Read after their vows epub format

Authors: Michelle Reid

after their vows

Praise for MIA’S SCANDAL by Michelle Reid

‘A Mills & Boon title that provides a perfect opportunity for escapism.’

—The Sun

‘Enter the betrayed wife, with her beautiful chin held high and her sensational green eyes turned to ice.
“I have nothing to say to you, Roque.”

He gave a wincingly good mimic of her cool boarding school accent, bringing an uncomfortable flush to Angie’s cheeks.

‘I was then treated to the fabulous supermodel walk through the apartment—the long, sexy glide and the sizzling fire hair—aimed to hook me into following you like a panting puppy dog—’

‘A puppy dog?’ She was glad to get her teeth into something. ‘You were never anyone’s panting puppy dog, Roque. You came into this world a fully-grown womanising wolf!’

About the Author

MICHELLE REID
grew up on the southern edges of Manchester, the youngest in a family of five lively children. Now she lives in the beautiful county of Cheshire, with her busy executive husband and two grown-up daughters. She loves reading, the ballet, and playing tennis when she gets the chance. She hates cooking, cleaning, and despises ironing! Sleep she can do without, and she produces some of her best written work during the early hours of the morning.

AFTER THEIR
VOWS

MICHELLE REID

www.millsandboon.co.uk

CHAPTER ONE

‘W
HAT
do you want me to do about it?’

Seated behind his desk, engrossed in the business report spread open in front of him, Roque de Calvhos responded impassively, ‘You do nothing.’

Mark Lander continued to hover like a man in a quandary, frowning behind his spectacles because doing nothing was not an option his employer could afford to take.

‘She could make trouble,’ he dared to offer, all too aware that the younger man did not take kindly to interference into decisions he made about his private life.

Roque de Calvhos was a chip off the old block when it came to a cut-throat mentality. When Eduardo de Calvhos had become ill and died suddenly three years ago, no one had expected his notorious playboy son to calmly stride in here and start making his presence felt, with far-sweeping decisions most people had believed were a precursor to the quick demise of de Calvhos power.

They now knew better. What Roque had done with the huge network of diverse companies which made up the de Calvhos business empire had put his father’s colossal success in the shade. Now obsequious respect shadowed
the thirty-two-year-old’s every elegant footstep. If the financial industry could give out such awards, Roque de Calvhos would have sprouted wings. He was also remarkably good-looking, insufferably laid-back, and so impossible to read that there were still some fools out there who dared to underestimate him—only to learn the hard way what a huge mistake they had made.

His estranged wife was not one of those people. ‘At the moment she is citing irreconcilable differences. Think about it, Roque,’ Mark advised. ‘Angie is basically letting you off the hook here.’

Giving up on the report, Roque sat back in his chair to look up at the older man. Eyes as black as the neatly groomed hair on his head revealed nothing as he studied the lawyer’s concerned face.

‘You are about to remind me that my wife signed no pre-nup,’ Roque predicted. ‘Take it from me, Mark, Angie is not greedy. I trust her not to attempt to skin me alive, okay?’

‘That depends on what you mean by skinning you alive,’ his lawyer responded dryly. ‘That she doesn’t want your money? Okay, I will agree with you that Angie does not want your money, or she would have been demanding a large cut of it long before now. I would, however, be willing to lay odds that she does not feel the same way about skinning you of your honour and pride. She wants this divorce, Roque.’ Mark stated it firmly. ‘If the only way she can get it is by playing dirty then you have to consider if you are going to like her citing adultery on your part to get what she wants. If she does decide to go down that route there is just no way we will be able to keep it out of the public arena,
and you know as well as I do the old can of worms she will be opening if that happens.’

Roque set his teeth together in frustration behind the moulded shape of his lips because he knew that Mark was right.
The Playboy and the Two Supermodels …
headlines were bound to start up again. Last time, the slick, character-slaying stories had run for weeks, trawling out his cavalier playboy past and quoting phrases about leopards and spots.

He released a sigh, hating it that Mark was right.

Taking that sigh as an indication that he could go on, Mark Lander took in a deep breath and went for broke. ‘Angie has hard evidence that you slept with Nadia Sanchez. The stupid woman gave her the evidence herself because she wanted to break up your marriage.’

‘She succeeded,’ Roque confirmed flatly.

‘You were damn lucky back then that Angie decided to keep silent about the affair in an effort to save her own face.’

