The Baby Claim

By: Catherine Mann

CHAPTER ONE

“Do you live to infuriate me, or is it a pleasant pastime for when you’re not wining and dining the single females of Alaska?”

Glenna Mikkelson-Powers splayed her hands on her day planner to avoid launching herself from behind her mahogany desk to confront Broderick Steele.

Being so close to the man had never been a wise idea.

The sensual draw was too strong for any woman to resist for long and stay sane. His long wool duster over his suit was pure Hugo Boss. But the cowboy hat and leather boots had a hint of wear that only increased his appeal. His dark hair, which attested to his quarter Inuit heritage, showed the first signs of premature gray. His charisma and strength were as vast as the Alaska tundra he and she both called home.

In a state this large, there should have been enough space for both of them. Theoretically, they should never have to cross paths. But their feuding families’ constant battle over dominance of the oil industry kept Glenna and Broderick in each other’s social circles.

Too often for her peace of mind.

Even so, he’d never shown up at her office before.

She pressed her hands harder against her day planner and fixed him with her best icy stare. “I have an assistant. Zeke—the grandfatherly looking gentleman—can announce you. Or you can knock. At least attempt some semblance of a normal greeting.”

Not that anything about Broderick was in any way calm or normal.

“First of all—” he tossed his snow-dusted hat on her desk “—I do not live to infuriate anyone. Your assistant wasn’t out there.”

Glenna glanced through the open door and found his statement to be true. She repressed her inclination to roll her eyes anyway. Surely Broderick could have waited for Zeke to return instead of barging in here.

“Second…” He peeled off his leather gloves one at a time, revealing callused hands. A man of brawn, he also happened to have an extraordinary chief finance officer aptitude that had served his family’s business well. “…I am far too busy to have the sort of sex life you’ve attributed to me.”

That dried up any words she might have spoken, and made her stomach flip more than it should have.

“Third, Glenna, I have no idea why you’re acting like the injured party when I’m the one who had a bombshell dropped on my desk today.” He leaned closer, the musky scent of his cologne teasing her senses like breathing in smoky warmth on a cold day. “Although once we sort this out, let’s come back to the obsession you have with my sex life.”

Light caught the mischief in his eyes, bringing out whiskey tones in the dark depths. His full lips pulled upward in a haughty smile.

“You’re being highly unprofessional.” She narrowed her own eyes, angry at her reaction to him as she drank in his familiar arrogance.

Their gazes held and the air crackled. She remembered the feeling all too well from their Romeo-and-Juliet fling in college.

Doomed from the start.

And yet…those memories had never faded.

One weekend long ago. A passionate couple of days in her attic apartment. Fireplace blazing. Snow piling on the skylight.

Steam filling the shared shower stall.

Still, those two days were nothing compared to the love she’d felt for her late husband during her six-year marriage. The deep emotional connection, the respect they’d felt for one another. The work they’d invested in overcoming hardships.

And the grief they’d shared over their inability to conceive a child.

Her job was everything to her now. Glenna refused to put it at risk, especially for Broderick.

He was her rival. He wanted his family’s business to dominate the oil industry and she simply could not allow that. She was the CFO of Mikkelson Oil, and she’d make sure her family’s business came out on top.

His mesmerizing eyes and broody disposition would not distract her.

She eased back in her chair. “This is the last time I will ask you. What are you doing in my office?”

“Like you don’t know.” He dropped a large envelope on top of her day planner. “What would you call this?”

“Mail,” she said, giving herself time to figure out his game.

So much had been upended in the company since her father had died of a heart attack two years ago. So much loss. First her father, then her husband. She’d been left reeling. But if she allowed grief to consume her, Mikkelson Oil would lose out…to Broderick.

“Do you care to elaborate?” she asked.

He shrugged, his starched white shirt rustling against his broad shoulders.

“Printouts, technically, with some kind of bogus report on a stock share buyout. It makes no damn sense, but my people have traced it back to your office.”

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