Kiss an AngelBy: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Daisy Devreaux had forgotten her bridegroom’s name.
“I, Theodosia, take thee . . .”
She caught her bottom lip between her teeth. Her father had introduced them several days ago, that terrible morning the three of them had gone to get the marriage license, and she’d heard the name then. Right afterward the man had disappeared, and she hadn’t seen him again until a few minutes ago when she’d walked down the staircase of her father’s Central Park West duplex into the living room where this makeshift midmorning wedding ceremony was taking place.
Her father stood behind her, and Daisy could almost feel him vibrating with disapproval, but his disapproval was nothing new. He’d been disappointed with her even before she was born, and no matter how hard she’d tried, she’d never been able to get him to change his mind.
She risked a sideways peek at this bridegroom her father’s money had bought for her. A studmuffin. A very scary studmuffin with his towering height, lean, whipcord build, and those eerie amber eyes. Her mother would have loved him.
When Lani Devreaux had died in a yacht fire last year, she’d been in the arms of a twenty-four-year-old rock star. Daisy had finally reached the point where she could think about her mother without pain, and she smiled to herself as she realized that the man standing at her side would have been too old for her mother. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, and Lani had usually drawn the line at twenty-nine.
His hair was so dark it was nearly black, and those chiseled features might have made his face too pretty if it weren’t for his strong jaw, not to mention that intimidating scowl. Men with such brutal good looks had appealed to Lani, but Daisy preferred older, more conservative types. Not for the first time since the ceremony had begun did she wish her father had picked someone less intimidating.
She tried to steady her nerves by reminding herself that she wasn’t going to have to spend more than a few hours in her new husband’s company. As soon as she had a chance to tell him her plan, this would all be over. Unfortunately, her plan also meant breaking the sacred marriage vows she was getting ready to take, and since she wasn’t the sort of person who could take a vow lightly—especially a marriage vow—she suspected her guilty conscience had induced the memory block.
She started over again, hoping the name would poke through her mental barrier. “I, Theodosia, take thee . . .” Once again her voice trailed off.
Her bridegroom didn’t even spare her a glance, let alone try to help her. He stared straight ahead, and the uncompromising lines of that hard profile made her skin prickle. He’d just spoken his own vows, so he must have mentioned his name, but the lack of inflection in his voice had escalated her emotional tailspin, and she hadn’t taken it in.
“Alexander,” her father spit out from behind her, and Daisy could tell by the sound of his voice that he was clenching his teeth again. For a man who had been one of the United States’ foremost diplomats, he certainly didn’t have much patience with her.
She dug her nails into her palms and told herself she had no choice. “I, Theodosia . . .” She gulped for air. “. . . take thee Alexander . . .” She gulped again. “. . . to be my awful wedded husband . . .”
It wasn’t until she heard her stepmother, Amelia, gasp that she realized what she’d said.
The studmuffin turned his head and looked down at her. He cocked one dark brow in a vaguely inquisitive fashion, as if he wasn’t certain he’d heard her correctly. My awful wedded husband. Her sense of humor kicked in, and she felt the corners of her mouth quiver.
His brows slammed together and those deep-set eyes regarded her without a speck of amusement. Obviously the studmuffin didn’t share her problem with inappropriate levity.
Swallowing the small bubble of hysteria that was rising inside her, she plunged on without correcting herself. At least that one part of her vows would be honest because he was certainly an awful husband for her. At that moment her mental block finally evaporated and his last name leaped into her mind. Markov. Alexander Markov. He was another of her father’s Russians.
As a former ambassador to the Soviet union , her father, Max Petroff, had close ties with the Russian community, both here and abroad. His passion for his ancestral homeland was even reflected in the decor of the room where they stood, with its bold blue walls, so common in that country’s residential architecture; yellow-tiled stove; and multicolored kilim rug. To her left, a walnut cabinet held vases of Russian cobalt as well as crystal and porcelain pieces from the Imperial Works in St. Petersburg. The furniture was a mixture of art deco and eighteenth century that somehow worked.