Harlequin romance novels are known for classic tropes, addictive plots, and plenty of passion—and Angel of Darkness is no exception. Kelda Wyatt is a top model who's hit a bit of financial snag recently, so when she's offered a job in Tuscany, she accepts without hesitation. She also hopes the trip will take her mind off her mother, who just told her she's getting back together with her ex-husband—a development that has once again put Kelda in contact with Angelo, her former step-brother.
Kelda and Angelo spent years hating one another—but on her 18th birthday, the lines between hate and passion blurred. Six years later, Kelda knows she should be able to handle seeing Angelo again. But when she finds out he's tricked her into coming to Tuscany, all her old feelings come rushing back.
Below, read an excerpt from chapter three of Angel of Darkness.
‘WELCOME to my lair in Tuscany.’ Angelo uncoiled himself from his inexpressibly relaxed lounging stance against the French windows he had thrown wide and strolled to the foot of the bed.
Thinking she was in some impossibly realistic nightmare, Kelda didn’t bother about proudly holding her ground. She jack-knifed back against the carved wooden headboard and simply gaped at the virile vision of masculinity her crazy mind had conjured up out of thin air. He looked good even in a nightmare, but for some reason he was dressed for riding. Long black boots, thigh-hugging breeches of positively indecently faithful fit and a black cotton sweater that lent him a devilish aspect. He wasn’t real…he absolutely wasn’t real, and if she shut her eyes again he would go away. She did so.
‘Clearly you don’t quite function at the speed of light when you wake up alone,’ Angelo drawled in a tone that sent hideously responsive tremors down her rigid spine. ‘I can change that. And from where I’m standing I’m very well satisfied. You look really hot mistress material. I thought you might look a little worn at this hour without the cosmetic tricks of the trade, cara…’
Kelda’s long lashes swept up like fans. She swallowed hard.
Angelo was leaning in a very familiar way on the footboard, lustrous golden eyes wandering intently over every exposed inch of flesh above the sheet. ‘All those lovers…all those different beds,’ he extended. ‘I was expecting to be just a tiny bit disappointed…but I’m not. You look all dewy and untouched…Madre di Dio, how do you do it? Not, you’ll understand, that I am about to complain.’
Angelo…hot mistress material. Neither subject dovetailed. ‘What are you d-doing in my hotel room?’ she suddenly found the voice to demand explosively. ‘How did you know that I would be here?’
‘Ah, she speaks…shame,’ Angelo sighed with mock regret. ‘Now where do I start? This is not a hotel. It’s a private house. It belongs to me. I came upon it three years ago when I was investing in Max’s villa development. It was going to rack and ruin then but it was so totally private, I had to have it—’
‘Your house?’ Kelda repeated incredulously. ‘This is your house? What the hell am I staying here for?’
‘I brought you here,’ Angelo said softly. ‘It was astonishingly easy. Max St Saviour is a business acquaintance. He’s very happily married and prone to romantic delusions. I had no problem persuading him to approach the Donaldson Agency on my behalf. He thought he was playing Cupid. Did you like the touch about the reduced fee? Now Max didn’t like that bit but I felt it added a dash of authenticity…’
A slow, deep flush of almost uncontrollable rage was reddening Kelda’s complexion. She couldn’t even begin to believe what she was hearing, but there was something frighteningly sincere about the hard dark onslaught of Angelo’s gaze. ‘Are you telling me that there is no assignment…I don’t believe you!’ she snapped.
‘Max couldn’t afford you,’ Angelo said with dulcet emphasis. ‘But I can, and I don’t need to know one end of a camera from another to know exactly what to do with you.’
Kelda’s head was swimming with a mess of utterly bewildered thoughts. There was no assignment? Then why bring her here? Why would Angelo lure her to Tuscany? Why was Angelo surveying her as if she was a cream cake and he was starving for a bite to eat? Angelo had never looked at her like that before…and all the double entendres…what on earth was going on? Had Angelo gone insane? This was not Angelo as she knew him. This was another Angelo entirely.
‘You really are the most spectacularly beautiful creature,’ Angelo murmured in a thickened undertone. ‘And if you stay in that bed much longer, I’m likely to join you.’
Kelda wrenched the sheet so high it came adrift from the foot of the mattress and exposed her bare feet, but she didn’t notice. She couldn’t take her eyes off Angelo’s darkly handsome features. ‘W-what are you talking about?’ she demanded in a near shriek. ‘Have you gone crazy?’
Angelo winced at the ear-splitting decibels. ‘I wish I had volume control on your voice.’
‘Y-you brought me here…all the way to Italy for an assignment that doesn’t exist,’ she recounted, spitting out each work with clarity. ‘What I want to know is why?’
‘I have this feeling that our mutual parents will get on much more happily with you out of the way,’ Angelo drawled. ‘I could quite happily have knocked you on the head and dragged you out of your apartment by the hair forty-eight hours ago. But that would have been foolish. And, cara, I am very rarely foolish—’
‘You are right out of your tiny mind!’ she launched at him in seething bewilderment.