There was a lot more to Angie’s motivations than mere saving face, Roque mused, using the luxuriant swoop of his eyelashes to shade his eyes so that the lawyer could not read his thoughts. Angie was hurting. Angie was nursing the worst kind of broken heart a woman could nurse. Angie blamed him and hated him for causing it.

Angie had also caused a minor sensation when she’d walked away from her modelling career and hadn’t been seen again for months. He’d had teams of trackers out looking for her all over Europe without one of them managing to flush her out. He’d hounded her kid brother, hoping that Alex would relent and tell him where Angie was. The then eighteen-year-old had told him nothing
and enjoyed watching him suffer. When Angie had eventually turned up again, she’d strolled blithely into CGM Management and asked her old boss Carla for an ordinary office job. Now she fronted the desk at the famous modelling agency, and not once in the whole lousy year of their separation had she acknowledged that he was even alive.

Now she was coming at him with a divorce petition, as if she expected him to jump on it with glee. Roque shaded his eyes by another millimetre, the dark iris glittering calculatingly behind the guard of his eyelashes as he considered the unfinished business he had with his very hurt, very English, runaway wife.

The kind of business which involved Angie crawling on her knees and begging him to take her back. His pride and his badly bruised ego demanded it. And unfortunately for Angie he had the perfect tool with which to make it happen—he was thinking of a matter Mark knew nothing about, which he’d been keeping a close, watchful eye on.

‘No divorce,’ he announced, making the lawyer start in surprise as he sat forward and returned his attention to the business report.

‘So you’re just going to ignore it?’ Mark said in disbelief.

‘I will deal with it,’ he promised, ‘but in my own time and way.’

Not liking the sound of that, Mark shifted his stance. ‘I think it would be—safer to keep this impersonal and go the legal route.’

‘“A esperança é a última que morre,’”
Roque murmured, unaware that he had slipped into his own language
until after he’d quoted the old Portuguese proverb with a dryness only he understood.

‘Hope is the last one to die,
‘ he translated silently, for no other reason than it felt good to know he had that much faith in Angie coming round to his way of thinking.

Though he had no similar faith in Angie’s thieving rat of a kid brother, he tagged on.

After Mark had finally given up on trying to change his mind and left him alone, Roque sat for a few minutes, considering what his next move should be, before he pulled a drawer open in his desk and removed a manila file. A few minutes after that he rang for his car to be brought round to the front of the building, rose up to his full and intimidating six feet three inches of hard muscled height, and strode with his usual casual grace for the door.

‘Cambridge,’ he instructed his driver, then relaxed back and closed his eyes to contemplate netting a small fish to use as bait to reel in the bigger fish.

The atmosphere in Angie’s small kitchen hit strangulation levels. ‘You’ve done
what?’
she choked out in dismay.

Sitting hunched over on a kitchen chair, her brother mumbled ‘You heard me.’

Oh, she’d heard him, okay, but that did not mean she wanted to believe what he’d said!

Angie pushed her tumbling mane of fiery hair back from her brow and drew in a breath. When she’d arrived home from work this evening to find Alex already waiting for her, she’d been too pleased to see him to question why he’d made the journey up from Cambridge
midweek, with no prior warning that he was planning to pay her a visit. Now she wanted to kick herself for not sensing trouble straight away.

‘So, let me just try and get this straight,’ she said, fighting to keep her voice level. ‘Instead of attending to your studies you’ve been spending your time gambling on the internet?’

‘Playing the stockmarket isn’t gambling,’ Alex objected.

‘What do you call it, then?’ Angie challenged.

‘Speculating.’

‘That’s just gambling by another name, Alex! ‘ Angie instantly fired back, ‘Stop trying to pretty it up.’

‘I wasn’t!’ he denied. ‘Everyone else at uni is doing it! You can make a fortune right now if you know how to play it right.’

‘I don’t give a damn what everyone else is doing. I only care about you and what you’ve been doing,’ Angie fed back. ‘And if you’ve been making your fortune speculating on the markets, why are you sitting there telling me that you’re in debt?’

Like a cornered young stag, her nineteen-year-old brother reared upright. Six feet of long, lanky male, with spiky brown hair and vivid green eyes shot through with burning defence. He threw himself across the room to go and stand glaring out of the window, his hands pushed into the pockets of his zipped-up grey fleece.

The tension in him buzzed. Wrapping her arms around her middle, Angie gave him a minute to get a hold of himself before she pressed quietly, ‘I think it’s time you told me just how bad it is.’

‘You’re not going to like it.’

