‘If your idea of celebration encompasses what I think it might, I’m afraid no can do.’ Maxie swept up her glass of champagne with an apologetic smile pasted on her lips and drank deep before continuing at a fast rate of knots, ‘I’ll share your bed on our wedding night, but not one single second, minute, hour or day before. I suggest that we have lunch—’

‘Lunch?’ Angelos repeated flatly.

‘We might as well do lunch because we are not about to do anything else,’ Maxie informed him dulcetly.

‘Theos...come here,’ Angelos groaned. He hauled her resisting frozen length into his arms. ‘Why are you always so set on punishing me?’ He gave her a frustrated little shake, black eyes blazing over her mutinous expression. ‘Why do you always feel the need to top everything I do and turn every encounter into a fight? That is not a womanly trait. Why cannot you just one time give me the response I expect?’

‘I suppose I do it because I don’t like you,’ Maxie admitted, with the kind of impulsive sincerity that was indisputably convincing.

In an abrupt movement, Angelos’s powerful arms dropped from her again. He actually looked shocked. ‘What do you mean you don’t like me?’ he grated incredulously. ‘What sort of a thing is that to say to man who has just asked you to marry him?’

‘I wrote two whole pages on the subject last week...all the things I don’t like...but why should you let that bother you? You’re not interested in what goes on inside my head...all you require is an available body!’

‘You’re overwrought, so I won’t make an issue of that judgement.’ Angelos frowned down into her beautiful face with the suggestion of grim self-restraint. ‘Let’s have lunch.’

As she sat down at the table Maxie murmured sweetly, ‘One more little question. Are you planning to generously share yourself between Natalie Cibaud and me?’

Angelos glared at her for a startled second. ‘Are you out of your mind?’

‘That’s not an answer—’

Angelos flung aside his napkin, black eyes glittering hard and bright as diamonds. ‘Of course I do not intend to conduct a liaison with another woman while I am with you,’ he intoned in a charged undertone.

Relaxing infinitesimally, Maxie said flatly, ‘So when will the big event be taking place?’

‘The wedding? As soon as possible. It will be very private.’

‘I think it is so sweet that you had not a single doubt that I would say yes.’ Maxie stabbed an orange segment with vicious force.

‘If you want me to take you to bed to close that waspish mouth, you’re going the right way.’

Looking up, Maxie clashed with gleaming black eyes full of warning. She swallowed convulsively and coloured, annoyed that she was unable to control her own fierce need to attack him.

‘You told me yourself that the one offer you would settle for is marriage. I have delivered...stop using me as target practice.’

Maxie tried to eat then, but she couldn’t. All appetite had ebbed, so she tried to make conversation, but it seemed rather too late for that. Angelos now exuded brooding dissatisfaction. She saw that she had already sinned. He had expected to pour a couple of glasses of champagne down her throat and sweep her triumphantly off to bed. She felt numb, for once wonderfully untouched by Angelos’s incredibly powerful sexual presence.

‘Are you aware that all those rumours about you and I have actually relaunched my career?’ she murmured stiffly.

‘Today was your swansong. I don’t want you prancing down a catwalk half-naked and I don’t want you working either,’ Angelos framed succinctly.

‘Oh,’ Maxie almost whispered, because it took so much effort not to scream.

‘Be sensible...naturally I want you to be available when I’m free.’

‘Like a harem slave—’

‘Maxie...’ Angelos growled.

‘Look, I’ve got a ripping headache,’ Maxie confessed abruptly and, pushing her plate away, stood up. ‘I want to go home.’

‘This will be your home in London soon,’ he reminded her drily.

‘I don’t like weird pictures and cold tiled floors and dirty great empty rooms with ugly geometric furniture...I don’t want to live in a building with about ten empty floors below me!’ Maxie flung, her voice rising shrilly.

‘You’re just overexcited—’

‘Like one of your racehorses?’

With a ground-out curse, Angelos slung his napkin on the table and, thrusting his chair back, sprang to his full commanding height. As he reached for her she tried to evade him, but he simply bent and swept her up into his powerful arms and held her tight. ‘Maxie...why are you suddenly behaving like a sulky child?’

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