Seb leaned his arms on the table, listening intently.
‘I went straight to the Causeway District and found an antique shop.’
Seb’s mouth kicked up in a smile. ‘Don’t tell me... It was solid gold and studded with diamonds.’
‘Better. It was Fabergé and worth a freaking fortune. I was lucky. The owner paid me a fair price. He could’ve ripped me off. I didn’t know what it was. The profit on that funded my travels for the next eighteen months, but I was hooked on the chase. I started studying antiques, jewellery, art. I realised I had an eye for spotting quality and, while I never found another Fabergé brooch, I did find Lalique glassware, Meissen pottery, minor works of art. I made some money.’
Well, that explained the deposits and withdrawals. Smart girl, Seb thought. Smart and gorgeous. A very dangerous combination.
‘Most of my capital is tied up in a house I co-bought in London which I am planning on...’
Rowan tipped her mouth up. ‘It’s what I do.’
‘So, coming back to these...’
Rowan told him what Grayson had said and waited through his resultant thoughtful silence. ‘So, basically, you need to know whether these are previously undiscovered, undocumented netsuke or whether they’ve been stolen?’
‘They aren’t stolen. I’m pretty sure of that. But no one is going to buy them at the price I want without further information.’ Rowan rested her chin on her fist. ‘And obviously it also means that I’m going to be broke for a lot longer than I anticipated.’
Seb waved her money troubles away. Easy for him to do, Rowan thought.
‘So, what’s the next step?’ he asked.
‘Research. Lots of it. I don’t know nearly enough about netsuke.’
‘But you know that they are quality pieces? Do you need my computer skills?’
‘I don’t think so... I just need to trawl through databases of documented netsuke and see if I can find any of them.’
‘Well, if you need to get into places that you can’t get into...’
‘Is that what you do? Poke around in places?’
Seb shrugged. ‘At a very basic level.’
‘What exactly are you paid so much money to do?’
Seb tapped his finger against his coffee cup. ‘I guess you can call me a consultant. Companies hire me to evaluate their computer systems for vulnerabilities. So I go in there, try to hack their system—and pretty much always do. Then I point out where they have problems. Sometimes I fix the problems for them; sometimes they get their people to do it. Either way I get paid.’
‘Huh. So you use your powers for good and not evil?’ Rowan threw his words back at him.
‘And you’d be willing to...poke around for me? Isn’t that illegal?’
‘Slightly unethical, maybe.’ Seb’s eyes were determined when they met hers. ‘Look, I’m not going to use the information for personal gain, and if it helps you out of a jam then so much the better.’
Rowan nodded her understanding, thought for a minute, then said, ‘Let me do some research. If I need your help, I’ll ask.’
‘Promise?’ Seb shrugged at her gimlet stare. ‘It’s just that you don’t have a great track record when it comes to asking for help, Brat.’
‘Promise. Can I borrow a computer?’
‘Sure. There’s a couple you can use in my office, or there’s a few you can use in my bedroom.’ Seb deliberately wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and Rowan, as expected, rolled her eyes. Yep, time to bust her chops, he thought, and to banish the tension he saw in her eyes.
‘I am not going anywhere near your bedroom, Hollis.’
Seb leaned back in his chair. ‘Why? Scared you won’t be able to keep your hands off me?’
‘What? Are you mad? You’re like my...my...er...’
‘Don’t say brother,’ Seb ground out. ‘That would be too creepy for words.’
‘No...geez! Eeuuuw!’ Rowan shuddered as she banged her cup onto the table. ‘No talk of bedrooms!’
Seb liked the colour in her face and the snap in her eyes so he thought he’d wind her up some more. ‘Okay, can we talk about what happens in bedrooms, then?’
‘We could never have sex!’
‘Uh, yes...actually we could. You see, my Part A would slot into your Plot B—’
Rowan’s look was meant to freeze. ‘Stop being facetious! It’s a crazy idea! Yes, I think you’ve got some heat happening, but it would be a really stupid thing to do. We don’t even like each other.’
Seb stood up and ran a hand over her head. Then he placed one hand on the back of her chair and bent down so that his face was next to hers. She just folded her arms and lifted a perfectly arched, perfectly arrogant eyebrow. Man, that look made him hot.