Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress(3)

By: Day Leclaire

“Don’t worry about me, Dad. I’ll find my own way home.” She gestured toward his executive assistant with a smile. “Kathleen’s coming over. I’ll ask her for a ride.”

She could tell he’d already shifted gears. “Fine, fine. You do that. I have a few questions for William.”

He made a beeline for Rafe Cameron’s chief financial officer, William Tanner, a tall, gorgeous New Zealander who’d flown in for the party. He exuded a ruthless power similar to his employer’s. Her father’s departure left Emma standing alone, shaking her head. Not that she was alone for long. Kathleen Richards descended on her, snatching her up in an exuberant hug.

“Well, hello there, Emma. Aren’t you a picture?” So was Kathleen. With her flaming red hair, bright green eyes and feisty personality, she never failed to light up the room, especially when dressed in eye-popping amethyst. “I swear, the only girl prettier than you is my granddaughter, Sarah.”

Emma smiled, playing along. “Considering she’s the image of you, that must make me the third prettiest girl.”

Kathleen chuckled, the laugh unfettered and downright contagious. As always, heads swiveled in her direction at the trademark sound. “That’s what I’ve always loved about you. You look upper crust, but you’ve always been real folk, same as that adorable brother of yours.” She spared a swift look in Ronald’s direction and lowered her voice. “How’s he doing, by the way? I swear I haven’t seen him in a solid fifteen years.”

“Neither have I. Since he decided to walk out on us, we—”

Emma broke off and inhaled sharply. No! It couldn’t be. Of all the men in the entire world to show up out of the blue, Chase was the last one she’d ever expect to see. She’d spent every single day of the past two months trying to get this man out of her head, with zero success. And yet, there he was, walking toward her with the sleek, predatory prowl of a cougar, his ruffled blond hair the exact same golden-brown shade as a mountain cat’s pelt.

“What’s wrong?” Kathleen demanded. She glanced over her shoulder and chuckled. “Oh, I see. Let me tell you, Emma, I had the exact same reaction when Chase Larson walked into your dad’s office. Took me a solid minute to find my jaw and pull it up off the floor. Tell you what. Why don’t I introduce you?”

“No, you don’t—”

She waved a hand at Chase. “Mr. Larson? I’d like to introduce you to Ronald’s daughter, Emma.”

“You don’t have to—” Emma hastened to explain in an undertone. But it was too late to stop her. Far too late to stop him. “Chase and I have already met,” she finished lamely.

“You’ve met?” Kathleen’s gaze darted from one to the other and she grinned. “Well, then. Isn’t that interesting. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you two get reacquainted on the dance floor, while I get out of your way?”

“An excellent idea,” Chase said. There was an unmistakable darkness edging his expression and lending a harshness to the deep timbre of his voice. He took her hand in his and gave a sharp tug, jerking her into his arms. He stared down at her, his blue eyes full of threat and promise. “Dance with me, Emma.”

But all she heard was “Gotcha.”

Chase took her in his arms, pulling her far too close. “Do you mind?” Emma attempted to ease back a precious few inches, only to have him tighten his grip. “In case you’re unaware, breathing is a necessary component to dancing.”

“If I don’t hold you close you may run away again.”

“I didn’t run away before,” she instantly denied.

She spared Chase a swift look, then wished she hadn’t. At a smidge over six feet, he was an impressive man, his features attractively chiseled with a firm chin, strong, nicely shaped mouth and intelligent gray-blue eyes. She’d grown up around tough men and this was one more example of the breed, despite the patina of sophistication that cloaked him like a second skin.

When they’d met while flagging down a cab on that fateful November day the weekend before Thanksgiving, he’d been so charming that they’d ended up sharing the taxi. Granted, the charm had been rough-hewn and deliciously edgy. But that had only added to the romantic ambiance of the lovely fall weather. They’d ended up spending the entire day together, followed by the entire night.

Chase swung her around in an easy circle, his hand resting tantalizingly low on her back and sending frissons of temptation racing through her. “Funny. As I recall, you were there when I fell asleep and you were gone when I woke up. No goodbye kiss. No note. No way to find you.”

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