The Property of a Lady

The Property of a Lady by Elizabeth Adler Read Free Book Online

Book: The Property of a Lady by Elizabeth Adler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Adler
to go to sleep, Grigori blew out the candle. He wrapped himself in his coat, stretched out on the floor beside him, and was asleep in minutes.

    Cal Warrender stared into his champagne glass thinking that it had seemed like a good idea at the time. The bar of the Hotel Beau Rivage was softly lighted and luxurious, but outside the windows flurries of snow swirled in the wind before settling in soft white drifts. The sudden storm had closed Geneva airport, and he faced a lonely dinner and the worrying knowledge that he had failed to secure the Ivanoff emerald. He had been beaten to it by a smarter adversary.
    Valentin Solovsky was sitting at the bar silently drinking vodka with two other Russians. They looked as glum as Cal felt, and he wondered if that meant that Valentin too had failed to buy the emerald and, like him, was no farther along the trail that led to the “Lady.” Yet if it wasn’t the Russians, then
had bought the Ivanoff jewel?
    He knew Valentin was there for the same reason he was: He had been delegated to find the “Lady.” And both he and Valentin knew it wasn’t just for the money, it was for the mines.
    When Prince Ivanoff had met the maharaja all those years ago, they had traded their gifts in celebration of the prince’s purchase of certain lands in the state of Rajasthan. The prince had discovered that the lands contained valuable deposits of tungsten, an element used to harden steel, and had realized their value to a newly mechanizedworld. But after the revolution the Russians had claimed ownership of the mines, saying they had the legal documents signed by Prince Misha Ivanoff making them over to the new Soviet Republic. They stated that in any case, as all property was now owned by the state, the mines rightfully belonged to Russia. The authenticity of the documents was questioned at the time, but as no member of the Ivanoff family had ever come forward to dispute their claim, nothing had ever been done about it. Though the mines were valuable, they had never seemed of great importance to the rest of the world. However, they had recently been found to contain vast quantities of certain strategic elements essential to modern industry—especially defense.
Or war
. And now the entire world was prepared to dispute Russia’s ownership.
    Cal knew that the Russians desperately needed an Ivanoff signature on the title deeds as indisputable proof of their claim. If they found the “Lady” first, they would get that signature. And they would again become the world’s most intimidating power.
    He sipped the champagne that had been meant to cheer him up—and maybe bluff the Russians into believing he was celebrating the purchase of the emerald—thinking about the events of the last few weeks. He had asked for and been given carte blanche to conduct his own investigation into the search for the mysterious owner of the Ivanoff jewel. He had requested no CIA heavies, no elaborate FBI investigations … he had wanted this one for himself. He realized its importance and knew it would boost him up the political ladder. Besides, he was already on to a lead. “It’s a simple enough matter,” he had told them easily at the meeting. “All I have to do is find these top gem cutters. They will know who the owner is.”
    It had started out like a game. First he had gone to Amsterdam, where he had met Peter van Stalte, the doyen of gem cutters and an honest man. Van Stalte had said the emerald had not been seen in that city and that he personallywould not have liked the job. “Too risky,” he’d said, frowning and pulling on his short pointed beard. “The surest hand in Amsterdam could not have guaranteed success.”
    In Jerusalem the Israelis had told him that not only had they not seen the emerald, but they too would never have attempted to cut it. They said there was only one man who could have attempted such a cut with any chance of success: Gerome Abyss. But Abyss had disappeared from Paris

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