Tara’s face shuttered as if she realised how much she had betrayed and then raw resentment flared in her painfilled eyes. ‘Just because he didn’t want you doesn’t mean he mightn’t want to know me!’ she condemned with a choked sob.
Daisy went white. Her daughter stared at her in appalled silence and then took off. The kitchen door slammed on her hurtling exit.
‘Lord, all I’ve ever done,’ Daisy whispered wretchedly, ‘is try to protect her from being hurt.’
‘As you were?’ Janet squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. ‘Doesn’t it ever occur to you that Alessio could ave changed as much as you have? That the teenager who couldn’t cope with the prospect of fatherhood is now an adult male of thirty-two? Are you telling me that he couldn’t scrape through a single meeting with Tara? That could well be enough to satisfy her and if he won’t even agree to that...well, Tara will have to accept it. You can’t protect her by avoiding the issue.’
‘I guess not...’ Daisy’s shaken voice trailed away altogether.
Two sleepless nights had done nothing to,improve Daisy’s outlook on life. All she could think about as she walked into the Leopardi Merchant Bank was that in the space of one morning Alessio had brought her whole world down round her ears. And the pieces were still falling. Tara was still very upset about what she had flung at her mother in her distress. Quick-tempered and passionate, Tara was also fiercely loyal and protective. Nothing Daisy had so far said had eased her daughter’s regret at having hurled those angry, hurtful words.
So why were you hurt? Daisy was still asking herself. There had to be something wrong with her that she could still flinch from the reminder of Alessio’s rejection this long after the event. And how could she have been so blind to her daughter’s very real need to know that her father had at least been made aware of her existence? Had Tara even thought of what might come next? Had she some naive fantasy of Alessio welcoming her with open arms and delight?
Or was that her own prejudice and pessimism talking again? But Daisy could only remember Alessio’s distaste when she’d been pregnant, his indifference to her need for him when she had miscarried. That had been the final bitter blow that had driven Daisy away.
Was there the remotest possibility that a male that selfish could respond in an appropriate manner to a painfully vulnerable teenage daughter whom he had never wanted in the first place? Daisy acknowledged that she had known what she was doing when she’d kept quiet about Tara’s existence. The risk of exposing her child to the same rejection that she herself had experienced had been too great.
Daisy got out of the lift on the top floor. If she had thought Giles’s office was the last word in luxury, she was now learning her mistake. The sleek smoked-glass edifice which housed the Leopardi Merchant Bank was stunningly elegant in its contemporary decor. There were two women in the reception area. The older one moved forward. ‘Miss Thornton? I’m Mr Leopardi’s secretary. Could you come this way, please...?’
Daisy reddened. Alessio’s secretary wore a marked look of strain—possibly the result of Daisy’s steadfast determination not to be refused an appointment. Alessio was undoubtedly furious. After all, he had made it very clear that he did not wish to see her again. However, she didn’t know where he lived so she had had no choice but to approach him at the bank.
Her heart pounding at the foot of her throat and reverberating in her eardrums, she walked dizzily into Alessio’s office, a great big room with a great big glass desk and...Alessio standing there, suppressed dark fury and rigid restraint emanating from every lean, poised line of his tall, muscular body.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ he demanded with icy precision.
Her head swam, her knees wobbled. She opened her mouth and closed it again. A quite sickening wave of dizziness overwhelmed her and the next thing she knew the blackness was folding in and her legs were crumpling beneath her.
DAISY surfaced from her faint very slowly. She focused on Alessio’s dark features as he swam gradually into focus, and a dazed smile curved her soft mouth. He was cradling her in his arms, her slight body still limp, her head resting back against his forearm. It felt wonderful. Her violet eyes dreamy, she looked up at him...and melted, a honeyed languor stealing through her as she shifted and curled her toes in wanton anticipation.