What is the mystery surrounding LOT 13, why would someone go out of their way to bid for something at an auction then days later sell it at a considerable loss? Samantha is determined to find out, but the deeper she digs the more confused she becomes; she’s been dealt a hand she doesn’t know how to play. Is the man she thinks is behind it all a conman out to fleece a vulnerable old woman, or has Samantha got it all wrong?
It was that time of the year again. Samantha Jameson hated Christmas; it was a reminder of all she had thrown away. The love of a good man, family, a beautiful house, friends. Stupidity had robbed her of everything and now it was too late. Jeff had moved on; he had a new wife, younger and prettier than she was—not that she wasn’t considered by some to have more than her fair share of good looks. She was a natural blonde with a heart-shaped face and trim figure.
If the rumours she’d heard were true, Jeff and his wife had a baby on the way. She wished them well.
Her ex had always wanted a family. She was the one who had wanted to wait until the time was right.
At first, it had been wait until they could afford a bigger house, one with a garden. Then it had been a more upmarket car, a holiday abroad; there had always been something. Yes, she had been responsible for the breakup of the marriage, no one else.
She recalled how Jeff had never been too happy she was the main bread winner. He was a car salesman, knew the job inside out, could have gone far, but he wasn’t the adventurous type. He was a plodder, didn’t like change. She was a fully-trained auctioneer with letters after her name.
Samantha looked at the clock, it was coming up to eight fifteen. She knew if she didn’t get a move on she’d be late for a 9:30 meeting at her place of work.
Gathering together briefcase, handbag, car keys and gloves, she left the flat. She drove carefully, weaving her Mercedes in and out of the heavy morning traffic, arriving in good time at her place of business, Fox and Co Auctioneers and Valuers.
Her secretary had a steaming hot cup of coffee waiting for her when she got in.
“Mr. Fox and his nephew are here,” she said, “and you’ll be pleased to know the two Yanks that booked into the hotel on Maid Marion Way are on their way.”
“How would you know that?” asked Susan, taking a sip of her coffee. It wasn’t to her liking—it was too strong. Her secretary should know how she liked it, she’d made it for her often enough.
“Because I’ve been making enquiries,” she huffed in reply.
“Yes, of course you have,” Sam said placatingly, and getting to her feet, made her way to the main office.
The Americans had arrived and were already seated. They were there to make arrangements for the payment and shipping to the States of a D H Lawrence book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, an unexpurgated first addition, printed in Italy in 1928, and a Fabergé Egg, both bought at the auction the day previous.
Peter Carl Fabergé was a Russian goldsmith and jeweller. He’d made intricate gold eggs for Tsar Nicholas the third and other royal families.
Samantha had been the auctioneer, and each work of art had gone for a price way above expectations. She’d also been the one responsible for finding the provenance, the earliest known history on both items, and she was justifiably pleased all her hard work had paid off.
Samantha usually took lunch at her desk, a takeaway or sandwiches, if she wasn’t attending an auction, or had meetings with a client. Today however, was different, she’d been invited out by one of the visitors. At first, she had declined the invite, but the man had been so persistent she had finally accepted. She was glad now she had. The restaurant was upmarket, the food excellent.
Both the Americans were good-looking, charming and easy to get along with.
Warren Trench, the elder of the two, the one who had extended the invite, was tall, dark and extremely handsome, with a square jaw, blue eyes and wavy hair.
Charles Jackson—Chuck to his friends—was stockier, and made it clear from the very beginning he was a family man. “Can’t wait to get home to the wife and kids,” he’d said, handing round photos.
Samantha diplomatically made all the right noises, pretty wife, boys would be heartbreakers when they grew up, et cetera.
“You’re right there, ma’am,” Chuck fired back with a cheeky grin. “Both the boys take after their papa.”
Samantha felt comfortable in the men’s company and was sorry when the time came for her to take her leave and get back to the office.
When she got up to go, Warren took her hand and asked if she’d consider going for a drink with him after she finished work for the day. Samantha didn’t need to consider, she hadn’t been asked out for a while and definitely not by such a gorgeous man. It also meant a break from her usual dull Friday night routine: TV, catch up on recorded soaps, early to bed.
Arrangements were made to meet up in the bar of the hotel the two men were booked into; no parking problems.
At the appointed time, Samantha parked her Mercedes Sports in the hotel car park and made her way inside.
The bar was crowded and at first, she didn’t see her date, then she heard his voice, recognised the American accent. He was stood at the bar deep in conversation, a pretty girl was stood next to him, he had his arm around her waist.