Ultimatum: Marriage(7)

By: Ann Major


Sometimes she thought that that little button on his phone was a metaphor for the way he’d always treated her. Everything else in his life had always come before her. Jake, on the other hand, had come home as soon as he’d known she was here. Not that she liked him…or anything; not after what he’d done. Still, he’d shown up the minute he’d heard she was in trouble. And he’d invited her inside.

Clutching his robe and knotting the sash tightly, Alicia rose and tiptoed down the hall to his kitchen. One foot into the kitchen, she stiffened at the sight of the kitchen table where Jake had made love to her so heatedly he’d sent silverware and plates crashing to the floor.

Desperate to shift her attention away from the embarrassing memory that had her pulse thudding she stared at Gus’s empty carrier, which lay on its side. Broken bits of a pot she vaguely remembered having admired in the hall earlier littered the counter.

“Where’s poor Gus?”

“Poor Gus, my eye. When I let him out of his carrier, he practically tore the place apart. Broke a pot that doesn’t belong to me.”

“You better not have hurt him.”

“He made a clean break. I was too worried about you to chase him.”

“Oh.”

“I cut some cheese and peeled a banana to go along with the apple that I also peeled for you. Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have any stale crackers.”

She bit her lip to keep from grinning.

Watching her guardedly, he set a plate on the table. She grabbed a piece of apple and began to munch noisily as she admired his handiwork. He’d done rather a good job with the food actually.

Some of her anxiety drained away. It was suddenly too easy to remember why she’d fallen for Jake that night and gotten herself into this mess. Her father had confided to her that he was in terrible trouble, so she’d been worried even before Logan had disappeared with Cici at the party.

Then Jake had appeared, insisting he’d take care of her. He’d been so warm and attentive, and soon they’d been able to talk about anything. In no time she’d found herself having fun just drinking coffee with him and laughing at his stories about his adventures in the wild. Unfortunately, she’d confided her concerns about her father.

Jake place a fork, knife and napkin on the table and sat down across from her. His chocolate-dark hair fell across his brow and temple. He was so close, and he looked so sexy as he watched too intently.

She set her apple sliver down and avoided his gaze. But his having taken trouble with the plate pleased her—too much. Why did she always read more into small kindnesses than she should?

It was a plate of food, that was all. He’d fed Gus, hadn’t he? He didn’t like Gus, did he?

“Eat,” Jake said gently. “A single bite won’t do you much good.”

She thought about the baby that they might be having together and blushed. How to tell him?

“How can I, with you watching me?”

No sooner did he stand up than his phone rang.

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s my secretary. I left things in a mess. I’d better take this.”

He stepped into the hall and pulled the door shut.

After that Alicia could only catch bits and pieces of his conversation.

“Yes, I’m coming back—

“How can you think I could have forgotten them—

“No, she hasn’t told me why, not that this is any of your business—

“Damn it. That’s what I’m trying to determine—

“Pregnant? I suggest you get your mind out of the gutter and focus on your work instead of my personal affairs—which, by the way, are none of your business….”

Pregnant.

The woman was an oracle.

Her appetite gone in the space of a heartbeat, Alicia knew she had to tell him the truth, and fast.

Thankfully, he was much too annoyed at his secretary to even glance at her as he strode back in.

“You’ve barely touched your food. Why?” he demanded, his voice colder as he set his phone down.

“Bad news, huh?”

“I have a life. Not that you probably give a damn what I was doing before the cops called me about you.”

“Try me.”

“I was just about to fire a lot of hardworking people, people who really need their jobs.”

“And your secretary thinks it’s all my fault.”

So many people blamed her for what her father had supposedly done. Some believed he’d stashed a fortune in a secret, offshore account in her name.

Her father said he was innocent and she wanted to believe him. Not that it was easy when everybody else thought he was guilty. And what did it matter whether he was innocent or not when her own bank accounts here in New Orleans and her credit cards were frozen? When two days ago Sam, her editor in chief, had caved in to mounting pressure to fire her from the editorial/writer job that she’d dearly loved. She had no money, no job, no reputation and no future. And four home pregnancy tests had been positive.

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