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Married to a Mistress(33)

By:Lynne Graham

‘An engagement ring?’ she had asked him incredulously.

‘A gift,’ Angelos had insisted. But he had produced both at spectacular speed.

Indeed, her finger was now so crowded, a glance at a hundred yards would give the news that she was married to even the most disinterested onlooker. But why couldn’t Angelos mention the prospect of having children...or something, anything that would make her feel like a really permanent fixture in his life? she wondered ruefully. Maybe he didn’t want children. Or maybe he just couldn’t contemplate the idea of having children with her. Certainly he hadn’t taken a single risk in that department.

They parted at the airport. Angelos headed for the Petronides building and Maxie travelled back to his apartment, her new home. Barely stopping to catch her breath, she found the main bedroom, went into the dressing-room and searched through wardrobe after wardrobe of fabulous suits in search of that dinner jacket with her list in the pocket. She found half a dozen dinner jackets, but not one of them contained what she sought. Obviously that list had been dumped. She relaxed.

Angelos called her at lunchtime. ‘Something’s come up. I may be very late tonight,’ he informed her.

Maxie’s face fell a mile but her response was upbeat. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll amuse myself—’

‘How?’ Angelos interrupted instantaneously.

‘I’ll have an early night.’ Maxie worked hard to keep the amusement out of her voice.

‘I have this recurring image of you hitting the town on your own.’

‘Because you know you got away with going to that nightclub by yourself, but you won’t ever again,’ Maxie murmured with complete sincerity.

Maxie couldn’t believe how much she missed him that night. She thought she would turn over at some stage and find him there in the bed beside her, and it was something of a shock to wake up at eight and discover she was still alone.

By the time she sat down to breakfast, however, the table was rejoicing in a huge bunch of white lilies. ‘Missing you too much,’ the card complained. Maxie heaved a happy sigh, consoled by the sight. Her portable phone buzzed.

‘Thank you for the flowers,’ she said, since nobody else but Angelos had her number. ‘Where are you?’

‘The office. I was out of town last night. It was too late to drive back and I didn’t want to wake you up by phoning in the early hours.’

‘The next time, phone,’ Maxie urged.

‘What are you wearing, agape mou?’ Angelos enquired huskily.

Maxie gave a little shiver and crammed the phone even closer to her ear. The sound of that honeyed drawl just knocked her out. ‘Shocking pink...suit...four-inch stilettos,’ she whispered hoarsely. ‘I can’t wait to take them all off.’

‘How am I supposed to concentrate when you say things like that?’ Angelos demanded in a driven undertone.

‘I want you to miss me.’

‘I’m missing you...OK?’

‘OK...when can I expect a snatched moment?’

‘Don’t go out anywhere. I’ll pick you up at eleven. I’ve got a surprise for you.’

Maxie flicked through the topmost newspaper and went as usual to the gossip column. She saw the picture of Angelos instantly. Her attention lodged lovingly on how wonderfully photogenic he was, and then her gaze slowly slewed sideways to take in the woman who occupied the photo with him, the woman whose hand he was intimately clasping across a table.

Aghast, she just stared for a full count of ten seconds. Her stomach twisted, her brow dampened. She felt sick. Natalie Cibaud, the movie actress...


Fresh from reports of an on-off affair with the model Maxie Kendall, Greek tycoon Angelos Petronides, our all-time favourite heartbreaker, seen dining last night with the ravishing actress Natalie Cibaud. Is it off with Maxie and on with Natalie again? Or is this triangle set to run and run?

Last night? Dear heaven, Angelos had been with another woman? With Natalie Cibaud? Maxie just couldn’t believe it. She kept on laboriously re-reading the column and staring an anguished hole into the photo. Then her stomach got the better of her. She lost her breakfast in the cloakroom.

Sick and dizzy, she reeled back to the table to study the card she had received with her flowers. ‘Missing you too much.’ There was a certain appalling candour in that admission, wasn’t there? Evidently Angelos couldn’t be trusted out of her sight for five minutes. And, trusting woman that she was, Angelos had been out of her sight for almost twenty-four hours...

