Only there was nothing simple about that long-awaited kiss. It blew Maxie away with excitement. It was like no kiss she had ever received. That hard, sensual mouth connected with hers and instantly she needed to be closer to him than his own skin. Pulses pounding at an insane rate, she clutched at him with frantic hands, reacting to the violent need climbing inside her, craving more with every passing second.

And then it was over. Angelos studied her with burnished eyes of appreciation, all virile male strength and supremacy as he absorbed the passion-glazed blankness of her hectically flushed and beautiful face.

‘Come on,’ he urged her thickly.

She hadn’t even realised the limousine had stopped. Now he was closing his jacket round her again with immense care, practically lifting her back out into the rain and the sharp fresh air which she drank in great thirsty gulps. She felt wildly disorientated. For timeless minutes the world beyond the limousine just hadn’t existed for her. In confusion, she curved herself into the support of the powerful arm welded to her narrow back and bowed her head.

Without warning, Angelos tensed and vented a crushing oath, suddenly thrusting her behind him. Maxie looked up just in time to see a photographer running away from them. Simultaneously two powerfully built men sprinted from the car behind the limo and grabbed him before he could make it across to the other side of the street.

Angelos untensed again, straightening big shoulders. ‘My security men will expose his film. That photo of us will never see the light of day.’

In a daze, Maxie watched that promise carried out. As a demonstration of ruthlessness it took her breath away. She had often wished that she could avoid the intrusive cameras of the paparazzi, but she had never seen in action the kind of brute power which Angelos exercised to protect his privacy.

And it was his privacy that he had been concerned about, she sensed. Certainly not hers. Why was it that she suspected that Angelos would go to great lengths to avoid being captured in newsprint by her side? Why was it that she now had the strongest feeling that Angelos was determined not to be seen in public with her?

Shivering with reaction at that lowering suspicion, she emerged from her tangled thoughts to find herself standing in a stark stainless steel lift. ‘Where are we?’ she muttered then, with a frown of bewilderment.

The doors sped soundlessly back on a vast expanse of marble flooring.

‘My apartment... where else?’

Maxie flinched in dismay, her brain cranking back into sudden activity. If that paparazzo had escaped, he would’ve had a highly embarrassing and profitable picture of her entering Angelos Petronides’s apartment wrapped intimately in his jacket. No prizes for guessing what people would’ve assumed. She just could not believe how stupid she had been.

‘I thought you were taking me back to Liz’s,’ she admitted rather unsteadily.

Angelos angled up a mocking brow. ‘I never said I was...and, after our encounter in the car, I confess that I prefer to make love in my own bed.’

Maxie could feel her teeth starting to chatter, her legs shaking. Like a whore, that was how she would’ve looked in that photo, and that was exactly how he was treating her.

‘Maxie...’ Angelos purred, reading her retreat and switching channel to high-powered sensual persuasion as he strolled with animal grace towards her, strong, hard-boned face amused. ‘You think I’m likely to respect you more if you suggest that we should wait another week, another month? I have no time for outdated attitudes like that—’

‘Obviously not.’ Agreement fell like dropped stones from Maxie’s tremulously compressed lips.

‘And I cannot credit that you should feel any differently. We will still be together six months from now,’ Angelos forecast reflectively. ‘Possibly even longer. I burn for you in a way I haven’t burned for a woman in a very long time.’

‘Try a cold shower.’ Ice-cool as her own shrinking flesh, Maxie stood there, chin tilting as high as she could hold it even though she felt as if she was falling apart behind her façade. She shrugged back her shoulders so that his jacket slid off and fell in a rejected heap on the floor. ‘I’m not some bimbo you can bed before you even date me—’

‘The original idea was only to offer you lunch...’ A dark rise of blood accentuated the tautening slant of his bold, hard cheekbones as he made that admission.

‘But why waste time feeding me?’ Maxie completed for him, her distaste unconcealed. ‘In my time I have met some fast movers, but you have to qualify as supersonic. A kiss in the limo and that was consent to the whole menu?’

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