Kiss an Angel(3)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

While Max showed the judge an antique samovar, Alex gazed at his new wife’s legs, revealed for all the world to see by that harebrained excuse for a wedding dress. They were slim and shapely, which made him wonder if the rest of her body, partially concealed by her jacket, would be as enticing. But even a siren’s body wasn’t going to compensate him for being forced into this marriage.

He remembered his last private conversation with Daisy’s father. “She’s badly educated, flighty, and irresponsible,” Max Petroff had announced. “Her mother was a terrible influence. I don’t believe Daisy knows how to do anything useful. Granted, it’s not all her fault. Lani never cut the apron strings, and she kept Daisy with her until she died. It’s a miracle Daisy wasn’t on board the boat that night it caught on fire. My daughter’ll need a stiff hand, Alex, or she’ll drive you crazy.”

Nothing Alex had seen of Daisy Devreaux so far made him doubt Max’s words. Her mother was Lani Devreaux, the British fashion model who’d been so famous thirty years earlier. In what could only have been an attraction of opposites, Lani and Max Petroff had had a love affair when he was just beginning to make his mark as a leading expert on foreign policy, and Daisy was the result.

Max made it clear to Alex in that stuffy way of his that he had offered to marry Lani when she had unexpectedly become pregnant, but Lani had refused to settle down. Nevertheless, Max insisted he’d always done his duty to his embarrassingly illegitimate daughter.

All the evidence pointed to the contrary, however. When Lani’s career had begun to fade, she’d turned into a professional party girl and house guest. And wherever Lani went, Daisy went. At least Lani had once had a career, Alex thought, but Daisy didn’t seem to have ever done anything useful with her life.

As Alex looked at his new bride more closely, he saw some resemblance to her mother. They had the same black-as-ink hair, and only indoor women could have such pale skin. Her eyes were an unusual blue, so full of color they were as purple as roadside violets. But she was much smaller than her mother—too fragile-looking for his taste—and her features weren’t nearly as bold. From what he remembered of the old photographs, Lani’s profile had been almost masculine, while Daisy’s had a blurred quality that was especially evident in that inconsequential nose and silly, soft mouth.

According to Max, Lani had been strong on looks but short on brains, another quality the little airhead across the room had apparently inherited. She wasn’t exactly a bimbo—she was too well-bred for that—but he had no trouble imagining her as a rich man’s very expensive sexual trinket.

He’d always been discriminating about female companionship, and alluring as that small body was, he preferred a different sort of woman, one who had more going for her than a great set of legs. He liked intelligence in his bed partners, along with ambition, independence, and the ability to give as good as she got. He could respect a woman who cussed him out, but he had no use for sulks and pouts. This little ball of fluff was already setting his teeth on edge.

At least keeping her in line wouldn’t be a problem. He gazed over at her, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a sardonic smile. Life has a way of catching up with spoiled little rich girls. And, baby, is it ever about to catch up with you.

Across the room, Daisy stopped in front of an antique mirror to check her appearance. She did it out of habit instead of vanity. To her mother, appearance was everything. Lani regarded smudged mascara as a worse catastrophe than nuclear holocaust.

Daisy’s new haircut was chin length in the front and a little longer in the back, breezy, youthful, curling softly here and there. She’d loved it from the beginning, but she’d loved it even more that morning when Amelia had clucked over how untidy the style looked for a wedding.

Just behind her reflection, Daisy saw her bridegroom approaching. She arranged her mouth in a polite smile and told herself everything would work out fine. It had to.

“Get your things, angel face. We’re leaving.”

She didn’t like his tone one bit, but she’d developed a talent for dealing with difficult people, and she overlooked it. “Maria’s doing her Grand Marnier soufflé for our celebration brunch, but it’s not ready yet, so we’ll need to wait.”

“Afraid not. We have a plane to catch. Your luggage is already in the car.”

She needed more time. She wasn’t ready to be alone with him yet. “Could we take a later flight, Alexander? I hate to disappoint Maria. She’s Amelia’s jewel, and she does a wonderful brunch.”

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