Authors: Carole Mortimer
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General
A PAST REVENGE
cold grey eyes, and black silk sheets. They were memories that would always be with her when she thought of him. Even more so now!
'Danielle? Danielle!' Lewis repeated impatiently as he still did not get her attention. 'I asked if tomorrow afternoon would be convenient for the initial meeting,' he explained none too patiently still. 'I know you've been trying to finish, the Gilbraith portrait for this week.'
'I completed it today,' she revealed reluctantly. 'Although I'm not sure I want to become involved in another one just yet. I had it in mind to take a holiday.'
'Not now, Danielle,' Lewis looked scandalised at the idea,
blond good looks momentarily marred by his worried expression. At thirty Lewis Vaughn looked exactly what he was, a successful businessman. He always dressed impeccably, told Danielle that he didn't like the way art had such a bad name with the public, everyone connected with it, including the agent he was, assumed to be bohemian. Lewis certainly had to be the exception to that rule! 'You did hear who you would be painting?' he said, as if she could not possibly have done and still refuse to do it.
'I heard,' she shattered that illusion instantly, knowing exactly who she was being commissioned to paint, and not liking it one little bit.
'Audra McDonald, Danielle,' he repeated anyway.
'Yes,' she still wasn't impressed.
'Okay, but do you realise who commissioned the portrait?' he encouraged with enthusiasm.
She stiffened slightly, although on the outside she looked as cool as normal. She was a very cool lady, revealed little of her real emotions to any but those closest to her. That circle was very small, didn't even include Lewis, despite the fact that he had been her agent and friend for the last five years, the last two of them very successful for them both, Danielle Smith portraits suddenly becoming the fashion. And yet still Lewis did not see beneath the cool facade, knew only her outward beauty, the silky blonde hair feathered in layers to her shoulders, the emotionless green eyes that hid a multitude of secrets he could not even guess at, her nose short and straight, inclined to freckle in the summer months, her mouth a perfect bow, the full pouting lips usually coloured with a peach lipgloss, a gentle blusher adding colour to her naturally pale cheeks. Her tall slenderness suited the loose tops and fitted denims she habitually wore, although she didn't consider herself to be a bohemian either!
'Yes, I know,' she confirmed flatly, pleased her emotions were under control. She had learnt her lesson well.
'Nicholas Andracas,' Lewis told her unnecessarily. 'He telephoned me personally,' he added in a rather awestruck voice. 'I could hardly believe it when he identified himself as the caller.'
Danielle could understand that, had once known that awed feeling herself. 'And he wants me to paint a portrait of his current mistress?' she arched blonde brows.
'Well, what would you have me call her?' she mocked lightly. 'It's public knowledge the two of them have been living together for over a year.'
Lewis looked self-conscious. 'I don't think they're actually cohabiting—'
She gave a splutter of unexpected laughter, and it was all the more beautiful because of it, lighting up her whole face. 'It isn't like you to be so correct, Lewis,' she chided. 'Whether they live together or not they are still lovers.'
He still looked uncomfortable. 'I don't think we
should moralise about a prospective client—'
'I'm not about to,' she dismissed, standing up. 'I'm just not sure I want to do this one.' And that wasn't strictly true either, she
she didn't want to do it!
'Why not?' a disappointed Lewis followed her across the room to stand at her side as she stared out of the window. 'God, there's no denying Audra McDonald would make a beautiful subject.'
No. there was no denying that, the actress was very beautiful, but then she would have to be to hold the attention of the rich Greek/American oil tycoon. Nicholas Andracas had a reputation for escorting only beautiful women, and the lovely red-haired actress had lasted longer than most, certainly longer than Danielle, that was for sure. She must have broken all records as far as his women were concerned!
Nick would attract women to him even without his millions, was tall and dark, with a harsh attractiveness that hadn't diminished despite his thirty-eight years. And he had grey eyes, coldly cruel grey eyes.
'I've worked hard this last year, Lewis,' she told him curtly. 'I'd like to take a break now.'