She’d just bet that she wasn’t. Angie abhorred debt.
She was
scared
of it. Had been that way from the tender age of seventeen, when their parents had been killed in a car accident, leaving her and her then thirteen-year-old brother to find out the hard way how their privileged lifestyle had been mortgaged to the hilt. What bit was left after probate had finished liquidating their few assets had been barely enough to pay her brother’s boarding school fees for the next year. She’d been forced to walk away from her own private education and take two jobs a day in an effort to survive. And she’d worked and scrimped and carefully hoarded every spare penny she’d earned so that she did not fall into debt. If it had not been for a chance meeting with the owner of a top modelling agency she dreaded to think where she and Alex would have ended up.

By then she’d been burning both ends of the candle for twelve long, miserable months, serving behind one of the beauty counters in a London department store by day, and serving tables in a busy City restaurant by night, before going home to her miserable bedsit to sleep like one exhausted and then getting up to repeat the same routine again the next day.

Then Carla Gail happened to come to her counter to buy perfume. Carla had spotted something marketable in Angie’s reed-thin figure—exaggerated in those days because she hadn’t been getting enough to eat— her emerald-green eyes, and the bright auburn hair set against her dramatically pale skin. Without really knowing how it had happened she’d found herself propelled into the unnatural world of high fashion, earning the kind of money that could still catch her breath when she thought about it.

Within months she was the model everyone wanted
on their catwalk or on the front cover of their magazines. She’d spent the next three years following the fashion drum around the world. She’d stood for hours while designers fitted their creations to her long slender figure, or posed in front of cameras for glossy fashion shoots— and she had willingly accepted every single second of it, coveting the money she earned so she could keep Alex safe in his boarding school environment.

Her proudest achievement, in Angie’s view, had been ensuring that Alex never missed out on a single thing his more privileged schoolfriends enjoyed doing. When he’d won a place at Cambridge she’d felt as pleased and as proud as any parent could, and she’d done it all without once being tempted to take on debt.

‘It’s all right for you.’ Her brother broke into her reverie. ‘You’re used to having money to play with, but I’ve never had any for myself.’

‘I give you an allowance, Alex, and I’ve never denied you a single thing you’ve asked for over and above that!’

‘It was the asking that stuck in my throat.’

Tightening her arms across her body in an effort to crush the pangs of hurt she experienced at that totally unfair response, it took Angie a few seconds before she could dare let herself speak.

‘Come on,’ she urged heavily then. ‘Just get it over with and spit out how much it is we’re discussing, here.’

With a growling husk of reluctance Alex quoted a figure which blanched the colour out of Angie’s face.

‘You’re joking,’ she whispered.

‘I wish.’ He laughed thickly.

‘Fifty—did you just say
fifty
thousand?’

Turning around, Alex flushed. ‘You don’t have to beat me over the head with it.’

Oh, but she did! ‘How the heck did you get the credit to spend
fifty
thousand on speculation, for goodness’ sake?’

Silence came charging back at her as they stood with the width of the kitchen between them, Angie taut as a bowstring now, with her arms rod-straight at her sides, and her brother with his chin resting on his chest.

‘Answer me, Alex,’ she breathed unsteadily.

‘Roque,’ he growled.

Roque—?

For a horrible second Angie felt so light-headed she thought she was actually going to faint. She tried for a breath and didn’t quite make it. ‘Are—are you telling me that
—Roque
has been encouraging you to play the stockmarkets?’

‘Of course he hasn’t!’ her brother flung back in disgust. ‘I wouldn’t take his advice if he did. I hate him— you know that. After what he did to you, I—’

‘Then what are you saying?’ Angie sliced through what he wanted to say, ‘Because I’m really confused here as to why you’ve even brought his name into this!’

Alex scuffed a floor tile with a trainer-shod foot. ‘I used one of your credit cards.’

‘But I don’t use credit cards! ‘

She had the usual cash debit cards everyone needed to survive these days, but never, ever had Angie dared to own a credit card—because a credit card tempted you to go into debt, and debt was …

‘The one that Roque gave to you.’

Angie blinked. The one that Roque gave to her … The credit card attached to Roque’s bottomless financial
resources that she had never used, though the card still languished in this apartment somewhere, like a—

‘I came across it in your bedside drawer last time I was here and …’

She sucked in a painfully sharp breath. ‘You went through my private things?’

