She wants to settle her great uncle’s estate and go home. He wants to settle his foster father’s estate and help her on her way—there’s ugly history there—but they now share a house and a mandate to find the remainder of their legacy.
Jewelry designer and gemologist Zandra Linville lives, eats, and breathes gold and gems…and her sophisticated urban life. Staying in an old Gold Rush town and hunting for a mysterious ‘treasure’ is so not her style.
Mining geologist and ex-SEAL Grey Harrison is determined to bring an old gold mine back into production as his foster father wanted. He wants nothing to do with the city girl on his doorstep but he’ll abide by the terms of the will.
When it’s clear someone’s trying to kill Zandra, Grey’s military experience is critical. He steps in to save her…and falls in love.
“Damn shaky old hands.” Chester Linville blotted the smear of ink that spread across the page of the journal in front of him. Old. Old. Old.
Yesterday, his ninety-sixth birthday, had been a kick in the butt, reminding him there wouldn’t be much more time to pass on the secret he’d been guarding for—my God, over fifty years. The days, the years, had melted away like gold in aqua regia.
Grey had made it a good day, with cake and a stolen sip of whiskey and the old friends who were still alive.
He leaned back in the old chair that had reshaped itself over the years to cradle him in comfort, careful not to jostle the big, gold-colored cat in his lap. Best thing he’d ever done in his long life was take Grey in when the bedraggled, traumatized kid needed saving. Grey made every day a good one.
Thinking about the man the kid had grown into always made him smile. People who said kids weren’t worth the trouble didn’t know pyrite from gold. Good food, a good bed, being treated like a human being, had turned the scared, beaten kid into a real hero. The navy had turned him into a SEAL. An IED had ended his military days and turned him into a damned college student. Now he was the best damn mining geologist in six states, if Chester knew anything about it.
And Grey was going to make the dream of the Capital Prize mine come true.
A warm, happy glow of all being right in his world filled Chester. Now he had only to pass on his secret, the one he’d held sacred all these years, and make sure Grey knew what to do with it. Grey and Zandra. He smiled. That was a match made in heaven, and together they’d be able to do what he hadn’t dared try.
He gripped the pen harder and pressed it to the page. “got to tell you,” he scratched laboriously. Before he could go on, a noise from the kitchen made him jerk. The cat jumped from his lap and ran down the hall. Chester stood, grabbing his cane from where it leaned against the desk and hobbled after him. That had sounded like the back door, but Grey couldn’t be back from town already.
A woman stood in the middle of the kitchen, looking around as though she owned the place.
Another damned tourist? That was the worst of living in a genuine old Gold Rush town, the tourists. “This is a private house,” he said. “Nothing here for tourists.”
She didn’t budge. “Where is it?” she demanded.
Not only a damned tourist, but crazy as a bedbug to boot. “Nothing here for you. You need to leave.”
“He said it was here, and I ain’tgoin’ without it.”
Chester stumped into the room. He damned sure couldn’t throw her out bodily. She looked young and healthy. He’d have to keep her talking until Grey got home. Grey stood at least a foot taller than the woman and probably outweighed her by seventy, eighty pounds. He could toss her from here clear down to the road if he wanted. So, keep her talking until Grey got home? Or call the sheriff. Yeah. Call the sheriff. He didn’t like the way she looked at him.
As though she’d heard him, she took a step closer. “You listen to me, you old goat,” she snarled. “I said I wanted it. Now.” She looked around the room as though she could see it, whatever it was, and riffled through some papers and journals Grey had left on the counter.
Chester ignored her, using her distraction to reach the phone on the wall.
Her head came up when she saw it in his hand and she rushed at him, grabbing his arm and pulling him off balance just as he finished pressing the final ‘one’. “I said give it to me now.”
He’d never hit a woman, no matter how rough he’d lived, no matter how bad things had gotten in the gold fields and bars. He raised a hand, not sure if he meant to grab onto her for balance or break that record. The hand shook, and his whole soul and body mourned his aged weakness.
She spit like a cat, speechless with impatience, and shoved him to the floor.
He sprawled on the tile with a crunch of shattered ancient bone. A wave of pain swept everything away for an unmeasured eternity and the world spun dizzyingly, like a carousel he’d seen once when he was a kid. No. He wasn’t a kid. He was old now. Old. He had to—had to—do something. Couldn’t remember. Tried to force his eyes open. Had to hold on.
He grappled with the blackness that tried to swamp him. When he was able to open his eyes, he didn’t know if minutes or hours had passed, but he was on the kitchen floor. Why? Must have fallen? He looked around.
Except for the cat.
“Too bad you’re not a dog, Aurie,” he mumbled. “I think Timmy’s in the well. You could go get help.”
Aurie sniffed at his ear, purring anxiously.
This had to be the worst moment of a life filled with tense moments. Before, he’d always known when he was in danger of dying. Today it didn’t seem real. But he was a feeble old man, not a rough and ready gold miner, taking risks in shaky tunnels and shady company. Lying on his own floor pushed down by a crazy trespasser...this couldn’t be.
Aurie jumped away and hissed as the woman ran back into the room, arching his back and puffing up like a furry balloon.
“Thought you could flummox me, did you, you stupid old man,” the woman snarled. “I’ve got your journal.” She waved it triumphantly.
His vision dimmed but he heard her shaking the book and knew she told the truth.
He just had time to feel relief that he hadn’t written anything that would help her in her search on those pages when she kicked at the cat and bent over him, peering into his eyes.
“And now that I have what I need to find it,” she said in a voice bloated with triumph, “we won’t be needing you any longer.”
He jolted when she pulled a hypodermic syringe out of her coat pocket and jammed the needle into him.
“This’ll take care of you.”