London, Summer 2008, a hotel
ANGEL’S EYES HAD adjusted to the dark but from where she was lying the illuminated display of the bedside clock was hidden from her view, blocked by his shoulder. But the thin finger of light that was shining into the room through the chink in the blackout curtains suggested that it was morning.
‘The morning after the night before!’
She gave a soft shaken sigh and allowed her glance to drift around the unfamiliar room, the generic but luxurious five-star hotel furnishings familiar, especially to someone who had slept in dozens of similar suites; someone who had imagined at one point that everybody ordered their supper from room service.
Since she’d had the choice Angel had avoided rooms like this as they depressed her. Depressed... Smiling at the past tense, she raised herself slowly up on one elbow. This room was different not because it boasted a special view or had a sumptuously comfortable bed. What was different was that she was not alone.
She froze when the man on the bed beside her murmured in his sleep and her attention immediately returned to him—it had never really left him. She gulped as he threw a hand above his head, the action causing the muscles in his beautiful back to ripple in a way that made her stomach flip over. She couldn’t see his face but his breathing remained deep and regular.
Should she wake him up?
The bruised-looking half-moons underneath his spectacular eyes suggested he probably needed his sleep. She’d noticed them the moment she’d looked at him, but then she had noticed pretty much everything about him. Angel had never considered herself a particularly observant person but crazily one glance had indelibly printed his face into her memory.
Mind you, it was a pretty special face, not made any less special by the lines of fatigue etched around his wide, sensual mouth or the dark shadows beneath those totally spectacular eyes. There was a weary cynicism reflected in those electric-blue depths and also in that first instant anger.
He had been furious with her, but it wasn’t the incandescent anger that had made her legs feel hollow or even her dramatic brush with death or that he had saved her life. It was him, everything about him. He projected an aura of raw maleness that had a cataclysmic impact on her, like someone thrown in the deep end who from that first moment was treading water, barely able to breathe, throat tight with emotion as if she were submerged by a massive wave of lust.
It wasn’t until much later that she had recognised this as a crossroad moment. She didn’t see a fork in the road; there was no definable instant when she made a conscious decision. Her universe had narrowed into this total stranger, and she had known with utter and total conviction that she had to be with him. She wanted him and then she had seen in his eyes he wanted her too.
What else mattered?
Did I really just think that?
What else mattered? The defence of the greedy, absurdly needy and just plain stupid! Angel, who was utterly confident she was none of those things, was conscious that this particular inner dialogue was one it would have been more sensible to have had before, not after... After she had broken the habit of a lifetime and thrown caution, baby, bath water and the entire package out of the window!
The previous night there had been no inner dialogue, not even any inhibition-lowering alcohol in her bloodstream, no excuses. The words of a novel she had read years before popped into Angel’s head. Although at the time they had made her put the gothic romance to one side with a snort of amused disdain, now she couldn’t shake them. ‘I felt a deep craving, an ache in my body and soul that I had never imagined possible.’
The remembered words no longer made her snigger and translate with a roll of her eyes—yes, he’s hot!
Which the man in bed beside her was and then some, but Angel had met hot men before, and she had been amused by their macho posturing. She was in charge of her life and she liked it that way. History was littered with countless examples of strong women who had disastrous personal lives, but she was not going to be one of them.
Admittedly the macho men she was able to view with lofty disdain had not just saved her life, but Angel knew what she was feeling hadn’t anything to do with gratitude. Beyond this certainty she wasn’t sure of anything much. Her life and her belief system had been turned upside down. She had no idea at all why this was happening but she was not going to fight it. In any case, that would have been as futile as fighting the colour of her eyes or her blood type; it just was...and it was exciting!
‘Dio, you’re so beautiful.’ Her husky whisper was soft and tinged with awe as she reached out a hand to touch his dark head, allowing her fingers to slide lightly over the sleek short tufts of hair. Her own hair was often called black but his was two shades darker and her skin, though a warm natural olive, looked almost winter pale against his deeply tanned, vibrant-toned, bronzed flesh. It was a contrast that had fascinated her when she’d first seen their limbs entwined—not just skin tone, but the tactile differences of his hard to her soft, his hair-roughened virility to her feminine smoothness. She wanted to touch, taste...