‘That’s an I,’ Angelos informed her helpfully. ‘And that’s an L and an O and a V—’
‘Even I can read letters that big!’ Maxie snapped.
The words ‘I love you’ stood there in the sky, picked out in bright pink. Maxie’s jaw dropped.
Somewhat pained by this lack of response, Angelos breathed, ‘I wanted you to know that I am proud of my feelings for you...and it was the only way I could think of doing it.’
Never in Maxie’s wildest dreams would it have occurred to her that Angelos would do something so public and so deeply uncool. ‘You love me?’ she whispered weakly.
‘You ought to know that by now!’ Angelos launched in frustration. ‘I’ve been tying myself in knots for weeks trying to show you how much I care!’
Maxie surveyed him with eyes brimming with happiness, but was conscious of a very slight sense of female incomprehension. ‘Angelos...couldn’t you just say the words?’
‘You weren’t ready to hear them. You had a very low opinion of me...and, let me tell you, few men would’ve emerged from reading that written character assassination of yours with much in the way of hope!’ Angelos asserted with a feeling shudder.
Maxie was aghast. ‘You found my list—?’
‘How could you write all those things about me?’
‘There was no name on it, so if you recognised the traits...’ Maxie fell silent and studied him with dismayed and sympathetic eyes. ‘Oh, Angelos...you kept quiet all this time, and that must’ve killed you—’
‘I used that list as a blueprint for persuading you that I wasn’t the man you imagined I was.’
‘And you improved so much,’ Maxie completed rather tactlessly.
With a helpless groan, Angelos hauled her close and kissed her with devouring passion. Maxie’s impressionable heart went crazy. She submitted to being crushed with alacrity and hugged him tight, finally resting her golden head down on his broad shoulder as she struggled to catch her breath again. ‘Oh, dear, I was the tart who thought you were great in bed and that was all...you were playing games with me when you said that, Angelos!’ she condemned.
‘That is really rich...coming from a wife who announced she preferred to be a mistress—’
‘Only after being told she would be perfect in that role—’
‘Perfect wife, perfect mistress, perfect...you are the love of my life,’ Angelos confessed rather raggedly. ‘Why the hell did I arrange the reception for today?’
Maxie squinted across the sea of big cars at the house. A lot of faces were looking out of the windows. But she didn’t squirm. She threw her head high. Angelos loved her. The one and only love of his life? She felt ten feet tall. She would never, ever, no matter how long she lived, tell him how utterly naff that pink trail in the sky had been—particularly not when he was so pleased with himself for having come up with the idea.
‘I love you too,’ she confided as they threaded a passage through the parked cars on their way to the impressive front doors that already stood wide for their entrance. ‘I really don’t think I ought to tell you, but it wasn’t the new improved you that did the trick entirely. I got sort of irrationally attached to you even before I wrote the list.’
‘How can you tell me you love me with all these people hovering?’ Angelos slung in a gritty hiss of reproach, but he smiled and their eyes met and that devastating smile of his grew even more brilliant.
‘I want you to meet my wife,’ Angelos announced a few minutes later, with so much pride and pleasure that Maxie felt her eyes prickle.
A whole host of people lined up to greet them. They were mobbed. At one stage it was something of a surprise to find herself looking down on Leland Coulter’s balding little head, and then meeting his faded, discomfited blue eyes. ‘I’m sorry,’ he breathed tightly.
‘I made him sorry,’ his wife, Jennifer, said very loudly, and Leland flinched and seemed to shrink into himself. ‘Everyone knows the whole story now. There’s no fool like an old fool.’
The older woman shook hands with brisk efficiency and passed on.
Somewhat paralysed by that encounter, Maxie whispered to Angelos, ‘I feel so sorry for him now.’
‘Don’t you dare...if it hadn’t been for Leland, we’d have been together three years sooner!’ Angelos responded without pity.
‘I couldn’t have coped with you at nineteen.’
‘I never knew anyone learn to cope with me faster,’ Angelos countered, guiding her through the crush to a quiet corner.
Maxie focused on her friend, Liz, in delighted surprise. Petting Bounce, she sat down beside her. ‘How did you get here?’ she demanded.