‘I think I’m ahead of you there.’ Alessio surveyed her with innate cynicism, his lip curling. ‘You’re broke, aren’t you? You’re in debt.’
‘I don’t know where you get that idea.’ But Daisy turned a guilty pink, unable to avoid thinking about that Swiss bank account filled with Leopardi money. Not just filled but positively bursting at the seams with Leopardi money, the original investment having grown greatly in the intervening years, according to Janet.
Alessio settled down on the matching leather sofa opposite. He looked incredibly formidable to her evasive eyes. He was wearing a superbly tailored navy pinstriped suit and a red silk tie. The expensive fabric skimmed wide shoulders and delineated long, powerful thighs. Hurriedly she tore her gaze from him but he stayed there in her mind’s eye. So achingly handsome, from the top of his smooth, darkly beautiful head to the soles of his equally beautiful shoes. Her throat closed over. Her mind was a complete blank. Why couldn’t he have started losing some of his hair or developed a bit of a businessman’s paunch?
‘Daisy, my time is at a premium. Since you forced this meeting by giving my secretary no opportunity to deny your demand, I had to cancel an important appointment to free a space for you—’
‘A space on the sofa?’ she bit out between gritted teeth.
‘At this moment, I think the less said about that development the better.’
Bitter resentment tensed Daisy. Alessio... all heat and passion one moment, polar ice the next. Daisy had never had his trick of switching off, had never been able to understand how he could make mad, passionate love to her in the night and then turn away from her when she tried to talk. When her emotions were involved, she wore everything on the surface, could not hold her feelings back. But Alessio locked everything away and kept a ferociously tight hold on the key.
‘To be frank, I’m not surprised that you have financial problems,’ Alessio imparted coolly. ‘I imagine the divorce settlement went a long time ago—’
‘And why do you imagine that?’
‘At that age you would have had no idea how to handle that amount of money. But I’m relieved that you are finally acknowledging that you did receive that settlement,’ he drawled. ‘It was very naive of you to assume that I wouldn’t know about it and that you could afford to lie.’
‘I wasn’t lying.’
‘Being inventive with the truth...again?’ Alessio asked very drily.
Daisy went pale and involuntarily glanced up, connecting with brilliant eyes alive with derision. ‘I only ever told you one lie...only one. I let you think I was at university when I wasn’t. You never actually asked me what age I was—’
‘Semantics,’ Alessio dismissed, unimpressed and not one whit more yielding or forgiving on the point than he had been in the past. ‘I also thought we had reached an agreement, Daisy. The past is off limits. Let’s strive to keep the temperature down. Perhaps I should speed up matters by admitting that because we were once married I do still feel some sense of responsibility towards you.’
Daisy stiffened and bridled. ‘I don’t want you feeling responsible for me and I am not here to ask you for a loan. But, while we’re on the subject, let me assure you that I would die of starvation before I would ask you for help!’
‘Then exactly what are you doing here?’ Alessio enquired.
Daisy breathed in deep and dug into her slim handbag to extract a copy of Tara’s birth certificate and a small photograph. Her slender hands were trembling, her stomach knotting up. She gripped the certificate. ‘This is going to come as a big shock to you, Alessio...but I’m afraid that there isn’t any easy way to do this—’
‘Do what?’ he broke in impatiently.
Daisy stood up on wobbly legs, her heart thumping as if she were tied to the rails in front of an express train. ‘I think I’ll just leave these with you and then maybe I could ring you tomorrow and see how you feel.’
Alessio had already vaulted upright. His dark features were taut. ‘What the hell are you talking about?’
‘After we split up, I discovered that I had been expecting twins... and although I had lost o-one of them,’ Daisy stammered, a trickle of nervous perspiration running down between her breasts below her blouse, ‘I didn’t lose the other.’