Authors: Emily Jane Trent
Emily Jane Trent
While Gisele viewed the contents of her safe deposit box, Micah waited for her. He looked over at Zeke, noting that the bodyguard appeared as uncomfortable as he was. The bank lobby wasn’t the most accommodating place to be.
The vinyl chairs they occupied were off the main floor, but in plain sight of the tellers and the manager’s desk. There was no privacy, and under the fluorescent lights, Micah felt like he was on stage. Once he’d been asked if he needed help, but he informed the bank employee that he was with Gisele, who was at the safe deposit boxes.
After that, Micah was left alone. He glanced at Zeke, who cut an imposing figure. The man was beefy and had an intimidating demeanor. Weapons weren’t allowed in the bank, but the guy didn’t really need them. By the look of him, the man could fight. Whether engaged in martial arts or a fistfight, the bodyguard would be a worthy opponent.
The bank security guard, dressed in uniform, stood by the door. He had a slight paunch and a bored expression. Micah had more confidence in Zeke, who was there to look out for Gisele, as his first priority. But it should be a routine morning at the bank.
Micah wasn’t expecting company, since no one knew of Gisele’s visit. And Zeke had made sure they weren’t followed. The worrisome part was what she would find in the safe deposit box. Until Micah knew what was in there, the contents were a concern.
Gisele had agreed to come a day early to view the box, before her brother had a chance to grill her about the inheritance. The mob was too interested in the event for Micah’s comfort. There was more going on than had been revealed.
This morning, Gisele would know what was in there. But she’d been in the private room for a while now, so Micah was edgy. He shifted in his chair and cracked his knuckles. “I wonder what’s taking her?”
Zeke looked at him. “Gisele is all right. As long as she’s in the bank, there’s not much that can happen.” He narrowed his eyes. “It’s when we leave that you need to focus on.”
The bodyguard was correct, but that didn’t settle Micah’s nerves. He wished he’d been allowed to go in with Gisele. She’d been anxious that morning, so it would be better if he had accompanied her. Whatever it was that she discovered, she had to do it alone.
At least Micah would be there as soon as she came out. Only Gisele didn’t seem to be coming out anytime soon. He caught Zeke’s eye. “She’s been in there for way too long,” he said. “What could there be to look at?”
Zeke shrugged. “If there are documents, it could take a while. Legal jargon isn’t the fastest to read.”
The bodyguard’s calm answer did little to put Micah’s mind at ease. If the documents were that detailed, he should be in there to assist her. Gisele was facing the event all alone. As his mind raced through possibilities, Micah was tempted to ask the bank clerk to check on Gisele.
It would likely be an odd request, but still, he considered it. Micah wondered if she’d fainted in there, and whether the bank had cameras looking into the room. Would they know if she passed out, or had a damn heart attack from seeing what her father had left her?
Micah stood and paced the small space around the chairs. Zeke leaned back in the chair and crossed one ankle over the opposite knee. The bodyguard showed no sign of alarm, keeping his cool until something actually happened.
When Gisele eventually emerged, Micah’s underarms were sweaty, his muscles tense, and he was in fight mode. There was no visible enemy to fight, yet adrenaline pumped in his veins in anticipation. Micah watched as she headed his way.
There was no outward sign of distress. Since Gisele’s eyes were clear and bright, Micah assumed she hadn’t been crying. Her expression was serious but calm. Yet it was not a look he’d seen her exhibit before. If she’d come out visibly shaken, it would have made more sense. Her lack of emotion got his attention.
Micah didn’t know what had happened in there, but something had. Gisele looked different, but it was impossible to tell if it was for the better. Whatever had caused the change was a mystery, and Micah was dying to find out what it was.
Gisele was empty-handed. Of course, she wouldn’t have brought anything out. The plan was to return tomorrow and go through the whole procedure again. Her brother Alek had to believe that was the first time she’d opened the box, thus, the items had to remain locked inside until then.
Micah laced his arm through Gisele’s, relieved that she was back. “Are you okay?”
