Claimed for the Master's Pleasure(7)By: Jan Bowles
She looked across the desk. Jake Benetti sat there as calm as anything. “You must take some of the responsibility. Why didn’t you stop him?”
“Everyone who enters a casino is an adult, Ms Constantine. People make choices, some good, some bad.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m sorry for your loss. On a personal level, your father was a great guy. On a professional level, I have to think of my profits. I have shareholders to satisfy. I simply can’t write off a debt that large. Believe me when I say it’s nothing personal, but Arabian Nights Casino will be claiming against your father’s estate.”
“But…that’s everything gone.” Her mouth felt dry as a bone, and her heart beat erratically. Just when things were beginning to ease financially for her, this parasite had thrown her a curveball. In order to honor her father’s debts, she’d have to sell the family home, and hand over all the cash her father had left her. Even then she’d still come up a few hundred thousand dollars short. There’d be nothing left. She’d be homeless.
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.”
“No you’re not, you’re enjoying every minute of it,” she answered almost hysterically. Perspiration covered her brow, and she felt like she might vomit. “This is an everyday occurrence for you. Taking decent people and bringing them down to your level.”
“You’re entitled to your point of view, Ms. Constantine. May I get you a glass of water? You don’t look too well.”
“Glass of water? Glass of water? How about you write it all off. You must have made millions out of my father over the years.”
“That’s not how this business works, but out of respect for your father, I can reduce the debt by thirty percent, taking the total owing to less than a million bucks. In this business that sort of generosity is unheard of.”
“A million dollars. You say it as though it were nothing. The total value of my father’s estate might not even be worth that much, so your generosity is as genuine as you are.” Her lip trembled in indignation. Lia stood abruptly, and turned toward the door. The whole room swayed around her, darkening by the second. “I’m not willing to pay a two-bit hustler like you a single dime. I’ll see you in court,” she finally managed to blurt out.
Jake watched Lia stagger and then drop to the floor unconscious. Quickly, he moved around his desk and scooped her submissive body into his arms. As he looked down into her beautiful face, he couldn’t help but be reminded of his dead wife. Lia was so much like her.
Jake closed his eyes, feeling the pain all over again. He’d loved Hannah deeply. How he wished the beautiful young woman lying in his arms was Hannah. He breathed in, trying to rein in his emotions. He’d shut them away for so long now, yet they were still as raw as ever. They cut like a knife directly into his heart. A heart he’d thought had died with her.
When he carefully laid Lia on the couch, her silken hair drifted over his wrist. Without thinking he took a handful in his fist. It was soft and feminine. The strands flowed freely through his fingers, reminding him even more. Jake gritted his teeth and moved purposefully away. Like an electric current, Lia Constantine’s presence unnerved him. For three years he’d not looked at another woman. Jake knew he was taking far too much interest in her. He didn’t want to be alone with Lia, yet he felt drawn to her. She reminded him so much of what he’d lost.
Jake flipped the switch on the intercom and spoke to his secretary. “Madeline, get your ass in here. We’ve got a fainter.” His voice sounded gruff and bad tempered even to his own ears.