The noise of a car drawing up outside broke the taut silence.
Angelos inclined his arrogant dark head in a gesture of grim dismissal that made her squirm, and then he walked.
MAXIE drifted like a sleepwalker through the following five days. The Ferrari was retrieved by a tow-truck and two men who laughed like drains throughout the operation. She contacted a builder to have the roof inspected and the news was as bad as she had feared. The cottage needed to be reroofed, and the quote was way beyond her slender resources.
She dined out with Patrick Devenson. No woman had ever tried harder to be attracted to a man He was good-looking and easy company. Desperate to feel a spark, she let him kiss her at the end of the evening, but it wasn’t like failing on an electric fence, it was like putting on a pair of slippers. Seriously depressed, Maxie made an excuse when he asked when he could see her again.
She didn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep. She dreamt of fighting with Angelos. She dreamt of making wild, passionate love for the first time in her life. And, most grotesque of all, she dreamt of drifting down a church aisle towards a scowling, struggling Greek in handcuffs. She felt like an alien inside her own head and body.
She sat down and painstakingly made a list of every flaw that Angelos possessed. It covered two pages. In a rage with herself, she wept over that list. She loathed him. Yet that utterly mindless craving for his enlivening, domineering Neanderthal man presence persisted, killing her appetite and depriving her of all peace of mind.
How could she miss him, how could she possibly? How could simple sexual attraction be so devastating a leveller? she asked herself in furious despair and shame. And, since she could only be suffering from the fallout of having repressed her own physical needs for so long, why on earth hadn’t she fancied Patrick?
At lunchtime on the fifth day, she heard a car coming up the lane and went to the window. A silver Porsche pulled up. When Catriona Ferguson emerged, Maxie was startled. She had never in her life qualified for a personal visit from the owner of the Star modelling agency and couldn’t begin to imagine what could’ve brought the spiky, city-loving redhead all the way from town.
On the doorstep, Catriona dealt her a wide, appreciative smile. ‘I’ve got to hand it to you, Maxie...you have to be the Comeback Queen of the Century.’
‘You’ve got some work for me?’ Maxie ushered her visitor into the front room.
‘Since the rumour mill got busy, you’re really hot,’ Catriona announced with satisfaction. ‘The day after tomorrow, there’s a Di Venci fashion show being staged in London...a big splashy charity do, and your chance to finally make your debut on the couture circuit.’
‘The rumour mill?’ Maxie was stunned by what the older woman was telling her. One minute she was yesterday’s news and the next she was being offered the biggest break of her career to date? That didn’t make sense.
Having sat down to open a tiny electronic notepad, Catriona flashed her an amused glance. ‘The gossip columns are rumbling like mad...don’t you read your own publicity?’
Maxie stiffened. ‘I don’t buy newspapers.’
‘I’m very discreet. Your private life is your own.’ However, Catriona still searched Maxie’s face with avid curiosity. ‘But what a coup for a lady down on her luck, scandalously maligned and dropped into social obscurity... Only one of the richest men in the world—’
Maxie jerked. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
Catriona raised pencilled brows. ‘I’m only talking about the guy who has just single-handedly relaunched your career without knowing it! The paparazzo who had his film exposed howled all over the tabloids about who he had seen you with—’
‘You’re talking about Angelos...’
‘And when I received a cautious visit from a tight-mouthed gentleman I know to be close to the Greek tycoon himself, I was just totally amazed, not to mention impressed to death,’ Catriona trilled, her excitement unconcealed. ‘So I handed over your address. They say Angelos Petronides never forgets a favour...or, for that matter, a slight.’
Maxie had turned very pale. ‘I...’
‘So why are you up here vegetating next door to a field of sheep?’ Catriona angled a questioning glance at her. ‘Treat ’em mean, keep ‘em keen? Popular report has it that this very week he dumped Natalie Cibaud for you. Whatever you’re doing would appear to be working well. And he’s an awesome catch, twenty-two-carat gorgeous, and as for that delicious scary reputation of his—’
‘There’s nothing between Angelos and me,’ Maxie cut in with flat finality, but her head buzzed with the information that Angelos had evidently still been seeing the glamorous French film actress.