Gisele looked up at him without revealing anything. Her eyes, usually so expressive, were emotionless. “I’m okay,” she said. “We can go now.”
Zeke was already standing. He nodded, then followed them outside. The bright sun beat down on the sidewalk, the reflection blinding. Micah wrapped his arm around Gisele, then turned in the direction of the car. The bodyguard was a step behind, keeping a sharp eye out for any sign of trouble.
In the car, Gisele was adamant about not returning to the villa where her party had been held. “Alek will send someone to pick up my things,” she said. “There’s no reason to go back.” She was a little freaked out, a further clue that something was amiss.
“Where are we going?” Zeke said, looking at Micah in the rearview mirror.
“I’d like a chance to talk to Micah alone,” Gisele said to the bodyguard. “Now that I’ve seen the contents of the box, I don’t see any reason for you to stay with us.”
“Drop us at the Starbucks up the street, then hang around,” Micah said. “I’ll text if you should take off. I’d like to hear what Gisele has to say before you go. My focus will be on her, so it would be a good idea if you kept watch.”
Zeke nodded, then started up the car. While he navigated the parking lot and traffic, Micah held Gisele’s hand. She glanced up, making an effort to give him a reassuring look, but it didn’t work. Her hand was cold and she was pale—not good signs.
The bodyguard dropped them in front of the outdoor patio. Fashion Plaza had various outdoor dining terraces along a walking path. Micah led Gisele to the coffee shop, and once they had their orders, they found a table outdoors by the railing, separating the patio from the sidewalk.
It was private enough, so it was unlikely their conversation would be overheard. The terrace was busy, and the noise level high. Music played through speakers, and there was a steady flow of pedestrians. No one was paying any mind to them.
Gisele sipped her latte, but Micah let his coffee sit, anxious to hear her news. He could use a stronger drink than coffee, and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. “Are you going to tell me, or leave me in suspense?” he said.
“I’m trying to accept what I’ve learned,” Gisele said. “My father left me a lot of money. There is a bank account with five hundred thousand dollars.” She didn’t seem all that excited about it. “I’ll be able to move out and get a place of my own.”
Micah considered her answer. “That was it?”
Gisele shook her head. “No, he also left their wedding rings. When my mom died, her belongings were sent to my dad. He stored the rings in the safe deposit box for me.” Tears formed in her eyes. “It was very moving, seeing their rings, holding them in my hand.” She flexed her fingers, glancing at her hand as if the treasured items were still there.
Micah was at a loss.
“The gesture really touched me,” Gisele said. “It was a thoughtful thing to do.” She paused. “And that’s a lot of money. But then, my father did work for the mob, so it makes sense that he would have saved a substantial amount.”
“I am glad to know you received an inheritance,” Micah said, studying her. “But it doesn’t add up. Why would the mob care about a few thousand dollars and sentimental items like wedding rings?”
A flicker in Gisele’s eyes told Micah there was more to this. She lifted her chin and said, “Why do we assume that the mob
Micah frowned. “As of this morning, you were concerned about what you’d find in the box.”
“Yes, but now I know what was in there.” Gisele’s controlled response didn’t match her dour expression. She wrinkled her brow. “Maybe I was worried…unnecessarily.”
Gisele’s change in attitude meant something was off, and Micah intended to find out what. If he’d exhibited any indifference thus far, he certainly didn’t now.
“Aren’t you concerned?” he said sharply. “This
you?” Micah saw that Gisele was afraid. As a rule, she responded to his sarcasm with a quip of her own, but not this time. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Gisele bit her lower lip. “Remember when I told you that any man I dated was in danger…because of the mob?” She didn’t expect an answer, so Micah just waited.
“Well…you should have listened to me,” Gisele said. She looked into his eyes, making an effort to disguise her fear. “You should leave now, Micah…and not look back.”
Micah reached for her hand, noting that she was trembling. “That’s not going to happen.”
