Homeport by Nora Roberts

Book: Homeport by Nora Roberts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nora Roberts
Jones, he thought. Nothing obviously female. And the woodsy scent he imagined came from soap rather than a delicate bottle suited her, he decided, perfectly.
    At the end of a corridor, she turned right, then stopped to slide her key card into a slot beside a gray metal door. A buzzer sounded, locks clicked. Ryan flicked a mild glance upward at the camera.
    â€œOur internal security is tight,” she began. “No one passes into this department without a key or an escort. We often do independent testing for individuals and for other museums.”
    She led him into an area much like Standjo, Florence, though on a smaller scale. Technicians worked at computers and microscopes or walked briskly into anterooms with a flap of their lab coat.
    She noted a staff member working with a crusted pot, and guided Ryan toward it. “Stanley, what can you tell us about this?”
    The tech scratched at his blond moustache, sucked air in through slightly bucked teeth. “Your father sent it from the dig in Utah, along with several other artifacts. This is probably Anasazi, twelfth century, and was used as a cooking vessel.”
    He cleared his throat, shooting Miranda a quick glance, and at her nod continued. “The beauty is it’s nearly intact, with only this small chip on the lip.”
    â€œWhy a cooking vessel?” Ryan wanted to know, and Stanley blinked.
    â€œThe shape, size, thickness.”
    â€œThank you, Stanley.” Miranda turned back to Ryan, nearly bumped into him, as he’d moved closer when her back was turned. She shifted aside immediately, but not before noting that he had a good two inches on her in height. And that glint in his eyes of amused awareness took his face a step beyond sensual and straight into sexy.
    She heard the damn ping again.
    â€œWe’re primarily an institute for art, but as my father’s interests are in archaeology, we have a section for artifact display, and do quite a bit of testing and dating in that area. It’s not my field. Now this . . .”
    She walked over to a cabinet, opened a drawer, and flipped through until she found a small brown bag. She transferred the tiny bits of paint inside onto a slide, then loaded it onto an unoccupied microscope.
    â€œTake a look,” she invited. “Tell me what you see.”
    He bent over, adjusted his focus. “Color, shape, interesting in its way—rather like a Pollock painting.” He straightened and fixed those brandy-colored eyes on hers. “What am I looking at, Dr. Jones?”
    â€œA scraping from a Bronzino we’re restoring. The paint is unquestionably sixteenth century. We take a sample for security both before we begin the work and after the work is completed. In this way there’s no doubt we’ve received an authentic work, and no doubt we return the same work to its owners upon completion.”
    â€œHow do you know this is sixteenth-century paint?”
    â€œDo you want a science lesson, Mr. Boldari?”
    â€œRyan—then I can say your name. Miranda’s such a lovely name.” His voice was like warm cream over whiskey and made her itchy. “And I might actually enjoy that science lesson with the right teacher.”
    â€œYou’ll have to sign up for a class.”
    â€œPoor students do better with one-on-ones. Have dinner with me tonight.”
    â€œI’m a mediocre teacher.”
    â€œHave dinner with me anyway. We can discuss art and science, and I can tell you about the Vasaris.” He had an urge to lift his hand and play with the messy curls escaping their confinement. She’d jump like a rabbit, he decided. “We’ll call it business if it makes you more at ease.”
    â€œI’m not ill at ease.”
    â€œWell then. I’ll pick you up at seven. You know,” he continued, slipping his hand over hers again. “I’d love tosee that Bronzino. I admire the formal purity in his

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