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The Millionaire Claims His Wife(4)

By:Sandra Marton



She could do what she wanted, with whom she wanted. It sure as hell didn't matter to him.

"Are you listening to me?" she said.

Chase looked at Annie. Her face was still shot with color. It arced  across her cheekbones and over the bridge of her nose, where a  scattering of tiny freckles lay like sprinkles of gold. He remembered  how he used to kiss those warm, golden spots after they'd made love.                       
       
           



       

"I know what you're up to, Chase. You're trying to ruin Dawn's wedding because I didn't do it the way you wanted."

Chase's eyebrows leaped into his hairline. "Are you nuts?"

"Oh, come off it!" Annie's voice quavered with anger. "You wanted a big  wedding in a big church, so you could invite all your fancy friends."

"You are nuts! I never-"

"Keep your voice down!"

"I am keeping it down. You're the one who's-"

"Let me tell you something, Chase Cooper. This wedding is exactly the kind Dawn wanted."

"And a damn good thing, too. If it had been up to you, our daughter  might have ended up getting married on a hillside in her bare feet-"

"Oh, and what that would have done to Mr. Chase Cooper's image!"

"-while some idiot played a satyr in the background."

"Sitar," Annie hissed. "It's called a sitar, Cooper, although you  probably know a lot more about satyrs than you do about musical  instruments."

"Are we back to that again?" Chase snarled, and Annie's color heightened

"No. We are not 'back' to anything. As far as I'm concerned-"

"...the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chase Cooper."

Annie's and Chase's gazes swung toward the bandstand. The bandleader was  smiling benevolently in their direction, and the crowd-even those who  looked a bit surprised by the announcement-began to applaud.

"Come on, Annie and Chase." The bandleader's painted-on smile widened.  "Let's get up on the dance floor and join the bride and groom."

"Let's not," Chase growled, under his breath.

"The man's out of his mind," Annie snapped.

But the applause had grown, and even the wild glance for help Annie shot  toward Dawn, still swaying in the arms of her groom, brought only an  apologetic shrug of her daughter's shoulders.

Chase shoved back his chair and held out his hand.

"All right," he said grimly, "let's do it and get it over with."

Annie's chin jerked up. She rose stiffly and put her hand in his.

"I really hate you, Chase."

"The feeling, madam, is entirely mutual."

Eyes hot with anger, Annie and Chase took a couple of deep breaths,  pasted civilized smiles on their lips and swung out onto the dance  floor.





CHAPTER TWO

IMPOSSIBLE, miserable woman!

That was what she was, his ex-wife, what she'd turned into during the  years of their marriage. Chase held Annie stiffly in his arms, enough  space between them to have satisfied even starchy Miss Elgar, the  chaperone at Annie's Senior Prom.

"Propriety, please," Miss Elgar had barked at any couple daring to get too close during the slow numbers.

Not that she'd approved of the Frug or the Mashed Potato, either. It was  just that she'd figured those insane gyrations were safe.

Even all these years later. Chase smiled at the memory. Safe? A bunch of  horny kids shaking their hips at each other? And no matter what the old  witch thought, the sweetly erotic, locked-in-each-other's-arms slow  dancing went on behind her back just the same, in the hallway, in the  cafeteria downstairs, even in the parking lot, where the music sighed on  the warm spring breeze.

That was where he'd taken Annie, finally, out to the parking lot, where  they'd danced, locked in each other's arms, alone in the darkness and so  crazy about each other after four months of dating that nothing else  had mattered.

That was the night they'd first made love, on an old patchwork blanket  he'd taken from the back of his beat-up Chevy and spread on the soft,  sweet-smelling grass that grew up on Captree Point.

"We should stop," he'd kept saying, in a voice so thick it had seemed to  come from somebody else, though even as he'd said it, he'd been undoing  Annie's zipper, removing her gown and baring her beautiful body to his  eyes and mouth and touch.

"Yes," Annie had whispered, "oh, yes," but her hands had been moving on  him, even as she'd spoken, trembling as she'd undone his silly bow tie,  sliding his white dinner jacket from his shoulders, opening his shirt  buttons and smoothing her fingers over his hot skin.

The memories surrounded him, as if it were a gentle fog coming in over  the sea. Chase made a soft sound in the back of his throat. His arm  tightened around his wife; the hand that had been holding hers in stiff  formality curled around her wrist, bringing her hand to his chest.

"Chase?" she said.                       
       
           



       

"Shh," he whispered, his lips against her hair. Annie held herself rigid  a second longer, and then she sighed, laid her head against his  shoulder and gave herself up to the music and to the memories that had  overcome her.

It felt so good to be here, in Chase's arms.

When was the last time they'd danced together this way, not because  dancing was what you did at the endless charity functions they'd  attended so Chase could "network" with the movers and doers of the  business community but simply because there were few things as  pleasurable as swaying slowly in each other's arms?

Annie closed her eyes. They'd always danced well together, even back in  her high school days at Taft. All those senior parties, the last-minute  Friday night get-togethers in somebody's basement rec room the weekends  Chase came home from college, and the dance at Chase's fraternity house,  when her parents had let her go up for Spring Weekend. The school  formals, with Elgar the Dragon Lady marching around, trying to keep  everybody at arm's length.

And the night of her senior prom, when they'd finally gone all the way  after so many months of fevered kisses and touches that had left them  trembling in each other's arms.

Annie's heartbeat quickened. She remembered Chase taking her out to the  parking lot, where they'd moved oh, so slowly to the music drifting from  the school gym, and the way Chase had kissed her, filling her with a  need so powerful she couldn't think. Wordlessly they'd climbed into his  ancient Chevy and made the long drive to the Point, with her sitting so  close beside him that they might have been one.

She remembered the softness of the blanket beneath her, after they'd  spread it over the grass, and then the wonderful hardness of Chase's  body against hers.

"I love you so much," he'd kept saying.

"Yes." She'd sighed. "Yes."

They shouldn't have done it. She'd known that, even as she was opening  his shirt and touching him, but to stop would have been to die.

Oh, the feel of him as he'd come down against her naked flesh. The smell  of him, the taste of his skin. And oh, that mind-shattering moment when  he'd entered her. Filled her. Become a part of her, forever.

Except it hadn't been forever.

Annie stiffened in the circle of her husband's arms.

It had been sex, and eventually, it hadn't been anything at all. He was  her ex. That's who Chase was. He wasn't her husband anymore. He wasn't  the boy she'd fallen head over heels in love with, nor the man who'd  fathered Dawn. He was a stranger, who'd been more interested in his  business than in coming home to his wife and child.

More interested in bedding a twenty-two-year-old secretary than the wife whose body had begun to sag and bag.

A coldness seized Annie's heart. Her feet stopped moving. She jerked  back and flattened her palms against her former husband's chest.

"That's enough," she said.

Chase blinked his eyes open. His face was flushed; he looked like a man rudely awakened from a dream.

"Annie," he said softly, "Annie, listen-"

"The by-request dancing's over, Chase. The dance floor's filled with people."

He looked around him. She was right. They were on the perimeter of the floor, which was packed with other couples.

"We've played out the necessary charade. Now, if you don't mind, I've reserved the rest of my dance card for Milton Hoffman."

Chase's expression hardened. "Of course," he said politely. "I want to  touch bases with some people, too. I see you broke down and invited some  of my old friends and not just your own."

"Certainly." Annie's smile would have turned water to ice. "Some of them  are my friends, too. Besides, I knew you'd need something to keep you  busy, considering that you made the great paternal sacrifice of not  asking to bring along your latest little playmate. Or are you between  bimbos, at the moment?"

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