‘Oh, hell,’ her brother groaned, shifting his long body in a squirm of regret. ‘I’m sorry! ‘ he cried. ‘I don’t know what came over me! I just—needed some money, and I didn’t want to have to ask you for it, so I went looking to see if you’d any spare cash hanging around the flat. I saw the card lying there in your bedside drawer, and before I knew what I was doing I’d picked it up! It had
his
fancy name splashed all over it—the great and glorious
De Calvhos Bank!’
he rasped out, revealing the depth of his dislike for a man he had never tried to get along with. ‘At first I meant to cut it into little pieces and post them back to him with a – message. Then I thought, why not see if I can use it to hit him where it will hurt him the most? It was really easy …’

Angie stopped listening at
easy.
She was so sure that she was going to really faint away this time that she reached for a chair and sat down on it, lifting up a set of icy fingers to cover her trembling mouth.

Roque—dear God. Closing her eyes, she gave a helpless shake of her head. ‘I don’t want to believe you could do this to me,’ she whispered against her cold fingers.

‘What do you want me to say? ‘ her brother choked out. ‘I did a stupid thing, and now I’m sorry I did— but he was supposed to take care of you, Angie! You
deserved
to be taken care of for a change. Instead he cheated on you with Nadia Sanchez and—well, now look at you.’

She flicked her startled eyes open, ‘Wh-what’s wrong with me?’

Alex let loose with a short laugh, as if she’d made a stupid joke. ‘You used to have the kind of career most girls only dream about, Angie. I couldn’t look around without seeing you plastered on a billboard or a magazine somewhere. You were famous—fabulous. My friends used to envy me for having such a gorgeous sister. They’d fight each other for a chance to meet you. Then Roque came along turned you inside out. You stopped modelling because
Roque didn’t like it—

‘That’s not true—’

‘Yes, it is!’ His face was hot with anger now. ‘He was a selfish, arrogant, superior swine who wanted to rule over you like a tyrant. He didn’t like your job commitments—your commitment to
me.’

There was a bit too much truth in that part for Angie to argue with it. Roque
had
demanded her exclusive attention. In fact Roque had been demanding all round— her attention, first call on her loyalty, the full extent of her desire for him focused on him between the sheets …

‘Now you work at a lousy reception job for the same modelling agency that used to roll out the red carpet every time you walked into it. And you struggle to make ends meet again while
he
flies the world in his private jet, and I daren’t ask you for an extra penny any more without feeling as guilty as sin. Roque owed me big-time for what he did to you, Angie, and you just let him get away with it—as if—’

‘He owes
me,
not you!’ Angie flared in response to all of that. ‘Roque was
my
mistake, not your mistake, Alex. He never did a single thing to you!’

‘Are you kidding?’ her brother flared back. ‘He robbed me of the sister I used to be proud of and left me with the empty shell I’m looking at now! Where’s your natural vibrancy gone, Angie? Your stylish sparkle?
He
took them.’ He answered his own bitter question. ‘If Roque had not married you and then cheated on you, you would not be floating through life looking like the stuffing has been knocked out of you. You would still be flying way up there at the top of your profession, raking in the money, and I would not have needed to use his credit card to play the markets because
you
would have financed me!’

Of everything he had just thrown at her in that last bitter flood, the part making its biggest impact on Angie was seeing the truth about the brother she so totally adored staring her hard in the face. In her endless efforts to make his life as comfortable as she could possibly make it for him she had created a monster. A bone-selfish, petulant man-child who thought it was okay to steal someone else’s money if it got him what he wanted.

What was it Roque had said during one of their fights about her brother? ‘You are in danger of creating a life-wasting lout if you don’t stop it.’

Well, that damning prediction had come true with a vengeance, Angie saw—only to toss that aside again with a stubborn shake of her head. For what gave Roque the right to criticise the way she’d handled a rebellious teenager when his own privileged upbringing had given him everything he wanted at the nod of his handsome dark head?

Alex had been only seventeen when she’d first met Roque, still attending boarding school and reliant on her
for everything. Falling in love had not been an option she could afford to let happen—yet she’d been unable to stop herself from falling for Roque. And what Roque wanted Roque got, by sheer single-minded force of will—which in Angie’s view put him and Alex in the same selfish club. Between the two of them they had demanded so much from her that sometimes she’d felt stretched so taut in two different directions she’d thought she might actually snap in two.

On one side of her she’d had the brother who’d become such a handful to deal with, skipping lessons to go out on the town with his friends and constantly getting into scrapes, which meant she’d had to travel down to his school in Hampshire to deal with the inevitable fall-out. Then there’d been Roque on the other side, angry with her for pandering to her brother’s every whim.

