Kiss an Angel(7)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

An expression of amusement flickered across those granite features of his. “What awkwardness are you talking about?”

She should have known from her experiences with her mother’s lovers that a man this good-looking wasn’t going to be blessed with brains. “The awkwardness of finding ourselves married to a stranger.”

“We’ll get to know each other pretty well, I imagine.” Again that husky undertone. “And I don’t think the two of us going our separate ways is what Max had in mind. As I remember it, we’re supposed to live together and play husband and wife.”

“That’s just like my father. He’s a little dictatorial when it comes to running other people’s lives. The beauty of my plan is that he’ll never know that we haven’t been living together. As long as we don’t set up housekeeping in Manhattan, where he can walk in on us, he won’t have any idea what we’re doing.”

“We’re definitely not setting up housekeeping in Manhattan.”

He wasn’t being as cooperative as she’d hoped, but she was enough of an optimist to believe he only needed a little more persuasion. “I know my plan will work.”

“Let me get this straight. You expect me to hand over half of what Max is giving me to marry you?”

“How much is that, by the way?”

“Not nearly enough,” he muttered.

She’d never had to haggle, and she didn’t like doing it now, but she couldn’t see that she had a choice. “If you think about it, I’m sure you’ll realize that’s equitable. After all, if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be getting any money at all.”

“This must mean you’re planning on giving me half the money in that trust fund he’s promised to set up for you.”

“Oh, no, I’m not planning to do that at all.”

He gave a short bark of laughter. “Somehow I didn’t think so.”

“You misunderstand. I’ll pay you back as soon as I have access to my trust. I’m only asking for a loan.”

“And I’m refusing it.”

She knew then that she’d made a mess of it. She had a bad habit of assuming other people would do what she herself would do if she were in their shoes. For example, if she were Alex Markov, she would certainly loan herself half the money just to get rid of her.

She needed to smoke. Badly. “Could I have my cigarettes back? I’m sure that only one of them was faulty.”

He withdrew the crumpled pack from the pocket of his slacks and handed it over. She quickly lit up, shut her eyes, and drew the smoke deeply into her lungs.

She heard the sizzle, and by the time her eyes sprang open, the cigarette was already in flames. With a gasp of dismay, she dropped it. Once again, Alex swept up the butt and embers with a handkerchief.

“Maybe you could sue,” he said mildly.

She pressed her hand to her throat, too stunned to speak.

He reached over and touched her breast. She felt the flick of his finger on the inner swell and jumped back, even as the sensitive flesh beaded beneath the satin. Her gaze flew upward to those unfathomable golden eyes.

“A spark,” he said.

She covered her breast with her hand and felt the trembling of her heart beneath her palm. How long had it been since a hand other than her own had touched her there? Two years ago, she remembered, when she’d had her last physical exam.

She saw that they had reached the airport, and she garnered her courage. “Mr. Markov, you have to realize that we can’t live together as man and wife. We’re strangers. The whole idea is ridiculous, and I’m going to have to insist that you be more cooperative about this.”

“Insist?” he said mildly. “I don’t believe you have a right to insist on anything.”

She stiffened her spine. “I’m not going to be bullied, Mr. Markov.”

He sighed and shook his head, regarding her with an expression of regret that she didn’t believe for a minute was sincere. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this, angel face, but I guess I should have figured it wouldn’t be that easy with you. Maybe I’d better spell out the ground rules right now, just so you’ll know what to expect. For better or worse, the two of us are married until six months from today. You can walk away any time you want to, but you’ll have to do it on your own. And in case you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t going to be one of those modern, talk-things-through-so-we-can-compromise marriages like you read about in all those ladies’ magazines. This is going to be an old-time relationship.” If anything his voice grew softer, more gentle. “Now what that means, angel face, is that I’m in charge, and you’re going to be doing what I say. If you don’t, you’ll suffer some pretty unpleasant consequences. The good news in all this is that after the time’s up, you can do whatever you want. I won’t give a damn.”

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