Kiss an Angel(4)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

“Get your things, angel face. We’re leaving.”

She didn’t like his tone one bit, but she’d developed a talent for dealing with difficult people, and she overlooked it. “Maria’s doing her Grand Marnier soufflé for our celebration brunch, but it’s not ready yet, so we’ll need to wait.”

“Afraid not. We have a plane to catch. Your luggage is already in the car.”

She needed more time. She wasn’t ready to be alone with him yet. “Could we take a later flight, Alexander? I hate to disappoint Maria. She’s Amelia’s jewel, and she does a wonderful brunch.”

Although his mouth curled in a smile, his eyes pierced straight through her. They were an unusual color, a pale amber that reminded her of something vaguely eerie. Although she couldn’t quite remember what it was, she knew it made her uneasy.

“The name’s Alex, and you’ve got one minute to get that sweet little butt of yours out the door.”

Her pulse leaped with alarm, but before she could react, he turned his back on her and addressed the three other occupants of the room, his voice quiet but commanding. “I hope you’ll all excuse us. We have a plane to catch.”

Amelia stepped forward and gave Daisy a sly smile. “My, my. Someone’s awfully eager for his wedding night. Our Daisy is quite a morsel, isn’t she?”

Daisy abruptly lost her appetite for Maria’s soufflé. “I’ll change my clothes,” she said.

“We don’t have time for that. You’re fine just the way you are.”

“But . . .”

A firm hand settled in the small of her back, determinedly propelling her out into the foyer. “I’ll bet this is your purse.” At her nod, he picked up her small Chanel bag from the gilded console and handed it to her. Just then, her father and Amelia appeared to wave them off.

Even though she didn’t plan to go any farther than the airport, she wanted to jerk away from Alex’s touch as he steered her toward the door. She turned back toward her father and hated herself for the faint thread of panic in her voice. “Maybe you could convince Alex to stay a little longer, Dad. We’ve hardly had a chance to visit.”

“Do as he says, Theodosia. And remember—this is your last chance. If you fail at this, I’m washing my hands of you. For once in your life, let’s see if you can do something right.”

By now she should be used to her father humiliating her in public, but being humiliated in front of her new husband was so embarrassing she barely managed to square her shoulders. Lifting her chin, she stepped in front of Alex and walked out the door.

She refused to meet his eyes as they waited in silence for the elevator that would take them to the lobby. They moved inside. The doors shut, only to open again on the next floor and allow an elderly woman leading a tan Pekingese to enter.

Daisy immediately shrank against the elevator’s rich teak paneling, but the dog spotted her. He drew his ears back, yipped furiously, and sprang. She screeched as he jumped up on her legs and tore her nylons. “Get away!”

The dog continued to claw at her. She screamed and grabbed the brass rail. Alex regarded her quizzically, then nudged the animal away with his shoe.

“Naughty Mitzi!” The woman swept her pet into her arms and gave Daisy a censorious look. “I can’t think what’s wrong. Mitzi loves everybody.”

Daisy had begun to perspire. She continued to hold the brass rail in a death grip while she kept her eyes on the vicious little beast as it yipped and snapped at her until the doors opened to the lobby.

“The two of you seem to know each other,” Alex said as they got off.

“I’ve—I’ve never seen that dog in my life.”

“I don’t believe it. That dog hated you.”

“I’m not”—she gulped—“I have this thing about animals.”

“You’ve got a thing about animals? Tell me that doesn’t mean you’re afraid of them.”

She nodded and tried to force her heartbeat back to normal.

“Terrific,” he muttered, setting off across the lobby. “That’s just terrific.”

The late April morning was damp and drizzly. There were no crepe paper streamers attached to the limousine that waited for them at the curb, no tin cans and just married signs, none of the wonderful silliness reserved for ordinary people who loved each other. She told herself to stop being such a sentimental fool. Lani had teased her for years about being hopelessly old-fashioned, but all Daisy had ever wanted was to live a conventional life. Not so unusual, she supposed, for someone who had been raised so unconventionally.

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