Kiss an Angel(5)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

As she climbed inside, she saw that the tinted glass window separating the driver from the passengers was closed. At least she’d have the privacy she needed to tell Alex Markov her intentions before they reached the airport.

You took vows, Daisy. Sacred vows. She shook off the troublesome voice of her conscience by telling herself she didn’t have a choice.

He got in next to her, and the spacious interior suddenly seemed cramped. If he wasn’t so physically overpowering, she didn’t think she’d be so nervous about this. Although he wasn’t muscle-bound like one of those freakish-looking bodybuilders, he had the hard, sinewy physique of someone in top shape. His shoulders were broad, his hips narrow. The hands that rested on the slacks of his charcoal suit were strong and deeply tanned, with long, tapered fingers. She felt a small jolt of awareness that unsettled her.

They had barely pulled away from the curb before he began to tug at his necktie. He yanked it off, stuffed it in the pocket of his suit coat, and unfastened his collar button with an efficient flick of his wrist. She stiffened, hoping he wasn’t going to take off any more. In one of her favorite erotic fantasies, she and a faceless man made passionate love in the back of a white limousine stuck in a Manhattan traffic jam while Michael Bolton sang “When a Man Loves a Woman” in the background, but there was a big difference between fantasy and reality.

The limo began to move. She took a deep breath, trying to pull herself together, and smelled the heavy scent of the gardenia in her hair. She was relieved to see that Alex had stopped taking off his clothes, but when he stretched his legs and began to study her, she shifted uneasily. No matter how hard she worked at it, she would never be as beautiful as her mother, and when people stared at her for too long, she felt like an ugly duckling. The hole in her shimmery gold nylons from her encounter with the Pekingese didn’t add to her self-confidence.

She opened her purse to find a much needed cigarette. It was an awful habit, and she wasn’t proud of having succumbed to it. Although Lani had always smoked, Daisy’d never had more than an occasional cigarette in the evening with a glass of wine. But in those first months after her mother’s death she’d found that cigarettes relaxed her, and she’d become truly addicted. After a long drag, she decided she was calm enough to tell Mr. Markov her plan.

“Put it out, angel face.”

She regarded him apologetically. “I know it’s a terrible habit, and I promise I won’t blow smoke at you, but I really need this right now.”

He reached past her to lower her window. Without warning, her cigarette burst into flames.

She shrieked and let it go. Sparks flew everywhere. He grabbed a handkerchief from his breast pocket and somehow managed to put out all the embers.

Breathing hard, she looked down at her lap and saw tiny burn marks in her gold lace dress and on the satin jacket.

“How did that happen?” she gasped.

“I guess it was faulty.”

“A faulty cigarette? I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

“You’d better let me throw away the pack in case the others are like that.”

“Yes. Of course.”

She quickly handed it over, and he pushed the pack into his pants pocket. Although she was shaken, he seemed perfectly relaxed. Leaning back in the corner of the seat, he crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes.

They needed to talk—she had to explain to him her plan for putting an end to this embarrassing marriage—but he didn’t seem to be in the mood for conversation, and she was afraid she’d mess it up if she wasn’t careful. This past year had been such a disaster that she’d gotten into the habit of giving herself small pep talks so that she didn’t fall into the habit of considering herself totally hopeless.

She reminded herself that although her education might have been unorthodox, it had certainly been comprehensive. And despite what her father thought, she’d inherited his brain and not her mother’s. She also had a good sense of humor and a naturally optimistic outlook on life that even the past year hadn’t entirely destroyed. She spoke four foreign languages, could identify nearly any couture piece by designer, and was an expert at calming hysterical women. Unfortunately, she didn’t possess even a modicum of common sense.

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