But at least she’d felt vindicated when Alex won a place at Cambridge. He hadn’t achieved that by spending every night out on the town. And he’d settled into university life over the last year without giving her very much grief.

Then she shook her head—because Alex
hadn’t
settled down at all, had he? He’d just hidden it from her that he was still doing exactly what he wanted to do—even if that meant sneaking around her flat and stealing credit cards to pay for his excesses.

‘I hate him,’ Alex said, with no idea what his sister was thinking. ‘It would’ve served him right if I’d gone on a real bender and completely cleaned him out. I should’ve bought a yacht or two, or a private plane like his to fly myself around in, instead of sitting in my room
at uni spending his rotten money before he found out it was me doing the—’

Alex snapped his mouth shut, leaving the rest of what he had been going to say to slam around the room like a clap of thunder.

Angie shot to her feet.

‘Finish that,’ she shook out.

Biting out a curse, her brother lifted a hand and grabbed the back of his neck. ‘Roque came to see me on campus today,’ he confessed. ‘He called me a weak, thieving wimp and threatened to break my neck if I didn’t—’ He stopped, clearly deciding to swallow down the rest of the insults Roque must have thrown at him. ‘The bottom line is,’ he went on huskily, ‘he wants his money back, and he told me that if I don’t give it to him he’s going to take the matter to the police.’

The police—? Angie sat down again.

‘Now I’m scared, because I don’t think he was bluffing. In fact I know that he wasn’t.’

So did Angie. Roque did not make threats unless he was prepared to carry them through—as she’d discovered in the hardest way there was.

Bitterness suddenly grabbed at her insides, burning a hole in her ability to hold back from recalling that final showdown, when she and Roque had stood toe to toe like mortal enemies instead of loving husband and wife.

‘I am warning you, Angie, go chasing off to your brother’s aid this time and I will find someone else to take your place tonight. ‘

She’d gone. He’d found Nadia. Marriage over.

Pulling back from where those memories wanted to suck her, Angie sat back in the chair. ‘So, how does he
expect you to pay him back?’ she asked heavily, already suspecting what was coming before her brother loped over to the table and produced something from the back pocket of his jeans.

‘He said to give you this …’

He was holding out a business card, which he set down on the table in front of Angie. Looking down at it, she saw
‘Roque Agostinho de Calvhos,’
printed in elegant black script below the de Calvhos family crest, which crowned just about everything in Roque’s world— from his high-end international investment empire to some of the finest vineyards in his native Portugal and vast tracts of inherited land in Brazil.

‘He wrote something on the back,’ her brother indicated awkwardly.

Reaching out, Angie flipped the card over with a set of ice-cold fingers.
‘Eight o’clock. The apartment. Don’t be late,’
Roque had scrawled there.

If she’d had it in her Angie would have scratched out a dry, mocking laugh.

The underscored
don’t
was the ultimate command from a man who’d grown very intimate with her most besetting sin—an innate lack of good time-keeping. She’d kept him waiting at airports and restaurants. She’d kept him kicking his heels in their apartment while she rushed around like a headless chicken, getting ready to go out. She caught a sudden sharp glimpse of him waiting for her, looking tall, dark and fabulously turned out for a night at the theatre, lounging stretched out in a chair with his eyes closed, his silky black eyelashes resting against his high-sculpted cheekbones, his wide, full and sensual mouth wearing the look of long-suffering patience he could pull off with such excruciating effect.

He’d lost all patience with her, and perhaps she’d deserved it, Angie acknowledged—but enough to send him into the arms of another woman?

And not just any woman, his
ex
woman.

‘Will you go and see him? ‘

Having to blink to bring herself back from where she had gone off to, Angie swallowed thickly and gave a nod of her head.

‘Thanks.’ Her brother heaved in a long breath. ‘I knew you wouldn’t let me down.’

So did Roque, thought Angie.

‘Look …’ Alex shuffled his feet. ‘It’s already seven o’clock, so I’ll go now, sh-shall I? So you can—get ready …’

Desperate to escape now he’d done what he’d come here to do, Alex was already heading for the door when Angie stopped him.

‘The credit card?’ she prompted. ‘Where is it?’

She watched his shoulders give a wincing twitch. ‘Roque took it.’

‘Good,’ Angie murmured, and watched him flinch again as her meaning struck home.

Alex now knew he had lost her trust in him. Her home had always been his home—he had his own bedroom here, his own key. He’d had the same things at the apartment she’d shared with Roque. He was family. You should be able to trust family.

