A fiery amateur archaeologist and a brash cowboy join up to hunt down a legendary serpent.
On the outside, Romy Farrington has the perfect life—a world-famous archaeologist father and upcoming marriage to a wealthy businessman. But to Romy, her new life among the elitists is like a punishment.
For years, she traveled the world at her father's side, exploring new lands and uncovering ancient secrets. It was everything she ever wanted, until a near-fatal encounter with hostile natives forced her and her father into a life of retirement in Boston and an undesired advance into proper society.
Everything changes again when she's saved from an accident by a brash Texan in a back alley. Abel Courte may act like a care-free cowboy, but he's harboring a secret—he's searching for the Diamond of Uktena, a legendary jewel that can cure any disease known to man. He needs information Romy's father has in order to get to the jewel. When he traces the origin of the Diamond to Dakota Territory, he sets off to claim the treasure, only to find the archaeologist's fiery redheaded daughter stuck to him like a bug in sap.
In a race against time, Romy and Abel must learn to trust each other as they undertake a cross-country journey that will expose them to lands uncharted by white men, a deadly battle against the fearsome creature in possession of the Diamond and a fight to return to civilization where they might make the greatest discovery of all—love.
Romy’s eyes locked on Abel's necklace. “What's that around your neck? A fossil of some sort?”
His hand flew to the pendant and stuffed it back down his collar. “Nothing.”
“As someone who's seen a lot of nothing, I can tell you without a doubt it's something. Full of secrets, aren't we, Abel?”
Blue eyes widened then narrowed, as she looked between him and the maps he'd lifted out of the drawer. Her coyness fell away like leaves in the fall. “You're a treasure hunter. You found out that Papa is going to search for the Diamond of Uktena, but you plan to steal it first.”
“Why would I want to steal a—” He gave up the pretense. “First of all, it isn't stealing if it isn't in anyone's possession. Second, I'm not a treasure hunter.”
“It is stealing if you're going to sell a priceless artifact to the highest bidder on the black market.”
Abel frowned. “I don't need a lecture from some little chit whose daddy is the biggest treasure hunter in the world.”
Romy poked a finger into his chest. “Take it back. He's an archeologist and an adventurer. When he finds valuables he turns them over to the proper authorities.”
He pushed her finger away. “I'll bet you a thousand dollars he's not going to do it this time.”
Her eyes narrowed into slits, half-hidden behind a thick fringe of lashes. “You're wrong.”
“It would be the biggest discovery of our time. Of any time. It's no mere gem, no ornament to put on a shelf.”
“I have some knowledge of the Diamond,” she defended.
The admission was too nonchalant. Had mere curiosity led her to follow him?
He patted the fang inside his shirt. “I doubt anyone could put a price on its worth, but there are those willing to try.”
She stared at him dubiously. “Because it's supposed to come from a mythical serpent?”
He debated telling her. It wouldn't benefit Romy to know what he was doing. After tonight it was unlikely he'd see her again.
“Ask your father. He might know more than I do. I have to leave now. I'd appreciate it if you kept our little rendezvous quiet.”
He snatched up the papers, flashed a grin and started for the door. The rustle of skirts alerted him that she was right behind him, but he didn't slow down. Not until a cold metal barrel pressed against the center of his neck.
“Stay where you are.”
Romy's voice was hard and all business. Abel raised his hands. She drew the gun back and came around to face him. The pistol was no little thing, not the type a dainty female would carry for protection. Romy was a woman of many facets, like the fabled Diamond.
“I can't give you the fang.”
“I have the feeling it's an intricate detail in your mission, Mr. Courte.”
He sighed. “I don't know for certain.”
“Tell me what you do know.”
“The fang is solid proof that Uktena exists.”
She frowned. “And who is Uktena exactly?”
“Uktena isn't your typical serpent. Rumor has it that this sparkly rock stuck in its forehead can bring power and riches to whoever wields it. Better still, the Diamond cures illnesses. Any disease you can think of.”