Claimed for the Master's Pleasure(9)

By: Jan Bowles

He knew he’d end up taking her inheritance away. No wonder she’d laid into him. Maybe he deserved it.

Anyway, as far as he was concerned, it was all water off a duck’s back. He’d been in this situation many times before. It came with the territory. It was part and parcel of the job. Casino bosses were never going to be popular with guys who owed them a lot of money. It was business, pure and simple. No need to take offense. Only her angry words had cut deep into his psyche. What the hell do you know about grieving? I’ve only known you for half an hour, but I can already see you’re nothing more than a cold, soulless man. He knew all about grieving. He’d closed himself off for years. How could she know about the long lonely nights he’d spent in his penthouse suite? All that time wishing he had the power to turn back the clock, and bring Hannah back to life. Over the years he’d amassed a small fortune. He didn’t need to worry about money, he had enough to last him a dozen lifetimes, but even that wealth couldn’t save his beloved Hannah. She’d died, and since then, he’d died a little more with each passing day. All those wonderful plans they’d made together had been buried with her. The irrepressible life force he’d always carried with him had slowly withered and died after her sudden death. Lia Constantine had been right. All that was left was a cold, soulless man. He was nothing. Just a lonely vessel wandering the halls of his casinos. An empty man, living a barren, dead existence.

He found it unsettling that he could go for years without a thought for himself, or anybody else, for that matter. Yet it had taken one slender girl with an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife to alter that. He looked across at the young woman who’d reached him in just the matter of a few minutes. She was now sitting upright, and sipping from a glass of water. She’d invaded his comfort zone, wrecking his status quo. Jake grimaced. Yeah, he’d take her home and then get on with the rest of his fucking miserable life.

“Let me take you home,” he offered softly, when the last of the color had returned to her beautiful face.

“No it’s okay, I’d rather—”

“Please. It’s the least I can do for causing all this distress.” He knew she’d resist.

She opened her mouth as if to protest again, but Madeline cut in. “I’d accept, darlin’. He used to be so generous, but just lately he’s like a bear with a sore head.”

“You could have fooled me,” Lia readily agreed. Her green eyes held his. “Very well. I shall inconvenience you. Just like you’ve inconvenienced me.”

Madeline laughed. “That’s the spirit, darlin’. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. That’s my motto.”

Jake shook his head and walked across to his desk. He knew better than to protest. Madeline had a viper’s tongue on her. That was for sure. Another good reason for keeping her employed as his secretary. She could fend off the most determined of crazy gamblers. Just the other day, she’d stopped a high roller Arab sheik from entering his office with a badly charred steak, determined to make him eat it. Apparently, he’d wanted it well done, and a disgruntled chef had served up a burnt offering instead. Just the slightest thing could set off a highly strung gambling man. This particular guy regularly spent seven-figure amounts of money at the tables, but Madeline knew exactly how to sweet-talk him. Needless to say, the chef was sacked. As compensation the high roller was given the best suite of rooms in the casino hotel free of charge for a week. They also paid for a private jet to take him back to Dubai. All this came to hundreds of thousands of dollars. A drop in the ocean compared to what the guy lost at the tables. Jake had been so impressed with Madeline’s ability to smooth the situation, he’d given her a raise.

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