The Millionaire Claims His Wife

By: Sandra Marton

Very well, thank you... What was with this prissy tone?

“Oh, I can’t complain.” He forced another smile, and waited for Annie to pick up the ball. She didn’t, so he plunged into the conversational waters again. “Matter of fact, I don’t know if Dawn mentioned it, but we just landed a big contract.”

“We?” she said, in a tone that could have given chilblains to an Eskimo.

“Well, Cooper Construction. We bid on this job in—”

“How nice,” she said, and turned away.

Chase felt his blood pressure shoot off the scale. So much for his attempt at being polite. Annie was not just cutting him dead, she was icing the corpse, craning her neck, looking everywhere but at him.

Suddenly a smile, a real one, curved across her mouth.

“Yoo hoo,” she called softly.

Yoo hoo? Yoo hoo?

“Hi, there,” she mouthed, and waved, and damned if some Bozo the Clown at a nearby table didn’t wave back.

“Who is that jerk?” Chase said before he could stop himself.

Annie didn’t even look at him. She was too busy looking at the jerk, and smiling.

“That ‘jerk,’” she said, “is Milton Hoffman. He’s an English professor at the university.”

Chase watched as the professor rose to his feet and threaded through the tables toward the dais. The guy was tall, and thin; he was wearing a shiny blue serge suit and he had on a bow tie. He looked more like a cadaver than a professor.

He had a smile on his face, too, as he approached Annie, and it was the smile, more than anything, that suddenly put a red film over Chase’s eyes.

“Anne,” Hoffman said. “Anne, my dear.” Annie held out her hand. Hoffman clasped it in a pasty, marshmallow paw and raised it to his lips. “It was a beautiful ceremony.”

“Thank you, Milton.”

“The flowers were perfect.”

“Thank you, Milton.”

“The music, the decorations...all wonderful.”

“Thank you, Milton.”

“And you look exquisite.”

“Thank you, Milton,” Chase said.

Annie and the Prof both swung their heads toward him. Chase smiled, showing all his teeth.

“She does, doesn’t she?” he said. “Look great, I mean.”

Annie looked at him, her eyes flaming a warning, but Chase ignored it. He leaned toward her and hooked an arm around her shoulders.

“Love that low-cut neckline, especially, babe, but then, you know how it is.” He shot Hoffman a leering grin. “Some guys are leg men, right, Milty? But me, I was always a—”

“Chase!” Color flew into Annie’s face. Hoffman’s eyes, dark and liquid behind horn-rimmed glasses, blinked once.

“You must be Anne’s husband.”

“You’re quick, Milty, I’ve got to give you that.”

“He is not my husband,” Annie said firmly, twisting out of Chase’s embrace. “He’s my ex-husband. My former husband. My once-upon-a-time-but-not-anymore husband, and frankly, if I never see him again, it’ll be too soon.” She gave Hoffman a melting smile. “I hope you’ve got your dancing shoes on, Milton, because I intend to dance the afternoon away.”

Chase smiled. He could almost feel his canine teeth turning into fangs.

“You hear that, Milty?” he said pleasantly. He felt a rush of primal pleasure when he saw Hoffman’s face turn even paler than it already was.

“Chase,” Annie said, through her teeth; “stop it.”

Chase leaned forward over the table. “She’s a wonderful dancer, our Annie. But if she’s had too much bubbly, you got to watch out. Right, babe?”

Annie opened and shut her mouth as if she were a fish. “Chase,” she said, in a strangled whisper.

“What’s the matter? Milt’s an old pal of yours, right? We wouldn’t want to keep any secrets from him, would we, babe?”

“Stop calling me that!”

“Stop calling you what?”

“You know what,” Annie said furiously. “And stop lying. I’ve never been drunk in my life.”

Chase’s lips curved up in a slow, wicked smile. “Sweetheart, come on. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the night we met.”

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