Diamonds are Forever

By: Rebecca Winters


CHAPTER ONE




“HOW much is still owing to satisfy the creditors, Mr. Watkins?”

The aging attorney raised his shaggy gray eyebrows. “Twelve million dollars.”

Alex’s heart plunged to her feet. That much? She felt the worst about Manny Horowitz. Her mother’s agent was a good man who’d done everything to further her mother’s career all these years. He was still owed close to two million dollars. How could her mother not have paid him?

“I’ve auctioned everything except my mother’s diamonds. They’ve got to cover it!”

Jewelry was the only thing remaining for Alex to sell from her mother’s Beverly Hills estate. If she couldn’t meet the sum, then the tabloids would hear of it and trash her mother’s blighted reputation even more than they’d already done by exploiting her drug-related death. Some whispered that after her last divorce from Sheik Mustafah Tahar, Kathryn Carlisle had committed suicide, but nothing had been proved conclusively. Alex didn’t know what to believe.

“I’m sorry it’s come to this, Alexandra. A child shouldn’t have to be burdened this way.”

“Thank you, Mr. Watkins, but I haven’t been a child for a long time.” In fact, she’d been through so much already as the unwanted offspring of the world’s most beautiful woman that Alex felt ancient, but she supposed twenty-five still sounded young to him.

Since her mother’s death on Christmas morning five months ago, Mr. Watkins had bent over backward to help her find ways to pay off her mother’s debts. Furthermore he’d never once said a bad thing about her narcissistic parent who’d been married and divorced six times. As Kathryn’s attorney from the beginning of her career, he’d had more right than anyone to castigate the willful, infamous Hollywood phenomenon of the film world who’d disregarded his advice and had run through money like she did alcohol.

At only forty-five years of age Kathryn Carlisle had come to a shockingly ugly end with nothing to show for it but a history of disastrous marriages, explosive divorces, unpaid bills despite her millions and a criminally neglected child from her first failed union  . “Where would you suggest I go to get the best price for her jewelry?”

“The House of Savoy on Fifth Avenue in New York.”

“My father gave her a diamond bracelet from there on their wedding night.”

It was the only thing Alex remembered her mother telling her about her father. As Alex had matured she had learned for herself that her father, Oleg Grigory, had owned one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas. When she’d grown old enough to understand, she’d heard rumors that he had ties to the Russian mafia, but no one knew for sure. His early death in an airplane crash was purported to be the work of a rivaling mob family.

Mr. Watkins nodded. “Without question they’re the world’s expert on diamonds.”

Alex frowned because it meant paying for an airline ticket to the East Coast. She would have to juggle her bills to come up with the money, but Alex’s mother had claimed she possessed a king’s ransom in diamonds from her various husbands. If that were true, maybe all her debts would be satisfied. Only then could Alex bury the past and try to get on with her life.

“I’ll call you as soon as I’ve booked my flight.”

“Good. Considering we’re talking about your mother’s collection, I feel they’re the one company that will be totally honest in their dealings with you. And … discreet.”

Ah, yes. Discreet. For this last, financial transaction, maybe it would be best to get away from Hollywood and the scandalmongers.

Oh, Mother … Why couldn’t you have been a mother instead of Kathryn Carlisle?

Mr. Watkins eyed her with compassion. “Once you know your flight, I’ll make the appointment for you with the head jeweler. Drop by the bank on your way to the airport, and I’ll arrange for them to hand over the jewel case from her strongbox.”

With a nod she left his office and headed for her job as a makeup artist on a studio lot. She would have to talk to her boss, Michelle, about getting some time off. The older woman who headed the department had always been good to her and would certainly let Alex take the time she needed, but this was the last favor she intended to ask of her.

A few days later Alex stepped out of a New York taxi into unseasonable June heat and humidity. She checked her watch. It was 10:20 a.m. That gave her ten more minutes. Alex imagined the temperature would soar by the afternoon and congratulated Mr. Watkins for getting her an early appointment at the House of Savoy.

After gripping her purse and the small overnight bag carrying the jewel case and one change of clothes, she started across the intersection toward the exclusive store. To her surprise there was a long line of people that went from its entrance and down the street to disappear around the next corner. Security was everywhere. She approached one of the women standing there reading a book.

“Excuse me?” The other woman looked up, not particularly happy to be bothered. “What’s going on here? Why is there such a long line?”

“The Ligurian diamond is on display today,” she answered in her heavy Bronx accent before going back to her reading as if that explained everything.

Ligurian?

“I see. Thank you.”

Alex had never heard of the Ligurian diamond. She had heard of the Hope diamond and she’d seen pictures of the British crown jewels, but that was about the extent of her knowledge of the world’s most famous diamonds. As far as she was concerned, diamonds were synonymous with tragedy. The diamonds from six husbands hadn’t brought her mother any happiness. To Alex’s mind they represented the ashes of the mother-and-daughter relationship that had never happened.

She approached one of the security men at the door. When she explained that she had an appointment with the head jeweler, Mr. Defore, the guard made a quick phone call. A minute later he allowed her inside, where another guard escorted her through an installed metal detector. When the beep went off, she was asked to open her purse and overnight bag.

Once he was satisfied with the search, she was free to continue with the other guard. As they moved to the elevator past yet some other guards keeping a close eye on the orderly crowd, she glimpsed a dark, teardrop-shaped diamond on display in the center of the elegant foyer. The dazzling stone had been placed on a brilliantly lit pedestal within a closed glass casing, but she was too far away to determine its color. No doubt a diamond of such a large size would easily pay her mother’s debt.

The guard joined her inside the elevator. “Mr. Defore’s office is on the second floor,” he explained, drawing her attention back to the business at hand. When the doors opened again, he guided her to a suite on the right of the bank of elevators. A secretary in the reception area told her to sit down. Five minutes later Alex was shown in to Mr. Defore’s private office.

“Come in, Ms. Grigory. You’re right on time. I hope you had a pleasant flight from Los Angeles.”

“I did. Thank you, Mr. Defore.”

“Sit down over here.” The short, pleasant-faced jeweler held out a chair for her, then went around the desk to his swivel chair to face her. “Coffee? Tea? A soft drink?”

“No, nothing, thank you. When Mr. Watkins made this appointment for me, we didn’t realize you would have a diamond exhibit going on.”

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