As if he knew what she was thinking, Alex twisted round to aim her a glancing look of remorse. ‘I really— really am sorry, Angie,’ he husked out painfully. ‘I’m sorry for all of it—but especially for dropping this part on to you.’

He’d done that because he had no other option. He’d
done it because she’d always been there to fight his battles for him.

‘I promise you on my life I won’t ever do anything like this again.’

Looking up at him, Angie saw their father’s hair and nose and their mother’s eyes and mouth. The aching urge to just get up and go over there to hug him, reassure him that everything was going to be okay, almost got the better of her. But for the first time since she’d taken responsibility for him she controlled the urge.

‘I’ll call you later,’ was all she said, and after a few more seconds of helpless hovering he turned and slunk away, leaving her alone with Roque’s business card and that oh-so brief message to stare at.

Eight o’clock. The apartment. Don’t be late.

Angie felt a pang of wry appreciation for his slick, short way of getting his message across. She wasn’t a fool. She knew the divorce papers would have landed on Mark Lander’s desk today, and this was Roque’s response to them—with her brother sent along to deliver it and add a bit of clout.

A lot of clout, she extended.

Eight o’clock. The apartment. Don’t be late …

Angie drew in a deep, fortifying breath. Well, she could do that, she told herself, aware that she really didn’t have a choice. However, she would not be turning up in the role of a wimpy victim Roque was expecting to see, she determined grimly as she rose to her feet. Her brother might see her as a pathetic creature with
all the stuffing knocked out of her, but she was not and would never be that feeble! She’d spent too many years fighting her own battles to let fear of what Roque could do to Alex grind her to a quivering pulp now.

On that bracing reminder, Angie tossed her hair back over her narrow shoulders and stepped across the kitchen to catch up her bag. A minute later she was standing in her hall, dragging on her coat as she followed her brother out of the door.

CHAPTER TWO

F
RESH
from the shower, Roque took a call from the lobby informing him that his wife had arrived in the building with a flicker of surprise.

She was half an hour early.

A deliberate ploy on her part aimed to back-foot him, or was she just running scared? he mused curiously as he rubbed his wet hair with a towel. He was under no illusion that she had rushed over here because she was eager to see him. Only two things fired up Angie enough to make her expose any hint of weakness like this—her brother and money.

If he left out the other thing she always fired up for, which was him. His hands and his mouth on her body, her complete lack of self-control when it came to the pleasure he could inflict on her smooth silken flesh. She knew it too, which was why she had spent the last twelve months avoiding all contact with him.

Or it was one of the reasons, he amended with a frown as he strode into his dressing room and came out again a minute later, still flipping shut the last few buttons on a pale blue shirt across the deeply tanned contours of his taut stomach.

He heard the warning ping telling him that the lift
was arriving as he put a comb through his still damp hair. He headed out of the bedroom onto the elegant spread of the mezzanine landing which looked down on the spacious luxury of open-plan living backed by panoramic views of London’s skyline and his long, graceful stride took him down the stairway and across an expanse of rich dark teak wood flooring to the squared opening that led to the inner foyer which housed his private lift.

His confidence that he had Angie exactly where he wanted her was absolute. He did not even question that belief. Angie might prefer to run in the opposite direction but she could not, because the chains of loyalty to her brother were too heavy and too tight. In a few seconds she was going to step out of the lift into his waiting clutches, having dragged herself and those chains across London to get here. An hour after that she would be back in his bed, where she belonged, chains and all, he promised himself.

With that very satisfying moment to look forward to, Roque propped a shoulder up against the wall beside him, slid his hands into the pockets of his black silk trousers and watched as the lift doors slid open, revealing to him the wife he had not set eyes on in almost a year.

Slender and tall, dressed from neck to feet in dramatically unrelieved black, with her flame-bright hair spun in fiery tendrils around her once famous, extraordinarily beautiful, green-eyed, passionate-mouthed face.

Sensation shot across the gap towards him, generated by the highly charged mix of burning acrimony, icy defensiveness and a transparent spark of sexual alertness
that hit Roque with a hot stab of tingling provocation low down in his pelvis.

Angie just froze for a second, momentarily stunned by the shock of actually looking at him in the flesh.

She had spent the time it had taken the lift to bring her up twenty floors of luxury living charging up her defences in preparation for this moment, but as she stood staring across the gap separating them she was discovering she had no control whatsoever over the sudden accelerated punch of her heartbeat or the aching thickness that had taken a stranglehold on her throat.

