‘How are you feeling?’ Maxie asked thinly above that intrusive backdrop of constant drips.

‘Fantastically rich and spoilt. Indoors, water belongs in the bathroom or the swimming pool,’ Angelos opined with sardonic cool. ‘I can’t credit that you would prefer to risk drowning under a roof that leaks like a sieve sooner than come to me.’

‘Credit it. Nothing you could do or say would convince me otherwise. I don’t want to live with any man—’

‘I wasn’t actually asking you to live with me,’ Angelos delivered in gentle contradiction, his sensual mouth quirking. ‘I like my own space. I would buy you your own place and visit—’

An angry flush chased Maxie’s strained pallor. ‘I’m not for sale—’

‘Except for a wedding ring?’ Angelos vented a roughened laugh of cynical amusement. ‘Oh, yes, I got the message. Very naive, but daring. I may be obsessed with a need to possess that exquisite body that trembles with sexual hunger whenever I am close,’ he murmured silkily, reaching up with a confident hand to close his fingers over hers and draw her down beside him before she even registered what he was doing, ‘but, while I will fulfil any other desire or ambition with pleasure, that one is out of reach, pethi mou. Concentrate on the possible, not the wildly improbable.’

‘If you didn’t already have a head injury, I’d swing for you!’ Maxie slung fiercely. ‘Let go of me!’

In the controlled and easy gesture of a very strong male, Angelos released her with a wry smile. ‘At the end of the day, Leland did quite a number on your confidence, didn’t he? Oh, yes, I know that he dispatched you from the hospital and screeched for Jennifer. Suddenly you found yourself back on the street, alone and without funds. So I quite understand why you should decide that a husband would be a safer bet than a lover next time around. However, I am not Leland...’

Maxie stared down into those stunning dark golden eyes. Fear and fascination fought for supremacy inside her. She could feel the raw magnetism of him reaching out to entrap her and she knew her own weakness more and more with every passing second in his company. She hated him but she wanted him too, with a bone-deep yearning for physical contact that tormented her this close to him. She was appalled by the strength of his sexual sway over her, shattered that she could be so treacherously vulnerable with a male of his ilk.

‘Come here...stop holding back,’ Angelos urged softly. ‘Neither of us can win a battle like this. Do we not both suffer? I faithfully promise that I will never, ever take advantage of you as Leland. did—’

‘What are you trying to do right now?’ Maxie condemned strickenly.

‘Trying to persuade you that trusting me would be in your best interests. And I’m not laying a finger on you,’ Angelos added, as if he expected acclaim for that remarkable restraint.

And the terrible irony, she registered then, was that she wanted him to touch her. Her bright eyes pools of sapphire-blue dismay and hunger, she stared down at him. Reaching up to loosen the band confining her hair to the nape of her neck, Angelos trailed it gently free to wind long brown fingers into the tumbling strands and slowly tug her down to him.

‘But that’s not what you want either, is it?’ he said perceptively.

‘No...’ Her skin burning beneath the caress of the blunt forefinger that skated along her tremulous and full lower lip, she shivered violently. ‘But I won’t give in. This attraction means nothing to me,’ she swore raggedly. ‘It won’t influence my brain—’

‘What a heady challenge...’ Black eyes flaring with golden heat held her sensually bemused gaze.

‘I’m not a challenge, I’m a woman...’ Maxie fumbled in desperation to make her feelings clear but she didn’t have the words or, it seemed, the self-discipline to pull back from his embrace.

‘A hell of a woman, to fight me like this,’ Angelos confirmed, with a thickened appreciation that made her heart pound like mad in her eardrums and a tide of disorientating dizziness enclose her. ‘A woman worth fighting for. If you could just rise above this current inconvenient desire to turn over a new leaf—’

‘But—’

‘No buts.’ Angelos leant up to brush his lips in subtle glancing punishment over her parted ones, scanning her with fierce sexual hunger and conviction. ‘You need me.’

‘No...’ she whispered feverishly.

‘Yes...’ Dipping his tongue in a snaking explorative flick into her open mouth, Angelos jolted her with such an overpowering stab of excitement, she almost collapsed down on top of him.

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