“I don’t know who I can trust anymore.” Gisele sighed. “I’m faced with betrayal from all sides. Every person I thought cared about me has only been using me.”
Micah didn’t doubt that she had reason to mistrust. “I’m not leaving…so tell me everything. There is no way I’m abandoning you to deal with…whatever it is.”
Finally, Gisele told him what she had tried to hold back. “My Russian father didn’t take me in out of the goodness of his heart,” she said. “Yuri just wants what I have. That’s all he has wanted all along.”
“And what is that, honey?”
Gisele swallowed hard and wrapped her arms around her waist, as if holding on. “It’s unbelievable. I read the letter over and over, but I still can’t accept that it’s real.”
Micah’s heart went out to her. Whatever the hell it was, he needed to know, and without delay. Gisele’s eyes widened as she spoke. “The item my father left me could get us killed, Micah. The mob will take extreme measures to get it in their hands.”
This wasn’t good, but was no more than Micah had expected. He took her hand. “We can walk and talk. I don’t want anyone listening in.”
Gisele took his hand and followed his lead. Micah was glad he was there, unable to conceive of her being alone. “So what is this item that is worth so much?”
Right there on the sidewalk, with pedestrians flowing around them, Gisele stopped and looked up at him. “It’s a rare blue diamond, not a gem I’ve seen or have even known about. But the letter from my father says it was worth forty million…and that was fifteen years ago when he went to prison.”
Micah stared at her. “You’re sure?”
“I haven’t seen the diamond, if that’s what you mean.” Gisele’s voice went up a notch. “But my father says it’s in a bank vault in Zurich. He gave me the name of the banker in Chicago who will assist in making the proper connections.”
Micah dragged her over to a low concrete wall, bordering a planter filled with only dirt and rock. He held her hand in his, and they sat on the ledge. “I need to know everything,” he said. “We need to plan out how to deal with this.”
“I see now why my father set this up so I had to wait until I was twenty-one,” Gisele said. “He wanted to make sure that I could handle the situation. As a child, I couldn’t have.”
She continued, “I was crushed to learn that Yuri took me into his family for his own reasons, not out of any sense of loyalty to my father.”
“His motives were suspicious,” Micah said. “This makes a lot more sense, although it’s not an easy thing for you to find out.”
“And that’s not all,” Gisele said, with a pleading look. “It isn’t only the Danilovs that know about the diamond and intend to take it from me.”
Micah tensed. “Viktor?”
“Yes, Vik was sent to watch me. I’m sure of that now. All the time I thought he was interested in me, really wanted to marry me, he was using me.” Gisele took a breath. “His father, Lazar Kovalenko, is friends with Yuri. Or I thought they were friends. Now I’m not sure of anything.”
“So if I have this right, Yuri Danilov and Lazar Kovalenko, the patriarchs of two factions of the Russian mob, are in a contest with each other to see who can get to the diamond first?”
“So it would seem,” Gisele said. “That’s why Vik stayed so close, wouldn’t go away no matter what I said or did.”
“His father had given him instructions to keep his eyes on you.”
“Exactly, and the creep would have married me just for that reason.” Gisele huffed. “When I think of that I get furious. But it also adds up now…my brother’s fondness for Vik, why he encouraged me to date him.”
“In a perverted sort of way, it does add up,” Micah said. “Alek was probably instructed to monitor Vik, and what better way than for you to date him. Plus taking the asshole into his employ. Didn’t you say that Vik works for Alek?”
“Yes, he does, although I wasn’t told his function.”
Micah gripped his thighs. “So, it’s just one big, happy family, with every player keeping an eye on each other.”
“And whatever I do, they’ll all be watching me.” Gisele rubbed her hand over her face. “I should have put it together sooner, but I was just so…naïve.”
Micah put his arms around her. “Now I see why I wasn’t welcome,” he said. “The mobsters intending to scoop the diamond from you certainly didn’t want me around to defend you.” He held her tighter. “They’d like it a hell of a lot better if I vanished.”