Claimed(4)

By: Tracy Wolff


“And we all know how seriously you take your job...and your loyalties.”

The mask cracked and he got a glimpse of her fury before she shored her defenses back up. “Is there something you need, Marc?” She glanced pointedly at his hand, which was still wrapped tightly around her elbow.

“I thought we could catch up. For old times’ sake.”

“Yes, well, it turns out the old times weren’t all that good. So, if you’ll excuse me—” She started to wrest her elbow from his grasp, but he tightened his fingers. Despite the anger that ran through him like molten lava at her words, he wasn’t ready to let her go just yet.

“I don’t excuse you.” He put a wealth of meaning behind those four words, and saw with satisfaction that she hadn’t missed his point.

“I’m sorry to hear that. But I’ve got an appointment in half an hour. I don’t want to be late.”

“Yeah, I hear fences take exception to lateness.”

This time the cool facade did more than crack. She shoved against his chest with one hand at the same time she wrenched her elbow from his grasp. “Six years ago I put up with all your vile insinuations and accusations because I felt like I deserved them. But that was a long time ago and I’m done now. I have a new life—”

“And a new name.”

“Yes.” She eyed him warily. “I needed distance.”

“That’s not the way I remember it.” She’d chosen her father over him, even after the old man had stolen from him. It wasn’t a slight Marc had any intention of forgetting.

“No surprise there.”

The insult—in her words and her tone—had him narrowing his eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what it sounded like. I’m not big on subterfuge.”

Though it made him sound like an arrogant ass, he couldn’t help throwing her words back at her. “Again, that’s not the way I remember it.”

“Of course not.” She straightened her spine and lifted her chin. “Then again, you’ve always been more about perception than truth. Right, Marc?”

He hadn’t thought it was possible for him to get any angrier. Not when his stomach already churned with it, his jaw aching from how tightly he was clenching his teeth. Then again, she’d always brought out strong emotions in him. At one time, they’d even been good emotions.

Those days were long gone, though, and he wouldn’t let her drag him back there. The Marc who had loved Isa Varin had been a weak fool—something he’d sworn he’d never be again as he’d watched security escort her from his building.

“That seems an awful lot like the pot calling the kettle black, Isabella.” He put added emphasis on her new name, could see by the darkening of her eyes that the irony wasn’t lost on her.

“On that note, I think it’s time for me to leave.” She started to step around him, but he blocked her path. He didn’t know what was driving him, only that he wasn’t ready to watch her walk away from him again. Not when she looked so cool and collected and he felt...anything but. And not now that he’d finally found her.

“Running away?” he taunted. “Why am I not surprised? It does run in the family, after all.”

For a second, hurt flashed in her eyes. But it was gone so fast he couldn’t be sure he hadn’t imagined it. And still, a little seed of guilt lingered. At least until she said, “Whatever you’re doing here, whatever you think you’re going to get, isn’t going to happen. You need to get out of my way, Marc.”

It was an ultimatum, for all that it was said in a polite tone. He’d never been one to respond well to such things. Still, her fire excited him, turned him on, as nothing had in six long years. His reaction pissed him off, but he’d be damned before he let her see that. Not when she was there, in front of him, when he’d been so certain he would never see her again. He wasn’t ready to let her walk out of his life for another six years, not when he still had so many unanswered questions. And not when he still wanted her so badly that every muscle in his body ached with it.

So instead of doing what she asked, he lifted a brow and leaned casually against the cool, tile wall behind him. Then asked the question he knew would change everything. “Or what?”





Two

Isa stared at Marc in disbelief. Had he seriously just asked her that? As if they were kids playing a game of double dog dare and it was now her turn to up the ante? Too bad for him that she’d given up childish games the same night she’d walked forty city blocks through sleet and freezing rain without so much as a coat to shield her from the weather. She’d moved past that night, had made a new, better life for herself here under a name no one in the industry could trace to her father. There was no way she would let him mess all that up.

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