Beneath These Chains (Page 47)

“You mind if we take a closer look?” he asked.

I almost rubbed my hands together in anticipation.

“Go right ahead.” The man slid the box across the counter.

Finally, Lord looked to me. “Elle?”

I impressed myself with how steady my hands were when I reached for the watch I was eyeing and lifted it out of the box. It was an antique Patek Philippe to be certain. I carefully slid it off the bolster. I paused, praying that I’d see the inscription on the back. I flipped it over.

And there was nothing.

All the anticipation drained out of me at the blank gold back.

“Nice watch. Good condition,” I said, swallowing back my disappointment and forcing myself to assess the watch for purchase.

Lord must have noticed the stoop of my shoulders, because he wrapped an arm around me and squeezed my hip.

“How much you looking to get for them?” he asked the man.

The guy’s price was astronomical, even for a nice collection in good condition. At any other moment, I’d be all about haggling to try to get him down, but right now I was too disheartened to care.

Lord squeezed my hip again to get my attention. “Elle? What do you think?”

“We couldn’t consider buying for that price.” I looked up at the man and added, “Maybe half, but even that’s a stretch.”

Lord dropped his hand from my hip, and I slid the watch back into its place in the box.

The man’s posture stiffened, and he snatched the box away from us. “Half? You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. I was giving you a bargain. I could get even more at auction.”

I almost rolled my eyes at his line about the auction. I’d heard the same thing from more than one person with fancy stuff to sell. I opened my mouth to say something bitchy, but Lord beat me to it.

“Then maybe auction is your best bet.” Lord’s tone was professional and polite, without a hint of disrespect. I wanted to tell the guy good fucking luck, but I stayed quiet.

“Then maybe I will.” The man snapped the box shut, turned, and walked out.

I held my tongue until the door chimed with his exit.

“Well, that was interesting.” My words lacked my usual energy.

“He’ll probably be back,” Lord replied, eyes still on the man as he climbed into a black BMW at the curb. “Once the auction house tells him what he’d be looking at for fees and potential take, he might think twice.” He looked down at me. “I know you were hoping it was your dad’s watch. I’m sorry it wasn’t.” He pulled me against his chest and wrapped his arms around me.

I hadn’t realized I needed a hug until right that moment. I clung to Lord, feeling stupid tears springing up in my eyes. Letting myself get excited, even for a few seconds, and then experiencing the crushing weight of disappointment sucked. But wouldn’t I rather have the excitement than no chance at all? It was a dilemma. I just wanted to find the damn thing.

It was there, in Lord’s arms, that I acknowledged something else that was equally important: what would I do when I found it? Buy it, obviously, but then what? Quit? Move on to some other job that would piss off my mother and stepfather just as much? Hell, in order to do that, I really might have to start stripping or something. But either way, once I had the watch, my original reason for working at Chains would be gone. I snuggled into Lord’s chest, wanting to avoid thinking about working anywhere else.

Did I really want to leave Chains? I thought of the shop, all the old treasures waiting to find new homes and the new discoveries that constantly walked through the door and the thrill of striking a bargain to buy and sell. And the man who owned it.

I don’t need to worry about it today, I told myself. I haven’t even found the watch, and I might never find it.

I pulled away from Lord. “Thanks for that.” And then I noticed Mathieu watching us. “Take a picture, kid, it’ll last longer.”

I expected him to say something about us being all weird—or at least me being girly and emotional—but all he said was: “You two look good together.” His smile quirked, and the comment I expected came next. “But hugging it out in a pawnshop ain’t normal. Maybe you need to get a room.”

“Thanks for the idea,” Lord said. “You gonna be ready for dinner tonight? We’re taking you out. Birthday special. My treat. You pick the place.”

With Mathieu picking the place, who knew where we’d end up.

“That’d be cool. I’m feeling barbecue tonight.”

“Then barbecue it is,” said Lord.

“I pay the tab, and you’re ditching us?” I said, raising an eyebrow at Mathieu.

“Dude, it’s my birthday. I appreciate the cake—and balloons,” he looked pointedly at Elle, “but I need to go see my homeboys and some titties.”

Elle held up both hands, clearly staying out of it. “Go. Try to stay out of trouble. I better not be getting a call to bail you out of the parish prison tonight.”

Mathieu gave us a chin jerk and headed for the door.

“So what do you want to do now?” Elle asked me.

I glanced down at my watch. It was only eight-thirty, which meant we had just enough time…

“Ever think about getting ink?”

“Ink?” Elle’s eyes widened.

“A tat.”

“I know what you mean, but … where is this coming from?”

“Con’s sponsoring a tattoo expo down at the convention center. Goes until ten. He’s not working it, but a couple of his employees are. He’s there hanging out and shaking hands. I think Vanessa’s there too.”