How do I breathe when she’s not by my side?
At first sight, she captivates me. No other woman has ever been able to achieve that. Her name is Angel. A brown-skinned Caribbean queen, she is beautiful, defiant, and unique. She owns the catwalk. As a reluctant supermodel, she is private and illusive. No one knows anything about her; where is she from, who is she? The media are frantically trying to discover her true identity. She wants nothing to do with me, but I am nothing if not persistent. I must have her.
The son of a Russian mobster, I was content to live in the shadows of her life, especially when she is threatened with imminent harm by my family. I will always protect what’s mine.
How do I get through one night without you?
I saw him watching me. His smoldering emerald gaze follows me everywhere and evokes a desire I am ill prepared for. I tried to resist him. I was a busy girl, modeling, hiding my identity from the world, and, oh yeah, going to medical school. I don’t need this kind of distraction, and I certainly don’t have time in my life for a man. However, I don’t seem to have a choice, Richard was beyond my capabilities to resist. How could I, a mere mortal, resist masculine perfection? I didn’t want to make him a target for my sick fans, but did he have to replace me within hours of my leaving him? I was devastated.
No way would I let him near me again, especially when others could be hurt by his lack of commitment. My heart wants what it wants. I need divine intervention!
Richard Carvine paced the sterile private waiting room of Saint Mary’s Hospital in London. Mari and Niccolo Darian had been in the delivery room of the Lindo Wing for over three hours. Mari, his employee and best friend, had gone into labor unexpectedly. She’d always been there for him, and he was always there for her.
When he had suddenly taken over the reins of his family’s shipping business after his older brother, David, the Earl of Ashford, had brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy, Mari had been right there by his side. The title David had inherited on the death of his mother’s brother had also come along with heavily indebted properties. The financial weight of the properties in England and Scotland, together with the enormous debt of the shipping company, had overwhelmed David. Instead of accepting the help of his Russian half-brothers, David had begged Richard to intervene. Unfortunately, David was no longer alive to appreciate their hard work; he took his own life months ago. Mari had helped him bring order to the company, and now, almost a year later, they were finally breaking even.
So, yeah, when Mari had gone into labor at Nico’s annual staff party, Richard had followed them to the hospital. Other than his mother, Mari was the only female relationship he had that had extended more than a year. I don’t want to think of the other female that lasted ten months before I was forced to let her go. Richard frowned in disgust at his stupidity in even remembering her name after five years. Bloody hell! I can’t believe Angel can still affect me like this.
He continued pacing in agitation. Despite the activities that had precipitated their mad rush to the hospital, the baby was taking its own time in arriving.
Nico’s parents, John and Flaviana Darian, his siblings, Guilianna, Sarah, and Marco, along with their spouses, had arrived an hour ago from Kent. Richard had met the family at Mari and Nico’s wedding months ago in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Flaviana, with her dark mocha skin and light green eyes, seemed as though she was in her thirties, not a woman in her sixties with four adult children. He remembered Mari telling him that Flaviana had an Italian father and a Jamaican mother. John was a towering Caucasian Englishman, well over six feet with pale blue eyes, who gazed at his wife with adoring eyes. Nico, Sarah, Guilianna, and Marco were perfect mixes of their parents; all of them had dark olive skin and pale blue eyes. Nico was the only one of the siblings to have a spouse of his mother’s race. Mari also had a parent from the islands, Bermuda.
But Richard couldn’t wait to get word on the baby’s arrival so he could get out of there. Being surrounded with all of this family togetherness and love for babies was giving him the willies.
He grinned wolfishly as yet another nurse walked into the waiting room and asked if he needed anything. As the redheaded nurse left, Marco laughed. “That’s like the seventh nurse who has come in here since we got here! They haven’t looked in our direction once.”
“It must be that flawless blond handsomeness, perfect tan, and rich-boy persona he has going on,” Sarah teased.
“Not to mention those emerald green eyes.” Guilianna fanned herself.
“Hey!” Jonathan, Guilianna’s husband, scowled at his wife. “We are still in the room, ladies!”
