Home>>read Married to a Mistress free online

Married to a Mistress(31)

By:Lynne Graham

Maxie couldn’t believe her eyes when she discovered that the jacket she was searching wasn’t his dinner jacket! Before he had returned to her at dawn, Angelos had evidently gone back to his own apartment to change. She could’ve screamed... Stamina, she reminded herself, but her nerves were already shot to hell.

‘Maxie...what are you doing?’

Maxie jerked and dropped his jacket as if she had been burnt. ‘Nothing!’

‘What time is it?’ he queried softly.


‘Come back to bed, agape mou.’

Maxie was so relieved he hadn’t noticed what she was doing, she responded with alacrity.

An hour and a half later she sat across the dining-room table while breakfast was served by Angelos’s manservant, Nikos. He had imported his own staff to remedy the empty cupboards in the kitchen. His efficiency in sweeping away such problems just took her breath away. Now he lounged back, skimming through a pile of newspapers and onto his third cup of black coffee.

He was a fantastic lover, she thought dreamily. He could be so gentle and then so...so wild. And he ought to be exhausted after only a couple of hours of sleep, but instead Angelos emanated a sizzling aura of pent-up energy this morning. I’m never, ever going to get over him, she thought in sudden panic. I need my list back to deprogramme myself from this dependency.

Without warning, Angelos bit out something raw and incredulous in Greek and sprang upright, sending half his coffee flying. Volatile, volcanic, like a grizzly bear, Maxie reminded herself studiously. He strode across the dining-room, swept up the phone, punched out some numbers and raked down the line, ‘That piece on Maxie Kendall on the gossip page...who authorised that? You print a retraction tomorrow And after that she’s the invisible woman...you tell that malicious poison-pen artist to find another target. She’s supposed to be writing up society stuff, not trawling the gutter for sleaze!’

About thirty seconds later, Angelos replaced the receiver. Maxie was suffering from dropped-jaw syndrome. Only Nikos, evidently inured to the liveliness of life with Angelos, was functioning normally. Having mopped up the split coffee, he had brought a fresh cup, and he now removed himself from the room again with admirable cool.

Angelos slapped the offending newspaper down in front of Maxie. ‘This is what happens when you stroll round Paris without protection,’ he informed her grimly. ‘You didn’t even realise you’d been caught on camera, did you?’

‘No,’ she confided, and swallowed hard, still in shock from that startling knee-jerk demonstration of male protectiveness. She cast a brief glance at the photo. ‘But do you really think that newspaper is likely to pay the slightest heed to your objections?’

‘I own that newspaper,’ Angelos breathed flatly, his lean face sardonic. ‘And just look at what that stupid columnist has written!’

Maxie obediently bent her head. She put a finger on the lines of italic type to the right of the photo. The tiny words blurred and shifted hopelessly because she couldn’t even begin to concentrate with Angelos standing over her as he was.

The silence thundered.

Then a lean brown forefinger came down to shift hers to the section of type below the photograph. ‘It’s that bit, actually,’ Angelos informed her, half under his breath.

Maxie turned white, her stomach reacting with a violent lurch. ‘I never read this kind of stuff...and you’ve caught me out. I’m horribly long-sighted...

The silence went on and on and on. She couldn’t bring herself to look up to see whether or not he had been fooled by that desperate lie.

In an abrupt movement, Angelos removed the newspaper. ‘You shouldn’t be looking at that sort of sleazy trash anyway. It’s beneath your notice!’

The sick tension, the shattering fear of discovery drained out of Maxie, but it left her limp, perspiration beading her short upper lip. How could she tell him? How could she admit a handicap like dyslexia to someone like Angelos? Like many, he might not even believe that the condition really existed; he might think that it was just a fancy name coined to make the not very bright feel better about their academic deficiencies. Over the years Maxie had met a lot of attitudes like that, and had learnt that any attempt to explain the problems she had often resulted in contempt or even greater discomfiture.

‘Maxie...’ Angelos cleared his throat with rare hesitancy. ‘I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your eyesight, and I don’t think it’s a good idea at this stage in our relationship to pretend that there is.’

