shoulders and neck as she heard her employees come into work. Despite the noise around her, Emilia remained focused on her design and pushed herself to complete the necklace. The small staff knew she spent the early part of her day working on a commission and not to disturb her. Over a late lunch, the employees would discuss new projects or seek her help on any challenges they faced with the production work.

She glanced up and nodded to Liv, her assistant, as the older women started her day. They had already spoken on the phone in the early hours of the morning. Beyond being her confidant and her right-hand person, Liv had also been her real estate agent when she arrived in Florida and was a mother to three grown children.

The conversation Liv was having on an answered call pierced her concentration. She had a sinking feeling that it was one of her clients as Liv brought the phone into her design space.

Holding her hand over the receiver, she whispered, “Sorry,” and handed Emilia the phone.

Attempting to sound neutral, she said, “
Ciao
, this is Emilia Berceto.”

“Emilia, dear. This is Tosh Ellerby. I have to tell you that we are concerned about the news today. We gave you the commission because we thought you were a part of a well-established company.”

Emilia turned away from the necklace she was working on and held her breath, waiting for her client to continue.

“Now it seems as if you won’t be in business in a week’s time.”

She held her emotion in. “Berceto has been in business for almost seventy-five years. One disparaging article will not ruin our reputation.”

She could hear the censure in her client’s tone. “I’ve spoken to a few people, Emilia, and it seems that the article has verified sources.”

Emilia felt an icy chill glaze over her and she closed her eyes. “It’s true that Berceto is facing a few challenges but I’m sure within the year we will be back in profit.”

“I’m not convinced that Berceto will be in business in six months. It’s too big of a risk for us. What if your company folds? Where will that leave us for the royal gala?”

She understood their panic. They had committed to a million dollar commission and now the press was reporting that Berceto was on the brink of closing.

“Berceto will rise from the embers. It’s true that there has been a dip in sales and some of our employees have left recently but the article exaggerated the magnitude of the problem.” Emilia hesitated for a moment before continuing, “I’m heading to California later today to help get the company back on a solid footing.”

The room, where moments before there had been lighthearted chitchat and teasing among the employees, had become quiet.

“I know you are immensely talented designer but running a business takes a different type of expertise. I can’t imagine that you will be able to snap your fingers and have the issues disappear.”

Keeping her voice neutral, Emilia said “There are plans in place that I’m not able to disclose but please rest assured that Berceto will be in business for years to come.”

“I’m glad to hear that you feel the company will survive this. I can give you, three, maybe four weeks to sort this out or I’ll be forced to give the commission to another jeweler.”

Emilia thought about how much Tosh was risking by giving her more time. “I appreciate your willingness to work with me on this. I won’t disappoint you.”

“You are an extraordinary designer but my worry is that it won’t be enough.”

She thought about her client’s parting words. Her grandfather often admonished her for getting lost in a design and not seeing the bigger picture. She would need to face the larger business issues if she was going to save Berceto.

Emilia glanced around the studio and decided to finish the necklace even though her hands were shaking. Tosh Ellerby was the biggest commission that they had won. Now the order would be cancelled if they weren’t able to salvage Berceto’s reputation. She needed to speak with her grandfather and parents but decided to work for a little longer.

As she finished the necklace, Liv brought her the phone again and her composure faltered. She couldn’t face another client. She needed to find some strength within herself.

Liv whispered, “It’s your mom.”

“Ciao
, mama.”

Silence separated them as Emilia refused to question her mother about the article.

“Lia, I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” her mother said, then hesitated for a fraction of a second. “Your grandfather was admitted to the hospital late last night with heart issues.”

She whispered, “Why? What happened?”

“A reporter called his house. He started having chest pains and his medicine didn’t work.”

Worry clung to her as she tried to take in a breath. She would need to get on a plane to California, but she hesitated as she thought about the scandal and how returning home would make her a target. In the last four years, her grandfather travelled to see her each winter and spent time at the shop.

“I’m sorry, Mama. You must be worried. I hope he recovers easily.” Her heart plummeted. The stress of the business was too much for him. He had worked his entire life to build it and now to have it slip away was heart breaking.

“I don’t know what the doctors will be able do. They are running tests, but his heart is weak.”

“I should come home.” Emilia wiped a stray piece of hair from her eyes and stood up on shaky legs.

“I don’t know if that is wise, dear. The business is having enough problems. After the reporter called, your father and uncle went to see him. An argument erupted about selling the business. That was when your grandfather collapsed.”

Emilia walked into her private office and closed the door. “Mama, I need to help dad with this. I need to see
Nonno
. What if he doesn’t survive this?”

They spent a few minutes discussing the issue until Emilia told her mother that she would need to call her back. She forced her body through the motions of behaving normally but felt disconnected from her day. It was almost as if a stranger inhabited her body and she was watching from a distance.

Looking into the window that faced the showroom, she could tell the anxiety was already showing in her grey eyes. Her casual T-shirt and worn jeans belied the seriousness of the moment. Emilia returned to the necklace and tried to dispel the worry that clung to her like a small child who didn’t want to separate from a beloved parent.

Within a short period of time, she finished the necklace, and called over her most experienced designer. She asked him to check her work, clean the piece and take photographs for the insurance paperwork.

Emilia walked upstairs to the staff kitchenette to get a bottle of water. Reaching into the refrigerator, she took a bottle of water and contemplated returning home. She needed to travel to California and face the business issues with her father and uncle. The idea of it filled her with uncertainty. She knew her family disapproved of the choices she had made. While they wanted her far away, they didn’t think her life in Florida suited the future heiress to the Berceto Jewelry Empire. But her secluded lifestyle suited her. The ocean was two blocks from the building that housed both the storefront for her exclusive jewelry boutique and her spacious condo on the upper level. She could escape into a crowd without being recognized and spend as much time as she wanted creating her masterpieces.

BOOK: The Exiled Jeweler: a contemporary romance novel (The Rosa Legacy Book 2)
10.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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