She could see the tension in the rigidity of his powerful shoulders as he reached down and took her hand.
‘You shouldn’t be sitting here in the midday sun.’
She didn’t react to his impatient tone; she reacted to an unacknowledged desire to make contact and to the fizz of electricity through her body that made her head buzz as she allowed him to pull her to her feet.
When she pulled her fingers free they continued to tingle. She held her hand against her chest and struggled to take control of her breathing...and then found she was virtually panting! Acting like some sort of sexually deprived bimbo was sending out all the wrong messages.
Or, more worryingly, the right ones!
Her laughter was as uninhibited as her lovemaking had been in his thoughts.
‘I will personally guarantee your physical safety.’ He arched a brow and held out a hand towards her. ‘I have said something that amuses you?’
She looked at the hand and thought, You don’t make me feel safe. A lot of other things, but not safe.
‘I don’t require a bodyguard.’
Their glances connected and suddenly the fizz between them made it hard for her to breathe.
‘How about a charming companion and lunch?’
‘Really?’ She made a pantomime of looking around. ‘Where would I find one of those?’ she asked, before adding almost shyly, ‘Lunch would be good.’
When her desperate attempt at humour did not produce even a half smile Angel huffed a sigh. ‘I am hungry,’ she admitted, thinking, Where is the harm? And she was doing this for Jas. She wasn’t looking for a soulmate, but that was no reason to deprive her daughter of a dad. Though that did depend on the dad.... And how was she meant to judge if he was good enough for Jas if she ran away every time she saw him?
What sort of man was he?
Oh, she’d read the stuff on the internet and knew about the wealth, the enigmatic reputation that had resulted in some wild speculation, and she took all that with a pinch of salt, but the man did come across as a mass of contradictions.
They walked in silence along the path that led from the beach through sweet-scented pine trees. Once or twice she looked up at the tall man walking beside her and he seemed lost in thought and showed no inclination to engage her in conversation. This suited Angel, who made no attempt to break the stalemate, though, as she mockingly told herself, in order to get to know him she might have to speak at some point.
As they reached the place where the path entered the hotel’s gardens Alex took a left turn instead and opened a gate marked Private that had always previously been locked.
‘Where are we going?’ She had her answer as they rounded the bend and a small cove came into view. It was empty but for the motor launch moored off the rocks.
‘For lunch. Careful, the rocks are slippery.’
‘I thought we were going to the hotel.’
‘We’re not.’ He did not elaborate.
‘I can see that,’ she returned, ignoring his hand. She was making a point, a trivial one perhaps, but it felt important to emphasise the fact that she could cope alone. Or was she simply prepared to fall rather than risk experiencing the electrical surge that occurred whenever she touched him?
With a frown she pushed the intrusive suggestion away and, with one hand out to balance, the other holding the heavy swathe of her hair out of her eyes, she inched her way cautiously down the rocks, aware that landing on her bottom would prove both painful and humiliating.
Her refusal to accept a helping hand, literally, brought a small ironic twist to his lips. The action encapsulated the woman: stubborn, reckless and damned irritating. But he conceded as he watched her from the vantage point of the boat that she really was the most incredibly graceful and alluring creature he had ever seen.
There were very few people who could make slipping and slithering look elegant, but she was one of them. His jaw clenched as he restrained himself from flying to her rescue after a particularly spectacular lurch.... If she fell and broke her beautiful neck it would serve her right.
This was no path, thought Angel, more a free climb, and the appeal of clinging to a rock face with nothing to harness you for pleasure passed Angel by. She decided it was a case of practicality over pride, but a few feet from the end of the rocky path she did not refuse the hand he reached out. She’d made her point and it was quite a leap into the boat.
He had made it look easy, of course.
His ironic grin broadened as he clasped her hand, then vanished as she landed. The momentum of her landing sent her crashing into his body and the flash of heat that slid down his front caused his smile to fade. His heavy eyelids lowered, hiding the hard, hungry look in them, as his hands on her elbows pushed her away and he directed a cool, ‘Steady!’ to the top of her head.