“We’re married, not blind,” Guilianna reminded them, giving Sarah a high-five.
“Yes, gentlemen, I have taught my daughters to appreciate God’s blessings to us women. Richard, as the Bible would say, is ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made.” Flaviana grinned. “It has been years since I’ve seen a tight ass like that on a white man without there being some mix in him.”
Richard grimaced. He could tease as hard as anyone, but these women were beginning to make him blush.
“My daughters are all taken, but I have a goddaughter who is perfect for you.” Flaviana regarded him with a knowing look.
“Bloody hell,” Richard muttered. There is only one woman, as you well know, Flaviana, that I’m interested in talking to; anyone else, not so much. Nico, where are you? I need to get the hell out of here!
“How old are you anyway?” Flaviana asked.
Richard gazed at her speechless, the fine hairs on his arm standing up and a light sheen of sweat coating his forehead. Why is she doing this? Pretending that she doesn’t know what I truly want, what I’ve always wanted?
“You might as well answer her,” John, her husband, said.
Richard’s gaze swung in his direction, still stunned by Flaviana’s sudden interest in him.
“She won’t let you out of here until you appease her interest.” John smiled at his discomfort.
“Well?” Flaviana persisted.
“Thirty-four,” Richard mumbled.
“Yes, perfect. My goddaughter is twenty-eight. She needs a husband.”
“Good Lord!” Richard walked toward the exit without even realizing he was doing so. He didn’t care that Nico’s family was laughing behind his back. That word marriage always made his blood run cold.
Just then Nico sprinted through the double glass doors with a huge grin on his face. “I have a son!” he announced.
Richard laughed with his former boss and slapped him on his back. “Don’t you mean ‘we,’ old man? I’m sure Mari had some role in your having a son right now.”
Nico’s blue eyes sparkled with pride. “Yes she did. Mari was absolutely amazing!” His grin grew even brighter. “My son is a big fellow. He’s nine pounds and eighteen inches long, definitely a potential athlete in the family.”
“When can I see my grandson? Have you named him yet?” Flaviana asked.
“The little beast was hungry, so you will see him as soon as he has his fill.” He regarded his mother fondly. “And yes, we named him Matteo in honor of your father.”
“Oh! Papa will be thrilled!” Flaviana crowed.
“That old fool already had my son named after him,” John grumbled.
Nico grinned. “And he is also named after you, dad. Matteo John David.”
“About time I got something out of this deal.” John puffed out his chest with pride.
“I have to get back in there. You should be able to see Mari and Matteo shortly,” Nico said.
“Son, can you send Kiya out here as soon as she’s done? I would like her to meet Richard,” Flaviana said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mother.” Nico raised his eyebrow at Richard. What’s going on?
Richard shook his head at him. Don’t even ask.
“Niccolo, please send my godchild here.” Flaviana waved her hand, dismissing him.
“Well, I need to prepare for a meeting tomorrow,” Richard started.
“Don’t try me, Richard,” Flaviana threatened.
Richard sighed, knowing he had no other option than to meet the twenty-something goddaughter. God, she is trying to push a nurse on me. I guess she thinks I will forget my other interest. Not fucking likely!
“Sarah, don’t you think you should talk to your mother?” Nico asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m dying to see the look on my best friend’s face when she meets Richard.” Sarah laughed, lost in her own private joke.
“I’ll make sure to tell her you said so,” Nico threatened. He shook his head and looked at Richard sympathetically before leaving the room.
Richard gazed around the room, not missing the others looking back at him with smiles on their faces.
Richard tried to prepare himself for the introduction, but nothing could have prepared him for the vision that walked into the room with Nico moments later. His heart slammed against his ribcage, and his breathing fractured. He had always thought that she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and nothing in the past five years seemed to have changed his opinion. She had flawless coffee skin, an oval face, light grey eyes fringed with long eyelashes, and lush pouty lips. At almost six feet tall, she was as statuesque as he remembered with legs that went on for miles and curves that made any red-blooded man take note. What the hell is she doing here?
Kiya Headley walked beside Nico, her god-brother and the husband of her patient, Mari. She had intended coming out here and speaking to her godmother but had gotten carried away with the new adorable baby boy. He really is a cutie!
