CONTENT ADVISORY: Coarse Language
She walked the hallway of the main building while running through all the possibilities for why she was called to her father’s office. Reaching up to brush a long strand of her newly colored chestnut brown hair out of her face, Prudence let out a slow breath. He was hiring a new team, finally buying the new building they so desperately needed, or moving to Zimbabwe. There were a million different choices why Jack Wellington had called her to his office. All Pru wanted to hear was just one simple thing; the company was finally being turning over to her. The thought made her smile brightly and she quickly clamped down on the emotional display.
No, she wasn’t going to get all excited and joyful over something that very well might not happen.
He had been waving the business in front of Pru since she was a little girl. All his ‘When you’re old all this will be yours one day’. She’d quickly found was total crap and bullshit. Turning her head to look out the row of windows that she was passing she passed, Prudence found herself smiling at the dogs that were running around and playing in the open section. She had poured every single penny she could manage to save into building up that section for the dogs. Her father repeatedly promised a safe area in the back for the dogs to run and play but again, another failed assurance.
Prudence’s life revolved around The Wellington Animal Center. She had grown up there, helping to take care of the animals within its walls. WAC, as the locals referred to it, was a clinic, shelter, daycare, boarding, and emergency vet for the area.
Prudence’s mom had started the clinic right after she graduated college. With the inheritance from her grandmother, Shannon McGuire bought the building and two acres around it and quickly became known as one of the best vets in a thirty mile radius. Two years later she met and fell in love with Jackson Wellington, a man with experience running a small business and a love of whiskey. A love that ran so deep it destroyed their family.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts once more, Prudence took a deep breath and walked the remaining few steps to her father’s office. Looking at the polished plate that said manager on the door, Pru snorted softly and knocked.
“Manager my ass”, she mumbled before heading in once her father shouted for her to enter. Once inside, she looked at the man behind the desk staring a file open in front of him. A stranger might see a good looking, distinguished gentleman, that only had the slightest touch of silver weaving its way through his auburn hair. He looked every bit the part of an important man, but the truth was far from that. Prudence saw the bags under his eyes, clear signs he hadn’t slept in a while. She knew he would look up and meet her hazel eyes with his bloodshot ones and she would know he had been drinking again.
His wrinkled shirt looked as if he had been wearing it for several days but the disheveled look fell secondary to the smell of whiskey that seemed to ooze from his pores. “You called for me?”
Jack lifted his head and he nodded. “Have a seat, we need to talk.”
Prudence walked around one of the large oversized chairs and sat. “What’s going on Jack?” She stopped calling him father when she was sixteen.
“There are a lot of changes happening right now. Things are happening faster than I had planned and because of that….” He trailed off and moved his hand through the air in front of him as if motioning to everything that was happening around him.
“Okay. What does all of …” She repeated his action. “Have to do with me, Jack?”
“I’m selling WAC. We’re broke,” he confessed.
In that one moment, At that moment in time, Pru’s world crumbled around her. Her heart stopped, all of the air pushed out of her lungs. He was selling WAC? Broke? “How… How is that possible?”
“All of the money is gone,” he shrugged. “It’s expensive to keep up this place, Prudence, you know that. We’ve used everything.”
Standing, Prudence leaned over and did something she hadn’t done in ten years; she slapped her father across the face. “You son of a bitch. You used all the money on your god damn gambling and whiskey habit. I can’t BELIEVE you would tap in to that money. Thought you would destroy that last little piece of her that you could?”
Jack turned to look back at his daughter, his cheek bright red from her hand. “You have no idea what kind of pressure I was under. I needed the money fast to cover debts. I thought I would able to recover it and no one would notice. I had to do something!”
“How about not gambling! How could you?” She whispered out the last part and shook her head when he reached out for her. “Don’t you dare touch me,” she spat. Venom dripping from each word.
“I’ll call grandma and see if I can access my trust fund early. I’ll buy the place from you with that.”
Jack shook his head and sighed. “I’ve already spoken to her and that isn’t an option.”
She stopped pacing, and turned to look at him. The plan taking root in her mind froze with shock at his audacity. “You tried to access my trust fund,” she and shook her head. “You disgust me, Jack. Stealing from your wife and your daughter.”
