‘If it wasn’t for this wretched party, I’d stay...’ Angelos pushed against her with knowing eroticism, shamelessly acquainting her with the intensity of his arousal. Maxie’s heartbeat went from a race into an all-out sprint. Heat surged between her thighs, leaving her weak with lust.

‘I could throw you down on the bed and sate this overpowering ache for fulfilment—’

Maxie said, ‘Yes...’

‘But it would be wicked and unforgivable to make a snack out of what ought to be a five-course banquet.’ Even as he talked Angelos was tracing a passage down her extended throat with his mouth in hot, hungry little forays. He slid a long, powerful thigh between hers to press against the most sensitive spot in her entire shivering body. ‘I really do have to go...’

‘Kiss me,’ Maxie begged.

‘Absolutely not...I’d go up in flames,’ Angelos groaned with incredulous force, tearing himself back from her with shimmering golden eyes full of frustration.

Maxie clutched the bed to stay upright. Angelos backed away one slow step at a time, like a recovering alcoholic struggling to resist the temptation of a drink. ‘Christos...you’re so beautiful, and so totally perfect for me,’ he murmured with hoarse satisfaction.

Maxie blinked. All she could focus on was the fact that he was leaving. Everything that mattered to her in the whole world was walking out, and it felt as if it was for ever. The shock of separation from him was so painful it swallowed her alive. And a kind of terror swept over her then, because for the first time she tasted the full extent of her own agonising vulnerability.

She watched him until the last possible moment. She listened to him striding fast down the corridor. She even strained to hear the lift but she couldn’t. And then she collapsed in a heap on the soft thick carpet and burst into floods of tears. Dear heaven, what an idiot she had been to set out to provide Angelos with a challenge! All of a sudden she could not credit that she had been so insane as to refuse the chance of making something of their marriage.

He had said that he hadn’t expected her to move into this apartment. He had said that she might not have noticed but things had changed. He hadn’t even mentioned that wretched argument over that equally wretched will of her godmother’s. ‘You might as well come home with me,’ he had drawled. Her stupid, stupid pride had baulked; he had sounded for all the world like a disgruntled male grudgingly facing up to an inevitable evil. But no matter how half-hearted that offer had seemed, shouldn’t she have accepted it?

She would’ve had something to build on then. Her rightful place as his wife. Instead, she had turned it down, gambled her every hope of happiness on the slender hope that Angelos would learn to love her and want her to be more than a mistress in his life. But, judging by his behaviour in the aftermath of that refusal, she appeared to have offered Angelos exactly what he wanted.

No, she had not made a mistake in rejecting that offer, she conceded heavily. How long would it have been before he resented the restraints of such a marriage? He had only married her for sex. She shuddered. There had to be a lot more than that on offer before she would risk figuring in the tabloids as the ultimate discarded bimbo yet again.

Angelos certainly wouldn’t have been offering a wife snatched moments of his time...nor would he have been taking off for a nightclub on his own. Maxie sobbed her heart out and then, after splashing her swollen face with loads of cold water, she surveyed her weak reflection in the mirror with loathing and climbed into her lonely bed.

Tonight she had got some things wrong, but ultimately she had still made the right decision. She had played right into his hands but it was early days yet, she reminded herself bracingly. Stamina—she needed buckets of stamina to keep up with Angelos. It was so strange, she reflected numbly, every time she rejoiced in the belief that she had got Angelos off balance, he retaliated by doing the exact same thing to her...

The instant Maxie was engulfed by the hard heat of a hair-roughened male body, she came awake with a start. Pulling away with a muffled moan of fright, she sat up in a daze. Dawn light was filtering through the curtains.

‘I didn’t mean to wake you up...’ Angelos murmured.

Utterly unconvinced by that plea of innocence, Maxie struggled to focus on him in the dim light. Against the pale bedlinen, he was all intriguing darkness and shadow. Her heart was still palpitating at such a rate, she pressed a hand to her breast and suppressed the lowering suspicion that Angelos might have more stamina than she had. ‘What are you d-doing here?’ she stammered helplessly.

‘It was a long drive home... what do you think I’m doing here?’ Angelos demanded with sudden disturbing amusement. He rolled over to her side of the bed at the speed of light to haul her back into his arms and seal her into all-pervasive contact with every charged line of his big, powerful frame.

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