'Can't it wait just another month?'
'Then let it,' he pounced eagerly, looking a little sheepish. 'Actually, I've already told Mr Andracas you're free tomorrow afternoon at two o'clock. I hope that is convenient?'
'It's a little late to ask me that,' she turned on him waspishly, emotion in her eyes now. 'I think you could at least have asked me first.'
'I tried. I've been calling you all afternoon, you were always out.'
Danielle sighed her impatience with that excuse. 'You know I always put the telephone on the machine when I'm working, I can't concentrate with it constantly interrupting me. It wouldn't have hurt you to have told Mr Andracas you couldn't reach me and you would call him back when you had.'
'He isn't the sort of man you keep waiting too long,' Lewis grimaced. 'For anything,' he added with rueful resignation.
She knew all about the forceful arrogance of Nicholas Andracas, she also knew the easy-going Lewis would be no match for the older man. 'I can see that,' she sighed. 'All right, Lewis, I'll see Miss McDonald tomorrow.'
'And Mr Andracas,' he put in hastily. 'He wants to meet you too.'
'I know,' he held up his hands defensively. 'It's only necessary for you to meet the subject you're to paint,' he recited parrot-fashion. 'But he's commissioning the portrait. And he's willing to pay a nice fat fee too,' he named an amount that made her eyes widen.
'You know my fees aren't as high as that,' she protested.
'It was the amount he suggested,' Lewis explained.
'It's too much,' she shook her head.
'You haven't tried working with Audra McDonald yet,' he told her ruefully. 'I've heard that isn't always a pleasant experience. You could earn every penny of that money in the circumstances.'
The actress's volatile nature was well known to the gossip columns, and Danielle could well imagine Nicholas Andracas would enjoy the constant challenge of taming such a beautiful shrew. Such a woman would suit his own autocratic nature perfectly.
'Nevertheless,' she told Lewis coolly, revealing none of her inner thoughts. 'He will be charged the usual fee.'
'I hope I've made myself clear, Lewis,' she levelled cool green eyes on him.
He shrugged resignedly, knowing it would do no good to argue with her, especially when he had already won the main battle, that of doing the portrait. 'But you'll see Andracas too?' he had to push this point.
The thought of seeing Nick again after seven years wasn't something she had ever wanted or welcomed, but no one had ever accused her of lacking courage. And it was going to take plenty of that to meet Nicholas Andracas again.
'I'll see him too,' she nodded. 'Now if you wouldn't mind taking a look at the Gilbraith portrait and then delivering it to his office tomorrow? I understand it's to be a birthday present for his wife. What's the occasion of the Audra McDonald portrait?' she enquired casually.
'Probably the opening of
next month,' Lewis followed her through to the studio to study the portrait she had done of Melissa Gilbraith from several casual meetings with the other woman the last few months, all of it done without the other woman's knowledge that she was being painted. Danielle wished the Audra McDonald portrait could be done in the same way! 'I heard Andracas is backing it,' he added dryly.
She had heard the actress was in the process of rehearsing the play for the West End, and it didn't surprise her in the least that the woman's lover was financing it. It was difficult to get money to finance even the most excellent of plays nowadays, Nicholas Andracas wouldn't even notice a dent in his fortune of millions with the hundreds of thousands it would cost to back the play.
'How nice to have a rich and obliging lover,' she said with an uncharacteristic bitchiness.
'Just say the word,' Lewis gave her a leering look.
Danielle gave him a mocking look beneath silky lashes. 'You aren't rich, and I'm certainly not in the market for a lover, obliging or otherwise,' she told him dryly.
'Just my luck,' he grimaced. 'Still, I have to keep trying, one of these days I might catch you in a weak moment. Hey, this is good,' he admired the completed Gilbraith portrait.
For the next few minutes they discussed the merits of the portrait, and as they did so Danielle tried to convince herself that this was just another day in her life, an ordinary day. Only she knew it wasn't, and as soon as Lewis left her the memories came back to haunt her.
