Claimed for the Master's Pleasure(6)

By: Jan Bowles



She handed the photograph back to Jake Benetti. “I’ve seen enough.” She still found it hard to believe that her beloved father was a gambler, but the evidence was overwhelming. “Okay, I live in the real world. I’m disappointed to admit that my father came here. He’s not the first, and he certainly won’t be the last. Not when vultures like you entice decent, honest people like my father to part with their hard-earned money.” Her remarks were cutting and designed to hit their mark. His eyelids flickered briefly as he absorbed her harsh words. Satisfaction coursed through her veins. So, Jake Benetti wasn’t quite as cool as he tried to make out.

He drew in a deep breath. “Ms. Constantine, we come to the reason why I sought this meeting with you.”

“Yes, I’d be interested to know why I was forced into a car by two huge men and dragged here at your request, Mr. Benetti.” She spat the words out with undiluted venom.

“May I apologize once more for the way my men behaved?”

“You may, but I still don’t accept it.”

He continued, “Out of respect for you and your father, I’ve waited an appropriate length of time before contacting you. It is only right that you should have an uninterrupted grieving period.”

“What the hell do you know about grieving? I’ve only known you for half an hour, but I can already see you’re nothing more than a cold, soulless man.”

Lia expected him to respond to her caustic remarks, but he didn’t. Instead, he calmly said, “When your father died, he left an unpaid casino marker.”

“Marker?” Her brows drew together.

“Think of it as an unpaid check.”

“Are you saying my father owed you money?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, Ms. Constantine.”

It was a shock to discover her father was a gambler, and even worse that he’d left a debt behind. So Jake Benetti wanted it settled. Her father had left her a significant amount of money in his will, along with the family home they’d all shared with her mother, until she’d died five years ago. Lia was the only beneficiary, making her legally responsible for any outstanding debts. It might put the plans for growing her personal trainer business on hold for a little while longer, but she’d always been taught by her parents, and especially her father, to pay her way in the world. Lia glanced at her watch. “I need to be going, Mr. Benetti. Unlike you, I have to work for a living. If you can show me legal documentation proving how much my father owed you, then perhaps we can settle this small matter once and for all.”

Jake Benetti shuffled the papers on his desk, and cleared his throat. He lifted his gaze to hers. His ice-cold eyes drilled into her. “The amount owed is significant.”

“Mr. Benetti, quit the small talk. Are we talking hundreds, or even a few thousand dollars?”

His eyes fixed on hers, like cold chips of ice. “When your father died, he left an unpaid casino marker of almost 1.3 million dollars.” He flicked through the paperwork on his desk once more. “One million, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. To be precise.”

Like a fish lying on a riverbank, her mouth opened and closed several times as she gasped for air. Had she heard correctly? More to the point, had her father lost his mind? What on earth had possessed him to lose more than a million dollars in a place like this? Like a bolt from the blue the answer came to her. The therapy course her father had paid for when she couldn’t cope after the death of her fiancé, Joe. The bill for that would have run into thousands, possibly even tens of thousands. But the thought of almost 1.3 million bucks left her speechless. He’d left her a little over two hundred thousand dollars in his will. What the hell had happened to the rest?

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