As that strikingly candid admission sank in, appalled humiliation engulfed Maxie. This was her worst nightmare. Angelos had uncovered her secret. She could have borne anybody but him seeing through the lying excuses that came so readily to her lips when her reading or writing skills were challenged. She sat there just Staring into space, blocking him out.

‘Maxie...I don’t like upsetting you but I’m not about to drop the subject.’ Angelos bent and hauled the chair around by the arms, with her still sitting in it. ‘You are very intelligent so there has to be a good reason why you can’t read ten lines in a newspaper with the same ease that I can. And, you see, I remember your notebook when you were waitressing...like a type of shorthand instead of words.’

Maxie parted compressed lips like an automaton. ‘I’m dyslexic...OK?’

‘OK...do you want some more coffee?’ Angelos enquired without skipping a beat as he straightened.

‘No, I’ve had enough...I thought you’d want to drag it all out of me,’ she said then accusingly.

‘Not right now, if it’s upsetting you to this degree,’ Angelos returned evenly.

‘I’m not upset!’ Maxie flew upright and stalked across the room in direct contradiction of the statement. ‘I just don’t like people prying and poking about in what is my business and nobody else’s!’

Angelos regarded her in level enquiry. ‘Dyslexia is more widespread than perhaps you realise. Demetrios, whose twenty-first I attended last night, is also dyslexic, but he’s now in his second year at Oxford. His two younger brothers also have problems. Didn’t you get extra tuition at school to help you to cope?’

Relaxing infinitesimally, Maxie folded her arms and shook her head dully. ‘I went to about a dozen different schools in all—’

‘A dozen?’ Angelos interrupted in astonishment.

‘Dad and I never stayed in one place for long. He always ended up owing someone money. If it wasn’t the landlord it was the local bookie, or some bloke he had laid a bet with and lost...so we would do a flit to pastures new.’

‘And then the whole cycle would start again?’ Angelos questioned tautly.

‘Yes...’ Maxie pursued her lips, her throat aching as she evaded his shrewd appraisal. ‘I was ten before a teacher decided that there might be an explanation other than stupidity for my difficulties and I was assessed. I was supposed to get extra classes, but before it could be arranged Dad and I moved on again.’ She tilted her chin, denying her own agonising self-consciousness on the subject. ‘In the next school, after I’d been tested, they just stuck me in the lowest form alongside the rest of the no-hopers.’

Angelos actually winced. ‘When did you leave school?’

‘As fast as my legs could carry me at sixteen!’ Maxie admitted with sudden explosive bitterness. ‘As my godmother once said to me, “Maxie, you can’t expect to be pretty and clever.” ’

‘I don’t think I like the sound of her very much.’

‘She was trying to be kind but she thought I was as thick as a brick because I was such a slow reader, and my writing was awful and my spelling absolutely stinks!’ Feeling the tears coming on, Maxie shot across the room like a scalded cat and fled back to the bedroom.

Angelos came down on the bed beside her.

‘And don’t you dare try to pretend that you don’t see me differently now!’ Maxie sobbed furiously.

‘You’re right You are incredibly brave to cope with something like that all on your own and still be such a firecracker,’ Angelos breathed grittily. ‘And if I’d known this when I had Leland in my sights, I’d have torn him limb from limb...because you couldn’t read that bloody loan contract, could you?’

‘Bits of it...I can get by...but it takes me longer to read things. I didn’t want to show myself up, so I just signed.’

‘Demetrios was fortunate. His problems were recognised when he was still a child. He got all the help he needed but you were left to suffer in frustration...you shouldn’t be—you mustn’t be ashamed of the condition.’

Tugging her back against him, Angelos smoothed her hair off her damp brow as if he was comforting a distressed and sensitive child, and she jerked away from him. He persisted. Out of pride, she tried to shrug him off again, but it was a very half-hearted gesture and recognised as such. Somehow, when Angelos closed his powerful arms round her, she discovered, nothing could possibly feel that bad.

‘What did that piece in the gossip column say anyway?’ Maxie wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

‘That the rumours about you and I were complete nonsense. But that it looked like you had attracted another wealthy “friend”—the implication being that he was another married man.’