She walked to the other side of the suite, wanting to get as much distance between them as she could. She’d been so sure she was safe from her attraction to Dimitri, certain her feelings for him were dead. She might not love him anymore, but she wanted him and her pulsing body proved it.
“Yes, Grandfather.” Dimitri went silent, apparently listening. “I remember.” He cast Alexandra an assessing look. “It’s being handled.”
Why did she have the lowering suspicion the it being handled was her?
Dimitri made a few more remarks in Greek, asked his Grandfather about his health, listened silently, said goodbye and hung up. He turned to face her and she couldn’t suppress a shiver. His eyes glowed like those of a predator with his prey firmly in his sights.
She stepped backward even though he hadn’t made a move toward her. “That was a mistake.”
He didn’t ask what that was, he merely smiled. “I don’t think so. It did not feel like a mistake to me pethi mou.”
“I’m not falling back into your bed, Dimitri.”
“Are you certain of this?” he asked lazily.
“We shall see.”
“I think I’ll order room service. I’m hungry.” Her appetite had increased over the past couple of days. Maybe the awful morning sickness was finally passing.
“I have a better idea.”
“What?” she asked, feeling wary.
“Let’s go out.”
“I don’t know…” Being seen in public with a man of Dimitri’s wealth was always a risk for media exposure.
His eyes warmed with sensual lights. “We can stay here if you prefer.”
“I’ll get my jacket.” A woman had to know how to weigh her options and the risk of staying in the suite with a sexually charged Dimitri far outweighed her concern about being caught in his company by the media.
The muted glow of candlelight lent entirely too intimate an aspect to Alexandra’s dinner with Dimitri. He’d surprised her once again by taking her to one of the see and be seen restaurants so popular among the sophisticated New York social set. Dim lighting didn’t stop recognition and surreptitious glances from one table to another.
Alexandra tried to concentrate on the food in front of her and ignore her compelling dinner companion. Dimitri had ordered a much larger meal for her than she usually ate and she had surprised herself by consuming almost all of it. The same thing had happened at lunch that afternoon. If nothing else, sparring with her ex-lover seemed to spur her appetite.
“My name is Alexandra,” she said, before he could complete his sentence. “Xandra Fortune is dead.”
Something passed across his face when she made that statement, but in the dim lighting she couldn’t tell if it was pain or irritation. “You had no plans to go back to modeling after the baby was born?” he asked, conspicuously using the past tense for her plans, implying she had new ones.
He studied her like a man trying to decipher a complicated puzzle. “Why?”
“There were many reasons.”
“Very cryptic.” He smiled in a way that used to send her pulse to hyperspeed. “Tell me some of them.”
She gave a mental shrug. Why not? This at least was better than arguing over custody rights and his insulting notion that now he believed her about the baby she should fall all over herself getting to the altar before he changed his mind.
“I want to spend more time with my baby than that type of career would allow and it would be too difficult to maintain two separate lives with a baby in tow. It was hard enough for me, but I think a life like that would be confusing and probably even frightening for a child.”
He mulled that over much longer than she thought necessary. “Explain to me again why the Xandra Fortune image.”
Had she explained it a first time? She couldn’t remember. She knew she’d alluded to it. “My mother did not approve of my working. Dupree women do not work,” she said in a fair imitation of her mother’s soft Southern drawl. “But it was my choice of career that really upset her. The idea of her daughter traversing a catwalk in front of her peers or worse, doing swimsuit or lingerie ads sent her into hysterics.”
“You chose to create a different persona rather than give up your desire to become a model?” he asked.
“I didn’t have a choice. It was either pick up a career or see my mother dispossessed and my sister thrown out of boarding school for nonpayment of tuition.”
“Explain this to me. Where was your father?”
“That is unfortunate. You have my belated condolences.” The words were formal, but the emotion in his voice left her in no doubt to his sincerity.
“Thank you. He was a dear man, a fossil collector. Old bones interested him; business did not. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, the family had been living completely on credit for two years before he died.”
“When did this happen?”
“Six years ago. I’d just graduated from my last year at Our Lady’s Bower and thankfully the cousin of a school chum had shown some interest in my modeling for his magazine.” She took another bite of her lobster fettuccine. It practically melted in her mouth.
“Our Lady’s Bower sounds like a convent, or something.”
“It is. Dupree girls have been French convent educated for the last six generations.”
“No wonder it was so easy for you to adopt a French persona. Your accent is flawless, your gestures often gallic and your outlook quite European.”
“Yes.” She’d selected France for the debut of Xandra Fortune for those very reasons.
“Go on,” Dimitri prompted.
She grimaced. “There’s not much else to tell. Mother would have ignored the redundancy notices until the sheriff showed up to evict us from our home. Madeleine still had two years left at Our Lady’s Bower and I couldn’t bear for her to lose that stability after we’d all just lost Papa.”
“So you went to work.”
“Under an assumed name. I was trying to spare my mother’s feelings. It didn’t work.”
“She could not reconcile herself to the thought of her daughter working?”
“No.” She smiled ruefully. “I’ve always felt guilty, that I had failed her, but I simply could not think what else to do. I hadn’t gone to college yet. I was too young for most well paid career choices. Modeling looked like my only option. My friend’s cousin helped me create Xandra Fortune. It was cloak and dagger stuff and he really got into it. He made sure the only people who knew about Alexandra Dupree’s connection to Xandra Fortune were me, my family and him.”
“So this man knew you were Alexandra Dupree, but I, your lover for a year did not.” He sounded mortally offended.
“Got it in one. I didn’t know about Phoebe, the patiently waiting bride-to-be, either. I guess we’re even on that score.” Her throat felt dry from all the talking and she took a long cool sip of water.
He didn’t take the bait, surprising her. “Your mother’s sensibilities are the reason you refused New York assignments.”
“Yes. I never took an assignment in the States period. I was careful to avoid doing commercials for international products and as you know, I tried to stay out of the media limelight in my personal life.”
“Yet, you were well-known in Europe.”
“Yes, but only as a French model, not a supermodel. My biggest claim to fame was being your lover and you were careful to keep that fact under wraps.”
“Not completely,” he said enigmatically. “You did your family a great service and your mother should be proud of you.”
His words warmed her, but Alexandra felt a burble of laughter well up and let it out. “Proud of me? Her scandalous working daughter who got pregnant without the benefit of matrimony? She hadn’t forgiven me yet for not saving the family home. I’ll be the black sheep of the family forever at the rate I’m going.” She tried to hide the hurt that knowledge caused her. She didn’t want Dimitri to see her weakness.
“Your mother lost her home?”
“My income as a model kept my mother in Chanel suits and provided a complete education for my sister. She graduated from Smith a month before she married Hunter last year.” Pride in Madeleine’s accomplishment tinged Alexandra’s voice.
Then she sighed. “The money did not stretch far enough to keep up payments on a heavily mortgaged mansion and the staff necessary to run it. Mother was forced to sell and move into a converted apartment serviced by a daily maid. Although it’s still in a socially acceptable New Orleans neighborhood, it is not the Dupree Mansion.”
“And she blames you for this? Not your irresponsible father who left his wife and daughters in debt?”