“SHUT UP,” he shouted. “Don’t you ever mention her to me again.”
“Why? Too afraid to talk about the truth now that you’re sober? Let’s talk about whiskey? Better yet let’s take a drive Jack…”
His hand slammed on the desk and she shut up, glaring at him as he did the same to her; any hope that might have been remaining with regards to the two of them ever having a civil relationship had just been destroyed.
“I’ve been made an offer on the place and accepted it. It will cover all outstanding debts on the property.”
“You mean your outstanding debts. I can’t believe you sold it to some stranger who will come in here and ruin everything. Ruin her dream.”
Jack shook his head before speaking. “No. Not to a stranger. I’ve sold the property to Caleb Finnegan.”
Pru crumbled into the chair and stared at her father. “Caleb Finnegan,” she whispered the words, and felt her heart tighten in her chest. “He’s….he’s not back in town. Is he?”
The door to the office opened and the answer to her question walked in. There stood Caleb in all his glory. His brown hair now streaked with blond, like he had been working out in the sun a lot. Pru let her eyes roam over him while he turned to shut the door.
Muscles bunched under his shirt as he closed the door and she wondered how he and when he’d come by them. Her eyes traveled down over the length of his body and lingered over the way he very, very nicely filled out the backside of his jeans. That had never been a problem with Cal; he always looked sexy as hell in a good pair of Levis. When Caleb turned back around, her eyes took in the front of him and immediately Pru noticed the width of his shoulders. When she finally met his gaze her heart stopped in her chest.
His eyes lingered on hers for a few seconds before he turned to Jack and nodded. “Jack.”
“Caleb. I’ve just told Prudence the news.”
“Good. Then I don’t need to worry about it,” he said before taking up residence in the other chair.
Prudence stood and looked at her father. “You sold it to him! There are other people out there you could have chosen.”
“But none able to provide the cash he needed so quickly,” Caleb responded in a very matter of fact tone.
Spinning around she looked at him lounging in the chair like it he was already moving in. “This doesn’t concern you, Finnegan. This is family business.”
“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong, Prudence. It does concern me because, as of eight am this morning, I am officially the new owner of WAC.”
He rose out of the chair and looked down at Prudence. “So, as you can see, it very much concerns me. As it is, I was just coming by to see if Jack needed any help moving his things from the building.”
Prudence took a step back to gain more room between them. “Already kicking out the old regime, Finnegan? Do I need to pack my things as well?”
“No. You’re staying, Prudence. Jack here is the one leaving, isn’t that right, Jack?”
As if he had been waiting already prepared for those words to come out of Caleb’s mouth, Jack set a box on the desk before handing him the folder he had been reviewing when Prudence walked in. “It’s all signed. I’ll just be on my way then.” Picking up the box, he walked around the desk and paused like he was going to say one last thing, but then opened the office door and left.
“Well now that we’re all alone,” Caleb began.
Pru spun around to look at Caleb. He leaned against the desk, arms crossed over his chest.
“Take a mental snapshot, Finnegan. Cause this is the first and last time you and I will ever be alone in a room together. I have to do…… something.” She marched to the door and flung it open before heading back down the hallway.
“Don’t go too far now. We have a Staff meeting in a hour, Pru!” he shouted out after.
Hearing him chuckling while she stomped down the hallway from him added fuel to the fire burning inside of her.
“Arrogant asshole,” she mumbled under her breath. Feeling a tightening in her chest again, Prudence ducked into her office and leaned back against the closed door. Closing her eyes, she took a breath. Her nails dug into her palms. Caleb Finnegan was back. What the hell was she going to do? “Anything but fall in love with him again.”
Opening her eyes she let out a breath and walked over to look out over the grass. She spotted the stables and horses in the background. Watching them always soothed her. Right then, Prudence could use some calm, by the bucket loads. “Shit.”
Come back on Sept 14th for Chapter 2 of Wildcat
Contemporary Romance and Romantic Mystery Author
Wildcat * And Justice For All* An Apple A Day
Copyright © 2011 Heather Hughes
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.