‘I assumed you would have returned to the agency,’ he admitted on the pavement outside.
‘My boss definitely wouldn’t have liked that. Have you any queries?’ Daisy prompted stiffly, ignoring the chauffeur, who had the door of the limousine open in readiness.
‘Yes...were you sitting in that hall the entire time I was looking round the house?’
‘No, I was swinging off the chandelier for light amusement! What do you think I was doing?’
‘If I had known you were waiting, I wouldn’t have spent so much time with the Raschids. Did you even get a cup of coffee?’
Daisy’s head was pounding. She was at the end of her rope. ‘Are you trying to tell me that you care?’ she derided. ‘One minute you’re calling me a—Alessio!’ she gasped incredulously as he dropped two determined hands to her tiny waist, swept her very efficiently off her feet and deposited her at supersonic speed in the limousine. ‘Why the heck did you do that?’ she demanded breathlessly as he swung in beside her.
‘If we’re about to have another argument, I prefer to stage it in privacy,’ Alessio imparted drily. In the time he had been away from her, he had reinstated the kind of steely control that mocked her own turbulent confusion.
‘Look, I don’t want another argument. I only want to go home.’
‘I’ll take you there.’
Daisy froze. ‘No, thanks.’
‘Then I’ll drop you back at the agency. It’s on my route.’
‘You’re being all polite now,’ she muttered, and it infuriated her that she sounded childish.
‘We both overreacted earlier.’ Shrewd, dauntingly dispassionate eyes rested on her hot cheeks. ‘I’m prepared to admit that I threw the first stone. Calling you a greedy bitch for accepting a settlement on our divorce was inexcusable. You were entitled to that settlement. Unfortunately, after a very few minutes in your company, I regressed to being nineteen again. But I can’t see why it has to continue like that. Thirteen years is a very long time.’
So why all of a sudden did it feel like the fast blink of an eyelid to her? Yet she had only to look at Alessio to know how much time had passed. He no longer smouldered like a volatile volcano. Alessio now had the ability to turn freezingly cool and civil. She moistened her dry lips. ‘If you’re interested in the house, you won’t have to deal with me again. I was standing in for someone else today.’
‘And you’re not a great saleswoman around me.’
‘I don’t even know what kind of property you’re looking for.’
‘You didn’t ask.’
‘Not much point in asking now.’ Daisy sat on the edge of the seat in the corner furthest away from him.
An uncomfortable silence followed.
‘I wasn’t lying when I said that I still find you attractive,’ Alessio breathed grimly.
Daisy tensed, her head high, her neck aching with the stress of the position.
‘Nor was I trying to put you down,’ Alessio drawled with an audible edge of distaste. ‘But some lustful urges are better suppressed.’
A lustful urge? In her mind’s eye, she pictured a sleek wolf circling a dumb sheep. And with shrinking reluctance she recalled her own response to Alessio’s sexual taunting in the car earlier. Thinking about that response devastated her. For a few terrifying seconds Alessio had somehow made her want him again. And, worst of all, Alessio knew what he had achieved. He had resurrected an intense sexual awareness that was stronger than anything she had ever expected to feel again and she hated him for doing that—hated him for forcing her to accept that he could still have that power over her.
But then mightn’t her own wanton excitement have been an echo from the past? she reasoned frantically with herself. But yes, Alessio was right on one count—you never forgot your first love, most especially not when the relationship had ended in raw pain and disillusionment.
‘I think it’s wise that we don’t see each other again,’ Alessio said quietly. ‘I have to admit that I was curious but my curiosity is now satisfied.’
A painful tide of heat climbed slowly up Daisy’s slender throat. Dear heaven, he was actually warning her off! Concerned lest that confession of animal lust should have roused fresh expectations in her greedy, gold-digging little heart, he was smoothly striving to kill off any ambitious ideas she might be developing. So cold, so controlled, so unapologetically superior... Her teeth gritted. How could Alessio talk to her like this? Did he think he was irresistible? Did he fondly imagine that she was likely to chase after him and make a nuisance of herself?