‘No. If you had simply disappeared, questions would have been asked,’ he pointed out speciously. ‘This way you’re here on a perfectly respectable alibi—’
‘But I won’t be here for long! And you’re going to pay for this!’ Kelda spat.
‘I have your passport, your money and your credit cards…not much use, those, are they?’ Angelo remarked silkily. ‘You’re right up to your limit on all of them.’
‘You have my passport…how do you know I’m up to my limit?’ she suddenly heard herself demanding.
‘I am completely conversant with your financial status,’ Angelo admitted unashamedly. ‘And I have to say, in my capacity as a banker, how did you get yourself in such a mess? You are in debt to the tune of thousands!’
Abruptly she turned her head away, utterly humiliated that Angelo of all people should know such things. She had been foolish with her money when she’d first started earning. But when Daisy had divorced Tomaso and had, inconceivably, refused to accept any alimony from him, Kelda had been determined to buy her mother a decent home to live in again.
She had bought Daisy a lovely little cottage not too far from London. It had not come cheap.
She had sent her mother off on holiday several times. She had settled her brother’s debts times without number, bought expensive presents for her family and friends. Her apartment had been the only major item she had ever bought for herself. It had never occurred to her that the gravy-train of her high income could come to a sudden frightening halt. But it had and she just hadn’t been prepared for it.
‘You really do need a rich patron, who can settle your debts and pick up the tab for your expensive tastes…someone who would never question the bills,’ Angelo murmured with the soft, smooth delivery of a devil’s advocate. ‘I’m very generous with my lovers…I’ve never had a mistress before…you see, strange as it may seem to you cara…I’ve never had to buy a woman before. But the more I look at you in that bed and contemplate total possession and title, the more I see your investment potential…’
A steel band of tension was throbbing unbearably round her temples and it tightened another painful notch every time Angelo spoke. Perhaps she was very, very stupid but she just couldn’t grasp why Angelo was behaving the way he was. ‘I don’t kn-know you like this,’ she confided without meaning to.
Angelo vented a grim laugh that ironically made her feel much more at home with him. ‘How could you? Much has changed over the past six years. Does it surprise you to learn that I deeply resented being forced to take responsibility for you when you became my stepsister?’
‘Nobody asked you to take responsibility for me!’ Kelda slung at him.
Angelo dealt her an assessing glance. ‘But there was nobody else to do it. Our parents were abroad so much. And I know for a fact that my father was more than happy to leave you to me,’ he continued drily. ‘Daisy was such an adoring mother that he didn’t want to get into trouble with her for disciplining you. And he would have done, make no mistake. Daisy’s very protective of you. So I got landed with the job nobody else would touch!’
‘How dare you say that?’ Kelda threw at him fierily. ‘How dare you?’
‘And you were the most totally obnoxious teenager,’ Angelo volunteered. ‘You put me off having children for life.’
‘If that means that there’ll never be a junior edition of you running about making someone’s life hell, I’m delighted to hear it!’ But although the ready words flowed from her tongue, Kelda was dismayed to realise that she was deeply and genuinely hurt by what he had thrown at her. And she couldn’t understand why. Hadn’t she always known that Angelo hated her?
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The difference was, she appreciated, that it had never once crossed her mind to wonder how Angelo felt about having the burden of a teenager thrust on him. She had not considered that aspect of those years before, had dimly imagined that Angelo had taken over simply to be officious and unpleasant. And why hadn’t she thought more deeply…because to have reflected more deeply would have forced her to acknowledge the truth of what Angelo had said. Daisy and Tomaso had been abroad a great deal and Tim had been a quiet, self-contained boy, quite content to be sent off to boarding school and given plenty of pocket money in return for a lack of personal attention.
‘I was only twenty-one,’ Angelo pointed out, having ignored her childish response. ‘And you were out of control. Between them your mother and your sweet old great-aunt had spoilt you rotten. Daisy, quite frankly, couldn’t cope with you. You are very different from her in temperament.’
Kelda could feel tears burning behind her lowered eyelids. She had never hated Angelo so much and yet simultaneously, she had never felt so savaged. She found herself remembering the loneliness of those years and discovered that inexplicably, deep down inside, she must once have had the vague conviction that to take charge of her in the first place, Angelo must have had some slight affection for her. How she could have thought that and yet believed that he hated her at the same time was no more clear to her than anything else since she had arrived in Tuscany.
‘I was more like your father than your stepbrother,’ Angelo mused with an oddly chilling quality. ‘You don’t know me like this because in the past six years you have become an adult and I can now treat you as one. You wouldn’t believe the pleasure that that freedom gives me.’
Kelda pressed both hands against her pale cheeks and forced herself to look at him over her straining fingers. ‘Why did you bring me here?’ she demanded in a shaken tone.
‘Why?’ Glittering dark eyes slid over the wild tangle of red-gold hair veiling her shoulders in a torrent of curls and lingered on the exquisite perfection of the triangular face pointed at him. ‘Are you really that dumb? Six years ago you virtually destroyed my relationship with my father—’
‘I…I didn’t mean to—’ Kelda was shocked and unprepared for the directness of that attack.
