Hidden Riches

Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nora Roberts
too.”
    DiCarlo let out a sound like steam escaping a kettle and turned away. With a shrug, Tarkington helped himself to a doughnut.
    DiCarlo clenched his fists as a tall, striking black woman strode across the warehouse. She was wearing snug jeans and a bright green sweater with a Nike hip pouch. Her hairwas pulled back in a curly ponytail. The yellowing smudges of old bruises puffed around her left eye.
    She opened the door and poked her head in. The room was immediately filled with the noise of conveyor belts and the scent of nerves. “You call for me, Mr. Tarkington?”
    â€œYeah, Opal. Come on in a minute. Have some coffee?”
    â€œSure, okay.” As she closed the door, Opal took a quick scan of DiCarlo as possibilities raced through her mind.
    They were laying her off. They were firing her outright because she’d fallen behind her quota last week after Curtis had knocked her around. The stranger was one of the owners come to tell her. She took a cigarette out of her pouch and lit it with shaky hands.
    â€œWe got ourselves a little problem here, Opal.”
    Her throat seemed to fill with sand. “Yes, sir?”
    â€œThis is Mr. DiCarlo. He had a shipment go out last week, on your line.”
    The quick surge of fear had Opal choking on smoke. “We had a lot of shipments going out last week, Mr. Tarkington.”
    â€œYes, but when the shipment arrived, the merchandise was incorrect.” Tarkington sighed.
    With her heart hammering in her throat, Opal stared at the floor. “It got sent to the wrong place?”
    â€œNo, it got to the right place, but what was inside it was wrong, and since Mr. DiCarlo oversaw the packing himself, we’re baffled. I thought you might remember something.”
    There was a burning in her gut, around her heart, behind her eyes. The nightmare that had plagued her for nearly a week was coming true. “I’m sorry, Mr. Tarkington,” she forced herself to say. “It’s hard to recall any one shipment. All I remember about last week is working three double shifts and going home to soak my feet every night.”
    She was lying, DiCarlo decided. He could see it in her eyes, in her body stance—and bided his time.
    â€œWell, it was worth a shot.” Tarkington gesturedexpansively. “Anything pops into your mind, you let me know. Okee-doke?”
    â€œYes, sir, I will.” She crushed the cigarette out in the dented metal ashtray on Tarkington’s desk and hurried back to her belt.
    â€œWe’ll start a trace on this, Mr. DiCarlo. With a red flag. Premium prides itself on customer satisfaction. From our hands to your hands, with a smile,” he said, quoting the company motto.
    â€œRight.” He was no longer interested in Tarkington, though he would have found some satisfaction in plowing his fists into the man’s bulging belly. “And if you want to continue to enjoy the patronage of E. F., Incorporated, you’ll find the answers.”
    DiCarlo circled the noisy shipping room and headed for Opal’s station. She watched his progress with nervous eyes. Her heart was thudding painfully against her ribs by the time he stopped beside her.
    â€œWhat time’s your lunch break?”
    Surprised, she nearly bobbled a box of cookware. “Eleven-thirty.”
    â€œMeet me outside, front entrance.”
    â€œI eat in the cafeteria.”
    â€œNot today,” DiCarlo said softly. “Not if you want to keep this job. Eleven-thirty,” he added, and walked away.
    Â 
    She was afraid to ignore him, afraid to oblige him. At 11:30, Opal donned her olive-green parka and headed for the employees’ entrance. She could only hope that by the time she’d circled the building, she’d have herself under control.
    She would have liked to skip lunch altogether. The Egg McMuffin she’d eaten that morning kept threatening to come back for a return visit.
    Don’t admit

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