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(The Diamond Trilogy #1) Diamond in the Rough
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I’m stepping off a nine hour flight when it happens.
Now I’m trapped in an abandoned church. The man who took me says I won’t be hurt. The man in the cell next to me says that’s a lie. I’ll fight with every ounce of strength, but there are secrets in these walls. I’ll need every single one of them to survive.
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is a new dark romance from New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren. Finding yourself has never been so dangerous…
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People jostle me for position, but for once I stand my ground. Someone elbows me, and I elbow her back. Only a few feet of space and a velvet rope separate me from the most famous painting in the world. Mona Lisa gives her subtle, mischievous smile.
This close, I can see the crackle of old oil paint and the strokes that form her dress. I can almost imagine I’m breathing centuries-old air, remnants of the same air da Vinci breathed.
The woman who elbowed me makes a sharp sound, and then London appears next to me. My sister, my best friend. My complete opposite in every way. “Can we go?” she asks.
I link my arm in hers. “We just got here.”
“No, we just got to the paintings. We’ve been looking at broken pieces of pyramids and marble statues of naked people for hours.”
“My feet still hurt from walking through seven hundred rooms yesterday.”
“Um, Versailles has an entire hall of mirrors. Hello!”
That makes me snort. Mirrors probably are art to beautiful people. London was born with my mother’s gorgeous smile and my father’s charisma. “Come on. A few more hours. You know the Louvre is the only place I’m even interested in seeing.”
“I don’t know how you can say that when you know the Catacombs exist.”
I shudder. “Tunnels made of bones?”
My stomach turns over. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the tour tonight. I come from a family of explorers. They want to see every sight, rarely stopping to take a deep breath before plunging into the next adventure. I’m more comfortable curled up with a good book. “I just want to stand here and look at the painting for a while. Really soak it up.”
She scrunches her nose, which looks adorable. “It’s so small.”
“It’s worth eight hundred million dollars.”
Her eyes widen; then she shakes her head. “Nope, still not interesting.”
“Why don’t you go ahead to the Tuileries?”
Hope springs in her blue eyes. “Really? I bet I can convince them to go.”
“Text them.” Our mom and dad are somewhere nearby in the museum, presumably browsing the paintings. Except they’ve been here many times before we were even born. More likely they’ve found some private corner to kiss. They’re always doing gross things like that.
“Dad says keep your backpack on you at all times and your phone on.”
I just roll my eyes at this, because we’ve been given this lecture a hundred times. My sister gives me the thumbs-up sign and disappears into the crowd.
Finally. I take a deep breath and let it out, feeling relaxed for the first time in hours. Maybe days. I love my family, but I don’t really fit in. They’re like butterflies flitting from flower to flower. I’m a caterpillar who decided she loved her cocoon more than wings.
The art captures my interest, but so do the people. Around me I can hear murmurs in French and Spanish and Japanese. Everyone has come to see thirty by twenty-one inches of oil.
Most people have little portable speakers that talk about each painting. A tinny voice from behind me says, “The Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait of a figure believed to be the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, Lisa Gherardini.”
Imagine your appearance being admired for hundreds of years.
Did she think it might happen? As she sat for the painting, could she imagine being immortalized? Or did she think about what was for dinner?
That’s part of the allure of the painting, this wondering.
The crowd filters into the next room, leaving only a few bystanders. I make my way to the back of the hall. With it empty I can admire the painting from afar. Of course my sister was right. It is tiny. Why did he make it so small? Was it a question of time or economy? Was it meant for a certain place? And what was that fantasy landscape behind her?
“Do her eyes follow you?”
The question comes from someone beside me. He wears a white button-down shirt and black pants. There’s something formal about his bearing. And a patch on his shirt that declares him a security guard. “No. Do they follow you?”
He quirks his lips. “No, but other people swear they do.”
“The Mona Lisa effect. I remember reading about it.” I glance back at the painting. “But they don’t really follow you, do they? In fact it’s like she’s never looking at me, even when I’m standing right in front of her.”
“Elusive,” he murmurs. “That’s the real Mona Lisa effect.”
“You speak English.”
“Guilty. I heard you and your sister talking.”
“Oh.” With his green eyes and square jaw, he’s handsome. And he’s already spotted my sister. Next he’s probably going to ask me for her number. I’ve been down this road before.
“I’m going on break in a few minutes. Want to go outside for a smoke?”