‘If only I’d known,’ Maxie sighed, struggling to keep her tide of happiness in check. Angelos was no longer cold and remote. He had been challenged by the shocking discovery that she did not sit like an inanimate object stowed on a shelf when he was absent. He had been frustrated by not knowing where she was or exactly when or where she might choose to show up again. As a result, Angelos had had far more to think about than the argument on which they had parted on Chymos.
Angelos was still writing. He stopped to sling her a penetrating look of suspicion. ‘You were in Rome...you were in Paris...who were you with?’ he demanded darkly.
‘I was on my own,’ Maxie responded with an injured look of dignity.
Angelos’s intent gaze lingered. A little of his tension evaporated. Dense lashes screened his eyes. ‘I was pretty angry with you...’
She knew that meant he had been thumping walls and raising Cam. From the instant he’d found her absent without leave from the island, he had been a volcano smouldering, just longing for the confrontational moment of release when he could erupt.
‘I’d offer you a drink but I’m afraid all the cupboards are bare,’ Maxie remarked.
‘Naturally... wasn’t expecting you to move in here.’
Maxie frowned. ‘How can you say that when this entire apartment has obviously been remodelled for my occupation?’
Setting down his pen, Angelos straightened and settled gleaming dark eyes on her. ‘Look, that was before we got married...you might not have noticed, but things have changed since then.’
Maxie looked blank. ‘Have they?’
Angelos’s beautiful mouth compressed hard. ‘I’ve been thinking. You might as well come home with me. I’ll stick a notice about our marriage in the paper—’
‘No...I like things the way they are.’ Saying that was the hardest thing Maxie had ever done, but pride would not allow her to accept the role of wife when it was so grudgingly offered. ‘I love this apartment and, like you, I really do appreciate my own space. And there is no point in firing up a media storm about our marriage when it’s going to be over in a few months.’
Angelos studied her intently, like a scientist peeling layers off an alien object to penetrate its mysteries. And then, without the slightest warning, his brilliant eyes narrowed and the merest hint of a smile lessened the tension still etched round his mouth. ‘OK...fine, no problem. You’re being very sensible about this.’
Inside herself, Maxie collapsed like a pricked balloon. He sounded relieved by her decision. He saw no point in them attempting to live as a normal married couple. Evidently he still saw no prospect of them having any kind of a future together. But Maxie wanted him begging her to share the same roof. Clearly she had a long way to go if she was to have any hope of achieving that objective.
‘But I would appreciate an explanation for your sudden departure from Chymos,’ Angelos completed.
Maxie tautened. ‘I didn’t know when you were coming back. You were furious. It seemed a good idea to let the dust settle.’
‘Do you know why I came back to London?’ Strong face taut, Angelos drew himself up to his full commanding height, the two-page list still clasped in one hand and attracting her covert and anxious attention.
‘I haven’t a clue.’
‘I had to sort out Leland.’
Quite unprepared for that announcement, Maxie gasped. ‘Leland?’
With an absent glance at the loose pages in his hand, Angelos proceeded to fold them and slot them carelessly into the pocket of his jacket. Utterly appalled by that development, and already very much taken back by his reference to Leland Coulter, Maxie watched in sick horror as her defamatory list disappeared from view.
‘Leland had to be dealt with. Surely you didn’t think I planned to let him get away with what he did to you?’ Angelos drawled in a fulminating tone of disbelief. ‘He stole a whole chunk of your life and, not content with that, he ripped you off with that loan—’
‘Angelos...L-Leland is a sick man—’
‘Since he had the bypass op he is well on the road to full recovery,’ Angelos contradicted grimly. ‘But he’s thoroughly ashamed of himself now, and so he should be.’
‘You actually confronted him?’ Maxie was still reeling in shock.
‘And in Jennifer’s presence. Now that she knows the real story of your dealings with her husband, she’s ecstatic. Leland had no plans to confess the truth and his punctured vanity will be his punishment. He trapped you into a demeaning, distressing charade just to hit back at Jennifer!’ Angelos concluded harshly.