But then Nico returned to the room to inform her that Aunt Flaviana wanted to see her before she could pull herself away from the baby. Since this had run until almost three in the morning, Kiya knew she needed to get home and rest. She had a full slate of patients scheduled for later in the day. Already, she had been working for twenty consecutive hours. She had intended going to visit Aunt Flaviana on the weekend anyway.
“Thank you again for being there for Mari and me. We really appreciate your coming out and slumming with us,” Nico said, his smile still megawatts wide with pride.
Kiya grinned, knowing that Nico was referring to the fact that she rarely worked in such posh surroundings. She preferred working in Croydon Sexual Health Centre, specializing in teenage pregnancies. At Croydon she serviced mainly Caribbean black immigrants in southwest London. She loved her work. Every day she got to experience God’s miracle and gift. “There’s no need to thank me. Besides doing my job, Aunt Flaviana would kill me if something happened to her newest grandchild.”
As they entered the waiting room, she was immediately engulfed in the fragrant arms of her godmother. Tears as usual pricked her eyes. Aunt Flaviana always reminded her so much of her dead mother. Although the two women had been best friends since high school, Badminton, a boarding school for girls, they had travelled different paths in life. Her mother, Antoinette Headley, had become a model while Aunt Flaviana, who had also modeled briefly, had married John Darian when she was eighteen years old. But the two women had remained close, never going without talking to each at least once a week. Kiya had grown up with Aunt Flaviana always in her life.
“Darling, you’re as beautiful as ever,” Flaviana cooed.
“Aunt Flaviana, it’s good to see you too.” Kiya smiled to cover the sadness engulfing her. After being hugged and kissed by Uncle John, Marco, Guilianna, Sarah, and their spouses, Flaviana dragged her over to a blond Adonis she hadn’t noticed until now. What the hell! What is he doing here? She felt lightheaded from the shock.
“Sweetheart, I’d like to introduce you to Mari’s best friend, Richard.” Flaviana smiled expectantly.
Richard stretched out his hand in greeting.
Kiya ignored it. Her senses were suddenly buzzing with awakening desire by the mere sight of him. No way am I touching him!
“It’s been nice seeing you all, but I have a busy day ahead of me. I have to get some rest,” Kiya said as she turned her back on Richard and started to leave the room.
“Now I know your mother didn’t teach you to be rude,” Flaviana scolded her. “Richard is a family friend, a very nice young man, and I’d like you to greet him properly.”
“Why?” Kiya stared at her aunt in disbelief, seeing the knowledge in her gaze. How does she know who he is to me? And knowing who he is, how could she do this?
“Because you don’t meet enough young men working every hour God gave you!” Flaviana told her sternly.
“I’m not looking for a man, Aunty. And even if I were, it won’t be for some aging playboy,” Kiya gritted out.
“Ageing?” Richard croaked.
“You heard me. I didn’t stutter.” Kiya finally turned and looked directly at him and then wished she hadn’t. He was still as incredibly beautiful as she remembered. The whoring bastard! “What are you, pushing forty now?”God, why is he still so fine? My damn kitty is already jumping. Dumb bitch!
“Thirty-four,” Richard said between clenched teeth. “I’m in my prime.”
“Oh joy, I’m happy for you.” Kiya was almost vibrating with the need to tell him off. But then she looked at Flaviana. Flaviana’s eyes were gleaming with satisfaction. Bloody hell! How much does she know? Okay, Aunty, I’m not playing this game anymore. “It’s good to see you Aunt Flaviana, Uncle John. You have a beautiful grandson. I have a few more patients to visit before I call it a night. Sarah, don’t be late for our lunch next week,” Kiya said as she rushed out of the room as if Satan himself was on her heel. Yeah, and now I need to change my panty. I really hate that man!
Richard watched her leave, undecided for a brief moment about whether to follow her or let sleeping dogs lie for now. But thinking about how long he had been waiting to find her again made up his mind for him. He sprinted after her.
