The Millionaire Claims His Wife

By: Sandra Marton



“No,” Annie said miserably, choking back a sob.

“Annie,” Deb said gently, “come out of there.”

“No.”

“Annie.” Deb’s tone became the sort she probably used with her third-graders. “This is nonsense. You can’t hide in there forever.”

“Give me one good reason why I can’t,” Annie said, sniffling.

“Well, you’ve got seventy-five guests waiting.”

“A hundred,” Annie sobbed. “Let ’em wait.”

“The minister’s starting to look impatient.”

“Patience is a virtue,” Annie said, and dumped the wet tissues into the toilet.

“And I think your aunt Jeanne just propositioned one of the groomsmen.”

There was a long silence, and then Annie groaned. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“All I know is what I saw. She got this look on her face—you know the look.”

Annie clamped her eyes shut. “And?”

“And, she went sashaying over to that big blond kid.” Deborah’s voice turned dreamy. “Actually I couldn’t much blame her. Did you see the build on that boy?”

“Deb! Honestly!” Annie flushed the tissues down the toilet, unlocked the stall door and marched to the sink. “Aunt Jeanne’s eighty years old. There’s some excuse for her. But you—”

“Listen, just because I’m forty doesn’t mean I’m dead. You may want to pretend you’ve forgotten what men are good for, but I certainly haven’t.”

“Forty-three,” Annie said, rummaging in her purse. “You can’t lie about your age to me, Deb, not when we share a birthday. As for what men are good for—believe me, I know what they’re good for. Not much. Not one damn thing, actually, except for making babies and that’s just the trouble, Dawn is still just a baby. She’s too young to be getting married.”

“That’s the other thing I came in to tell you.” Deb cleared her throat. “He’s here.”

“Who’s here?”

“Your ex.”

Annie went still. “No.”

“Yes. He came in maybe five minutes ago.”

“No, he couldn’t have. He’s in Georgia or Florida, someplace like that.” Annie looked at her friend in the mirror. “You’re sure it was Chase?”

“Six-two, dirty-blond hair, that gorgeous face with its slightly off-center nose and muscles up the yin-yang...” Deb blushed. “Well, I notice these things.”

“So I see.”

“It’s Chase, all right. I don’t know why you’re so surprised. He said he’d be here for Dawn’s wedding, that he wouldn’t let anyone else give his daughter away.”

Annie’s mouth twisted. She wrenched on the water, lathered her hands with soap and scrubbed furiously.

“Chase was always good at promises. It’s the follow-through he can’t manage.” She shut off the faucet and yanked a paper towel from the dispenser. “This whole thing is his fault.”

“Annie...”

“Did he tell Dawn she was making a mistake? No. He most certainly did not. The jerk gave her his blessing. His blessing, Deb, can you imagine?” Annie balled up the paper towel and hurled it into the trash can. “I put my foot down, told her to wait, to finish her education. He gave her a kiss and told her to do what she thought best. Well, that’s typical. Typical! He could never do anything that wasn’t just the opposite of what I wanted.”

“Annie, calm down.”

“I really figured, when he didn’t show up for the rehearsal last night, that we’d gotten lucky.”

“Dawn wouldn’t have thought so,” Deb said quietly. “And you know that she never doubted him, for a minute. ‘Daddy will be here,’ she kept saying.”

“All the more proof that she’s too young to know what’s good for her,” Annie muttered. “What about my sister? Has she shown up yet?”

“Not yet, no.”

Annie frowned. “I hope Laurel’s okay. It’s not like her to be late.”

“I already phoned the railroad station. The train came in late, or something. It’s the minister you’ve got to worry about. He’s got another wedding to perform in a couple of hours, over in Easton.”

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