And she knew the reason why she was suffering like this. For almost twelve long months she’d blocked Roque out as if he wasn’t a real person. If she’d thought about him at all it had been from within a thick fog. She was good at blocking out things she did not want to look at—had been doing it for most of her adult life. But this was bad, she recognised as her breathing stalled altogether. She had to fight hard to stop her feelings from showing on her face. She’d expected to feel nothing. She’d wanted him to leave her cold. It was almost grotesque to discover that far from feeling nothing she was feeling everything. The old fierce, unstoppable attraction, the sexual excitement stirring up her blood. Even the desperate, aching clutch of hurt was a feeling. It just wasn’t fair.

He was so tall he was intimidating, and that was saying something when she was no small thing herself. And the way he was standing across the lobby, backed by warm accent colours of brick-red and aubergine, framed by the soft lighting, he could have easily passed for a brooding, dark male model posing for a glossy photo shoot. His raven-black hair was wearing
a luxurious damp sheen to it, and the smooth gloss of his olive-toned skin highlighted the kind of cheekbones any male model would pay with their souls to possess.

As if someone was working her by remote control, she just couldn’t stop her eyes from drifting down his supremely elegant stance. His wide shoulders and long, powerful torso were encased in fine pale blue shirting, the top two buttons left undone to reveal a tantalising hint of the warm brown skin lurking beneath. Her mouth ran dry as she looked at that dark golden triangle. She tried not to give in and moisten her lips with the tip of her tongue. Dragging her gaze lower, she saw his hands were lost inside the silk lined pockets of his smooth black trousers—trousers that lovingly skimmed his taut narrow hips and his long, long powerful legs.

As her senses came alive like crazed vandals she knew what she was experiencing was all her own stupid fault.

She should not have blocked him out so thoroughly. Familiarity bred contempt. She should have made herself remember him in fine detail at least twice a day. She should have listed his assets—and he had a lot of them—then eventually she would have started finding a million faults. She’d witnessed this happen so many times in her line of business. One day you were right up there with the best of them, the next you’d suddenly grown a bigger nose, or your smile was no longer as alluring as they’d thought it was and your legs were too fat.

So where did she look to hunt down Roque’s physical faults? she asked herself.

‘Well, is everything still where it should be?’

The soft, slightly husky accented prompt brought
her eyes flickering back to his face. His half-hidden eyes were as black as midnight; a half-smile curved his wide, passionate mouth. The same half-smile she had been drawn towards from the first time she’d looked at him. The same hot, breathless sensation filled her now as powerfully as it had done back then.

Only this time it hurt to feel like that. This time she saw that beautiful mouth giving pleasure to another woman’s mouth. She saw those deep, dark long-lashed eyes warming for someone else.

Roque watched as she stiffened up like a slender column of concrete. He watched the darkened shimmer in her beautiful eyes fade to hurt, then chill to ice.

Something grabbed hold of his loins like a strongly clenched fist and anger flared deep in his chest. He wanted to go over there and grab hold of her by her tension-packed narrow shoulders and give her a damn good shake.

As if she knew what he was thinking defiance sparked—always that sharp, stinging sizzle of defiance came shooting back at him from this woman, if they were in the middle of a fight or making love. He watched her cute, almost pointed chin lift upwards, the way she pinched in the delicate corners of the beautiful mouth. Even the way she tossed her head back, sending the glorious weight of loose silky red spirals trembling back from her face, was a form of defiance.

‘I have absolutely nothing to say to you, Roque,’ she told him.

Roque allowed his lips to twist out a mocking smile, ‘No, I could sense that talking was not in your mind when you looked me over,
meu querida.’

Annoyed with herself for giving him the weapons to
fire off that taunting shot, Angie stepped out of the lift and into the lobby, which fed all those extra services this vast-sized apartment enjoyed—like the full-size swimming pool and the all-purpose gym, the glass-covered garden that had always reminded her of an exotic hothouse where she’d once done a shoot at Kew.

Angie walked towards him, glazing him out of focus and determined to keep him like that. He did not move a single muscle as she approached. Angie gauged the gap in the arch to one side of him to make sure she had enough room to pass through it without needing him to move out of her path.

She knew exactly where she was heading, so she made the long lines of dark teak flooring her runway. It was like falling off a bike, she discovered. Once you got back on the rest came naturally—even down to blocking her audience out.

