In answer, Angelos plunged his mouth passionately hard down on hers and smashed his primal passage through every barrier. Her numbness vanished He kissed her breathless until she was weak and trembling with tormented need in his arms. Then he looked down at her, and he stared for a very long while.
The silence unnerved her, but she was too shaken by the discovery that even a few kisses could reduce her to wanton compliance to speak.
His bronzed face utterly hard and impassive, he finally murmured flatly, ‘I’ll call the car for you and I’ll be in touch. I don’t feel like lunch now either.’
Maxie registered his distance. The sense of rejection she felt appalled her. And she thought then, If I go through with this private arrangement, if I try to play him at his own game, I will surely tear myself apart...
No—no, she wouldn’t, she told herself urgently, battening down the hatches before insidious doubt could weaken her determination. One way or another she would survive with her pride intact. Wanting Angelos was solely a physical failing. Ultimately she would overcome that hunger and look forward to the life she would have after him.
‘SO, EVEN though it was a rather unconventional proposal, Angelos did have marriage in mind,’ Liz finally sighed with satisfaction.
‘Only when he saw it was his only hope.’
‘I hear a lot of men are like that. Angelos is only thirty-three, but he’s bound to be rather spoilt when it comes to his...well, when many other women would be willing to sleep with him without commitment,’ Liz extended with warming cheeks. ‘I expect you’ve been something of a learning experience for him, and if you were more sensible, he could learn a lot more.’
‘This marriage will be what you make of it.’
‘Haven’t you been listening to what I’ve been saying?’ Maxie muttered in confusion. ‘It isn’t going to be a proper marriage, Liz.’
‘Right now you are very angry with Angelos. I refuse to credit that you could really go through with walking out on your marriage in six months’ time,’ Liz told her with a reproving shake of her head.
‘I will, Liz...believe me, I will—’
‘This time I’m definitely not listening,’ Liz asserted wryly. ‘And as for Angelos’s apparent fantasy that he can marry you and live with you on an occasional basis without people finding out that he’s involved with you...he’s almost as off the wall on this as you are, Maxie!’
‘No, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He just doesn’t expect me to be in his life for very long.’
Liz compressed her lips. ‘I have only one real question to ask you. Why can’t you just sit down and tell Angelos the whole truth about Leland?’
Taken aback, Maxie protested, ‘He didn’t want to listen when I did try—’
‘You could’ve made him listen. You are no shrinking violet.’
‘Do you seriously think that Angelos is likely to believe that Leland took advantage of me in every way but the one in which, of course, everyone thinks he did, even though he didn’t?’ Maxie was shaken into surprised defensiveness by Liz’s attitude.
‘Well, your silence on the subject has defined your whole relationship with Angelos. Indeed, I have a very strong suspicion that you don’t really want him to know the real story.’
‘And why on earth would I feel like that?’
‘I think that you think you’re a much more exciting proposition as a bad girl,’ Liz admitted reluctantly, and Maxie turned scarlet. ‘You get all dolled up in your fancy clothes and you flounce about getting a bitter thrill out of people thinking you’re a real hard, grasping little witch—’
Maxie was aghast. ‘Liz, that’s—’
‘Let me finish,’ the older woman insisted ruefully. ‘I believe that that’s the way you’ve learnt to cope with those who have hurt you, not to mention all the mud you’ve had slung at you. You hide away inside that fancy shell and sometimes you get completely carried away with pretending to be what you’re not...so ask yourself—is it any wonder that Angelos doesn’t know you the way he should? He’s never seen the real you.’
The real me, Maxie reflected, cringing where she sat. He would be bored stiff by the real Maxie Kendall, who, horror of horrors, couldn’t even read or write properly. And was it really likely that a male as sexually experienced as Angelos would be equally obsessed with possessing a woman who turned out to be just one big pathetic bluff? A woman who had never yet shared a bed with any man? A virgin?