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Copyright © 2011 Kristin Daniels
Mia stood there, all alone in the small space, just staring at the metal box for several minutes until she finally corralled enough courage to sit down.
“Okay, Grandma. Let’s see what you have in here.”
She stuck her finger through the hole of the lid and lifted. When a whoosh of lavender-scented air drifted out of the box, another attack of shivers scurried up her arms and shoulders to settle at the base of her neck.
Despite her odd reaction, she loved that scent, and had grown up closing her eyes and breathing it in every time she’d ever hugged Grandma. That she found herself taking a deep breath and closing her eyes now wasn’t really that much of a surprise.
She smiled a little, letting the melancholy flow through her at the memory, then opened her eyes to take in the contents of the box.
Several envelopes were stacked neatly alongside an oblong velvet box. The curiosity that had run through her when she was first given the key slammed back into her now, full force. She took a few of the envelopes out of the box, clutching half of the stack in her now-sweaty hands. She let all but one fall to the tabletop, and with only a moment’s hesitation, she ran her finger under the flap to open it, being cautious enough not to slice her finger open on the old, brittle paper. What she found inside that envelope, and the one after that, and the one after that…
She poured over unbelievable document after unbelievable document before reaching inside the safety deposit box to rip through even more. In the end, she’d spread at least a dozen stock certificates out on the table, all from distinguished, not to mention profitable, companies. Most of the documents were three or four decades old, based on the purchase and maturity dates listed on them.
“This doesn’t make any sense.”
Ever since Granddad died close to twenty years ago, Grandma had lived modestly, alone, in her one bedroom apartment. But the papers Mia held in her hands had to be worth, God, who knew how much? She had to admit that she was never very stock-market savvy, but she wasn’t so uninformed that she didn’t know these could be worth thousands of dollars, hell, maybe hundreds of thousands.
“Oh Gram, why…” She swiped away a lone tear as her gaze drifted back to the last item in the box. The black velvet, oblong container screamed “jewelry case”, and her heart sped up a little to what sort of exquisite piece she might find inside. With the tiniest trepidation, she pried it open. Slowly, steadily. The old, squeaky hinge gave way a millimeter at a time, then suddenly sprang open with a dusty pop in her hands.
She jumped in her seat, then blew out a muttered, “For the love of…” before calming her heart enough to take a good, long look at her treasure.
The most beautiful, three-strand black pearl choker lay inside, nestled against a lining made of dark blue satin. Mia had never seen anything quite like the necklace before. The piece was stunning, really, and captured the essence of who her Grandma was to a tee.
Three strands of what Mia instinctually knew to be the finest black pearls were gathered at the ends by lengths of a white-gold chain. The chains were looped together on one side by a fishhook closure, but the other side…
The other side held an intricate clasp that was offset by a pearl so large, Mia wasn’t sure it was real. The black-green gem—which was at least as wide as a nickel, if not a smidgen wider—was encircled by a halo of small diamonds interlaced with tiny, vibrant sapphires. Hanging by a single jumpring from the edge of the clasp was a white-gold, heart-shaped charm. She could see the elegant script adorning both sides, but couldn’t make out any of the words through her now-blurry vision.
Tear, tears and more tears. Damn, damn and damn it some more.
She blew her hair off her forehead and wiped at her watery eyes. God, she must look like a raccoon right now, with all the boo-hooing she’d done in the last few hours. But she had a feeling she wasn’t done yet, not when she spotted a piece of paper tucked along the inside edge of the box. Her stomach fluttered, but she’d come this far, right? What the hell, why not go a little further. She pulled out the paper and unfolded a note. Mia recognized the perfect flow of her grandmother’s handwriting instantly.
My dear Mia,
This is my gift to you, now that I am gone. Wear it when your heart tells you, for only it will know when the time is right.
With all my love and wishes,
Heaven above. Tears flowed in earnest now, and her nose ran like a faucet. Her heart broke all over again, and she knew she had to get a grip before someone outside the door heard her and came in to check on her. She sniffled and re-folded the note, taking her time so she could compose herself as best she could.
“Okay, okay, okay. I can do this,” she murmured to herself. Although, to anyone on the outside looking in, it would appear she was talking to the choker lying on the table in front of her.
She ran a timid finger along its length until she came to the clasp, then lifted the necklace from the box to hold it between the shaky fingertips of both hands. At first, it was as if an eerie calm blanketed her. Her heart slowed, her breaths evened, her tears stopped. The second they did, that’s when she felt it.
Tingles. Little zings of energy burrowing through her fingers to center in her palms. Within a shallow breath, they became stronger, then stronger still, until violent currents of electricity coursed through her hands.
She wanted to drop the choker, or throw it, or… God, something, anything, to stop the zaps of burning pain. But she couldn’t. She was held prisoner, entranced by something she couldn’t put a name to.
The huge pearl. The one in the clasp.
Her gaze was drawn to it, as if the gem were calling out to some long-forgotten place deep inside her soul. The air in the room seemed to swirl in smoky ribbons all around her, stealing the very breath from her lungs. She tried to look away from the pearl, but found doing so was just as impossible as trying to drop the choker. She was locked in, frozen in that moment, and it was scaring the hell out of her.
Just when she thought the burning in her hands couldn’t get any worse, the fire eased somewhat, morphing into an oddly soothing warmth. The air churning around her tightened, converging almost, until it formed a tiny tornado. The vortex centered over the large pearl, spinning a few dozen times before dissipating like tinkling fireworks into thin air. What it left in its wake, Mia would never forget, not for as long as she lived.
Dark, sultry, heart-stopping eyes that stared at her from under straight masculine brows.
As quickly as the image appeared within the pearl, it was gone again. Everything around her was once again still, as if a whacked-out episode of The Twilight Zone hadn’t just played itself out in this very room.
She looked toward the door, then back to the choker in her hands. She was surprised she wasn’t shaking like a leaf, and every part of her was even more astounded that she wasn’t already running from the room screaming like a fool, since that was exactly what she felt like doing.
God, what the hell just happened? She stood from the chair, still staring at the choker while that flight instinct gripped her in a stranglehold.
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