Ultimatum: Marriage(2)

By: Ann Major


“So? Tell them to send the police.”

Vanessa’s thin, painted eyebrows arched. “I did. Officer Thomas, who’s on the phone, is there now. He says a Miss Alicia Butler’s at your house demanding to see you and that she has her cat and a suitcase with her. What is this about?”

“I don’t know.”

But what was she doing there? She wouldn’t return his calls and now she was at his house with her cat? Had she been trying to break in? Why? His pulse accelerated. With rage, he tried to tell himself.

“Claiborne speaking,” he growled impatiently into the receiver.

“Mr. Claiborne. Officer Thomas. Sorry to bother you. You’ve got a yard full of reporters along with some angry hecklers.”

“I know.” They’d been there ever since a lead story in the newspaper had all but accused him of helping Mitchell Butler embezzle funds from Houses for Hurricane Victims, a charity Jake had created and foolishly put Mitchell in charge of.

“A Miss Alicia Butler and her cat were on your veranda when I arrived, sir,” the officer explained. “Apparently, some of her father’s investors followed her from her apartment, and the crowd got pretty stirred up. Someone threw a brick through your front window and ran off. I’ve got Miss Butler and her cat in my patrol car. She’s pretty shaken up, and her cat won’t stop howling.”

Although Jake rented his home, it was a large, modern house in a top-end neighborhood. Unfortunately, he lived next to his landlady, Jan Grant, who was both nosy and highly opinionated. Jan had already complained about rude reporters disrupting her mornings. The last thing he needed was for her to get upset about the arrival of the police and evict him.

“Officer, I’m sorry about all the excitement. Give me a minute. I was in the middle of something when you called.”

Rubbing his brow, he tried to think what he should do. He wanted to deal with the layoffs now. But…Alicia, who’d been hounded in the papers and on television because of her father’s problems, was in big trouble. She’d come to him for a reason. Why?

Ever since Mitchell had been federally indicted and put under house arrest, she’d been pestered by the federal government, the press and her father’s investors. She’d looked thin and vulnerable in the pictures he’d seen of her on television.

Against his will he remembered a night that should never have happened and a delectable, silken, female body writhing beneath his…a body that had been in tune with his like no other. Prim and proper Alicia Butler had driven him past the brink of sanity. He wished he could erase all memories of her, but despite what he’d learned about her father since that evening, he hadn’t been able to.

Indeed, he’d thought about Alicia and how sweet she’d seemed and what they had done that night too often. Hell, they’d barely managed to get inside his house and lock his door before they’d stripped and made love.

Aware that his employees were watching him and hanging on his every word, he realized he had to get his mind off sex with Alicia and act quickly.

“You said she has her cat with her? And a suitcase?”

Alarm bells that had more to do with memories of Alicia’s sensuality than her cat and suitcase had his temple throbbing harder than ever.

She hadn’t come to see him on a whim.

“The girl seems unwell.”

“Whatever…do you mean?” Jake asked, suddenly more concerned than he should have been.

“Her voice is so soft I can barely hear her.”

Jake’s eyes burned as he remembered the honeyed tones of Alicia’s cultured voice whispering his name as he’d made love to her. Why did every detail about their night together stand out?

The faces of his employees blurred.

“I’ll come home immediately and take care of this,” he said.

Sounding relieved, the officer said a quick goodbye.

Jake handed the phone to Vanessa.

“I didn’t realize you were personally involved with Alicia Butler,” Vanessa hissed as soon as she had him all to herself in his office.

Her accusing tone set him on edge. The last thing he desired was the third degree from his secretary. Without looking at her, he grabbed his keys out of a drawer and slung his jacket over one shoulder.

“I’m not,” he lied.

“Then what is she doing on your doorstep?”

“I can’t let you know until I find out, now, can I?”

“I don’t like the sound of this. If there are reporters and cops along with Alicia at your house, there’ll be more bad publicity. The Butlers are thieves. You’ll be tarred with the same brush. We’re barely surviving this downturn as it is.”

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