Her first instinct was to run as fast and as far away as possible. She subdued her selfish reflex…she couldn’t run and leave Nicky. Anyway, running would have been futile if Angolos wanted her. A shudder slid down her spine. When Angolos wanted something he was totally focused and implacable.
Only Angolos didn’t want her; he had made that perfectly clear.
Her heart was hammering in her chest and her feet felt as though they had lead weights attached as she moved towards the living-room door. Her head was spinning but one question amongst the many that chased one another around in her mind was uppermost.
Why had Angolos turned up now?
‘I’m not a big boy. I’m lit…ul. Go away!’
Georgie heard the childish treble and her shoulders straightened. Leave him alone, she wanted to yell as she rushed impetuously forward.
She might prefer to walk into a lion’s den than voluntarily enter a room that held her husband, but, as she had learnt within two seconds of his birth, for Nicky she would do the unthinkable. Her own needs and desires would always be secondary to her son’s best interests…it was being a mother.
As she stepped through the door she almost collided with Ruth, who had offered to look after Nicky while she caught the last post and picked up some groceries and while her mother was staying with Robert. The woman barely seemed to register her presence.
Georgie’s eyes moved past her and gasped. Having enough volts to light up a county pass through her body could not have felt more shocking than looking at father and son.
‘Oh, my!’ she whispered. His hair still curled on his neck the same way.
She had never denied to herself the startling resemblance between Nicky and his father but now seeing them side by side it was impossible for anyone to ignore. The sight of the long, lean figure balanced on his heels in front of the child wiped every thought from her head… She felt desire clutch low in her belly.
She grimaced in self-disgust. It appalled her and, yes, scared her that, even after all this time and everything he had done to her, she still only had to look at him to be reduced to a screaming mass of hormones.
Georgie took a deep sustaining breath and lifted her chin. ‘Come here, Nicky,’ she said quietly.
She was aware that Angolos’s attention had slewed towards her. The hand she stretched towards her son had a perceptible tremor, but she studiously ignored him and kept her eyes trained on Nicky’s tear-stained face.
It was only a moment before the child responded, but during that moment she had to fight back the impulse that urged her to rush over and physically tear him away from the man whose hands lay on his shoulders. Her clenched hands relaxed as Nicky aimed himself at her like a small but determined heat-seeking missile.
Angolos rose to his feet in time to see Georgie bend forward, her softly waving hair spilling across her face. She pushed the silky hank impatiently behind her ear.
‘What have you been doing, darling?’ Her attention on the child, Georgie didn’t see the spasm of something close to pain that contorted her estranged husband’s dark, autocratic features as he watched them.
‘He had a slight accident. It was my fault…I only left him for a moment,’ Ruth interjected.
‘With Nicky a moment is all it takes,’ Georgie responded as she hugged her son to her. ‘Isn’t it, champ?’ she said, brushing the curly dark hair from his brow as she straightened up with the child’s body pressed close to her own. She saw the bruise and sighed. ‘In the wars, I see.’
She knew that pretending Angolos wasn’t there wasn’t exactly a long-term solution to her present predicament, but it was the only one she could think of. Angolos, all six feet four of him, was there barely a metre away from her, looking even more devastatingly attractive than she remembered… Her brain just refused to deal with the reality of the situation.
The muscles in her face ached as she forced a tense smile. ‘Now, why don’t you go with Auntie Ruth?’ She caught the eye of the older woman, who gave an understanding grimace.
‘I’m really sorry about this, Georgie.’ Her soft apology was accompanied by a sideways look towards the tall man who was silently watching.
‘It’s not your fault,’ Georgie said, handing over her burden. ‘This will only take a minute,’ she promised, staying one step ahead of her rising panic by sheer force of will alone.
A silent sigh of relief passed through her body as they left the room.
‘Do you always reward him for misbehaving?’ Angolos’s eyes were flat and icy as they scanned her face.
Georgie waited until she judged the child was out of earshot before responding and opened her eyes. ‘What would you do—beat him?’
Her sneering suggestion made his face tauten with anger. ‘Children need to know what the boundaries are. It makes them feel secure.’
‘Hearing you throw around terms like security in connection with Nicky…’ She swallowed back the anger that made her want to scream at him and hammer her fists against his chest. Her voice dropped to a low, scornful whisper. ‘You lost any right you might have had to criticise the way I bring up my child when you effectively disowned him.’
Angolos’s head reared as though she had struck him. ‘I would never knowingly disown my son.’ His low, uneven voice throbbed with sincerity. His mesmeric eyes locked onto hers.
‘I stand corrected. You accidentally disowned him, which makes it all right, then.’ She went to the door and yanked it open. ‘You were just passing, I suppose, so feel free to carry on doing just that.’
‘You want me to leave?’
Georgie, her expression stony, fixed her eyes on the wall directly ahead. ‘The only thing I want more is for you to be kidnapped by aliens, but I’m realistic, I’ll settle for the former.’
He dragged his long fingers through his hair. The sheer familiarity of the gesture made her ache.
‘We need to talk.’
She turned her head; he was incredible…really incredible! Did he really think she was going to let him waltz in here and mess up her life for a second time?
‘Did I really ever find your autocratic mannerisms a turn-on?’
She hadn’t realised until he responded in a dry tone that she had voiced her thoughts out loud. ‘I don’t know, did you?’
Subduing a mortified blush, she gave an indifferent shrug. ‘I don’t need to talk,’ she told him stonily.
Georgie closed her eyes and stuffed her fingers in her ears. Through clenched teeth she began to hum loudly and tunelessly.
‘You still haven’t grown up, then.’
Georgie’s blazing eyes lifted to the contemptuous face of the man who had captured her wrists. ‘Me? I’m not the one who throws away a relationship as casually as a spoilt brat throws away a toy that he’s got tired of.’
His breath whistled in a startled gasp through his clenched teeth. ‘What did you say?’
‘It roughly translates as get the hell out of here and my life… I hate and despise you!’ She twisted her hands angrily, but instead of releasing her Angolos jerked her towards him.
The breath whooshed out of her lungs as her body collided with a body that had no give. For one shocked moment she stood there feeling the strong, steady thud of his heart, then she began to struggle. She fought the rising tide of sensual inertia so powerful that it threatened to swamp her as much as the strong hands that imprisoned her. She fought because deep down there was a secret part of her that didn’t want to escape, a part of her that wanted to melt into him.
‘Let me go… How dare…?’
Suddenly she was free.
The brief skirmish had only lasted a matter of seconds, but Georgie was fighting for breath as though she’d just gone five rounds with a contender for the title.
Rubbing one wrist, she glared at him. Angolos had always been lean and hard in a tensile steel sort of way, he still didn’t carry an ounce of spare flesh, but that brief contact had revealed that he had bulked out muscle-wise. The treacherous burst of heat low in her belly filled her with intense shame.
‘I’d like you to leave,’ she told him huskily.
‘When I’ve said what I came to say.’
Georgie gave a frustrated little grunt… Well, that much hadn’t changed; Angolos was still as stubborn and incapable of compromise as ever. ‘Get your lawyer to write mine a letter,’ she suggested. ‘Isn’t that the way it usually works?’
‘You don’t have a lawyer…’
‘And you don’t have a chance in hell of getting me to listen to you.’
He studied her set, stubborn face and stony eyes for a moment before dragging a hand through his already disordered thick dark hair.
‘I need a drink.’
‘There’s a pub around the corner. They’re not fussy about who they serve.’