Provenance - Carla Laureano Page 0,2

pieces and uncover their provenance that made her something of a wunderkind in the Southern California design world . . . and most likely the reason they got the Thornton Ladd house in the first place.

But it was Sophie’s design portfolio that closed the deal, and don’t you dare take that away from her. Kendall was going to have to push down her urge to oversee the project and let Sophie have her day in the sun. And she would be there to swoop in if anything went wrong.

Kendall pushed open the door to her bedroom and let out an exhale, then dragged her bag over to the closet. While the rest of the house was filled with antique furniture and richly colored textiles, her room was minimal, almost spare in its decor. Its only furnishings were a simple iron bed covered in a fluffy white duvet, a bench with a woven seat at its foot, a single painting on the wall, and a large, threadbare Persian rug that covered the wood floor almost to the edges of the room. Beautiful, simple, and calm. A place for focus and relaxation. Her sanctuary, one that no one, not even Sophie, entered.

Except she didn’t own it, and it could go away at any time. Would go away soon, if the rent hikes continued.

Kendall toed off her boots and placed them carefully on the shoe rack in her closet, then pulled out a pair of woven flats made from recycled plastic. The leather jacket got hung up beside her blazers, swapped out for a cozy knit cardigan. Her long blonde hair, which had started out in soft waves but gotten smushed from the ten long hours on the plane, went up into a messy bun on top of her head. Now she was ready to work.

But when she walked back out into their office space, Sophie was hurriedly packing things into a canvas messenger bag.

“What’s going on?”

Sophie looked up guiltily. “I’m sorry. I just got a call from Renee Thomas. She’s at the tile showroom and she’s found something she loves. She wants me to go over there right away.”

“Oh.” Kendall blinked. “Of course. Go. We’ll talk when you get back. I need to catch up on my mail anyway.”

Sophie grinned. “I’ll pick up something to eat and a bottle of wine on the way back.”

Kendall forced a laugh. “Make sure it’s a good bottle of wine then. Have fun. Go rescue your client from herself.”

“Right?” Sophie rolled her eyes, but the excitement in her face said there was nothing she’d rather be doing. “Back later.”

Kendall nodded and slid into her office chair, turning her back to Sophie like she’d already forgotten she was leaving. She didn’t blame her—clients did things like this all the time. They said they trusted you to pick out their finishes and oversee construction, but they still spent all their free time poring over catalogs and wandering through design showrooms. Sometimes they had impeccable taste and made your job easier; more often, you found yourself diplomatically explaining that glass mosaic tiles went out of style years ago and didn’t suit a Craftsman bungalow in the first place.

The front door closing behind Sophie just highlighted the sudden quiet in the room, so Kendall went over to the bookshelf and flipped on the Bluetooth speaker connected to her phone, then settled back at her desk in front of her overflowing in-box. Half of it was junk mail; the other half were bills, which she’d have to reconcile with her job sheets and send on to Sophie for payment. And then her fingers touched a thin business-size envelope, its linen texture standing out from all the cheap paper that surrounded it.

“Jasper Lake, Colorado?” Kendall murmured, looking at the return address in the upper-left corner. She’d been born and raised in Colorado, but she didn’t have any family there. Didn’t have any family, period. And she’d certainly never heard of any place called Jasper Lake. This better not be an “invitation” to a unique moneymaking opportunity. Kendall slid the blade of her silver letter opener under the flap and withdrew a single sheet of paper. Bold black letters at the top announced Notice to heirs followed by smaller print: In the matter of the estate of Mrs. Constance Green.

To the heirs and devisees of the above estate: This is formal notice that Mrs. Constance Green, the decedent, died on September 8, 2016, and you have or may have an interest in Mrs.