"Could you slow down, please?" she called out irritably after several minutes. She'd been trying desperately to keep up, placing her feet in the holes his boots had left in the snow, but as darkness fell, it became increasingly difficult to see his footprints. Besides, she was getting winded from the pace he'd set. He paused and turned to look at her.
"I told you I wanted to make it back before dark."
"Thank you, I heard you. But if you keep going so fast, you'll get too far ahead for me to see where you're going. I'll be lost out here," she explained slowly, like she was talking to a second grader. He must have taken too many hits to the head in the backfield, Angeline decided. It was a miracle he'd been so successful in his career as a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. Mitchell had certainly implied on several occasions that his only son was thicker than refrigerated molasses.
"Better keep up, then," he informed her.
Angeline made a sound of disbelief and just stared as his big shadow began to recede. When she realized he was fading from her vision, she plowed into the snow after him. She had to focus all her energy on not falling. The temperature was dropping and the sheet of ice on the snow was becoming increasingly hard to break. The icy pellets that had been stinging her nose and cheeks had altered to large flakes of swirling snow. Thank God she'd just come from her parents' farm and not straight from work, or else she might have been wearing a pair of stilettos instead of the practical boots she sported.
She could just imagine what Mitchell Carradine's taciturn son would have to say about her wearing heels. Probably accuse her of being a fashionable idiot--
"Ugh," she grunted into Alex's back after he halted abruptly. She bounced off him. The man was as solid as a brick wall. "What did you stop for?"
"We're here," he muttered.
Angeline blinked and strained to look around his massive shoulders. She saw the outlines of a dark structure, but couldn't make out any details. It took her a moment to realize Alex had opened a door and moved inside. She stumbled after him, catching her foot on the threshold and tripping heavily on some kind of hard flooring, catching herself at the last moment.
"Can't you turn on a light?" She squinted into the darkness.
"I could--if the electricity wasn't out," he muttered dryly. "The ice is weighing down the tree branches and they are falling on the power lines. Weren't you wondering why it was so dark coming up the hill?"
"I wondered, all right. I just thought the owner was a sadistic cheap-wad who--"
She stopped when she recalled she was speaking to the owner of Heavenly View Ski Resort.
A single flame flared. Alex held a long match to the wick of a kerosene lamp. It lit his countenance in a fiery glow, giving Angeline her first real look at him. His face looked intimidating in the flickering shadows...like it'd been carved from rock. His slanted brows and dark facial hair gave him a demonic look. She shivered when he turned to look in her direction.
Where Mitchell was all urbane sophistication, his son was rough-hewn and intimidating.
"Take off your stuff. You're all wet," he ordered. He tore at the laces of his boots and unceremoniously kicked them off. He whisked off his knit hat and tossed it on what appeared to be a worktable covered with neatly organized tools and storage bins. Angeline glanced around the dim, cold room, realizing they were in a garage. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that he had unzipped his coat and whipped it over his shoulders. Angeline turned, the image of rippling muscle snagging her gaze. She gasped.
He glanced down bemusedly at his bare chest.
"I was using up the last of the hot water when I heard your wheels spinning. The bathroom is at the end of the hall and faces east. Good thing I was in the shower, or I might never have heard you." He picked up the lantern and nodded impatiently at her coat.
Angeline peeled her eyes off a glorious spread of male flesh. He was large all right, but his insulated coat had disguised the fact that he was also lean, sinewy...
...and beautiful, in a primitive, Spartan warrior, take no prisoners kind of way.
The thought made her tear at the buttons on her coat hastily, as though action would help chase it away. How old did Mitchell say Alex was? Had he ever said? In her imagination, she'd always pictured him as the overgrown, rebellious teenager, the type who just wouldn't accept adult responsibility.
But the brooding, somber man who pinned her with a palpable stare while she awkwardly removed her ice-encrusted boots hardly called to mind Peter Pan.
She'd always suspected that Mitchell was quite proud of the fact that, at age 55, he drew stares of longing from females and envious glances from younger males in their prime. He'd certainly seemed pleased by her look of amazement when he'd told her his age. She'd have guessed he was ten years younger if she were going by appearance alone. As a name partner in one of the largest, most successful law firms in the city, Mitchell had it all--the power and confidence of an older, seasoned man along with the athletic build and face of a younger one.
She'd assumed Alex was in his mid-twenties.
She'd assumed wrong, she admitted as she glanced up anxiously between damp lashes to catch a glimpse of the imposing man who stood so close. He was probably in his early thirties, if not older.
He was older than her.
The realization unsettled her for some reason.
"Has your father called? I couldn't reach him, my cell phone isn't getting any service here." She pushed back her hood and slid her wool coat off her shoulders.
What he did next startled her, even though she was getting used to being surprised by Alex Carradine. He stepped toward her and placed his chilled fingers on her chin. He tilted up her face. Her lips parted in amazement as he held up the lantern to study her with a narrowed gaze.
"That's right. I thought... I thought you knew it was me when you first saw me," she said, even though it was clear he'd just now realized she was his father's girlfriend. She could read his expression in the dim light as easily as she could interpret hieroglyphics. She glanced down, made uneasy by his relentless stare. Mitchell had the manners of a prince. How could his son possibly be so rude...so rough?
"My father's girlfriend is Angeline Kastakis," he said in a deadpan voice. Her confusion amplified when his rock-like expression broke. White teeth flashed in his swarthy face. The abrupt alteration--the sheer power of his sudden smile--made her take a step back.
His brows rose at her show of wariness and he gave a sharp bark of laughter.
"He said you weren't his type."
Angeline froze. "What?"
His glittering eyes swept down over her body. "Not a petite little doll," he added, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Angeline couldn't believe his nerve...his meanness. "Are you trying to imply that Mitchell has been talking about me behind my back? To you?"
His expression went cold once again. "Don't worry, sweetheart. He said it four years ago. The old man's had plenty of time to change his mind and decide he likes 'em built like an Amazon. Come on. I'm gonna have a hell of a time keeping Daddy's girl warm for the next few days."