Authors: Ann Nicole
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Maria saw him coming towards her in the restaurant and experienced an
instinctive wave of panic. She recognized him, of course. Joshua Hamilton was
the city's most eligible bachelor, frequently featured in the society column of
the papers, a beautiful model or starlet practically draped over him. Lately
though, he was more frequently seen solo than with his usual arm candy.
ever want with me, she thought.
Yet he was making his way purposefully towards her. She swiveled quickly to
face the bartender and ordered a scotch, straight up.
“Fancy meeting you here, Angel,” she heard him say softly beside her.
That voice could melt steel, she mused. It flowed over her like honey.
Calm yourself, she warned her jangling nerves, he can't help how he speaks. For
God's sake, don't act like a
Maria turned to face him with a studied indifference she silently
congratulated herself on. “Sorry,” she said with a half-smile, “you seem to
have mistaken me for someone else.” She saw his brows rise in surprise as she
turned away. She accepted her drink from the bartender
“I don't think so, Angel. You're exactly the person I've been searching
for the last six months.” His eyes were focused on the drink in her hand and
she felt ashamed that she had let him unsettle her so much that she – surely
the world’s last teetotaler - would forget her values yet again.
She turned to face him with a polite smile mixed with the beginning of
irritation. “I've never seen you before in my life. How could I be the one
you're looking for? And before you ask, no, I don't have an identical twin
named ... Angela?”
“Angel,” he corrected. He studied her and it was all Maria could do to
bear his scrutiny calmly. It was when he looked into her eyes as if seeking out
her secret thoughts, that Maria understood that this Angel would have a hard
time escaping him if he ever found her.
At last he seemed satisfied that he had made a mistake. He mumbled an
apology but stayed rooted beside her. He was silent for a long moment and she
realized that he was staring at her as she downed her drink. Her expression of
distaste as the fiery scotch burned a path to her stomach seemed to satisfy
him. A faint grin ghosted across his lips. She felt the walls closing in on her
and wondered why she should feel so unsure of herself with this man she hardly
Divine help came in the form of the waiter who came to escort her to her
solitary table. She forced herself to walk calmly toward her table and sit down
primly. Her waiter took her order and left. One second she looked away and that
was all the time it took for Joshua Hamilton to materialize at her table. This
time her smile held more irritation than politeness.
“I'm sorry to bother you Miss. My name is Joshua Hamilton. May I join
you?” He didn't wait for her to reply before seating himself opposite her.
“Let me pay for your dinner to make up for my intrusion into your
personal space back there.” Apparently he did not see the irony. He brushed off
her attempt to tell him not to bother. “Really, I insist. It's the least I can
you have nothing to fear from me. Any
waiter here can vouch for me.”
in him that she
knew could not be shaken. He intended to speak to her and one way or another,
he'd get his way. She did not doubt that he would eventually find his Angel. He
would not give up until he found her.
She gave in to a force of will greater than her own.
You can buy my dinner
since it seems that's the only way I'm gonna get rid of you.” His laugh said he
did not take offense.
“That's the first thing I noticed about Angel. She's never shy about
airing her feelings. The tongue-lashing that lady put on me the first day I met
her still makes me squirm.” He looked at her deliberately. “You look just like
“Look Mr. Hamilton,” she began agitatedly. “Am I going to be subjected
to a non-stop commentary about your Angel for the remainder of this evening? I
came here to enjoy a quiet dinner.”
Of course not.
It's just that Angel
and I, we clicked. I never met anyone like her before.
you here of all places brought it all back.
Made me realize how much I
“That's all very interesting,
“Call me Joshua, Angel.”
your Angel!” Maria fought to control her rising anger.
She scoffed, “And it seems that
Angel either. Left
you, didn't she?”
A deep sadness crossed Joshua's face.
“Yes,” he said, “yes, she did. We spent the night together and when I
woke up she was gone. I've spent the last six months trying to find her.”
Maria was annoyed with herself for feeling sympathy for this man who probably
just wanted another roll in the hay with Angel. Get real, she told herself. He
could have anyone he wants.
She added cruelly, “Maybe Angel doesn't want to be found.”
She saw him flinch, and she felt no joy at his obvious pain.
“I have to find her. I just have to.”
“Why is finding her so important, Joshua?”
“I have to know why she left. Was it something I did? Did I scare her
off? It's been driving me crazy!”
The cruel imp in her could not resist needling him. “Maybe she got what
she wanted. You're an attractive man. Maybe all she wanted was sex.”
Storm clouds started to gather in his chocolate eyes. He visibly reined
in his anger and Maria was fascinated by his supreme self-control.
“Angel's not like that. She cares for me.”
The imp would not be tamed. “How do you know that for sure? How long did
you know her?”
He sighed and answered softly, “It was our first date.”
Maria laughed caustically. “You work fast,
Hamilton. Your Angel must be an easy lay.”
This time he did not conceal his outrage at her impudence. “Don't you
dare speak about her like
What do you know of
her?” He seemed to have to reach deep to gather his self-control. “Angel's
sweet and innocent. She was a virgin that night. That's why I have to find
“You're afraid she's pregnant?”
“Not really, we used protection. I'm more worried that she's beating up
on herself. She’s a good Christian woman and I know she feels guilty about
having sex with a man she’s not married to. What’s even worse is she probably
thinks that she was just a conquest to me.
Another notch on
“Can't say I blame her.
You look like you've got a few of those.”
His regard held supreme annoyance. “I'm no saint and I never pretended
to be. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, but I asked God to forgive me for my
sins, and with His help I try to be better every day.”
“You don’t strike me as a praying man.”
“Perhaps I wasn’t before, but trust me, I am now. Angel is everything I
ever wanted and prayed for in a woman. I couldn't believe my luck when I met
her. It was like God made her just for me. And I know she felt the same way.
We’re meant for each other.”
“I think you're deluding yourself.”
He stared at her and made no effort to mask his feelings. Maria felt the
force of those emotions like a kick to the gut. She could not doubt his
sincerity. What was it about his Angel that could bring such a strong man to
his knees? She wondered if she possessed Angel's power to bewitch.
His next words brought her back to the present. “I know Angel loves me.
She left me because she felt she betrayed her faith. She thought that she was
making a fool of herself. I screwed up. I should have told her how I felt but I
didn't want to scare her. Instead, my silence made her run away. I have to find
her. I have to tell her.”
Maria felt everything in her stand still. “Tell her what, Joshua?” she
Joshua looked into her eyes and spoke with deep conviction. “I want to
tell her that I love her.
We were wrong to go
to bed before getting married, but God will forgive us if we ask Him. We can
start again and do things the right way this time. I want my Angel to know that
meeting her, loving her is the best thing to ever happen to me this side of
heaven. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'd give her everything,
anything, if only she'd come back to me and let me love her.”
She heard him stand up. “I'm sorry to have bothered you. You must think
I'm crazy going on about a woman who left me. But seeing you here of all
.... You see, I always believed that when Angel was
ready to come back to me, she'd come here. It was where we had our first date.”
Maria gasped but did not look up.
“I'll leave you to eat your dinner in peace. I'm sure they'll bring your
order very soon.”
She could not let him leave. She grabbed his hand quickly.
“Please stay. Join me.” She looked up and he saw the tears streaming
down her face.
“You're sure?” he asked and she nodded.
He smiled slightly and wiped her tears with his free hand. “I've been
spilling out my guts to you and I don't even know who you are. Please, Miss,
tell me your name?”
She took a cleansing breath and spoke clearly.
“My name is Maria.”
She saw a terrible pain cross his features. He turned to leave but she
held him fast.
“Maria Angel Cortez.”
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