His for Revenge(5)

By: Caitlin Crews

Except for when you kissed her.

But Chase shoved that thought away, along with the image of her flushing that intriguing shade of scarlet in the wake of that kiss he still didn’t know why he’d given her, and scowled at his bride instead.

The truth was, while he’d recognized who she must have been because she’d been ushered up the aisle by his nemesis, he couldn’t remember if they’d ever met before. He wasn’t sure he’d have known her name even if they had, just as he wasn’t sure why that made him feel something like ashamed. He had a vague memory of her in a black dress that had fit her much better than the gown she wore today, and a flash of red hair from across a table. That was it.

Every other interaction he’d had with her family had involved her pain-in-the-ass father and blonde, brittle Ariella, who was apparently even more useless than he’d already imagined she was. And his imagination had been rather detailed in its low opinion of her.

“You tricked me,” he said then, trying to gather his wits, as he’d been noticeably unable to do for some time now. Since Big Bart Whitaker had died six months ago, leaving him neck deep in this mess that got bigger and deeper and swampier every bloody day. Since he’d had to give up his life in London and come back to the States to take his place as president and CEO of Whitaker Industries, where he’d done nothing but clash with Amos Elliott—the driving opposing force on his board of directors and the bane of his existence. And now his father-in-law, for his sins. “I could have you up on fraud charges, to start.”

Zara Elliott did not look alarmed by this possibility. She was awash in masses and masses of a frothy, unflattering white fabric, like a foaming and possibly furious marshmallow had exploded from every side of her while her quietly aristocratic face remained serene. But her eyes—her eyes were a bright, warm gold. The color of late afternoons, of the sun dripping low on the winter horizon.

Where the hell had that come from? He must have had more whiskey for his breakfast than he’d thought.

“I’m three inches shorter than Ariella and at least two sizes larger,” she said. “At a conservative estimate.”

Her voice was smooth and warm, like honey. She sounded, if not happy, something like content. Chase didn’t know how he recognized that note in her voice, given he’d never felt such a thing in his life.

So that was why it took him a moment to process what she’d said. “I don’t follow.”

“Was I tricking you or were you not paying very much attention, if you couldn’t tell the difference the moment I set foot in that church?” She only smiled when he scowled at her. “It’s a reasonable question. One we can ignore, if you like, but which a judge may dwell on in any hypothetical fraud trial.”

“This hypothetical judge might well find himself more interested in the marriage license,” Chase replied. “Which did not have your name on it when I grudgingly signed it.”

Her smile only deepened. “My father imagined that might cause you some concern. He suggested I remind you that the license was obtained right here in this very county, where he’s reigned supreme for decades now, like his father, uncles, grandfather and so on before him. He wanted me to put your mind at ease. That license will read the way it should before the end of the day, he’s quite certain.”

Chase muttered something filthy under his breath, which had no discernible effect on her composure. He leaned forward and rummaged around until he found the half-drunk bottle of whiskey in the bar cabinet and then he took a long swig of it, not bothering to use a glass. That sweet, obliterating fire rolled through him, but it was better than the numbness inside of him, so he ignored the scraping flames and took another hefty swig instead.

After a moment, he offered her the bottle. It only seemed polite, under the circumstances.

“No, thank you.” Also polite. Scrupulously so.

“Do you drink?” He didn’t know why he cared. He didn’t care.

“I like wine, sometimes,” she said, as if she was considering the matter in some depth as she spoke. “Red more than white. I’ll admit that beer is a mystery to me. I think it tastes like old socks.”

“This is whiskey. It doesn’t taste of socks. It tastes of peat and fire and the scalding anticipation of regret.”

“Tempting.” Her soft mouth twitched slightly in the corners, and he decided the whiskey was going to his head, because he found that far more fascinating than he should have. He couldn’t recall the last time a woman’s naked mouth had seemed so riveting. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d noticed a woman’s mouth at all, save what it could do in the dark. “How much whiskey did you have before the ceremony?”

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