WHAT had possessed her, what on earth had possessed her? Maxie asked herself feverishly over and over again as she walked. The rain came heavily—long, lazy June days of sunshine finally giving way to an unseasonal torrent which drenched her to the skin within minutes. Since she was too warm, and her temples still pounded with frantic tension, she welcomed that cooling rain.
Something had gone wildly off the rails in that office. Angelos had prevented her quick exit. He had withstood everything she threw at him with provocative poise. In fact, just like yesterday, the more out of control she had got, the calmer and more focused he had become. And he zipped from black fury to outrageous cool at spectacular and quite unnerving speed.
Melodramatic, yes, Maxie acknowledged. She had been. Inexplicably, she had gone off the deep end and hurled recriminations that she had never intended to voice. And, like the shrewd operator he was, Angelos Petronides had trained those terrifyingly astute eyes on her while she recklessly exposed private, personal feelings of bitter pain and insecurity.
It was stress which had done this to her. Leland’s heart attack, the sudden resulting upheaval in her own life, the dreadful publicity, her godmother’s death. The pressure had got to her and blown her wide open in front of a male who zeroed in on any weakness like a predator. Low self-esteem...she did not suffer from low self-esteem!
A limousine drew up several yards ahead of her in the quiet side-street she was traversing. Alighting in one fluid movement, Angelos ran exasperated eyes over her sodden appearance and grated, ‘Get in out of the rain, you foolish woman...don’t you even know to take shelter when it’s wet?’
Swallowing hard on that in-your-face onslaught, Maxie pushed shaking fingers through the wet strands of hair clinging to her brow and answered him with a blistering look of charged defiance. ‘Go drop yourself down a drain!’
‘Will you scream assault if I just throw you in the car?’ Angelos demanded with raw impatience.
A kind of madness powered Maxie then, adrenaline racing through her. She squared up to him, scarlet dress plastered to her fantastic body, the stretchy hemline riding up on her long, fabulous legs. She dared him with her furious eyes and her attitude and watched his powerful hands clench into fists of self-restraint—because of course he was far too clever to make a risky move like that.
‘Why are you following me?’ she breathed.
‘I’m not into railway sets...too slow, too quiet,’ Angelos confessed.
‘I’m not into egocentric dominating men who think they know everything better than me!’ Maxie slung back at him, watching his luxuriant ebony hair begin to curl in the steady rain, glistening crystalline drops running down his hard cheekbones. And she thought crazily, He’s getting wet for me, and she liked that idea.
‘If this is my cue to say I might change...sorry, no can do. I am what I am,’ Angelos Petronides spelt out.
Stupid not to take a lift when she could have one, Maxie decided on the spur of the moment, particularly when she was beginning to feel cold and uncomfortable in her wet clothing. Sidestepping him, enjoying the awareness that she was rather surprising him, she climbed into the limousine.
The big car purred away from the kerb.
‘I decided to make you angry because I want you to leave me alone,’ Maxie told him truthfully.
‘Then why didn’t you stay away from me? Why did you get into this car?’ Angelos countered with lethal precision.
In answer, Maxie made an instinctive and instantaneous shift across the seat towards the passenger door. But, before she could try to jump back out of the car, a powerful hand whipped out to close over hers and hold her fast. The limousine quickened speed.
Black eyes clashed with hers. ‘Are you suicidal?’ Angelos bit out crushingly.
Maxie shakily pulled free of his grasp.
The heavy silence clawed at her nerves. Such a simple question, such a lethally simple, clever question, yet it had flummoxed her. If she had truly wanted to avoid him, why had she let something as trivial as wet clothes push her back into his company?
Angelos extended a lean brown hand again, with the aspect of an adult taking reluctant pity on a sulky child. ‘Come here,’ he urged.
Without looking at him again, Maxie curled into the far corner of the back seat instead. His larger-than-life image was already engraved inside her head. She didn’t know what was happening to her, why she was reacting so violently to him. Her own increasing turmoil and the suspicion that she was adrift in dangerously unfamiliar territory frankly frightened her. Angelos Petronides was bad news in every way for a woman like her. Avoiding him like the plague was the only common sense response. And she should’ve been freezing him out, not screaming at him.