She remembered a lot more about Nicholas Andracas than his cold grey eyes and those black silk sheets on his bed, remembered too much for her own peace of mind sometimes. And those memories crowded in on her now.
She hadn't wanted to go to the party, probably wouldn't have done so if her friend Rhea hadn't persuaded her to. The two of them had never got on that well with Carly Daniels when they were all at finishing school together, but the chance to see the other girl's home had been too much of a temptation for them both. Carly was a Greek/American, had driven them all mad in Switzerland with tales of how rich her family was. As the older sister of the oil tycoon they knew Carly's mother was rich in her own right, but she had also married into the Daniels fortune, and Carly never let anyone forget it, even if most of her schoolfriends were her peers. Rhea and Danielle had seen the party invitation at the end of their finishing-school days together as something of a joke, and had decided to go in the same frame of mind.
They had been giggling together like the schoolgirls they had just stopped being as they arrived at the Andracas home, the big L-shaped lounge already full of people.
'I think Carly invited half of London too,' Rhea mocked as they helped themselves to a glass of champagne from one of the numerous circulating waiters.
'Probably. I—' She stared openly as she saw the glowering man standing across the room from them. He was the sort of man anyone would stare at!
'Ellie? Ellie, what is it?' Rhea prompted her impatiently at her continued silence.
She dragged her gaze away with effort from the
glowering man, blinking as she looked at her red-
haired friend. 'It's—The man over there,' she began again. 'I was just thinking he certainly wasn't at school with us,' she managed to infuse mockery into her voice, although in reality the impact of the man had left her stunned. Her statement was also superfluous. The fact that he was a man meant he couldn't possibly have attended the all-female finishing-school, his age, about thirty to their nineteen also indicating that she had probably never seen him before; her father was quite strict about the men he let her date.
She watched as Rhea turned to look at the man, wondering if she saw the same as she did, the hair so dark it had to be black, brows the same colour jutting out over steely grey eyes, the nose long and straight, the full mouth thinned into a belligerent line as he stared down into a glass which contained something much stronger than the bubbly champagne everyone else was drinking. The black evening suit and white shirt were flimsy camouflage for the leashed power in the body beneath, his six foot plus in height adding to that impression of power, of danger. Danielle, or Ellie as she was known to her friends, had never been so affected by the sight of just one man.
'He looks as if his date stood him up,' she joked to cover the embarrassment she felt at being caught gawking at him like a naive child.
'I doubt any woman has ever stood him up in his life,' Rhea derided softly.
doubt it too,' she grimaced, chancing another glance at the man. He had another full glass of what looked like whisky in his hand, drinking it as if it were a particularly nasty medicine he needed to take.
Rhea gave her a curious look. 'You still haven't realised who he is, have you?'
Ellie shrugged. 'Should
know him? Do you?' she asked interestedly; she hadn't known Rhea knew any men like this one.
'Not personally,' her friend shook her head. 'Eilie,
She looked at Rhea blankly. 'Nick Andracas ...? Oh!' realisation hit her blushingly, and she turned to look at the man with renewed interest— only to find him looking straight back at her, obviously aware of their interest in him!
Oh God,' she groaned as she swung her gaze away wildly, looking anywhere but at those coldly mocking grey eyes.
'What is it?' Rhea looked worried by her sudden tension. 'Ellie, what's wrong?'
"What's wrong?' she spoke in a whisper, although she didn't quite know why. 'He looked at me. God, it felt as if he stripped me naked at that one glance!' She gave an involuntary shiver. 'It was the most erotic experience of my life,' she admitted shakily.
'Ellie!' her friend gave a surprised splutter of laughter.
She could understand Rhea's reaction, her statement hadn't been one she would normally have made. But then Nick Andracas wasn't a normal man, and he hadn't induced a normal
reaction within her either. She was still shaking from that single clash of eyes between them, although a below-lashes look at him now showed he had lost interest after that one searing glance, his attention once again fixed in the bottom of his whisky glass.