Aghast at both the unveiling and the mortifying tone of that insultingly familiar threat, Maxie gazed up at him with outraged blue eyes bright as jewels. ‘You pig,’ she breathed shakily, registering that he was getting a kick out of her embarrassment. ‘You had no right to bring me here—’
‘You’re in no fit state to tell me what to do,’ Angelos reminded her with brutal candour. ‘And even I draw the line at arguing with an invalid. If it’s of any comfort to your wounded vanity, I’ve discovered that once I got used to the effect the spotty look could be surprisingly appealing.’
‘Shut up!’ Maxie slung at him, and fell back against the pillows, completely winded by the effort it had taken to answer back.
While she struggled to even out her breathing, she studied him with bitter blue eyes. Angelos looked soul-destroyingly spectacular. He wore a beige designer suit with a tie the shade of rich caramel and a toning silk shirt. The lighter colours threw his exotic darkness into prominence. He exuded sophistication and exquisite cool, and at a moment when Maxie felt more grotty than she had ever felt in her life, she loathed him for it! Rolling over, she presented him with her back.
Maddeningly, Angelos strolled round the bed to treat her to an amused appraisal. ‘I’m flying over to Athens for the next ten days. I suspect you’ll recover far more happily in my absence.’
‘I won’t be here when you get back...oh, no, Liz’s house has been left empty!’ Maxie moaned in sudden guilty dismay.
‘I had a professional housesitter brought in.’
Maxie couldn’t even feel grateful. Her heart sank even further. He had settled Leland’s loan. He had paid for expensive private medical care within his own home. And now he had shelled out for a housesitter as well. If it took her the rest of her life, she would still be paying off what she now had to owe him in total!
‘Thanks,’ she muttered ungraciously, for her friend’s sake.
‘Don’t mention it,’ Angelos said with considerable irony. ‘And you will be here when I return. If you’re not, I’ll come looking for you in a very bad mood—’
‘Don’t talk like you own me!’ she warned him in feverish, frantic denial. ‘You were with that actress only a few days ago...you were never going to darken my door again—’
‘You darkened mine. Oh...yes, before I forget...’ Angelos withdrew something small and gold from his pocket and tossed it carelessly on the bed beside her.
Stunned, Maxie focused on the bracelet which she had pawned.
‘ “Ice Queen in pawnshop penury” ran the headline in the gossip column,’ Angelos recounted with a sardonic elevation of one ebony brow as he watched Maxie turn brick-red with chagrin. ‘The proprietor must’ve tipped off the press. I found the ticket in your bag and had the bracelet retrieved.’
Wide-eyed and stricken, Maxie just gaped at him.
Angelos dealt her a scorching smile of reassurance. ‘You won’t have to endure intrusive publicity like that while you are with me. I will protect you. You will never have to enter a pawnshop again. Nor will you ever have to shake your tresses over a misty green Alpine meadow full of wild-flowers... unless you want to do it for my benefit, of course.’
Maxie simply closed her eyes on him. She didn’t have the energy to fight. He was like a tank in the heat and fury of battle. Nothing short of a direct hit by a very big gun would stop his remorseless progress.
‘Silence feels good,’ Angelos remarked with silken satisfaction.
‘I hate you,’ Maxie mumbled, with a good deal of very real feeling.
‘You hate wanting me,’ Angelos contradicted with measured emphasis. ‘It’s poetic justice and don’t expect sympathy. When I had to think of you lying like a block of ice beneath Leland, I did not enjoy wanting you either!’
Maxie buried her burning face in the pillow with a hoarse little moan of self-pity. He left her nothing to hide behind. And any minute now she expected to be hauled out of concealment. Angelos preferred eye-to-eye contact at all times.
‘Get some sleep and eat plenty,’ Angelos instructed from somewhere alarmingly close at hand, making her stiffen in apprehension. ‘You should be well on the road to recovery by the time I get back from Greece.’
Maxie’s teeth bit into the pillow. Her blood boiled. For an instant she would have sacrificed the rest of her life for the ability to punch him in the mouth just once. She thought he had gone, and lifted her head. But Angelos, who never, ever, it seemed, did anything she expected, was still studying her from the door, stunning dark features grave. ‘By the way, I also expect you to be extremely discreet about this relationship—’