Roque followed the long graceful glide of her body as she walked towards him. He knew what she was doing. He’d been handed this kind of treatment before. Angie could be irritatingly focused when she wanted to be, infuriatingly stubborn and tough. Once he had dared to believe he was marrying a sweet and innocently naive lost creature. A lonely child trapped inside a woman’s body because she’d never given herself the chance to properly grow up and taste life. He’d soon learnt that the stubborn child in Angie had a grip of steel. The simple truth of it was she didn’t want to be anything other than what she was.

Except in his bed, he reminded himself. In his bed, in his arms, she lost the will to fight him on every level—and so fast it was like watching driftwood catching light.

On that grim reminder as to where he intended this evening to end up, Roque allowed his gaze to drift over her again. She was wearing a short black raincoat, tightly cinched to her waist, and her amazing long legs were sheathed in matt black. She had on a pair of flat black ballet shoes that did nothing to diminish her elegant height, and a bright green bag he had not noticed before swung from one shoulder—one of those extravagantly sized bags that were the fashion right now, which she kept crushed to her side with a taut elbow as she walked.

The temptation to reach out and take it from her as she levelled with him curled his fingers into a light fist. The urge to pull her to a stop by placing his hands on her shoulders and then spin her around to make her acknowledge him properly stung like an itch he could not scratch. But he was curious as to what she thought she was up to, arriving early and then just walking past him as if she was the one of them in control here.

So, instead of spoiling her frankly impressive entrance, he turned to follow in her wake.

Angie cut a weaving line through the different cleverly designed living areas. She did not glance at the fabulous view to be enjoyed through the wall-to-wall windows. She did not glance up at the mezzanine gallery where the bedroom suites were situated. She was heading for the only room down here to have a solid door guarding it.

Roque’s study.

Her soft mouth set like a clamp as she turned the handle and pushed the door open, then felt an aching squeeze of emotion challenge her composure as she took
the first step into what she’d always thought of as his domain.

Everything in this room was as tastefully designed as the rest of this vast place, but in here was Roque’s personal stamp. A telltale glimpse at the deeply serious side to his complex personality displayed in the rows of lovingly collected first edition books lining the rows of shelving, and the heavy black leather recliner on which he liked to stretch out to read.

The only television set in the whole apartment rested wafer-thin and flat against a wall of burnt orange. Beneath it spread all the technology required to make it and his complex music system feed sound throughout the whole apartment. Then, of course, the usual computer and communication equipment had a place, as you would expect of a man as internationally structured as him.

But the desk—the big, hand-carved antique desk made of rich dark colonial rosewood he’d had shipped here from his family estate—stood dead centre of everything, making a major statement about his proud Portuguese roots. He could spend hours sitting at that desk, working with a concentration Angie had used to find unfathomably sexy. The cut of his wide shoulders as he leant forward, the sheen of light across his bent head, and his strong, handsome features etched by a depth of concentration that she.

Angie sucked in a breath, not wanting to go there. Not wanting to recall anything intimate about their time spent here together or the fact that there were times when they’d actually existed here in peace.

Yet, right on the back of that desire not to remember, she saw herself, curled up in his recliner with her cheek
supported on a cushion she’d filched from a living room sofa, slender white fingers idly twirling a ringlet of hair while she read one of her own meagre assortment of books.

Contentment … Her throat began to hurt. Bare pink toes curling and uncurling in time with the music playing softly in the background. A glass of wine and a snack within lazy reaching distance and her handsome dark man pooled in the desk light only a couple of metres away.

Her eyes dared to glaze with moisture for a second. Then she winked it away, drew in a breath, and made herself walk over to the desk.

She heard Roque pause in the doorway. The silence between them buzzed. He was curious, she knew that, waiting to discover what had brought her in here before he made any kind of comment.

But that was Roque—a master of strategic timing, Angie thought dryly as she set her bag down on the top of his desk, then began rummaging inside its capacious depths with a frowning ferocity that helped to keep her focused.

‘Okay, I will bite,’ he drawled lazily. ‘What are you doing?’

‘You should have known to lay off my brother,’ Angie responded. ‘You know you don’t have a single leg to stand on by threatening him with the police, because that credit card was mine.’

‘Linked to my personal bank account,’ he confirmed, moving closer.

‘Then you only have yourself to blame if you don’t like what I did with it. A wiser man would have cancelled it the same day I walked out.’

‘Strange,’ Roque said, ‘but I had this rather touching image of you cutting it into little pieces and then depositing the bits—ceremonially, of course—into some fiery hot furnace.’

Angie paused over what she was doing to wonder why she hadn’t thought of doing exactly that, instead of shutting the card away in a drawer.

‘Well, I didn’t,’ she said, ‘and now you know why I didn’t.’