Hot tears stung her eyes then, and she blinked them back furiously. She hated him for showing her all over again how weak and foolish she could be. She hated that cool, clever brain he pitted against her, that brilliantly persuasive tongue that could make the unacceptable sound tempting, and that awesome and terrifying sexual heat he unleashed on her whenever she was vulnerable.
Barely five minutes later, Angelos strode fully dressed into the front room where she was waiting. He radiated black fury, stormy eyes glittering, sensual mouth compressed, rock-hard jawline at an aggressive angle. His hostile vibrations lanced through the already tense atmosphere, threatening to set it on fire.
‘You bitch...’ Angelos breathed, so hoarsely it sounded as if he could hardly get the words out. ‘One minute you’re in bed with me and the next you’re making a date with another man within my hearing!’
‘I wasn’t in bed with you, not the way you’re implying.’ Her slender hands knotted into taut fists of determination by her side, Maxie stood her ground, cringing with angry self-loathing only inside herself.
‘You don’t want any other man!’ Angelos launched at her with derisive and shocking candour. ‘You want me!’
Maxie was bone-white, her knees wobbling. In a rage, Angelos was pure intimidation; there was nothing he would not say. ‘I won’t be your mistress. I made that clear that from the start,’ she countered in a ragged rush. ‘And even if I had slept with you just now, I would still have asked you to leave. I will not be cajoled, manipulated or seduced into a relationship that I would find degrading—’
‘Only an innocent can be seduced.’ His accent harshened with incredulity over that particular choice of word. ‘Degrading?’ Outrage clenched his vibrant dark features hard. ‘Fool that I am, I would have treated you like a precious jewel!’
Locked up tight somewhere, to be enjoyed only in the strictest privacy, Maxie translated, deeply unimpressed.
‘I know you don’t believe me, but I was never Leland’s mistress—’
‘Did you call yourself his lover instead?’ Angelos derided.
Maxie swallowed convulsively. ‘No, I—’
Grim black eyes clashed with hers in near physical assault. ‘Theos...how blind I have been! All along you’ve been scheming to extract a better offer from me. One step forward, two steps back. You run and I chase. You tease and I pursue,’ he enumerated in harsh condemnation. ‘And now you’re trying to turn the screw by playing me off against another man—’
‘No!’ Maxie gasped, unnerved by the twisted light he saw her in.
Angelos growled, ‘If you think for one second that you can force me to offer a wedding ring for the right to enjoy that beautiful body, you are certifiably insane!’
His look of unconcealed contempt sent scorching anger tearing through Maxie. ‘Really...? Well, isn’t that just a shame, when it’s the only offer I would ever settle for,’ she stated, ready to use any weapon to hold him at bay.
Evidently somewhat stunned to have his worst suspicions so baldly confirmed, Angelos jerked as if he had run into a brick wall. He snatched in a shuddering breath, his nostrils flaring. ‘If I ever marry, my wife will be a lady with breeding, background and a decent reputation.’
Maxie flinched, stomach turning over sickly. She had given him a knife and he had plunged it in without compunction. But ferocious pride as great as his own, and hot, violent loathing enabled her to treat him to a scornful appraisal. ‘But you’ll still have a mistress, won’t you?’
‘Naturally I would choose a wife with my brain, not my libido,’ Angelos returned drily, but he had ducked the question and a dark, angry rise of blood had scoured his blunt cheekbones.
Maxie gave an exaggerated little shiver of revulsion. The atmosphere was explosive. She could feel his struggle to maintain control over that volatile temperament so much at war with that essentially cool intellect of his. It was etched in every restive, powerfully physical movement he made with his expressive hands and she rejoiced at the awareness, ramming down the stark bitterness and sense of pained inadequacy he had filled her with. ‘You belong in the Natural History Museum alongside the dinosaur bones.’
‘When I walk through that door I will never come back...how will you like that?’
‘Would you like to start walking now?’
‘What I would like is to take you on that bed upstairs and teach you just once exactly what you’re missing!’
Wildly unprepared for that roughened admission, Maxie collided with golden eyes ablaze with frustration. It was like being dragged into a fire and burned by her own hunger. She shivered convulsively. ‘Dream on,’ she advised fiercely, but her voice shook in self-betrayal.