“No. I…” The words simply trailed into nothingness as the joy that had buoyed her up since discovering she carried Dimitri’s son drained away.
“Who’s calling please?” The young woman, Phoebe Leonides, no…Phoebe Petronides now, sounded impatient.
Because Alexandra was so emotionally devastated, she answered the other woman’s question without thought. She couldn’t think. Her brain had ceased to function. She gave the name an occupant of the Paris apartment would expect to hear. “Xandra Fortune.”
“Miss Fortune, where are you? Dimitrius has been looking for you. He’s desperate about the baby.”
Dimitri had told his wife about her, about their baby? Alexandra pulled the phone from her ear and stared at it in her hand as if she didn’t know how it had gotten there. She could hear the woman’s voice, but not the words she was saying. She sounded frantic.
Alexandra cut the connection without putting the phone back to her ear.
DIMITRI took a sip of his neat whiskey and walked out onto the terrace of the New York high-rise apartment. It was empty, no doubt due to the chill in the air brought on by November’s cooling temperatures.
He’d come late to the holiday party, at the insistence of a business acquaintance who’d told him the host was an investment banker he thought Dimitri should meet. For the past four months, Dimitri had had very little interest in making money. He’d had little interest in anything, but finding the mother of his child.
He was in New York because that was her last known whereabouts. She’d had her things shipped to a Manhattan receiving office and picked them up on the day of their arrival. One day before he had instigated a search for her. After that, there had been nothing. His investigators had been unable to find a single lead.
She’d canceled her contract with her modeling agency. She’d even closed her credit cards and checking account. No one had seen or heard from Xandra Fortune in three months.
Well, that was not strictly true. She’d called the Paris apartment four weeks ago and spoken to Phoebe. Xandra had hung up without saying why she’d called or answering Phoebe’s questions about where she was. The call had been placed on an untraceable cell phone.
Dimitri still cursed whenever he thought of that ill-fated phone call. Would she have told him where she was if he had been there to answer the phone?
The sound of voices drifted out onto the almost deserted terrace and he asked himself why he’d bothered to come. He spun on his heel, intending to go when a woman caught his eye. She had her back to him. Long curling blond hair reached to the center of her back, a back that looked much too familiar. Then she moved, gripping the balcony railing and letting her head fall back as she took a deep breath of air.
She spun around to face him and his heart tightened in a painful knot, for although the woman had enough surface resemblance to Xandra to be her sister, she wasn’t the model.
She smiled, even white teeth gleaming in the cool glow of the outdoor lighting. “Hello. I didn’t realize anyone was out here.”
“I came for the solitude,” he admitted.
Her smile flashed again. “I know what you mean. I adore socializing, but once in a while the crush gets to me and I just need to breathe some air that’s all my own.”
He felt himself smiling for the first time in months. “Then I’ll leave you to it.”
She waved her hand. “There’s no need. I don’t mind sharing my little oasis of quiet. You said you knew Xandra?”
“Yes. I know her.”
“She was an amazing model, wasn’t she? She had just the right combination of innocence and passion to shoot her to supermodel status. It’s too bad she refused to take any New York commissions.”
“She prefers working in Europe.”
Something odd passed across the woman’s face. “Yes, I suppose she did.”
“You keep talking about her in the past tense.” Had Xandra given up modeling for motherhood?
“That’s because Xandra Fortune is gone.”
Everything inside him went still. “What do you mean gone?”
The blonde sighed. “According to my sister, Xandra Fortune is dead, if not buried six feet under.”
The words had the effect of multiple body blows and he felt his knees begin to buckle. He reached out blindly for the balcony railing and it was only by sheer force of will that he remained standing. “She’s dead?”
He tried to breathe, but his lungs refused to cooperate. He felt the whiskey glass in his hand break and the sharp pain of one jagged edge pressing into his hand.
“Oh, my word. Are you all right?” The woman’s voice was filled with concern. “Wait right there. I’ll get something for the cut and to clean up the glass.”
He looked down at the blood beading against the dark skin of his hand and could not connect it to anything he felt because all he felt was numbness. Xandra was dead and his baby with her. That thought pounded through his consciousness with the power of an express train pushing away all other considerations.
It could have been minutes or hours later, but the woman returned armed with a first-aid kit and the maid behind her carrying a bowl of water and some small towels.
“Put those down on the table and close the door on your way out,” the woman instructed the maid. She gave Dimitri a small smile. “I don’t want an incident at the party. Hunter, my husband, doesn’t like scenes.”
“You said Xandra was dead.” Perhaps he had misheard her.
“Yes.” She bathed his hand and fixed a plaster over the small cut with gentle efficiency. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I forget that others don’t know…” Her voice trailed off and he didn’t press her to continue.
He didn’t care if anyone else knew Xandra had died. “Was it…” He swallowed. “The baby?”
Her hands stilled in their task of putting the first-aid implements to rights. “How did you know about the baby?” Her light brown gaze pinned him and her charming air had transformed to one of suspicion.
“She told me.”
“You’re Dimitri Petronides?” The woman spit his name out of her mouth as if it were a foul tasting substance.
He didn’t see the blow coming, but he felt it. Her hand landed against the side of his face with enough force to turn his head and make him stagger back a step.
“You filthy pig! I’d like to strangle you with my bare hands. How you have the gall to come here, to my home after the way you treated my sister.”
“What the hell is going on out here?” Another man came storming out onto the terrace. A veritable blond giant. “What have you said to upset my wife?”
“Hunter!” The woman threw herself at her husband. “It’s Dimitri Petronides. He’s the one. You’ve got to get him out of here. If Allie sees him, she’ll have a relapse. She’s just started sleeping at night. Do something!”
None of the woman’s words or actions had made sense since she’d told Dimitri Xandra was dead, but then how could anything make sense in the face of that devastating fact?
He turned to go, more than willing to abandon the scene.
Alexandra could hear her sister’s voice raised in agitation from where she sat chatting with one of Hunter’s many business associates in the penthouse’s living room. She excused herself and stood up. Madeleine’s voice had lowered to the point where Alexandra could not make out what her sister was saying, but the urgency was still there.
She walked through the dining room tastefully decorated in autumn colors for the Thanksgiving holiday and out onto the balcony. Madeleine was gripping Hunter’s biceps and saying something about getting rid of someone. A bowl of water, tinged pink and a bloodied towel lay on the table to her right and the smell of spilled whiskey permeated the air. A small pile of broken glass lay winking in the outside lights near the outer wall of the terrace.
“Madeleine, are you all right, chérie?”
Madeleine whipped around, her expression horror stricken. She rushed to Alexandra and grabbed her wrist. “Come on, Allie.” She started tugging.
Alexandra resisted simply because she didn’t understand the urgency in her sister’s voice and wanted to know the reason for it. She looked down the length of the balcony to see if she could discover the source of her sister’s agitation and froze. Dimitri Petronides was heading in the opposite direction, toward the sliding glass doors leading into Hunter’s study.
He stopped at the open doorway and turned. “I didn’t mean to upset your wife,” he said to Hunter in a voice unlike anything she had ever heard out of Dimitri’s mouth.