Home > Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)(12)

Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)(12)
Author: Lisa Kleypas

She glanced at him over the rim of the cup, her eyes smiling. “What I meant was, you are the adventure.”

Rhys felt his heartbeats tumbling like a row of tin soldiers. He had always enjoyed women casually, sampling their favors with relaxed ease. Not one of them had ever caused this aching craving that Helen seemed to have unlocked from the center of his soul. God help him, he could never let her find out the power she had over him, or he would be at her mercy.

In a few minutes, Mr. Sauveterre, the jeweler, entered the office with a large black leather case held in one hand, and a small folding table in the other. He was a small, slim man with a prematurely receding hairline and a keen, incisive gaze. Although Sauveterre had been born in France, he spoke English with no accent, having lived in London since the age of two. His father, a successful glassmaker, had encouraged his son’s artistic ability and eventually secured an apprenticeship for him with a goldsmith. Eventually Sauveterre had attended a Paris art school, and after graduation had worked as a designer in Paris for Cartier and Boucheron.

As a young man with a desire to distinguish himself, Sauveterre had leapt at the chance to become Winterborne’s master jeweler. He possessed abundant skill and confidence in his own considerable talent, but just as important, he knew when to keep his mouth shut. A good jeweler protected the secrets of his clients, and Sauveterre knew an abundance of them.

Sauveterre bowed deftly. “My lady.” He set the leather case on the floor. He proceeded to unfold the little campaign table in front of Helen, and pulled a tray from the case. “I understand you wish to view betrothal rings? The diamond was not to your taste?”

“I would prefer something smaller,” Helen told him. “A ring that won’t be a nuisance during needlework or piano practice.”

The jeweler didn’t bat an eye at hearing the priceless diamond described as a nuisance. “But of course, my lady, we will find something to suit you. Or failing that, I can create anything you desire. Do you have a particular gemstone in mind?”

She shook her head, her awestruck gaze moving over the sparkling rings arrayed along channels of black velvet.

“Perhaps there’s a color you fancy?” Sauveterre prompted.

“Blue.” She glanced at Rhys cautiously as she replied, and he gave her a slight nod to confirm that she could choose anything she liked.

Bending to rummage through the case, the jeweler began to nimbly arrange rings on a fresh tray. “Sapphires . . . aquamarines . . . opals . . . alexandrites . . . ah, and here is a blue topaz, quite rare, unearthed from the Ural Mountains in Russia . . .”

For at least a half-hour, Sauveterre sat beside Helen to show her various rings and discuss the merits of the stones and settings. As she became comfortable in the jeweler’s presence, Helen began to speak more freely with him. In fact, she became positively chatty, discussing art and music, and asking about his work in Paris.

It was, arguably, a more relaxed exchange than she’d ever had with Rhys.

As jealousy stabbed him like a driven nail, Rhys strode to his desk and reached into a glass jar of peppermint creams. The jar, replenished once a week, occupied a permanent corner of his desk. Popping a soft white wafer into his mouth, he went to glare out the window. The confection, made of egg whites, icing sugar, and flavored essence, instantly dissolved in a melting flood of mint.

“What is this?” he heard Helen ask the jeweler.

“A moonstone surrounded by diamonds.”

“How beautiful. What makes the stone glow that way?”

“The effect is called adularescence, my lady. The moonstone’s natural layers refract the light and make it appear to shine from within.”

Perceiving that the ring had caught Helen’s fancy, Rhys went to have a look at it. She handed the ring to him, and he inspected it closely. The semiprecious stone was a smooth oval cabochon of an indeterminate color. As he turned it from side to side, ambient light struck hot and cool blue flashes from the pale depths.

It was a lovely ring, but even with the surround of diamonds, the central gem was infinitely humbler than the one he had first given her. It wasn’t fit for the wife of a Winterborne. Silently he damned Sauveterre for having brought up such an unassuming piece of jewelry in the first place.

“Helen,” he said shortly, “let him show you something else. This is the least valuable ring from the entire tray.”

“To me it’s the most valuable,” Helen said cheerfully. “I never judge the worth of something by how much it actually costs.”

“A pretty sentiment,” Rhys commented. As the owner of a department store, it gave him chest pains. “But this isn’t good enough for you.”

Diplomatically the jeweler offered, “If you like, I could surround it with larger diamonds, and widen the shank—”

“I love it exactly as it is,” Helen insisted.

“It’s a semiprecious stone,” Rhys said in outrage. Any of his past lovers would have scorned the thing.

Sauveterre broke the tense silence. “A stone of this quality, Mr. Winterborne, is perhaps more valuable than you may assume. For example, it’s worth more than a middling sapphire or a ruby of the second water—”

“I want my wife to have a ring that’s worthy of her,” Rhys snapped.

Helen stared at him without blinking. “But this ring is what I want.” Her voice was gentle, her expression mild. It would be easy to override her opinion—especially since it was clear that she didn’t understand what she was asking for.

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