‘The only woman ever to put one over on me was just eighteen,’ Angelo spelt out. ‘But no blushing virgin. You knew exactly what you were doing that night—’
‘I didn’t!’ she protested.
‘And it worked a treat,’ Angelo breathed softly, black ice eyes holding distressed green with raw force of will. ‘You waited until you heard Daisy and Tomaso come in and then you skipped into my room, knowing that they’d be surprised to find the party over and that Daisy’s first stop would be your own bedroom. Finding you absent, my father was certain to come looking for me…and what did he discover?’
‘It wasn’t like that!’ Kelda argued half an octave higher, appalled by what he was accusing her of. ‘It wasn’t planned!’
‘On the contrary, it was beautifully plotted and carried out,’ Angelo contradicted with satire. ‘You had to keep me quiet about what I’d seen earlier in the evening, and what better way? You were paranoid, as it happens. I had no intention of sharing that sordid little scene with your mother.’
‘If you hadn’t touched me, nothing could have happened!’ Kelda told him in a wild surge.
Angelo threw back his dark head and laughed with sardonic amusement. ‘Cara, this is Angelo you’re talking to, not Daisy! You were standing over me in a minuscule see-through nightdress, eating me with your eyes. Up until that night, I was ashamed of the fact that I wanted you—’
‘W-wanted me?’ Her full attention pinned to him, Kelda sat up straighter again with a jerk that very nearly dislodged the sheet that was her only veil of modesty.
‘You were like a thorn sinking deeper and deeper into my flesh.’ Angelo angled a terrifyingly cold smile over her. ‘Full marks for the pretence of innocence, but you knew, cara. In the cradle, you were as old as Eve. You knew that I wanted you and I’ve often wondered how it would have gone if I hadn’t found you playing the whore so indiscreetly in the library that night. That really was remarkably careless of you—’
‘Careless,’ Kelda repeated, her mind fathoms deep in shock from what he was telling her, only he did not appear to accept that he was telling her anything she hadn’t already known. But dear lord…dear lord, the past she had so recently recalled was assuming colours and depths and meanings that had previously been a mystery to her.
Angelo shot her a suspicious glance. Hard, narrowed, sharp. ‘The only way I could have had you then was by marriage,’ he delivered silkily. ‘That was the price and it would have been one hell of a price to get you flat on your back on the nearest available bed…but I damned near paid it. I was prepared to wait for you to grow up. Now that is a surprise to you, isn’t it?’
‘Y-yes.’ She was incapable of saying anything else.
‘And the reason I’m telling you that six years after the event is that I don’t want you to waste your time plotting and planning how to turn this little sojourn abroad into a trip to the nearest church,’ he spelt out flatly. ‘I will never marry you.’
‘N-no,’ Kelda agreed, feeling like someone taking part in a Salvador Dali dream sequence of spectacular complexity. Marriage and Angelo. She could truly put her hand on her heart and swear that such a prospect had never crossed her mind in her wildest imaginings.
‘But I will make love to you as no man ever has before,’ Angelo swore in a sizzling undertone that purred “along her sensitive nerve-endings like bittersweet chocolate, inflaming her in all sorts of intimate places she had never dreamt were so susceptible. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. She was magnetised by the most extraordinary excitement. It came from somewhere deep and dark inside her, some secret place, until that moment undiscovered even by herself.
‘I have had six long years to think about how I intend to entertain you,’ Angelo savoured with unrestrained eroticism. ‘And I knew that this moment would come. When you sent me that Vogue cover, I knew that we were playing the same waiting game. There you were wearing a string of priceless emeralds and nothing else—’
‘It only looked that w-way!’ Kelda heard herself stammer.
He dug a lean brown hand into the pocket of his riding pants and tossed something almost negligently on the white sheet. ‘They came from Cartier…I bought them.’
Her long, luxuriant lashes lifted and dropped again but the glorious string of matched emeralds separated by diamonds still lay like a river of glittering fire in the strong sunlight flooding through the windows. She could not resist touching them with a tremulous finger. She had not seen them in six years.
Angelo laughed, softly, lazily and with immense and unconcealed satisfaction, rampantly amused by her state of dazed, unspeaking paralysis. He strolled confidently round to the side of the bed, scooped up the necklace and sank down on the edge of the bed. He smoothed her torrent of hair gently out of his path and she felt the cool touch of his fingers at her nape, then the weight of the jewels at her throat, and she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t speak…
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Angel of Darkness
Top model Kelda Wyatt is thrilled at the prospect of a photo shoot in Tuscany, until she learns Angelo Rossetti hired her. Caught in a compromising situation with the handsome Italian billionaire years ago, Angelo accused Kelda of setting him up, and vowed to punish her.
Now Angelo will take the sweetest revenge possible; make Kelda his mistress, drive her wild with desire, then discard her. But when Kelda becomes pregnant, discarding her is no longer an option. Perhaps a convenient marriage, where he can control her every move, would be a more fitting form of punishment?