Chapter Two

"How long are you going to keep this up?" Jeremy asked, exasperated.

"Until you're blue in the face," she answered sweetly. She crossed her arms mulishly.

He sighed. "You know, I'm pretty pissed right now," he said matter-of-factly.

"Yeah me too but you don't see me complaining about it, now do you?" she said. She just wanted to punch his damn face. She was so angry. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so angry. She wanted to get off the bed and tear out her hair. She leaned back against the comfortable pillows and sighed.

"I wouldn't say anything else if I were you. You wouldn't want to make me angrier," he stated. He wasn't really angry. Well, maybe a little. Annoyed was a more appropriate word for how he felt then.

"Why? You're going to hit me if I don't stop?" She said evilly. "Please," she scoffed and rolled her eyes.

"What? You don't think I'd hit you if I was mad enough?" At that point he knew he was just baiting her. He would never hit a woman. He just loved to start verbal fights with her. She was so amusing when she was angry.

"Go ahead and try, Jeremy. I dare you. See how far you can get before I start screaming bloody murder at the top of my lungs and the cops get here. But I'm sure you could get out within the hour if that happened. Since you've got so much money and all." She rolled her eyes again. Damn, she loved doing that. She wanted to feel angry because anger was a much easier emotion to deal with than helplessness. She shrugged her shoulders mentally. She wasn't the damsel in distress type anyway.

Jeremy sighed and leaned back into the chair he was sitting on. "Do you plan to get out of bed at all today? Or are you just practicing for when we're married?"

If looks could kill he'd be a dead man. "I don't have any other clothes to wear, you ass. How am I supposed to get showered and dressed if I don't have any clothes to wear?"

He smirked. She just made it too easy for him sometimes. "I wouldn't have a problem with you walking around naked. In fact, I propose that we both walk around naked in here all the time," he said and wiggled his eyebrows at her.

She stared blankly at him. "You know, that's not even remotely sexy or cute. If that's how you get girls to get naked with you, than that's sad. I'm assuming that the women you date are pretty dim."

His smirked fell. "She's been practicing her comebacks," he thought. "I date very smart women," he retorted defensively.

"Like Emma?" she asked. "Yeah, she's the sharpest tool in the shed," she said, sarcasm coating her words like honey.

"Emma and I are not dating," he told her.

Claire scoffed. "Right. I guess that explains her clothes in your closet."

"Jealous?" he asked.

"Of her?" Claire asked horrified. "Please! I'd be more jealous of a pregnant giraffe!"

He decided that he didn't like the turn their conversation had taken. He needed to change the subject. Or better yet, put her in an angry, defensive mood again. He liked angry, defensive Claire better than mocking Claire.

"Well, you can wear her clothes then, if you don't have any other ones to wear," he said smiling.

"I wouldn't touch anything she's touched with a ten foot pole," she said. "And that includes you."

He winced, but recovered quickly enough to say, "Does that include my bed too?" The smirk was back. It was smug, as if he'd won something.

He didn't get the reaction he'd expected from her. Instead of scrambling off the bed like she should have done, she merely yawned and snuggled deeper into the covers and pillows. "I'm tired of you now, you may go," she said dismissively. She emphasized her order with a wave of her hand, and then she turned so she was facing away from him.

Jeremy sighed for the millionth time that day and said, "You're insufferable, Claire."

"Yeah, yeah, so are you. Now get out!" she said and made shooing motions with her hand.

He wanted nothing more than to remain in the room to spite her but he couldn't stand it anymore. With a curse he stomped out of the room, he slammed the door for more effect.

Claire let out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. It had taken all of her will power to stay nonchalant and childishly immature. If she wasn't so sure he had locked the door after he left she would bolt from the room and run as far as her bare feet could carry her.

She knew it was only a matter of time before her father showed up too. She still knew Jeremy like the back of her hand. He was incredibly handsome but as conniving and manipulative as the devil himself. And damn it if she wasn't still in love with him. She'd tried to forget him, and she'd thought that with the years she would be able to, but seeing him brought back all those memories that she'd tried so hard to bury. It was as if the floodgates of her mind had been opened and she was drowning in memories of herself and Jeremy.

Tears stung her eyes but she wiped them away before they could fall. She would show them. She would show Jeremy Diaz and her father that she was not the immature girl she used to be. She would not be manipulated into doing something she didn't want to do. All she had to do was keep up her resolve and not let herself be bullied. She was older and wiser this time around. Things would not go according to Sean Gardiner's plans.

Jeremy walked into his office and ran both his hands through his black hair. Inhaling then exhaling deeply he looked towards the older man sitting in a chair in front of his desk.

"Did you know your daughter is an insufferable shrew?" he asked with another deep breath.

"Yes," the older man said matter of factly. Sean Gardiner was a tall man in his early fifties. He married young, had children young and had become a widower at a young age. His black hair only slightly peppered with gray here and there. He was a handsome man still and Jeremy sometimes wondered why he had never remarried. Claire looked a lot like him. The same dark hair and dark brown eyes. Her sisters looked more like their mother in coloring but where just as attractive as Claire.

"So?" Sean asked, bringing Jeremy's mind back to the task at hand.

Jeremy shook his head and sat in the chair behind his desk. "It's not going well at all. Once I found her I had to use very underhanded means to get her here and she's not very pleased."

The older man nodded. "What about—"

"She refused. Everything. Doesn't want anything to do with it. She hates me."

Sean Gardiner rose from his seat and walked to the door. Before he reached for the knob he turned to Jeremy and caught his gaze. "I'll talk to her. I'll explain everything and she will go through with it."

She heard the knock on the door but it opened before she could utter anything. Her breath hitched when she saw who it was.

"Claire," he said and walked towards her, arms outstretched.

Claire sat up on the bed and held her hand out to ward off her father's embrace. "Don't. There's no need for pleasantries, Father," she sated coldly.

"Regardless of everything, I'm glad you're home, Claire. I missed you. Jeremy—"

She scoffed, interrupting him. "Jeremy, it has to be about Jeremy. I might as well tell you right off that I'm not going to marry that man. I hate him. Six years ago he crushed me. He broke my heart and all you did was tell me to suck it up because I was going to marry him regardless. You were supposed to protect me! Not hurt me like he did. I won't do it."

"I'm sorry, Claire. I know he hurt you, but you have duties and responsibilities to this family that can't be shrugged off that easily."

What made Claire shed the tears she'd been holding was the fact that her father did look thoroughly contrite.

She shook her head and wiped her tears from her cheeks. "I would have done anything you wanted me to. I would have done anything for you. But you knew Jeremy was seeing Emma on the side and you didn't stop him. You knew and let me get hurt when I saw them together. You're my father; you're supposed to protect me from getting hurt. But you didn't. And what is worse you didn't bat an eyelash at my pain.

"And now I can't trust you, either of you because I know you don't have my best interest in mind. You have your own and that's not going to work for me."

Her father met her eyes and Claire couldn't see any of the remorse she had seen there earlier. His eyes were like steel and then she knew she had a battle on her hands. Her father and Jeremy would do anything to get what they wanted.

They were predators and she was their prey.

Her father was the one that broke their eye contact. He walked out of the room without another word.

Claire was scared. Not for her life because they would never physically hurt her, but who knows by what means they would try to get her to agree.


AN: Wow, I haven't written anything in so long. Much less posted anything. Anyway, second chapter up. Short but it's been a long time coming. Please review.