Claimed for the Master's Pleasure(8)

By: Jan Bowles



When Madeline entered his office, she shook her head. Her strawberry-blonde hair bobbed from side to side. “I bet this girl hasn’t even had breakfast yet. Or maybe she just couldn’t stomach what you had to say.”

“Madeline, business is business. I can’t go getting all soft now. I’ve got shareholders breathing down my neck. At the end of the day, profit is all they understand.”

He knew his secretary disapproved of his harsh methods. She said it as it was. She always had. But because she was an excellent personal assistant, Jake allowed her to voice her strong opinions, far more than any other member of his team. Besides, he liked Madeline. She kept his feet firmly on the ground.

She began softly tapping Lia’s face. “Wake up, darlin’.” Madeline looked at him briefly. “Say, Jake, don’t you think this girl looks a lot like Hannah?”

Jake turned away, pretending to be uninterested. “I can’t say I’ve noticed,” he lied, and then, changing the subject, added quickly, “I’ll get a damp towel. Maybe that will revive her.” Glad for the diversion, Jake strode across to his adjoining en suite bathroom. He stared stony faced at his reflection in the washbasin mirror as he ran a cloth under the tap. “Selfish fucker.” Did he even know himself? He’d spent three years in self-inflicted solitude, licking his wounds, trying to come to terms with Hannah’s death. He missed her now as much as the day she’d died.

When he pushed open the en suite door, Lia looked a little better. Color had begun to return to her cheeks, and her eyes fluttered as she slowly came back to consciousness. He handed Madeline the damp towel, and she gently placed it on Lia’s brow.

They’d had fainters before. Mainly grizzled, old compulsive gamblers pretending to have heart attacks just to get out of paying their debts. Most people paid up, especially when he threatened them with Nevada state law.

His secretary nodded. “She’s coming round.”

“Good. I’ll run her home.”

Madeline looked at him, raising a brow. Just like his mother had when he was young, she made him feel like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “My, you’re feeling unusually benevolent today, Jake.”

“I’ve got a heart, Madeline. I just have to dig a little deeper than most, that’s all.”

“Hmm, I was beginning to wonder.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Jake raised his hand. “No, don’t say it. Like everyone else working here, you think your boss is a cold, heartless son of a bitch.”

Madeline shook her head and giggled softly. “You never used to be so cold and aloof, Jake. When I first started working here, you were a real fun guy to be with. Everyone else will tell you the same. But since Hannah—”

“That’s enough, Madeline. I like you, but remember you’re an employee of Arabian Nights Casino, the same as everyone else.”

In the past half hour he’d had his ass well and truly kicked by two women. First by Lia Constantine. Her acerbic observation of his personality had been cutting, and so very close to the truth. Even he recognized himself. Now his secretary had joined in the feeding frenzy, too. Feeling outnumbered, he stalked back to his desk. He placed the legal documents required to claim on Fred Constantine’s estate back in the safe.

He scanned the documents one last time before securing the heavy, reinforced door. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t tear them up. There was a paper trail going all the way to her father’s bank account and back again. With insufficient funds in Fred Constantine’s account, the bank had rejected their claim. Then the news filtered through that he’d died. The shareholders would want to know what had happened. They would insist on a claim being made on his remaining estate.

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