And now it hurt so much to surrender that bracelet. It felt like a betrayal of the mother she could barely remember. But she desperately needed the cash and she had nothing else to offer. Angelos Petronides had to be shown that he hadn’t bought her or any rights over her by settling Leland’s loan. The sacrifice of her mother’s bracelet, temporarily or otherwise, simply hardened Maxie’s angry, bitter resolve.
Half an hour later, she strolled out of the lift on to the top floor of the skyscraper that housed the London headquarters of the vast Petronides organisation. She spared the receptionist barely a glance. She knew how to get attention.
‘I want to see Angelos,’ she announced.
‘Miss...Miss Kendall?’ The brunette was already on her feet, eyes opened wide in recognition: in a bold scarlet dress that caressed every curve, her spectacular hair rippling in a sheet of gold to her waist, and heels that elevated her to well over six feet, Maxie was extremely noticeable.
‘I know where his office is.’ Maxie breezed on down the corridor, the brunette darting after her with an incoherent gasp of dismay.
She flung wide his office door when she got there. Infuriatingly, it was empty. She headed for the boardroom, indifferent to the squawking receptionist, whose frantic pursuit had attracted the attention of another two secretarial staff.
Bingo! Maxie strolled through the boardroom’s double doors. An entire room full of men in business suits swivelled at her abrupt entry and then gaped. Maxie wasn’t looking at them. Her entire attention was for Angelos Petronides, already rising from his chair at the head of the long polished table, his expression of outrage shimmering in an instant into shocking impassivity. But she took strength from the stunned quality that had briefly lit those fierce black eyes of his.
‘I want to see you now,’ Maxie told him, sapphire-blue eyes firing a challenge.
‘You could wait in Mr Petronides’s office, just through here, Miss Kendall.’ The quiet female intervention came from the slim older woman who had already rushed to cast invitingly wide the door which connected with her employer’s office.
‘Sorry, I don’t want to wait,’ Maxie delivered.
A blazing look of dark, simmering fury betrayed Angelos. It was the reaction of a male who had never before been subjected to a public scene. Maxie smiled sweetly. He couldn’t touch her because she had nothing to lose. No money, no current employment, nothing but her pride and her wits. He should’ve thought of that angle. And, no matter what it took, she intended to make Angelos pay for the state he had put her in the day before.
In one wrathful stride, Angelos reached her side and closed a forceful hand round her narrow wrist. Maxie let out a squeal as if he had hurt her. Startled, he dropped her wrist again. In receipt of a derisive, unimpressed glance that would’ve made a lesser woman cringe, Maxie noted without surprise that Angelos was a quick study.
‘Thank you,’ she said, and meant it, and she strolled through to his big, luxurious office like a little lamb because now she knew he was coming too.
‘Unexpected visitors with unpredictable behaviour are so enervating...don’t you think?’ Maxie trilled as she fell still by the side of his impressive desk.
Angelos swore in Greek, studying her with seething black eyes full of intimidation. ‘You crazy—’ His wide mouth hardened as he bit back the rest of that verbal assault with the greatest of visible difficulty. ‘What the hell are you playing at?’ he growled like a grizzly bear instead.
‘I’m not playing, I’m paying!’ With a flourish, Maxie opened her fingers above his desk and let drop the crushed banknotes in her hand. ‘Something on account towards the loan. I can’t be bought like a tin of beans off a supermarket shelf!’
‘How dare you interrupt a business meeting?’ Angelos launched at her full throttle. ‘How dare you make a scene like that in my boardroom?’
Maxie tensed. She had never heard a man that angry. She had never seen a male with so dark a complexion look that pale. Nor had she ever faced a pair of eyes that slashed like bloodthirsty razors into her.
‘You asked for it,’ she informed him grittily. ‘You embarrassed me yesterday. You made me feel this big...’ With her thumb and her forefinger she gave him a literal demonstration. ‘You made me feel powerless and this is payback time. You picked on the wrong woman!’
‘Is this really the Ice Queen I’m dealing with?’ Angelos responded very, very drily.
‘You’d burn the ice off the North Pole!’ Maxie sizzled back at him, wondering why he had now gone so still, why his naturally vibrant skin tone was recovering colour, indeed why he didn’t appear to be in a rage any more.