‘We’ll discuss that tomorrow.’
‘But there’s nothing to discuss,’ Daisy returned flatly.
‘Don’t be silly.’
‘There isn’t!’ Stalking out of the bathroom, Daisy returned to the lounge and plonked herself down. Why was she now thinking that for the very first time Alessio had taken off her clothes and failed to make the smallest pass? she asked herself. Was there something wrong with her brain? Was she becoming obsessed with sex? He had been very impersonal about it, too, but teeth-clenchingly considerate. He had averted his attention from her naked body. Why had that only made her squirm more? Why did her ego suddenly feel as if it had been weekending in a concrete mixer?
‘Daisy...’ Alessio breathed tautly.
Daisy rigorously studied the wall to the left of him, and when he moved into that space found another section of wall. ‘If you’ve got something you feel you have to say, say it now and get it over with. I have no intention of making myself available tomorrow.’
‘Your towel’s slipping...’
Her cheeks burning, Daisy snatched the towel higher over the embarrassingly full thrust of her breasts. She fixed accusing violet eyes on him. ‘I want you to know that until this evening I truly believed that there was no sacrifice I would not make for my daughter’s benefit. But there is one. I would give her every last drop of blood in my body, but I would throw myself under a bus before I would marry her father again!’
‘You haven’t even taken time to consider the idea,’ Alessio returned very drily.
‘Time? You think I need time? Are you out of your mind?’ Daisy gasped with unhidden incredulity. ‘I couldn’t face being married to you again!’
A dark surge of blood had risen over Alessio’s savagely high cheekbones. He breathed in deep.
‘You always did have the sensitivity of a stone,’ Daisy condemned shakily, her temper suddenly engulfed by a violent tide of debilitating memory. Slowly she shook her silver head. ‘I would be a very wicked woman to deserve that much misery twice in one lifetime. Most people who sin have to die to go to hell but I got my punishment while I was still breathing.’
‘That is not very funny, Daisy.’
‘It wasn’t meant to be.’ Daisy stole a reluctant, fleeting glance at him.
Alessio was broodingly still, eyes of aristocratic ice fixed to her with chilling intensity. The temperature had dropped to freezing point.
‘I wasn’t trying to be rude. I was just being frank,’ she protested, intimidated more than she wanted to admit by the chill in the air but determined that he should realise that he had suggested an act of sheer insanity which it would be a complete waste of time to discuss in any greater depth. ‘I suppose you feel that if you’re willing to make a huge sacrifice for Tara I should be too... and that most women would take one look at you and your bank balance and flatten you in the rush to the altar... but—’
‘Not you,’ Alessio slotted in grittily.
‘Well, been there, done that... grateful to have got out alive,’ Daisy said helplessly.
As the heavy silence stretched unbearably, she suddenly scrambled up again. Walking out fast into the hall, she prayed that he would take the hint and leave without argument. ‘The next time you collect Tara, maybe you could just honk the horn... and I’d really appreciate it if you could keep any conversations you feel we must have to the phone—’
‘When you bolt from reality, piccola mia, you literally streak. And it is done with such a complete lack of shame, it takes my breath away,’ Alessio drawled with lethal emphasis.
Her face as hot as hell-fire, Daisy dragged open the front door. ‘Goodbye, Alessio.’
DAISY slammed the door, shot every bolt home and sagged, until she heard movement in Tara’s bedroom. Creeping into her own room, she dropped the towel, grabbed up her nightdress, hauled it over her head and dived at supersonic speed into bed.
The door creaked open. ‘Mum...?’
Daisy shut her eyes tight and played dead.
‘I won’t stay long...’ Tara promised, making Daisy feel a total heel. ‘I just can’t sleep.’