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Married to a Mistress(35)

By:Lynne Graham

‘Only after being told she would be perfect in that role—’

‘Perfect wife, perfect mistress, perfect...you are the love of my life,’ Angelos confessed rather raggedly. ‘Why the hell did I arrange the reception for today?’

Maxie squinted across the sea of big cars at the house. A lot of faces were looking out of the windows. But she didn’t squirm. She threw her head high. Angelos loved her. The one and only love of his life? She felt ten feet tall. She would never, ever, no matter how long she lived, tell him how utterly naff that pink trail in the sky had been—particularly not when he was so pleased with himself for having come up with the idea.

‘I love you too,’ she confided as they threaded a passage through the parked cars on their way to the impressive front doors that already stood wide for their entrance. ‘I really don’t think I ought to tell you, but it wasn’t the new improved you that did the trick entirely. I got sort of irrationally attached to you even before I wrote the list.’

‘How can you tell me you love me with all these people hovering?’ Angelos slung in a gritty hiss of reproach, but he smiled and their eyes met and that devastating smile of his grew even more brilliant.

‘I want you to meet my wife,’ Angelos announced a few minutes later, with so much pride and pleasure that Maxie felt her eyes prickle.

A whole host of people lined up to greet them. They were mobbed. At one stage it was something of a surprise to find herself looking down on Leland Coulter’s balding little head, and then meeting his faded, discomfited blue eyes. ‘I’m sorry,’ he breathed tightly.

‘I made him sorry,’ his wife, Jennifer, said very loudly, and Leland flinched and seemed to shrink into himself. ‘Everyone knows the whole story now. There’s no fool like an old fool.’

The older woman shook hands with brisk efficiency and passed on.

Somewhat paralysed by that encounter, Maxie whispered to Angelos, ‘I feel so sorry for him now.’

‘Don’t you dare...if it hadn’t been for Leland, we’d have been together three years sooner!’ Angelos responded without pity.

‘I couldn’t have coped with you at nineteen.’

‘I never knew anyone learn to cope with me faster,’ Angelos countered, guiding her through the crush to a quiet corner.

Maxie focused on her friend, Liz, in delighted surprise. Petting Bounce, she sat down beside her. ‘How did you get here?’ she demanded.

‘Angelos phoned me last night. We travelled down in a limousine this morning. Bounce was most impressed. Now, didn’t I tell you that man loved you? Oh, dear, is he listening? ’ Liz said with comic dismay.

‘Your senses are so much more acute than Maxie’s,’ Angelos told Liz cheerfully. ‘To convince her, I had to hire a plane to spell out “I love you” in the sky.’

‘How did that feel?’ Liz asked Maxie eagerly.

‘It felt...it felt absolutely fantastic,’ Maxie swore. ‘It was so imaginative, so unexpected, so—’

‘Naff?’ Angelos slotted in tautly.

‘No, it was the moment I realised that I loved you most.’ And truthfully it had been, when he had unerringly betrayed to her just how hard he found it to put his pride on the line and say those three little words before she said them.

Lunch was a vast buffet served in the ballroom by uniformed waiters. Maxie sipped champagne and drifted about on an ecstatic cloud with Angelos’s arm curved possessively round her. She met his aunts and his uncles and his cousins and his second cousins and his third cousins, and all the names just went right over her head.

And then, when the band struck up the music, rising to the role expected of the bridal couple, they circled the floor and the dancing began. Given an excuse to remain constantly within Angelos’s hold, Maxie was initially content. Curving herself round him like a vine, she breathed in the hot, familiar scent of his body and inevitably turned weak with longing. ‘Any sign of anyone leaving yet?’ she kept on asking hopefully.

At last a trickle of departures led to a generalised flood. They saw Liz back out to the limo. Then Maxie and Angelos mounted the stairs hand in hand at a stately pace. ‘When did you realise you were in love with me?’ she pressed.

‘When you had the chickenpox and I still couldn’t wait to take you home.’

‘But you weren’t prepared to admit it—’

‘Torture wouldn’t have made me confess I was that vulnerable. This is our bedroom.’ Angelos cast wide a door with a flourish.

‘“Our” has a warm sound,’ Maxie savoured. ‘I still can’t believe you love me...’

‘You wouldn’t have had to wait so long to find out if you had kept quiet on the beach the morning after I got drunk.’ In exasperation Angelos framed her surprised face with loving hands. ‘I was ready to tell you. Since I was painfully aware that I had got everything wrong, and I was feeling unusually humble, I was planning to go for the sympathy vote...and what did you do?’

‘I told you about my godmother’s will... I think I’ll give my share to Nancy’s favourite children’s charity.’ She stared dizzily into dark eyes blazing with love and gave him a glorious smile. ‘I had to tell you about the will some time, but I was just trying to save face. I didn’t want you to realise how much I loved you—’

‘You’re a total dreamer.’

‘I’m the love of your life,’ Maxie reminded him rather smugly as she flicked loose his tie and slid his jacket down off his broad shoulders with the intent air of one unwrapping a wonderful parcel. ‘And you’re the love of mine.’

Angelos brought her down on the four-poster bed with a husky laugh of amusement. ‘Let me remind you of what you said in your list. Chauvinistic, bad-tempered, selfish, unromantic, insensitive, domineering—’

‘A woman always reserves the right to change her mind,’ Maxie inserted before he could get really warmed up.

Black eyes were burnished to pure gold as he met her dancing eyes. ‘You may be gorgeous...but I think it was your mind I fell in love with...all those snappy replies and sneaky moves, agape mou.’

‘To think I once thought you were cold.’ Maxie ran a tender loving hand over his hair-roughened chest. ‘How many children are we going to have?’ she asked.

Angelos gave her a startled smile of appreciation that turned her heart over and inside out. ‘You want my baby?’

Maxie nodded. The prospect just made her melt

‘You really are tremendous,’ Angelos breathed hoarsely.

And then he took her readily parted lips with urgent, speaking hunger and the passion took over, gloriously reaffirming their love for each other.