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‘Just a few days ago...’ Maxie did not confide that she had left on the ferry exactly twenty-four hours later—the very morning, in fact, when her credit cards had been delivered. Credit cards tellingly made out in her maiden name. The die had been cast there and then. Angelos’s goose had been cooked to a cinder.

And, faced with that obvious invitation to spend, spend, spend, as any sensible mistress would at the slightest excuse, Maxie had instantly risen to the challenge. She had flown to Rome and then to Paris. She had had a whale of a time. She had repaired the deficiencies of her wardrobe with the most beautiful designer garments she could find. And if she had seen a pair of shoes or a handbag she liked, she had bought them in every possible colour...

Indeed, she could now have papered entire walls with credit card slips. If Angelos had been following that impressive paper trail of gross extravagance and shameless avarice across Rome and Paris, he would probably still think she was abroad, but he wouldn’t know where because she had deliberately used cash to pay for flights and hotel bills.

‘Are you happy?’ Liz pressed anxiously.

‘Incredibly...’ Well, about as happy as she could be when it had been six days, fourteen hours and thirty-seven minutes since she had last laid eyes on Angelos, Maxie reflected ruefully. But to vegetate alone, abandoned and neglected on Chymos, would’ve been even worse.

‘Do you think Angelos might come to love you?’

Maxie thought about that. She had set her sights on him loving her but she wasn’t sure it was a very realistic goal. Had Angelos ever been in love? It was very possible that she might settle for just being needed. Right now, all she could accurately forecast was that Angelos would be in a seething rage because she had left the island without telling him and hadn’t made the slightest effort to get in touch.

But then that was what a mistress would do when the man in her life departed without mention of when he would return. A mistress was necessarily a self-sufficient creature. And if Angelos hadn’t yet got around to putting in place the arrangements by which he intended to see her and spend time with her, then that was his oversight, not hers. No mistress would tell her billionaire lover when she would be available...that was his department.

Maxie had tea with Liz and then she called a cab. With the mountain of luggage she had acquired, it was quite a squeeze. She directed the driver to the basement car park of the building Angelos had informed her was to be exclusively hers. She was a little apprehensive about how she was to gain entry. After all, Angelos didn’t even know she was back in London yet, and possibly the place would be locked up and deserted.

But on that point she discovered that she had misjudged him. There was a security man in the lift.

‘Miss Kendall...?’

‘That’s me. Would you see to my luggage, please?’ Maxie stepped into the lift to be wafted upwards and wondered why the man was gaping at her.

When the doors slid back, she thought she had stopped on the wrong floor. The stark modern decor had been swept away as if it had never been. In growing amazement, Maxie explored the spacious apartment. The whole place had been transformed with antique furniture, wonderful rugs and a traditional and warm colour scheme. King Kong on stilts couldn’t have seen over the barriers ringing the roof garden and, just in case she still wasn’t about to bring herself to step out into the fresh air, a good third of the space now rejoiced in being a conservatory.

The apartment was gorgeous. No expense had been spared, nothing that might add to her comfort had been overlooked, but, far from being impressed by Angelos’s consideration of her likes and dislikes, and even her terror of heights, Maxie was almost reduced to grovelling tears of despair. Angelos had had all this done just so that they could live apart. Looked at from that angle, the lengths he had gone to in his efforts to make her content with her solitary lot seemed like a deadly insult and the most crushing of rejections.

Maxie unpacked. That took up what remained of the evening and her wardrobe soon overflowed into the guest-room next door. She took out the two-page list of Angelos’s flaws that had become her talisman. Whenever she got angry with him, whenever she missed him, she took it out and reminded herself that while she might not be perfect, he was not perfect either. It was a surprisingly comforting exercise which somehow made her feel closer to him.

How long would it take him to work out where she was? She lay in her sunken bath under bubbles, miserable as sin. She wanted to phone him but she wouldn’t let herself The perfect mistress did not phone her lover. That would be indiscreet. She put on a diaphanous azure-blue silk nightdress slit to the thigh and curled up on the huge brass bed in the master suite.

Tags: Lynne Graham The Husband Hunters Billionaire Romance