The Millionaire Claims His Wife

By: Sandra Marton



“We don’t move in the same circles, I’m afraid. But I know who she is, of course. It’s nice to see your tastes have gone from twenty-two-year-olds to females tottering on the brink of thirty. Have you told Dawn yet?”

“No! I mean, no, there hasn’t been time. I, ah, I thought I’d wait until she and Nick get back from their honey—”

“Milton. There you are.” Annie reached out and grabbed Milton Hoffman’s arm. She was pretty sure he’d been trying to sneak past her and Chase undetected, en route to the line at the buffet table, but if ever there’d been a time she’d needed someone to cling to, it was now. “Milton,” she said, looping her arm through his and giving him a dazzling smile, “my ex has just given me some exciting news.”

Hoffman looked at Chase, his eyes wary behind his tortoiseshells. “Really,” he said. “How nice.”

“Chase is getting married again. To Janet Pendleton.” Could your lips be permanently stretched by a smile? “Isn’t that lovely?”

“Well,” Chase said, “actually—”

“I suppose it’s the season for romance,” Annie said, with a silvery laugh. “Dawn and Nick, Chase and Janet Pendleton...” She tilted her head and gazed up into Milton Hoffman’s long, bony face. “And us.”

Hoffman’s Adam’s apple bobbed so hard it almost dislodged his bow tie. It was only a week ago that he’d asked Anne Cooper to marry him. She’d told him how much she liked and admired him, how she enjoyed his company and his attention. She’d told him everything but yes.

His gaze leaped to her former husband. Chase Cooper had taken his father’s construction firm and used his engineering degree and his muscles to turn it into a company with a national reputation. He’d ridden jackhammers as they bit deep into concrete foundations and hoisted pickaxes to reduce the remainder to piles of rubble. Hoffman swallowed hard again. Cooper still had the muscles to prove it. Right now, the man looked as if he wanted to use those muscles to pulverize him.

“Chase?” Annie said, beaming. “Aren’t you going to wish us well?”

“Yes,” Chase said, jamming his hands into his pockets, balling them so hard they began to shake. “I wish you the best, Annie. You and your cadaver, both.”

Annie’s smile flattened. “You always did know the right thing to say, didn’t you, Chase?” Turning on her heel, she propelled herself and Milton off the edge of the dance floor and toward the buffet.

“Anne,” Milton whispered, “Anne, my dearest, I had no idea...”

“Neither did I,” Annie whispered back, and smiled up into his stunned face hard enough so he’d have to think the tears in her eyes were for happiness and not because a hole seemed suddenly to have opened in her heart.

* * *

Married, Chase thought. His Annie, getting married to that jerk.

Surely she had better taste.

He slid his empty glass across the bar to the bartender.

“Women,” he said. “Can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without ’em.”

The bartender smiled politely. “Yes, sir.”

“Give me a refill. Bourbon and—”

“And water, one ice cube. I remember.”

Chase looked at the guy. “You trying to tell me I’ve been here too many times this afternoon?”

The bartender’s smile was even more polite. “I might have to, soon, sir. State law, you know.”

Chase’s mouth thinned. “When I’ve had too much to drink, I’ll be sure and let you know. Meanwhile, make this one a double.”

“Chase?”

He swung around. Behind him, people were doing whatever insane line dance was this year’s vogue. Others were still eating the classy assortment of foods Annie had ordered and he hadn’t been permitted to pay for.

“I’ve no intention of asking you to foot the bill for anything,” she’d told him coldly, when he’d called to tell her to spare no expense on the wedding. “Dawn is my daughter, my floral design business is thriving and I need no help from you.”

“Dawn is my daughter, too,” Chase had snarled, but before he’d gotten the words out, Annie had hung up. She’d always been good at getting the last word, dammit. Not today, though. He’d gotten it. And the look on her face when he’d handed her all that crap about his engagement to Janet made it even sweeter.

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