‘From today, from this moment, everything will be different between us,’ Angelos swore with emphasis.
‘Will it be?’ Briefly, involuntarily, Maxie stole a glance at him, nervous as a cat on hot bricks.
‘You should have told me the truth about Leland the very first day—’
‘You wouldn’t have believed me...’
His long brown fingers tightened bard on hers. He looked out to sea, strong profile rigid. He released his breath in a sudden driven hiss. ‘You’re right. I wouldn’t have. Nothing short of the physical proof you gave me last night would’ve convinced me that you weren’t the woman I thought you were.’
‘At least you’re honest,’ Maxie muttered tautly.
Apparently enthralled by the view of the single caique anchored out in the bay, Angelos continued to stare out over the bright blue water. ‘Considering that there were so many things that didn’t add up about you, I can’t say that I can pride myself on my unprejudiced outlook...or my judgement. You asked me to stay away from you and I wouldn’t. You even left London...’
He was talking as if someone had a knife bared at his throat. Voice low, abrupt, rough, every word clenched with tension and reluctance
‘I have never treated a woman as badly as I have treated you...and in the manner of our marriage I really did surpass myself, pethi mou.’
He sounded like a stranger to Maxie. Angelos having a guilt trip. She trailed her fingers free of his, cruel pain slashing at her. It was over. She didn’t need to hear these things when she had already lived them, and most of all she did not want him feeling sorry for her. In fact that humiliation stung like acid on her skin.
‘Look, I have something to tell you,’ Maxie cut in stiffly.
‘Let me speak...do you think this is easy for me?’ Angelos slung at her in a gritty undertone of accusation. ‘Baring my feelings like this?’
‘You don’t have any feelings for me,’ Maxie retorted flatly, her heart sinking inside her, her stomach lurching.
‘You seem very sure of that—’
‘Get real, Angelos. There are rocks on this beach with more tender emotions than you’ve got!’ Having made that cynical assurance, Maxie walked on doggedly ‘And why should you feel bad for trying to use me when I was planning to use you too? It’s not like I’m madly in love with you or anything like that!’ She paused to stress that point and vented a shrill laugh for good measure. ‘I only married you because it suited me to marry you. I needed a husband for six months...’
Against the soft, rushing backdrop of the tide, the silence behind her spread and spread until it seemed to echo in her straining ears.
‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Angelos finally shattered the seething tension with that harsh demand.
Maxie spun round, facial muscles tight with self-control. ‘My godmother’s will. She was a wealthy woman but I can’t inherit my share of her estate without a marriage licence. All I wanted was access to my own money, not yours.’
Angelos stood there as if he had been cast in granite, black eyes fixed to her with stunning intensity. ‘This is a joke...right?’
Maxie shook her golden head in urgent negative. She was so tense she couldn’t get breath enough to speak. Angelos was rigid with incredulity and in the stark, drenching sunlight reflecting off the water he seemed extraordinarily pale.
‘You do realise that if what you have just told me is true, I am going to want to kill you?’ Angelos confided, snatching in a jagged breath of restraint.
‘I don’t see why,’ Maxie returned with determined casualness. ‘This marriage wasn’t any more real to you than it was to me. It was the only way you could get me into bed.’ His hard dark features clenched as if she had struck him but she forced herself onward to the finish. ‘And you didn’t expect us to last five minutes beyond the onset of your own boredom. So that’s why I decided I might as well be frank.’
Turning on her heel, trembling from the effect of that confrontation, Maxie walked blindly off the path and up through the gardens of the house. He wasn’t going to be feeling all sorry and superior now, was he? The biter bit, she thought without any satisfaction as she crossed the hall. Now they would split up and she would never see him again...and she would spend the rest of her life being poor and wanting a man she couldn’t have and shouldn’t even want.
She turned, not having realised in her preoccupation that Angelos was so close behind her. The world tilted as he swept her off her startled feet up into his powerful arms. A look of aggressive resolution in his blazing golden eyes, Angelos murmured grittily, ‘It should’ve occurred to you that I might not be bored yet, pethi mou!’