Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress(5)

By: Day Leclaire

“First, my brother’s opinion does not reflect my own, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t color me with his brush. I prefer to form my own opinion about you, just as I expect you to form your own about me. And second, you still haven’t answered my question.”

She wondered if her desperation to escape showed. She’d had years of experience maintaining a calm, remote demeanor. But for some reason, whether the man or the occasion, she couldn’t pull it off tonight. “What question?”

“Why did you leave without a word?”

She really didn’t feel well. And now that she thought about it, it occurred to her that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. That, combined with the few sips of champagne she’d consumed, was leaving her seriously off-color. “Sorry, Chase, but we’ll have to save this for another day.” She pulled free of his arms. “You know who I am now and how to get in touch with me, assuming it’s even necessary.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I haven’t eaten,” she admitted. “I’m feeling a bit light-headed.”

She should have known better than to offer so much information to someone like Chase. He instantly took charge. “There’s a buffet across the room. Why don’t we find something that will help?”

She couldn’t bring herself to look in that direction. Not when the scent of seafood drifted off the gleaming tables. “What I’d really like is to go home, put my feet up and fix myself some tea and toast.”

“Fair enough. How did you get here?”

“With my father,” she reluctantly admitted.

“You live with him?”

“Yes, but—”

“His estate is a few miles south of here, isn’t it?”

She eyed Chase sharply. “How do you know that?”

“I get paid to know things like that.” He cupped her elbow. “Come with me.”

After collecting her wrap from the cloakroom, he drew her toward the wide-flung doors exiting onto the portico. A stunning view of beach and sea spread like a carpet beneath the bluff on which the Vista del Mar Beach and Tennis Club perched. A setting crescent moon dipped toward the Pacific Ocean, gilding the waves in silver.

He escorted her around the building toward the valet stand. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“You need tea, toast and quiet. That’s what I plan to provide.”

“What I need is to go home,” she insisted gently.

And yet, somehow she found herself ensconced in the cherry-red Ferrari Fiorano Chase had rented. With the windows open, the chilly air helped clear her head. The instant he hit the freeway, he headed north, instead of south.

“Where are we going?” she asked, though at this point she wasn’t sure she cared anymore.

“To get you something to eat.”

Emma surrendered to the inevitable. She had a feeling that when it came to Chase there wasn’t another option. Five minutes later he pulled in to a circular drive protected by an electronic gate and lined with palm trees. The instant he killed the engine, he helped her out of the car and escorted her to the front door of the beachfront condo.

“Is this yours?” she asked, impressed.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s a rental.”

She wandered deeper into the condo. “This is gorgeous.”

“I didn’t bring you here so you could tour the place.” He ushered her into the main living area, a huge room banked with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the ocean. Stripping off his tux jacket, he slung it across the back of a chair. “Sit and relax. Tea and toast coming up.”

As much as she wanted to insist that Chase take her home, she didn’t have the energy. She sank onto the couch and leaned against soft, thick cushions that molded themselves around her like a pair of warm arms. Despite all her attempts to remain alert, her eyes drifted closed. It wasn’t until she heard the rattle of glassware that she opened her eyes again.

She glanced around, disoriented. “Did I fall asleep?”

“Just for a minute.” He set a cup and saucer on a table at her elbow, followed by a plate with several slices of lightly buttered toast, cut into manageable bite-sized pieces. Pale greenish tea steamed gently from the clear glass cup. “Whoever stocks this place is big on herbal teas. This one’s chamomile and peppermint. According to the package, it’s guaranteed to relax and soothe.”

“Thank you. Just what I wanted.” Before she could take so much as a sip of tea her BlackBerry rang. She pulled it out of her purse and checked the caller ID. “Excuse me. I should take this. It’s my dad.”

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