Charcoal-grey suit, white silk shirt, smooth gold tie. He looked filthy rich, imposing and utterly out of place. And Maxie’s heart started to go bang-bang-bang beneath her uniform. He had the most incredible traffic-stopping presence. Suddenly the crowded room with its low ceiling and atmospheric lighting felt suffocatingly hot and airless.
For a split second Angelos remained poised, black eyes raking across the bar to close in on Maxie. She had the mesmerised, panicked look of a rabbit caught in car headlights. His incredulous stare of savage impatience zapped her even at a distance of thirty feet.
Sucking in oxygen in a great gulp, Maxie struggled to finish writing down the order she was taking on her note-pad. Gathering up the menus again, she headed for the kitchens at a fast trot. But it wasn’t fast enough. Angelos somehow got in the way.
‘Take a break,’ he instructed in a blistering undertone.
‘How the heck did you find out where I was?’
‘Catriona Ferguson at the Star modelling agency was eager to please.’ Angelos watched Maxie’s eyes flare with angry comprehension. ‘Most people are rather reluctant to say no to me.’
In an abrupt move, Maxie sidestepped him and hurried into the kitchen. When she re-emerged, Angelos was sitting at one of her tables. She ignored him, but never had she been more outrageously aware of being watched. Her body felt uncoordinated and clumsy. Her hands perspired and developed a shake. She spilt a drink and had to fetch another while the woman complained scathingly about the single tiny spot that had splashed her handbag.
Finally the young bar manager, Dennis, approached her. ‘That big dark bloke at table six...haven’t you noticed him?’ he enquired apologetically, studying her beautiful face with the same poleaxed expression he had been wearing ever since he’d hired her. With an abstracted frown, he looked across at Angelos, who was tapping long brown fingers with rampant impatience on the tabletop. ‘It’s odd. There’s something incredibly familiar about the bloke but I can’t think where I’ve seen him before.’
Maxie forced herself over to table six. ‘Yes?’ she prompted tautly, and focused exclusively on that expensive gold tie while all the time inwardly picturing the derision in those penetrating black eyes.
‘That uniform is so short you look like a bloody French maid in a bedroom farce!’ Angelos informed her grittily. ‘Every time you bend over, every guy in here is craning his neck to get a better view! And that practice appears to include the management.’
Maxie’s face burned, outrage flashing in her blue eyes. The bar had a Victorian theme, and the uniform was a striped overall with a silly little frilly apron on top. It did look rather odd on a woman of her height and unusually long length of leg, but she had already let down the hemline as far as it would go. ‘Do you or do you not want a drink?’ she demanded thinly.
‘I’d like the table cleared and cleaned first,’ Angelos announced with a glance of speaking distaste at the cluttered surface. ‘Then you can bring me a brandy and sit down.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous...I’m working.’ Maxie piled up the dishes with a noisy clatter, and in accidentally slopping coffee over the table forced him to lunge back at speed from the spreading flood.
‘You’re working for me, and if I say you can sit down, I expect you to do as you’re told,’ Angelos delivered in his deep, dark, domineering drawl.
Engaged in mopping up, Maxie stilled. ‘I beg your pardon? You said...I was working for you?’ she queried.
‘This hotel belongs to my chain,’ Angelos ground out. ‘And I am anything but impressed by what I see here.’
Maxie turned cold with shock. Angelos owned this hotel? She backed away with the dishes. As she was hailed from the kitchen, she watched with a sinking stomach as Angelos signalled Dennis. When she reappeared with a loaded tray, Dennis was seated like a pale, perspiring graven image in front of Angelos.
She hurried to deliver the meals she had collected but there was a general outcry of loud and exasperated complaint.
‘I didn’t order this...’ the first customer objected. ‘I asked for salad, not French fries—’
‘And I wanted garlic potatoes—’
‘This steak is rare, not well-done—’
The whole order was hopelessly mixed up. A tall, dark shadow fell menacingly over the table. In one easy movement, Angelos lifted Maxie’s pad from her pocket, presumably to check out the protests. ‘What is this?’ he demanded, frowning down at the pages as he flipped. ‘Egyptian hieroglyphics...some secret code? Nobody could read this back!’