DEVLIN SECURITY FORCE, Protecting Priceless Treasures A man in the shadows… As the infamous thief known as the Jeweler lay dying, he gave his son, Cortez Jones, a puzzle piece that will lead to a cache of crown jewels. Recovering the loot could finally get the FBI off Cort’s back, but the only person who can help him is a DSF researcher who blames the Jeweler for destroying her family. Forming an uneasy alliance with her, Cort finds her courage and tender heart make him want more than riches or redemption.
A woman in the light… When Mara Marton’s insurance investigator father was accused of conspiring with the Jeweler, the scandal ruined him and led to his death. Now the jewel thief’s son wants her help. Although sharing her research expertise and her father’s files with this sexy ex-con could prove her father’s innocence, how can she trust that Cort doesn’t want the treasure for himself?
Time is running out… The puzzle piece brings Cort and Mara together, but danger and secrets threaten to tear them apart. Sparks fly as they struggle to trust one another and recover the jewels before they are claimed by the deadly black-market syndicate Centaur. But with their lives—and their hearts—on the line, there’s no turning back.
Research Picture Gallery
Left, The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C. Middle, in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall, Jewel cases and too much crowd, and right, Napoleonic crown jewels, the models for the Gramornian crown jewels in the book.
Pictures of San Francisco, one of the locations in the book. A cable car being rotated. Chinatown. Fisherman's Wharf, complete with sea lions.
xcerpt from Chapter 1
Infamous jewel thief dies in prison By Rona Laughton
WASHINGTON DAILY NEWS An international jewel thief who eluded law enforcement for five decades and stole a small nation’s crown jewels from a national U.S. museum has died. Leon Jones, known as the Jeweler, died on April 16 at the age of 68 of complications from cancer, in the Devens, Massachusetts, Federal Medical Center. Jones pulled off his last and biggest theft twelve years ago at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He made off with the crown jewels of the principality of Gramornia, including a scepter, the royal crown, swords, and rings. Mistakes during the break-in led to the Jeweler’s arrest and conviction. His son, Cortez Jones, was also convicted of the theft and served a short sentence. The Gramornian crown jewels have never been recovered, according to the FBI and Global Insurance. For five decades, the Jeweler’s heists from museums and mansions confounded law enforcement agencies from the Riviera to San Francisco and... *** Two weeks later Cortez Jones waited behind a pillar where he had a clear view of the parking garage’s level-two elevator. The Marton woman wouldn’t answer his phone calls, so here he was. His father’s attorney had given him her license plate number and work address in Crystal City, Virginia. Less intrusive and a whole lot less threatening than approaching her at her apartment. Cort had made an effort to look respectable. Even wore a long-sleeved polo to cover the prison tats. No luck. The guard at the security desk took one look and showed him the damn door. On impulse, he ducked into the garage as somebody drove out. Once inside, spotting her car was a cinch. No missing that bright red Nissan Versa. He needed to be careful. Diplomatic, low-key, so she didn’t freak and call security. Scaring her was the last thing he wanted. He needed her help. If she would listen to the ex-con son of the Jeweler. But if Leon’s deathbed story panned out, he had a way to get the FBI off his back. Once and for all. If Leon had conned him—wouldn’t be the first time—he’d go on with his backwoods life. Shit. A half life. No life. Now that an ember of hope ignited, the possibility flamed into a need that burned in his soul. He wanted more. He wanted out from under FBI and Gramornia pressure. He wanted to hold up his head. He wanted a life. News dating from the Gramornia crown jewels theft investigation, said that Quincy Marton’s widow was Korean. Cort had figured spotting the daughter would be easy. But he didn’t count on the building’s employees being the United Nations. Several women about the right age with dark hair and vaguely Asian features exited the elevator while he waited. None of them went to the Nissan Versa. The elevator bell dinged and the doors opened. Another young woman stepped out into a halo of light. About his age. Black hair to her shoulders, high cheekbones, eyes with an exotic slant, but that could be makeup. If she was Mara Marton, she’d inherited her father’s height—five-eight or so. Dark pants. Bright blue sweater with glittery stuff swirling across breasts that begged for male attention. Cort shook his head, banished the inconvenient sexual awareness. Had to keep focused on business and not on a hot female. For luck, he fingered the ring in his pocket. Leon hadn’t lied about that much. As for the rest, he would see. Mouth tight, the woman scanned the open lanes and the parked vehicles. She clutched her bulky orange purse beneath her arm. And headed directly for the red Versa. Another female, a redhead in a blue jacket and khaki pants, stepped from behind a panel van and intercepted the brunette. Uncertain, he stayed put to observe. “Ms. Marton. Mara,” said the redhead, holding up an ID and a small digital recorder. “Rona Laughton, Washington Daily News. Please give me a few minutes of your time.” Marton wheeled. Anger flashed in her dark eyes. “I told you on the phone I have nothing to say to the media. No comment means no comment. Leave me alone.” Cort hunched his shoulders, backed deeper into the shadows. “Your father, an investigator for Global Insurance,” the reporter went on, undaunted, “was implicated in the Gramornia crown jewels theft from the Smithsonian. My paper would like to review that case, a sort of where-are-they-now story. What’s your reaction now that Jones is dead? How do you feel?” When crimson highlighted Mara Marton’s cheeks, Cort clenched his hands into fists. How