‘But then I am accustomed to dealing with individuals with some small measure of concentration,’ Alessio added softly.
‘This has been a very traumatic week for me,’ Daisy muttered evasively.
‘Really?’ Alessio prompted dangerously, causing her anxious eyes to shoot back to his strong dark face.
‘How could it have been traumatic?’ Alessio thundered in sudden, seething frustration. ‘You’re on another bloody planet! You might be here in body but you’re certainly not here in spirit!’
Daisy reddened with discomfiture. ‘I just lost the thread of the conversation for a—’
‘What conversation?’ Alessio derided. ‘You’ve hardly opened your mouth since we got out of the lift! Barely a word has crossed your lips—’
‘I was listening,’ she protested.
‘No, you weren’t,’ Alessio gritted with a flash of strong white teeth. ‘Dio, how this takes me back! You avoid things that you don’t like.’
‘I didn’t get very far with you, did I?’
Daisy was thinking about the mountain of recriminations that had already come her way. Not a lot to talk about there that she could see. There had been her denial of his parental rights. Fact. Her acceptance of cash in return for him—what other people called a divorce settlement but still fact, since she was technically in possession of that cash. Then there had been the lust and anger bit, followed by the pain and bitterness bit, neither of which had impressed her as being the conversational opener of the year. Alessio took account of only his own feelings and Daisy had not been tempted to reveal what she had suffered in the aftermath of their marriage...
Agonies, sheer appalling agonies, she recalled strickenly. She had been like one of those dreadfully clingy vines suddenly torn loose from its only support. Without Alessio, her world had collapsed. Day and night had fused into a progression of endless, miserable hours. If they hadn’t kept on remorselessly shovelling food into her in the hospital she wouldn’t have survived to tell the tale. But that was not a tale she was about to tell him. Wasn’t it better that he should believe that she had cheerfully grabbed the money and run? Alessio thought she had departed with a big, brazen, gold-digging bang. Why share the news that she had been one very damp squib?
‘Daisy,’ Alessio murmured grittily.
But Daisy was still being crushed by the weight of her memories. She had even missed the silences—those volatile, terrifyingly moody silences which had driven her into doormat mode on the least said, soonest mended principle. And yet now she couldn’t shut him up, she thought in bewilderment. It was as if he had a mission to talk her to death. Couldn’t he understand that she had nothing more to say to him on the subject of remarriage? At least nothing that would not be conducive to further conflict... and Daisy did not like conflict, unless she already had an escape route worked out.
‘That’s it!’ Alessio enunciated with grim emphasis.
Daisy flinched as he thrust back his chair and sprang upright. ‘Can I go back to work now?’ she asked in a small and not very hopeful voice.
Alessio spread his lean brown hands wide in a frustrated arc. His smouldering golden gaze sizzled across the room and landed on her quailing figure like forked lightning. ‘No, you may not go back to work!’
‘There’s no need to shout—’
‘It’s shout or strangle you!’
Daisy stood up. ‘I was listening.’
‘How much did you take in?’
‘Were you expecting me to take notes?’ Daisy demanded defensively.
In the act of leaving the room, Alessio stopped dead, his broad shoulders rigid. The atmosphere was electric.
‘Hang on every word the way I used to?’ Daisy continued with unconcealed rancour.
‘Even then your mind wandered places I could never follow,’ Alessio acknowledged gruffly without turning his head. ‘We are very different people.’
For some peculiar reason that reminder distressed her, yet it was an undeniable truth. Alessio was an extrovert, but he didn’t show his emotions—not the private ones anyway—and he was always in control. Daisy was an introvert, but love had smashed her barriers and she had poured out on Alessio all the fierce emotion and affection that no one else had ever wanted from her. She had been dangerously out of control. Afterwards, she had promised herself that she would never bare herself to another human being like that again. And, with the single exception of her daughter, she had kept that promise.