Daisy studied the older woman in a complete daze.
‘It’s all in the file. A financial consultant helped me to set it up. Not a penny of that money has ever been brought into this country or touched. It’s in a Swiss bank account,’ Janet explained. ‘But it’s there for you and Tara should you ever need it.’
‘Alessio was telling the truth?’ Daisy mumbled thickly.
Her aunt sighed. ‘His father came to see me while you were in hospital. He practically begged me to accept the money. He felt terrible about the way things had turned out—’
‘Like heck he did!’
Janet’s face set in stern lines. ‘Vittorio was sincere, Daisy. He said that you were miserable and Alessio was equally miserable and that he had felt forced to interfere—’
‘He couldn’t wait to interfere!’
‘I found it very hard not to tell him that he still had a grandchild on the way,’ the older woman confessed wryly. ‘But, just as his loyalties ultimately lay with his son, mine lay with you. I respected your wishes.’
‘But to take the money...’ Daisy was shattered by that revelation.
‘I still believe I made the most sensible decision. You were very young at the time. You needed financial security—’
‘I’ve managed fine all these years without Leopardi conscience money!’
‘But you mightn’t have done. A lot of things could have gone wrong,’ Janet pointed out. ‘And what about Tara? Don’t you think that she is entitled to have something from her father’s family?’
‘I’ll give it back!’ Daisy swore, too upset to listen.
‘Wait and ask your daughter how she feels about that when she’s eighteen. I doubt very much that Tara will feel as you feel now. She does, after all, have Leopardi blood in her veins—’
‘Do you think I don’t know that?’ Daisy asked defensively. ‘Tara knows exactly who she is—’
‘No, she knows who you want her to be. She’s insatiably curious about her father.’
Daisy was finding herself under a surprise attack from a woman she both respected and loved and it was a deeply disturbing experience. ‘Since when?’
‘The older she gets, the more often she mentions him. She talks about him to me. She won’t ask you about him because she doesn’t want to upset you.’
‘I have never ducked any of her questions. I’ve been totally honest with her.’
Janet grimaced. ‘It’s going to be very difficult for you but I think it’s time for you to tell Alessio that he has a daughter—’
‘Are you out of your mind?’ Daisy gasped, thunderstruck.
‘Some day Tara is likely to march into his office in the City and announce herself...and for her sake Alessio ought to be forewarned.’
‘I can’t believe you’re saying this to me.’
‘Do you intend to tell Tara that you met Alessio today?’
There was a sharp little sound from behind them. Both women jerked round. Tara was standing in the hall, wideeyed and apparently frozen to the spot by what she had overheard. Then she surged forward, her pretty face suddenly full of wild excitement. ‘You met my father... Mum, you were speaking to him? Really...genuinely...speaking to him? Did you tell him about me?’ she demanded, as if that revelation might have just popped out in casual conversation.
Daisy was stunned by Tara’s naked excitement, by the crucifying look of hope and expectation glowing in her eyes. She was being faced with a disorientatingly different side of the daughter she had believed she knew inside out. And, shorn of the world-weary teenage front, the innocence of the child had never shone through more clearly. Icy fingers clutched at Daisy’s heart. Janet had been right. Tara was desperate to be acknowledged by Alessio but she had carefully hidden that uncomfortable truth from her mother. Only this morning she had carelessly referred to her father as a ‘major creep’.
‘No... I’m afraid I didn’t,’ Daisy said woodenly, traumatised by what she had seen in her daughter’s face.
‘Your mother didn’t get the opportunity,’ Janet chipped in heavily.