the hell did this cold bitch think she felt? The attacks in the news media and accusations by the FBI had broken Quincy Marton. He died of a heart attack in the middle of the investigation. Not unlike Leon Jones. Fitting. Ironic. Tears glistening, Marton headed for her car. Laughton stopped her with a hand on her forearm. Marton was taller but the reporter had twenty pounds on her. And more nerve than a high-wire walker. Cort should stay light years away from the media but he couldn’t stand by. He slipped from behind his pillar and hustled over. Held his arms loose at his sides, hands open so both women could see he meant no physical threat. His height and build made him intimidating enough. “The lady said she doesn’t want to talk.” The reporter stepped back, her mouth set in lines of frustration, showing her age, on the hard side of forty. Her gaze skewered him. “Who the hell are you?” “Just making sure everything’s all right.” He turned to Marton. “This chick bothering you?” She stared, eyes wide and round as hubcaps, then blinked as she took in his question. After a breath, she said, “She was just leaving.” Cort gave Laughton his patented hard-case look, the one prison dawgs called the Murder-One stare. She fired a death stare of her own. Then, face scrunched and red at seeing a story slip from her grasp, she stalked away. Her heels clicked on the cement leading to the stairway exit. Softening his expression for the woman standing nervously before him, he scratched his nape. “Where’s security when you need them?” Her shoulders relaxed but she eyed him with suspicion. Why wouldn’t she? They were alone in that section of the cavernous garage. She held her keys like a weapon between her knuckles. “Thank you for your help.” “Ms. Marton, I’d like to talk to you too. It’s important. I’m Cortez Jones. Leon Jo—“ “I know. You’re the Jeweler’s son.” A frown formed a line between her dark brows. “I’m surprised that reporter didn’t recognize you.” “After she thinks about it, she will. The media haven’t tracked me down yet. Only a couple people know where I am.” His boss and the attorney. “The name Jones makes staying incognito easier. Thanks for not outing me to the Daily News.” She flushed, apparently just realizing she could’ve escaped by siccing the press babe on Cort. “How did you find me?” “Leon’s attorney said you might be able to help. I got rid of Lois Lane for you. I figure you owe me a little time.” Lips pursed, she seemed to consider. Her mouth looked clean of lipstick, soft, natural. He dragged his attention up to her eyes. Curiosity warred with fear in those tilted cat-eyes. She kept the keys in defensive mode. “He did phone me, but forget it. I owe younothing.” Her chin trembled. “Your father could have cleared my father. All he had to do was speak up. But for eleven years he told nothing but lies. Dad died trying to recover the crown jewels. He had nothing to do with the theft or hiding the stolen property.” She edged toward her car. His pulse raced. He had to grab her interest now. “I can help you clear your father.” She stopped, a foot from her car, eyes narrowed. “For all I know you’re as much a liar as your father.” “I’m sorry Leon didn’t confess. Hear me out. Please.” She stared at him, speculation in that exotic gaze. More people exited the building into the garage. In the next aisle, a car door slammed. An engine coughed to life. “Okay,” she said, her gaze as wary as a frightened fawn. “I’m listening. You have five minutes.” “Deal.” He had to talk fast before she bolted. “Leon’s death leaves issues about the Gramornia crown jewels case.” “I’d offer my sympathies on your loss, but I can’t say I’m sorry he’s dead.” “No sympathy needed or wanted.” No tears from him. That man he’d seen two weeks ago in the prison hospital was a stranger. His only reason for regretting Leon’s death was that it came a few days too soon. “The FBI and Global Insurance won’t talk to me, let alone help. Your father’s working files could have key answers.” “I hold your father partly responsible for the death of mine. Why should I help you?” “The Feds have never been able to prove the identities of Leon’s accomplices, including yea or nay on your father. I have information that could ID the accomplices.” Showing too much of his hand was a bad idea. Maybe this much would satisfy her. Her eyes narrowed. “You were one of the thieves. You don’t know the others?” “Leon dragged me into the job at the last minute because his other guy broke a leg in a car accident. He kept me in the dark. I knew only my part of the job, nothing about other accomplices. I stayed on the roof. Never saw anybody but Leon.” “Yeah, yeah, that’s what you said eleven years ago. This is about finding the jewels, isn’t it?” She flung the last words like a dagger and speared him with an accusing look for extra measure. He stiffened, his hands curling into fists before he forced them to relax. Dammit, he didn’t want to scare her. “Partly. I did my time. Paid for my mistake. The FBI came to the furniture school in Maine where I work to grill me and threaten to keep harassing me. I could lose my job. But the Feds won’t let me off the hook.” She bumped up against her car. “They think you know where he hid the jewels?” Shit, he was scaring her. He held out his hands, palms up like the damn beggar he was. “If I can help return the loot, I can live my life without that sword hanging over me. I need your help.” She looked down her slim nose at him. “Return the jewels? Ha! I suppose you have a bridge to sell me too.” “I’m not surprised you don’t believe me. But what I say is true.” As far as I know. She clicked her key fob and opened the door. “I don’t believe you. Not for a nanosecond. And I won’t help you.” Mashing her bag against her chest, she dove inside and punched down the door lock. Cort grasped the door handle as she started the engine. “Don’t you want to clear your father?” he yelled over the car engine’s noise. The car accelerated backward so fast he had to scramble out of the way. He watched, fists clenched, as the Versa sped off. Its tires squealed as Mara Marton accelerated up the out ramp.