Maxie asked Nikos to have the car brought around. She swept up her portable phone. No, she wasn’t going to warn Angelos. Nor was she about to sit and wait for him to arrive with whatever surprise his guilty conscience had dreamt up. She would confront him in the Petronides building. Her phone buzzed in the lift. She ignored it.

The phone went again in the limousine. Angelos trying to call her. She switched the phone off with trembling fingers. Offered the car phone some minutes later, she uttered a stringent negative. Getting a little nervous, was he? By now, Angelos would’ve been tipped off about that piece in the gossip column. He knew he had been caught out. He had been unfaithful to her. He must have been. He had been out all night. All night. Maxie shivered, gooseflesh pricking her clammy skin. She was in sick shock. Why...why? was all she could think.

Until now she hadn’t appreciated just how entirely hers Angelos had begun to seem. She had trusted him one hundred per cent. And now she couldn’t comprehend how her trust had become so unassailable. He had never mentioned love, never promised to be faithful. On the very brink of making a public announcement of their marriage, Angelos had betrayed her. Why? Was this one of those male sexual ego things women found so incomprehensible? Or was an adulterous fling his revealing reaction to the prospect of fully committing himself to her?

Magnificent in her rage, Maxie stalked into the Petronides building. Every head in the vicinity seemed to turn. They did a double-take at the bodyguards in her wake. Maxie stepped into the executive lift.

Angelos had to be gnashing his teeth. Famous for his discretion in his private life, and his success in keeping his personal affairs out of the gossip columns, he would’ve assumed he was safe from discovery. Or had he deliberately sought to be found out? Was she becoming paranoid? The simplest explanations were usually the most likely, she reflected wretchedly. Had Angelos just met up with Natalie Cibaud again and suddenly realised that she was the woman he really wanted?

The receptionist on the top floor stared and rose slowly to her feet.

Maxie strode on past, the stillness of her pale features dominated by eyes as brilliant as sapphires. Agog faces appeared at doorways. Without breaking her stride, Maxie reached the foot of the corridor and, thrusting wide the door of Angelos’s office, she swept in and sent the door slamming shut behind her again.

Angelos was standing in the centre of the room, lean, hard-boned face whip-taut, black eyes shimmering.

A pain as sharp as a knife cut through Maxie. She could read nothing but angry frustration in those startlingly handsome features. That neither shame nor regret could be seen savaged her. ‘Before I walk out of your life for ever, I have a few things to say to you—’

Angelos moved forward and spread silencing hands. ‘Maxie—’

‘Don’t you dare interrupt me when I’m shouting at you!’ Maxie launched. ‘And don’t say my name like that. The only way you could get around me at this moment is with a rope! When I saw that photo of you with Natalie Cibaud, I couldn’t believe my eyes—’

‘Good,’ Angelos slotted in fiercely. ‘Because you shouldn’t have believed what you were seeing. That photo was issued by Natalie’s agent three months ago! That dinner date took place three months ago!’

‘I don’t believe you,’ Maxie breathed. jerkily, studying him with stunned intensity.

‘Then call my lawyer. I’ve already been in touch with him. I intend to sue that newspaper.’

Maxie’s lashes fluttered. Her legs trembled. She slumped back against the door. Widening blue eyes dazed, she framed raggedly, ‘Are you saying that...you weren’t with Natalie last night?’

‘Maxie, I haven’t laid eyes on Natalie since the night you took ill. We did not part the best of friends.’

The tremble in Maxie’s lower limbs was inexorably spreading right through her entire body. ‘But I thought you saw her after that—’

‘You thought wrong. I have neither seen nor spoken to her since that night, and as far as I’m aware she’s not even in the UK right now. Maxie...you should know I haven’t the smallest desire for any other woman while you are in my life,’ Angelos swore, anxiously searching her shaken face and then lapsing into roughened Greek as he reached for her and held her so tight and close she couldn’t breathe.

‘You s-said if you saw a beautiful woman walk down the street—’

‘No, I said, “a ravishing beauty like you”,’ Angelos contradicted with strong emphasis. ‘And there is no other woman like you. When I realised you must’ve seen that picture, it was like having my own heart ripped out! I can’t bear for you to be hurt—not by me, not by anyone, agape mou.’