With rock-solid assurance, Angelos let his hand drop again. Amusement at her stupefied state flashed openly in his brilliant black eyes.

Maxie stiffened. ‘I’m afraid I can’t imagine what could bring you here...or indeed how you found me—’

‘Were you ever lost?’ Angelos enquired with husky innuendo while he ran heavily lidded heated dark eyes over her lithe, slender frame with extraordinarily insulting thoroughness. ‘I suspect that you know very well why I am here.’

Her fair skin burning, Maxie’s sapphire blue eyes shuttered. ‘I haven’t the slightest idea—’

‘You are now a free woman.’

This is not happening to me, a little voice screeched in the back of Maxie’s mind. She folded her arms, saw those terrifyingly shrewd eyes read her defensive body language and lowered her arms again, fighting not to coil her straining fingers into fists.

One unguarded moment almost six months ago... Was that all it had taken to encourage him? He had caught her watching him and instantaneously, as if that momentary abstraction of hers had been a blatant invitation, he had reacted with a lightning flash look of primitive male sexual hunger. A split second later he had turned away again, but that shatteringly unexpected response of his had shaken Maxie inside out.

She had told herself she had imagined it. She had almost cherished this arrogant Greek tycoon’s indifference to her as a woman. OK, so possibly, once or twice, his ability to behave as if she was invisible had irritated and humiliated her, but then she had seen some excuse for his behaviour. Unlike Leland, Angelos Petronides would never be guilty of a need to show off a woman like a prize poodle at what was supposed to be a business meeting.

‘And now that you are free, I want you in my life,’ Angelos informed her with the supreme confident cool of a male who had never been refused anything he wanted by a woman. Not a male primed for rejection, not a male who had even contemplated that as a remote possibility. His attitude spoke volumes for his opinion of her morals.

And at that mortifying awareness Maxie trembled, her usual deadpan, wonderful and absolute control beginning to fray round the edges. ‘You really believe that you can just walk in here and tell me—?’

‘Yes,’ Angelos cut in with measured impatience. ‘Don’t be coy. You have no need to play such games with me. I have not been unaware of your interest in me.’

Her very knees wobbled with rage, a rage such as Maxie had never known before. He had the subtlety of a sledgehammer, the blazing self-image of a sun god. The very first time she had seen Angelos Petronides she had had a struggle to stop staring. Lethally attractive men were few and far between; fiercely intelligent and lethally attractive men were even fewer. And the natural brute power Angelos radiated like an aura of intimidation executed its own fatal fascination.

He had filled her with intense curiosity but that was all. Maxie had never learnt what it was like to actually want a man. She didn’t like most men; she didn’t trust them. What man had ever seen her as an individual with emotions and thoughts that might be worth a moment’s attention? What man had ever seen her as anything more than a glamorous one-dimensional trophy to hang on his arm and boast about?

As a teenager, Maxie had always been disillusioned, angered or frankly repelled long before she could reach the stage of reciprocating male interest. And now Angelos Petronides had just proved himself the same as the rest of the common herd. What she couldn’t understand was why she should be feeling a fierce, embittered stab of stark disappointment.

‘You’re trembling...why don’t you sit down?’ Angelos switched into full domineering mode with the polished ease of a duck taking to water and drew up an armchair for her occupancy. When she failed to move, the black eyes beneath those utterly enviable long inky lashes rested on her in irritated reproof. ‘You have shadows under your eyes. You have lost weight. You should be taking better care of yourself.’

She would not lose her temper; she would tie herself in knots before she exposed her outrage and he recognised her humiliation. How dared he...how dared he land on Liz’s doorstep and announce his lustful intentions and behave as if he was awaiting a round of applause? If she spread herself across the carpet at his feet in gratitude, he would no doubt happily take it in his stride.

‘Your interest in my wellbeing is unwelcome and unnecessary, Mr Petronides,’ Maxie countered not quite levelly, and she sat down because she was honestly afraid that if she didn’t she might give way to temptation and slap him across that insolent mouth so hard she would bruise her fingers.

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