A D'Angelo Like No Other

By: Carole Mortimer

                                      CHAPTER ONE

                Archangel gallery, Paris. Two days later

                ‘WHAT THE—?’ MICHAEL looked up to scowl his displeasure as he heard what sounded like a baby crying in the office opposite his own. He stood up quickly behind his desk as several voices now clamoured to be heard above the noise.

                The sound of raised voices, so close to the inner sanctum of Michael’s private third-floor office, was unusual enough, but a baby crying...? In one of the private areas of the prestigious Paris Archangel gallery and auction house? It was unheard of! And Michael had little patience for it having occurred now.

                He continued to scowl as he strode forcefully across his office to wrench open the door into the hallway, only to come to an abrupt halt, his verbal protest dying in his throat at the pandemonium that met his narrowed gaze.

                His secretary, Marie, was fiercely gabbling away in French, as was his assistant manager, Pierre Dupont. Both of them, as was usual with the French, communicating as much with their hands as with their mouths.

                And standing between them, holding a young baby in her arms, was a young girl—woman?—with ebony shoulder-length hair, dressed in the de rigueur tight denims and fitted T-shirt of her generation. Her top was a bright purple, the expression on her flustered face flushed as she ignored both Marie and Pierre and instead attempted to soothe and cajole the crying baby into silence.

                An attempt that failed miserably as the baby’s cries seemed to grow even louder.

                ‘Will you two please lower your voices?’ The young woman turned impatiently on Marie and Pierre, her voice throatily husky. ‘You’re scaring her. Now look what you’ve done...!’ she fumed as a second baby began to cry.

                Michael looked around dazedly for the source of that second cry, his eyes widening as he noticed the pushchair parked just inside Marie’s office. A double pushchair, in which a second baby was now screaming at the top of its considerable lungs.

                What the—?

                Pandemonium? This situation, whatever that might be, was like some sort of hellish nightmare, the sort every man wished—prayed!—to wake up from. And sooner rather than later!

                ‘Thank you,’ the disgruntled young woman muttered accusingly as Marie and Pierre both fell silent as she hurried over to the pushchair before going down on her haunches to coo and attempt to gently soothe the second baby.

                Michael had seen and heard enough. ‘Will someone, for the love of God, tell me what the hell is going on here?’ His voice cut harshly through the cacophony of noise.

                * * *


                Absolute blissful silence, Eva realised with a sigh of appreciation for her aching head, as not only the two employees of the Paris Archangel remained silent, but even the babies’ cries both quietened down to a soft whimper.

                Eva remained down on her haunches as she turned to look through sooty black lashes at the source of that harshly controlling voice, her eyes widening as she took in the appearance of the man standing across the hallway.

                He was possibly aged in his mid to late thirties, his short black hair was neatly trimmed about his ears and nape, and framed an olive-skinned and handsomely etched face that any of the male models Eva had photographed at the beginning of her career would surely die for. Dark brows arched above eyes of obsidian black, his nose a long straight slash between high cheekbones, with sculptured, slightly sensual lips above a firm and determined chin.

                His wide shoulders, muscled chest, tapered waist, and lean hips above long legs also ensured that he wore the expensively tailored dark suit, white silk shirt and grey tie, rather than the clothes wearing him.

                And leaving Eva in no doubt, along with the deference on the faces of the two silent gallery employees, and the fact that he had come from the office across the hallway, that this man had to be D’Angelo. The very man she had come here to see!

                It was a realisation that ensured there was absolutely no deference in Eva’s own expression as she straightened before crossing the room to thrust Sophie at him. ‘Take her so I can get Sam,’ she instructed impatiently as he made no effort to lift the baby from her arms but instead looked at her incredulously, down the long length of his aristocratic nose, with those black-on-black eyes.

                Michael found himself having to look a long way down. Goodness, this woman was small, only an inch or two over five feet tall compared to his own six feet three inches. She had a coltish slenderness that was saved from appearing boyish by full and thrusting breasts tipped by delicate nipples, breasts that were completely bare beneath the purple T-shirt, if Michael wasn’t mistaken. And he was pretty sure that he wasn’t.

                Those full breasts, along with the confident glint in those violet-coloured eyes surrounded by thick sooty lashes, were enough to tell Michael that she was indeed a woman rather than a girl, and possibly aged in her early to mid-twenties.

                She was also, he acknowledged grudgingly, extremely beautiful, her face dominated by those incredible violet-coloured eyes, a short pert nose, and full and sensuous lips, while her skin was as pale and delicate as the finest porcelain. Dark shadows beneath the violet eyes gave her an appearance of fragility.

                A fragility that was somewhat nullified by the stubborn set of the woman’s full lips above an equally determined and thrusting chin.

                Michael dragged his gaze away from that arrestingly beautiful face to instead stare down in horror at the pink-dress-clad baby this young woman held out in front of him; horror, because he had absolutely no experience with holding young babies. How could he have, when he had never been this close to a small baby since being one himself?

                He recoiled back from the now-drooling infant. ‘I don’t think—’

                ‘I’ve found that it’s best not to think too much around Sophie and Sam, especially now they’re teething,’ he was assured dryly. ‘You might want to put this on your shoulder to protect your jacket.’

                The woman handed him a square of white linen as she dumped the baby unceremoniously into his arms before turning to stride back across the office, giving Michael a perfect view of her curvaceous denim-covered bottom as she bent down to unclip the strap that secured the second, still-whimpering baby into the pushchair.

                Michael held the first baby—Sophie?—at arm’s length, totally at a loss as to what to do with her, and more than a little disconcerted to find himself the focus of eyes the same beautiful deep violet colour as her mother’s. A steady and intense focus that seemed far too knowing, almost mocking it seemed to him, for a baby of surely only a few months old.

                Eva lifted Sam up out of the pushchair as she straightened, more than a little annoyed that the two gabbling Archangel employees had woken the babies up at all; it had taken the whole of the walk from the hotel to the gallery to lull them into falling asleep in the first place, after a disjointed night of one or other of the twins—and consequently Eva—being woken up with teething pains.

                As a result both Eva and the babies were feeling a little disgruntled this morning. Which didn’t prevent her from almost laughing out loud as she turned to find D’Angelo was still holding Sophie with both arms straight out in front of him, a look of absolute horror on his face, as if the baby were a time bomb about to go off!

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