How bad of an idea was this?
As we approached the place, my body vibrated with tension. On top of my major announcement was the fact that we were late. Chief abhorred tardiness—and I was perpetually time challenged.
Xander ushered me into the casino first. A sign pointed us to the restaurant. Chief roamed outside the entrance. Tight shoulders, a scowl that could clear a room, and ruddy skin growing more red. He was livid.
Then he glanced up and his hard gaze jumped from me to Xander and then to our linked hands.
“Sapphire Jewel Abbot. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Xander gripped my hand tighter as humiliation crashed over me. Chief spoke to me as if I were fifteen, not twenty-five.
Did fifteen-year-olds get married whenever the hell they wanted?
“Chief,” I said lightly. “Sorry I’m late.”
Irritation flashed across his face. “For once, I’d like for that not to be your greeting.” He spared Xander a glance. “What’s this?”
“I, um . . .”
“For God’s sake, Sapphire,” he hissed and leaned closer, acting like Xander didn’t exist. “This is an important business meeting, and you show up looking like you haven’t been to bed yet.”
Oh, I’d been to bed. I’d been to bed hard. “Actually, Chief. I want to introduce you to Xander. My husband.”
The silence that fell between us was glacial. I was surprised the ground and walls didn’t crystallize with frost.
“What?” His voice was barely loud enough to reach me. My late arrival had made him angry, but this announcement morphed him into a nuclear warhead. No doubt his mind was working on all the ways to mitigate the damage.
“Xander and I got married last night. Xander. This is my dad. Walter Abbot.”
Xander released my hand to hold his out. “Nice to meet you.” He was so steady, not at all intimidated.
Chief continued to pretend Xander didn’t exist. “I would’ve thought you were smarter than being taken by a guy who’s after your money.”
“Like you often tell me, I have no money, and I never told him that my family is wealthy.” I chanced a glance at Xander. His brows were only slightly lifted. He was surprised, but the news otherwise had no bearing on his demeanor. But then he didn’t know how wealthy my family was.
“People like him know. Just like you should know better. If it’s not the money, it’s the . . .” He waved his hand, his face deepening from red to purple.
Xander stepped in. “Savvy has a lot more to offer than her wallet or her looks.” He took my hand again and it was all I could do not to hide behind him. His words probably made things worse, but I appreciated the effort. It was already more than any previous date had done.
Chief zeroed in on Xander, like my new husband was an enemy sniper hiding in the backyard. “And what is it, exactly, that you do?”
One of the men hanging out in the entry of the restaurant wandered out, his gaze drifting over me.
Gentry King. The CEO of King Oil I’d worked so hard to impress yesterday was about to witness Chief humiliating me. I hoped he was too busy and disengaged from the daily details of his work to realize the professional Sapphire Abbot he was supposed to have met with yesterday had shown up today married to a guy her dad hated.
Mr. King wasn’t any different than his pictures, but his presence packed a punch. He was almost as tall as Xander, his shoulders just as broad, but his expression was much less hostile than Chief’s. No doubt he was putting two and two together and figuring out I was Chief’s daughter. I wouldn’t have believed the power he held over Chief if my father didn’t visibly calm down the instant Mr. King stepped closer to us. This account was extremely important to Chief. My mini-crisis was averted. He’d hold himself together through the meal, but I’d get another berating afterward.
Mr. King’s gaze left me and landed on Xander. His brows rose, his eyes filling with curiosity, but also brightening, like he was happy to see my husband. “Xander? What are you doing here?”
Before I could muddle through how Gentry King knew my new husband, Xander said, “Hi, Dad.”