‘Rudie says Angel simply doesn’t have a bad angle. The camera loves her,’ Nico, the new president of her fan club, informed him.
‘And Rudie is?’
‘Our lighting man, one of the best.’
The guy was probably in love with her too, Alex thought sourly.
* * *
Oh, God, she was the last to arrive. Angel fought the impulse to step back into the shadows, then smiled to herself at the irony that she made her living posing for a camera, having her image stared at by the public, though she genuinely hated being the centre of attention.
She didn’t retreat but paused in the doorway, her eyes sweeping the room, the light breeze pulling the silky fluttering fabric of her dress against long legs until Ross spotted her. The photographer grinned, giving a thumbs-up sign, in the process slopping what she knew would be tonic water down his front. People assumed he had a drink problem, and he let them think that. He had once confided to Angel that he simply didn’t like the taste of alcohol, but being thought an ex-alcoholic made him seem more interesting.
Angel’s spontaneous burst of throaty laughter alerted the others to her presence and she was immediately involved in a lot of luvvie air kissing.
Well, she’d been right about one thing: she was underdressed. The men, with the exception of Ross, were wearing suits and ties and the women cocktail dresses.
‘Worth the wait,’ he heard someone say and Alex could not disagree.
The late arrival’s appearance had sent a rush of scalding heat through his body. Six years ago she had been stunning, possessing a natural grace and sleek sensuality that had been all the more powerful for appearing totally unstudied. She still possessed all those attributes but now she held herself with the confidence that came when a woman knew the power she wielded with her beauty, when she enjoyed it.
Every man in the room was enjoying it.
Alex’s enjoyment was tempered by this knowledge and the discomfort that could be traced to the testosterone-fuelled ache in his groin. The intervening years slipped away as his blue eyes made a slow sweep upwards from her bare feet, and the pink-painted toenails—presumably the sandals dangling from her fingers belonged there.
Though it looked as if she could not have made less effort, you had to feel sorry for the women who had spent hours getting ready. Angel had stopped short of appearing in her shorts or arriving with a group of salivating half-dressed holidaymakers in tow, but her outfit was more beach than drinks party. Had she deliberately underdressed in order to stand out from the crowd? he speculated. If so, the effort was unnecessary. As the man had said, she would have stood out in every crowd and he doubted any man in the room could find fault with her choice of outfit.
She brought irresistibly to mind the archetypal image of a Greek goddess in the semisheer column that revealed every sinuous inch of her long, shapely legs from calf to thigh. Bare shoulders gleamed gold above the draped fabric that followed the lines of her full, high breasts and was cinched in beneath by a tie before flowing out in long, soft folds.
The fabric shimmered, Angel shimmered.
As far as he could tell she was wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up. Her face, with the full sexy mouth, cute nose and spectacular dark-lashed eyes, was beautiful, framed against a silken fall of river-straight hair that dropped to her waist.
Luckily, Angel thought, when reliving the moment later that night, she’d had a drink already thrust into her hand when the billionaire who had granted them exclusive use of his private island to film the series of commercials was pointed out to her.
‘Now, that’s what I call a face.’
If only she’d had some warning, some inkling. But then that was, she supposed, the definition of shock, and it hit Angel like a sudden immersion into icy water. Initially her mind went utterly blank, rejecting what she was seeing. Then the breath froze in her lungs; there was a solid block of ice in her chest. Was this a panic attack? she wondered, feeling like a drowning man going down for the final time as she struggled to mask her feelings, willed her face to stay blank.
She looked away and waited for the pounding throb of her heart to slow. Her first instinct had been to run, but that was not an option given her limbs were not acting as though they belonged to her, except for her hand, the one with the glass in it, which managed to find her mouth.
She swallowed the contents in one gulp, her eyes darting from side to side like a trapped animal. There was no place to hide and he was coming her way. Without looking, she could sense his approach.
How was she acting so normally?