Beneath These Lies (Page 29)

Lucas met Yve and paused. “It’s beautiful.” Turning his gaze to me, he said, “We’ll take it.”

“Wha—what?” I stammered.

His eyes narrowed on me before flicking down to the painting and back. “There’s no artist signature. Whose work is it?”

I cursed Rix silently for landing me in this situation. “The artist prefers to remain anonymous, so I can’t share that information.”

Glancing down at the canvas again, Lucas lifted it from Yve’s hands and turned it over. “No price either.”

I’d never considered selling my artwork, and therefore I had never thought to put a price on it. I fought the urge to wring my hands, and instead adopted my cool businesswoman mien and turned for my desk.

“Let me check my catalog. I’m afraid I haven’t committed that one to memory.”

“Do you have any other pieces by the same artist?” Lucas asked.

Shaking my head, I reached with trembling hands for the three-ring binder on my desk containing the details of all the pieces in my studio. “No. The artist provided only the one piece.”

“Well, ask the artist to provide more. The vivid colors and bold technique are exactly what I’d envisioned for the living room, and we’d love to see more.”

“It sure is impressive.”

This comment came from Hennessy, and I kicked myself for momentarily forgetting about his presence.

I flipped through the plastic sheets in my binder, my brain racing for something to say. They wanted to buy my art. Over everything else in my gallery. Stunned didn’t even begin to cover how I was feeling.

Think, brain, think.

I stopped on a page and stared down at the picture. It was a piece of art by a relatively new artist with little exposure and few sales. I was selling her pieces for substantially less than the others in my gallery, and reasoned therefore mine should be about the same.

I tossed out a price to Lucas and Yve, and all the heads in the gallery snapped in my direction.

“You’re underpricing that piece by several thousand dollars, in my opinion,” Lucas replied.

“That’s a steal,” Rhett agreed. “And I don’t know jack shit about art.”

“Well, that’s the price. So I guess you’re getting a bargain.”

With any other piece, my shrewd business instincts would be cringing because I was leaving money on the table. But for my own work? I couldn’t be objective. I wasn’t a real artist. My work wasn’t in this gallery for the very reason that it wasn’t the same caliber as what I normally sold.

Lucas came toward me, canvas in hand. “Then you’ll have to disagree when I say I’m paying you based on the perceived value and not your sticker price, which I think is ludicrous.”

“That’s not how you’re going to keep those billions, Titan.”

“Deal with it.” He handed the canvas to me and pulled out a money clip. Peeling off bills, he laid a stack on my desk. “Tell the artist we want to see more.”

Lucas lifted the canvas from my hands and waited for Yve to join him.

“Thank you so much! You made this way less painful than I thought it would be. Normally we end up arguing over every goddamned thing, but this we agreed on. Shocking.”

“Would you like me to wrap it up for you?” I asked, still stunned that Lucas and Yve had bought my painting.

“No need. It’ll go in the car where it can’t be damaged. Thank you again, Valentina. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you soon.”

And then they were gone, leaving the sound of the chime fading away and me alone with Rhett and a stack of cash on my desk. Part of me wanted Rhett to leave so I could count it and find out how much Lucas Titan had deemed as the perceived value. The other part wanted to beg him to stay and tell him everything.

“Sounds like you’re going to have one happy new artist on your hands.”

“She’ll be very surprised.”

Rhett studied me closely, and again I was reminded that I was facing a detective. He couldn’t know I’d painted it. There was no way he could know.

“Well, I’d best get on my way and back to work. My cases aren’t going to solve themselves.”

Do I add another case to it? Rix’s words came back to me. Should I even trust him to get her back?

I’ll give him another day, I decided. Then all bets are off.

I smiled at Rhett and wondered if I looked as conflicted as I felt. “Thank you for stopping by. I’ll see you later.”

He continued his study of me for several moments, and I wondered if he’d push. He didn’t. “You certainly will.”

The door whooshed open and two more customers walked in. Rhett nodded and headed out.

What was I doing with him? And how in the world had Rix gotten a painting from my house to the gallery? And why?

After a steady stream of customers until closing, I finally had a chance to sit down at my desk and pull up my security footage from last night. It showed me leaving and locking up, and then nothing for hours. I was near the point of dozing off when all of the security feeds went black.

“What the hell?”

I skipped back and let it replay. Again, black. For six minutes. And then the picture reappeared and there wasn’t a soul in the gallery.

I knew he could disable my home alarm system, so how much of a stretch was it really that he could disable my security cameras?

Shoving up from my desk, I grabbed my purse and stalked to the door. I flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED and set the alarm—gritting my teeth because I knew it couldn’t keep one particular person out.