Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress(2)

By: Day Leclaire



More than anything he wanted to confront her, demand an explanation for her disappearing act. But perhaps he already had his answer, courtesy of Rafe. She was a party girl. One-night stands were as common to her as shopping for groceries was to the average woman. Even so, he hated being made a fool of, another throwback to his formative school years.

At the ripe age of ten, when he’d first arrived in New York to live with his father, Chase had been dubbed Barron’s Bastard. That might have had something to do with the fact that his driven, world-renowned businessman father and his laid-back, California-mellow mother had never formalized their affair with traditional “I dos.” He’d soon had the “California” knocked out of him by his peers at the private school where he’d been dumped and learned to keep his emotions and personal opinions under tight control. It was a lesson he never forgot and one that had helped propel him to the top of his field as a money manager.

His gaze narrowed on Emma in careful assessment. As Rafe suggested, she exuded wealth, privilege and glamour. From the elegant twist of her pale blond hair to the discreet glitter of diamonds at her earlobes and wrist, she sent out signals that mixed a sultry come-hither sexiness with an Ice-Princess touch-me-not facade. It all boiled down to one compelling objective. Chase wanted her with an unrelenting hunger. And one way or another, he’d have her again.

Tonight.



“How are you feeling, Dad?” Emma asked quietly, slipping her arm through her father’s. “The party isn’t too much, is it?”

“Don’t fuss, sweetheart. I’m fine.” Ronald Worth softened the testy edge in his voice with a smile. “It’s a minor heart ailment, as you know damn well.”

“Oh, really?” she challenged. “Apparently, it’s bad enough to convince you to sell Worth Industries to Rafe Cameron.”

He grimaced. “That’s only one factor in my decision. I keep telling you, if you’d step in—”

“—which I won’t, as I keep telling you.”

“Well, there you have it. I could continue chugging along for another decade or two.” He glared down at her. “Don’t give me that look, missy. I’m only in my mid-sixties. The prime of my life.”

Emma smothered a smile. “I didn’t say a word.”

“You didn’t have to.”

She sighed, giving his arm a swift hug. “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Even if running Worth isn’t something I’d care to do, you don’t have to sell if you’d rather not. You could delegate more. Hire someone to handle a greater portion of your day-to-day responsibilities.”

“That’s an option.” Ronald’s jaw firmed. “Selling is the one I chose instead.”

“But selling to Rafe Cameron, of all people. From what little I’ve seen of him, he puts the a in arrogance.”

His thick silver mane of hair glinting beneath the overhead lights, her father turned to glance in Rafe’s direction. “Nothing wrong with arrogance when you have a solid pair of brass ones to back it up.” A wistful note colored his words. “I was just like him at his age.”

“Dad—”

“Enough, Emma. It’s practically a done deal.” Laser-sharp ocean-blue eyes gazed down at her and his harsh expression softened. “Have I told you how lovely you look this evening?”

She allowed her head to rest against his shoulder for a moment. “Just a chip off the old block.”

He snagged her chin and tipped her face up to his. “You have all my best qualities and none of my worst. Same could be said about your mother. You have her staggering beauty but none of her weaknesses.”

Emma’s eyes misted. The fact that he’d mention her mother was startling enough. But for him to say anything positive about his late wife, even if it came across as a rather backhanded compliment, was downright shocking. Now if she could just get her father to reconcile with her brother. They weren’t completely estranged. After all, her brother managed the family ranch at Copper Run Ranch. But it had been more than a decade since the three of them had sat down like a family and talked to each other. Painful, irreversible events from the past prevented that from happening.

“Dad…”

He must have guessed the direction of her thoughts because he shook his head. “Forget it, princess. Not going to happen.” He dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. “Business calls. It’s going to be a late night for me. Need to get out there and shake hands, kiss babies and steal lollipops. Will you be all right? If you want to leave early, you can take the car. Just send it back for me.”

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