In one driven movement Maxie rolled off the bed and fled in the direction of the bathroom. Dear heaven, he had been so repulsed he had just abandoned their lovemaking.

‘Maxie?’ Angelos murmured grimly. ‘I think this is something we definitely need to talk about—’

Maxie slammed the bathroom door so loudly it rocked on its hinges and then she depressed the lock double-quick. Bang went the image of the cool sophisticate! And without that glossy image she felt naked and exposed. The last thing she could’ve faced right then was awkward questions. And as she turned on the bath taps she recalled his swinging verbal attack on her before they made love and she burst into gulping tears.

Angelos banged on the door. ‘Maxie? Come out of there!’

‘Go to hell!’ she shouted, cramming her hand to her wobbling mouth before a sob could escape and betray her.

‘Are you all right?’

‘I’m having a bath, Angelos...not drowning myself! Although with that technique of yours, I understand your concern!’

But no sooner had Maxie hurled those nasty words than she was thoroughly ashamed of herself. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, he hadn’t known, and lashing out in retaliation because she felt horribly humiliated was unjust and mean. Silence fell. Slowly, miserably, Maxie climbed into the bath.

Only then did it occur to her that it was foolish to be distressed by what Angelos had said in temper earlier. After all, he had now discovered that she could not possibly have been Leland’s mistress. So that had to make a difference to the light in which he saw her, surely? Only what she had been given with one hand had seemingly been taken with the other. Angelos had been repulsed by her inexperience.

Devastated by that awareness, Maxie thought back seven months to that single exchanged glance with Angelos across that long table in the Petronides boardroom, that charged clash of mutual awareness which seemed to have changed her entire life. Angelos had actually been waiting for her to ditch Leland on his behalf and he had been furious when she hadn’t.

Furthermore, Angelos could not now bring himself to speak Leland Coulter’s name out loud. In fact he had said she would offend him beyond belief with any reference to Leland before they’d even got into bed. Yet Angelos had been in no way that sensitive to that former relationship when he’d first come to announce his intentions at Liz’s house... Men were strange, Maxie decided limply, and none more strange than Angelos.

It took her a long time to emerge from the bathroom, but when she did, wrapped in an over-large short silk robe she had found, the bedroom was empty. It was something of an anticlimax. Maxie got back into bed, not remotely sleepy and very tense, while she waited and waited for Angelos to reappear. A postmortem to end all postmortems now threatened. Having emerged from shock, Angelos would take refuge in anger, she forecast glumly. He would demand to know why she hadn’t told him the truth about Leland. He would utterly dismiss any claim that he would never have believed her.

She lay back, steeling herself for recriminations as only Angelos could hurl them. Like deadly weapons which struck a bull’s-eye every time. He never missed. And she hadn’t been fair to him; she knew now that she hadn’t been fair. Liz had been right. She had reaped a twisted kind of relish out of pretending to be something she wasn’t while she goaded Angelos on and taunted him. And so why had she reacted to him in a way she had never reacted to any other man? Maxie discovered that she was miserable enough without forcing herself to answer that question.

The door opened. She braced herself. Angelos stood poised in the doorway. Barefoot, black hair tousled, strong jawline already darkening with stubble, he looked distinctly unfamiliar in a pair of black tight-fitting jeans, with a black shirt hanging loose and unbuttoned on his bare brown hair-roughened chest.

‘I now know everything...’ he announced in the most peculiar slurred drawl. ‘But I am too bloody drunk to fly!’

Maxie sat up. Eyes huge, she watched Angelos collide with the door and glower at it as if it had no business being there in his path. He was drunk all right. And he just looked so helpless to Maxie at that moment that she abandoned her stony, defensive aspect. Concern for him took over instead.

Leaping out of bed and crossing the room, she put her hand on his arm. ‘Come and lie down,’ she urged.

‘Not on that bed.’ As he swayed Angelos surveyed the divan with an extraordinary force of antagonism. ‘Right at this moment I want to burn it.’

Assuming that her vindictive comment on his technique had struck home with greater force and efficacy than she could ever have imagined, Maxie paled with guilt but continued to try and ease him in the same direction. Was that why he had gone off to hit the bottle? Some intrinsically male sense of sexual failure because he had inadvertently hurt her? Maxie endeavoured to drag him across the carpet. He was obstinate as ever.

Tags: Lynne Graham The Husband Hunters Billionaire Romance