Catching up to her, Richard grabbed her arm to stop her in her tracks. He immediately pulled his hand away at the sizzling jolt of awareness that blitzed through his body at that simple touch. Damn! She still packs a lethal punch! This is sharper than I remember, just what I don’t bloody need.
“Hey,” Kiya turned angrily toward him.
“What the hell was that? I thought our parting was amicable, civilized. But you’re acting like I did you wrong,” Richard accused. He was stunned that the gentle, passionate lover, who’d left him all those years ago, was this angry woman now. What’s going on?
“I just don’t want to talk to you. What? Did I bruise your mammoth ego?” Her icy grey gaze bore into him.
“No, I don’t need affirmation from you. I get plenty of that from the female population, some right here in this hospital.” Richard grinned just to get a rise out of her. He remembered how they’d both been unapologetically possessive of the other.
“I couldn’t care less who is affirming you now.”
“So you don’t care if I take that redhead nurse out tonight?”
“Go to hell!” Kiya swung at him.
He caught her wrist before she made contact. “Tsk, tsk, you seem to care just a little too much, sweetheart. I’m beginning to think you still want me.” Richard pulled her hard against him, backing her into a secluded corner. The hard tips of her breasts stabbed him in the chest.
Damn! Touching her is a bad idea. Her familiar scent and softness of her body sent his senses reeling. Richard felt himself hardening even more. His cock was already pushing against the seam of his trousers, seeking her snug heat. How can she still do this shit to me?
“Let me go!” she gritted out between clenched teeth, pushing against him in agitation. But all her fight seemed to do was enflame their mutual lust further.
He imprisoned her wrists over her head and held her against the wall with his hard body. He was not going to hide his body’s response to her. “Do you still want me?” He suddenly had to make her admit it, admit that she was as affected by him as he was by her. Popping a few buttons from her work jacket, he gained access to her bra-clad breast.
“Stop that! Are you crazy?” She wiggled with more urgency, trying to pull away from him.
He palmed one of her breasts and ran a thumb over the taut nipple. “Please keep in mind…” he smirked and pinched her nipple.
“Oh God!” She gasped.
“Please keep in mind that I can feel your need.” He pulled the soft shell of her ear between his teeth, bit softly, and then soothed it with his lips. “Should I slid my fingers in and see how wet you are? Tell me, sweet Angel, do you want me as much as I want you?”
“Don’t call me that!” Kiya hissed.
“Why not? Isn’t that the name the world knows? Isn’t that the name you made me call you for months?” His voice lowered to barely above a whisper. “Isn’t that the name I shouted every time I poured my seed into you?”
“Bastard! Don’t talk to me like that. And stay the hell away from me, Richie Rich!”
“Do you remember what happened the last time you called me that?”
Her eyes widened. “Let go of me,” she whispered desperately.
Richard smiled grimly. “I see you do remember. It was our last night together. I couldn’t get enough of you, and you couldn’t get enough of me.” He grounded his hips into her softness. Let her feel what she does to me. Let her know I’m ready willing and able to take her whenever and wherever we find ourselves.
She licked her lips as if they had suddenly gone dry.
“You promised to never forget us,” Richard whispered hoarsely. He lowered his pale lashes, unwilling to reveal the emotion he was certain reflected in his eyes. Despite not knowing who she really is and after all the time we’ve been apart, I still love her. He was stunned by this unexpected revelation, and his grip on her wrist grew slack.
Kiya immediately twisted out of his hold, stepped around him, and ran.
Richard didn’t pursue her, puzzled by her animosity toward him. What the hell is going on? He stared at her retreating figure still shell-shocked by his lingering lust and even more devastating emotion; he still loved her. He had convinced himself that the love he had felt five years ago had diminished and his life was good now. But the rush of awareness, the sensations she’d wrung from him in such a short time, made it abundantly clear that he had not been living. His emotions had been frozen and shrouded in darkness for years, waiting on her brilliant light to melt the ice from around his heart. Feeling lightheaded, he bent over at the waist and placed both hands on his knees.
I am so fucked! Richard grinned. And now so is she! This time, things will be different. I will never let her go again.