Married to a Mistress(8)By: Lynne Graham
Angelos Petronides regarded her with glittering black unfathomable eyes. ‘I will not hold that debt over you, Maxie. My intervention was a gesture of good faith alone.’
‘G-good faith...?’ Maxie stammered helplessly, her voice rising to shrillness in spite of her every effort to control it.
‘What else could it be?’ Angelos shifted a graceful hand in eloquent emphasis, his brilliant gaze absorbing the raw incredulity and shock which had blown a giant smoking crater in the Ice Queen’s famed façade of cool. ‘What man worthy of the name would seek to blackmail a woman into his bed?’
MAXIE leapt upright, her beautiful face a flushed mask of fury. ‘Do you think I am a complete fool?’ she shouted at him so loudly her voice cracked.
Unhurriedly, Angelos Petronides shifted his incredibly long legs and fluidly unfolded to his full height again, his complete control mocking her loss of temper. ‘With regard to some of your past decisions in life...how frank am I allowed to be?’
Maxie sucked in oxygen as if she was drowning, clamped a hand to her already opening mouth and spun at speed away from him. She was shattered that he had smashed her self-discipline. As noise filtered through the open window she became dimly aware of the shouts of children playing football somewhere outside, but their voices were like sounds impinging from another world.
‘You don’t need to apologise,’ Angelos drawled in a mocking undertone. ‘I’ve seen your temper many times before. You go pale and you stiffen. Every time Leland put so much as a finger on you in public, I witnessed your struggle not to shrug him off. It must have been fun in the bedroom...’
Maxie’s slender backbone quivered. Her fingernails flexed like claws longing to make contact with human flesh. She wanted to kill him. But she couldn’t even trust herself to speak, and was all the more agitated by the simple fact that she had never felt such rage before and honestly didn’t know how to cope with it.
‘But then, it was always evident to me that Leland’s biggest thrill was trotting you out in public at every possible opportunity. “Look at me, I have a blonde twice as tall as me and a third of my age,”’ Angelos mused with earthy amusement. ‘I suspect he might not have demanded intimate entertainment that often. He wasn’t a young man...’
‘And you are...without doubt...the most offensive, objectionable man I have ever met!’ Maxie launched with her back still rigidly turned to him.
‘I am a taste you will acquire. After all, you need someone like me.’ A pair of strong hands settled without warning on her slim shoulders and exerted sufficient pressure to swivel her back round to face him.
‘I need someone like you like I need a hole in the head!’ Maxie railed back at him rawly as she tore herself free of that controlling hold. ‘And keep your hands off me...I don’t like being pawed!’
‘Why are you so angry? I had to tell you about the loan,’ Angelos pointed out calmly. ‘I was aware that the Coulters’ lawyer had already been in touch. Naturally, I wanted to set your mind at rest.’
The reminder of the debt that had simply been transferred acted like a drenching flood of cold water on Maxie’s overheated emotions. Her angry flush was replaced by waxen pallor. Her body turned cold and weak and shaky and she studied the worn carpet at his feet. ‘You’ve bought yourself a pup. I can’t settle that loan...and right now I haven’t even got enough to make a payment on it,’ she framed sickly.
‘Why do you get yourself so worked up about nothing?’ Angelos released an extravagant sigh. ‘Sit down before you fall down. Haven’t I already given you my assurance that I have no intention of holding that former debt over your head in any way? But, in passing, may I ask what you needed that loan for?’
‘I got into a real financial mess, that’s all,’ she muttered evasively, protecting her father as she always did, conscious of the derisive distaste such weakness roused in other, stronger men. And, drained by her outbursts and ashamed of them, she found herself settling back down into the chair again.
For the very first time she was genuinely scared of Angelos Petronides. He owned a piece of her, just as Leland once had, but he would be expecting infinitely more than a charade in return. She wasn’t taken in by his reassurances, or by that roughly gentle intonation she had never dreamt he might possess. In the space of ten minutes he had reduced her to a babbling, screeching wreck and, for now, he was merely content to have made his domineering presence felt.