‘I wasn’t even curious to begin with,’ she lied.
‘Naturally I was curious. The last time I saw you before today you were five months pregnant and still my wife.’
Her facial muscles locked hard. ‘You didn’t want a wife.’
‘No, I have to confess that I didn’t. I doubt if you will find many teenage boys who do want to get married,’ Alessio responded grimly. ‘I was no more prepared for that commitment than you were...but I did attempt to deal with the situation—’
‘Yes, you were a real hero, weren’t you?’ Daisy broke in with a curling lip. ‘You did the honourable thing. You married me! Your mamma wept and your papà over-flowed with sympathy. Naturally no decent Italian girl would ever have got herself in such a condition!’
‘They were upset!’ Alessio growled.
‘Do you think I wasn’t upset? What do you think it was like for me, being treated like some brassy little slut who had set out to trap you?’ Daisy condemned painfully. ‘I wasn’t allowed out the door in case someone saw me! I used to have nightmares about giving birth and then being buried alive in the garden!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Alessio gritted fiercely.
‘You mean your mother didn’t share that little fantasy with you? She was hoping like hell that I would have the baby and then magically disappear, leaving the baby behind! She was always telling me that I was too young to cope with a child and how much she loved children...’ Daisy shuddered. ‘Talk about feeling threatened! Life with the Leopardis...it was like a Hammer horror movie!’
Scorching eyes landed on her in near-physical assault. ‘You are making me very angry.’
Daisy shrugged and compressed her generous mouth. ‘That’s how I remember you—angry. No such thing as forgiveness from a Leopardi.’
‘In the circumstances, I think I behaved reasonably well.’
Daisy treated him to a glance of naked contempt. ‘By making the immense sacrifice of marrying me? Don’t kid yourself, Alessio. You’d have done me a bigger favour had you dumped me and run the minute I told you I might be pregnant!’
‘What the hell do you have to be so bitter about?’ Alessio ground out, raking her with fiercely intent eyes. You walked out on me! And anyone listening to you would think it only happened last week!’
Daisy tried and failed to swallow. For an instant her confusion and dismay were openly etched on her fragile features and then she turned her head away and saw the familiar frontage of the estate agency with a sense of incredible relief. ‘Being civilised isn’t easy, is it?’ she conceded tightly.
‘I did love you,’ Alessio murmured, his intonation harsh.
As the passenger door beside her swung open, Daisy spun back to him, violet eyes bright with incredulous scorn. ‘Do you think I either want or need your lies now?’
‘Don’t let me keep you,’ Alessio drawled with heavy irony, shooting her a chilling look of antipathy.
The agency was closed. Of course it was. It was after one. Daisy kept on walking, tight and sick inside. This was the very worst day of her life, absolutely the very worst...seeing Alessio again, all those tearing, miserable memories fighting their way up to the surface of her mind and driving her crazy. Mere minutes away from him, she found that she couldn’t believe some of the things she had said to him. No wonder he had asked her why she was so hostile! Thirteen years on and still ranting as if the divorce had only become final yesterday!
Not that Alessio had reacted much better at first. But Alessio had got a grip on himself fast. Alessio had stayed in control. Scarcely a surprise, she allowed grudgingly. Alessio had prided himself on never losing control of his temper. For the entire three and a half months of their marriage he had therefore smouldered in a silence that was infinitely more accusing and threatening and debilitating than any mere loss of temper. He had held in all his emotions with rigid, terrifying discipline at a time when Daisy had been desperate for any shred of comfort, any hint of understanding, any crumb of forgiveness. And maybe that was why in the end she had grown to hate her memory of him...