She even managed to say something to Sandy, the pretty make-up artist who had initially pointed Alex out to her. What it was Angel had no idea, but she must have been funny because the other girl laughed. That’s me, funny Angel, smart Angel, lucky Angel... Scared witless Angel!
‘Are you cold? You’re shivering.’ The other girl sounded worried.
Angel swallowed and made herself respond to Sandy’s concerned question, forcing the words past the constriction in her throat.
‘No, I’m not cold.’ And she wasn’t. The warm glow in her stomach, the combination of champagne and brandy in the cocktail, had begun to seep into her bloodstream. ‘That’s Alex Arlov?’ Her voice sounded as though it were coming from a long way off. Her head was still spinning as she struggled to take on board the identity of her one-night stand, the father of her child.
Sandy misinterpreted the cause of Angel’s stunned expression. ‘I know, he looks even better in the flesh, doesn’t he? You could cut yourself on those cheekbones.’
The other woman seemed to take it for granted that Angel recognised the billionaire by sight. And Angel did know the name, of course—who didn’t? She could even have recited a potted bio of the man, not because she found money sexy or shared the popular fascination with people who had amassed a great deal of it, but because, and here the irony was so black a short, hard cough of laughter escaped her clenched teeth, her brother had tried in his oh-so-not-subtle way to set her up with the man!
The two men had met while both were driving ridiculously fast cars around a racing circuit for fun. Her brother’s excuse was it had once been his day job; the other guy, as far as she had been able to tell at the time, had been there because he enjoyed pushing the limits and he could afford the sort of toys that only very rich men could.
The two men appeared to have bonded over a mutual love of speed and obviously wives had not come into the conversation or Cesare would not have tried to set her up with the man. Her brother had been oblivious, of course, to the fact they were discussing the father of her child, and the man her overprotective sibling had, on more than one occasion, expressed a desire to dismember slowly. Angel’s response had been firm but dismissive. For Cesare, the habit of watching out for his little sister was deeply engrained.
‘I’m not interested in dating a Russian oligarch, even one who drives well in wet conditions,’ she’d said.
Her brother had grinned at the retort but protested. ‘Not dating—I was simply suggesting we invite him up for the weekend some time. I think you two would get on. He’d get your sense of humour and, let’s face it, that puts him in the minority. And he’s only half Russian; his father died before he was born and his mother fell out with his family and moved back home. There was a grandfather in Russia, hence the Russian oil, but as his mother was half Greek he was brought up by that side of his family, and actually he’s taken British citizenship.’
‘Fine, invite him, whatever you like,’ Angel had responded, making a mental note to be away any weekend her brother tried to play matchmaker. ‘But I think one adrenaline junkie is enough in any family.’
And it had been left at that.
It was her own adrenaline levels that presented the most immediate problem now. Light-headed to the point where she saw black dots dancing, and with her heart thudding like a metronome-driven sledgehammer against her ribs, it was taking a conscious effort to act with anything approaching normality. The muscles in her cheeks burned with the effort of keeping her smile pasted on as she absently licked the crystals of sugar deposited on her lips by the decorated rim of her now-empty glass. She watched him approach...nearer and nearer...
Her galloping paranoia saw something predatory about his long-legged, straight-backed stride. When he got within a few feet of them her stomach went into a steep dive. In other circumstances she would have been riveted, not by fear, but by admiration. Alex Arlov carried himself like a natural athlete, every action screaming fluidity and grace, but also the arrogance that came when someone knew they were at the top of the food chain. Oh, and he could throw a decent pass too; she knew now he had to have been the man she had seen at the beach.
Angel was seized by an irrational certainty that if she took her eyes off him for even a second she would lose her nerve and just bolt...or faint, which would be a first. There had been a close call in the early months of her pregnancy when she hadn’t yet realised why she couldn’t stand the smell of coffee. She inhaled and closed the door on those thoughts.