‘You don’t know me. If you’re the new owner of Elite Estates, it’s got nothing to do with me!’ Casting aside the document, Daisy turned her back on him, her stomach twisting. She was reeling with shock but struggling desperately hard to hide it.
‘Daisy, you couldn’t sleep knowing that you were responsible for one person losing their job.’
Daisy flinched from that confident assurance, inwardly counting up the ten other people who formed the agency staff. In recent times, many estate agencies had cut back on employees. It would be very difficult, if not impossible for some of her colleagues to find work elsewhere. Four of the men had families to support. One woman was a single parent like herself, another had a husband who had recently lost his own job. The sudden loss of their pay cheques and their security would devastate all their lives.
‘Daisy...you feed stray animals. You weep over soppy movies. You worry that plants feel pain,’ Alessio enumerated softly. ‘That bleeding-heart sensitivity may not have extended to me thirteen years ago but you are definitely not one of the world’s most ruthless women.’
‘I hate you,’ Daisy mumbled strickenly, her slight shoulders rigid with strain.
‘You hate spiders...but have you ever stepped on one?’
‘Don’t be snide.’
‘I was being realistic on your behalf.’
‘I am a very realistic person but I never, ever thought that you would do anything like this,’ Daisy confessed chokily. ‘I always thought that aside from all the flaws you couldn’t help or were just born with...well, that you did at least try to be a basically decent human being...and even if you weren’t very good at it at least the trying had to count for something. To find out that you’re not even trying any more...Well, words just fail me...’
They appeared to fail Alessio as well because the silence stretched and thrummed for enervating and endless seconds. Then a strangled little hiss of air escaped him and all of a sudden he went off into a bout of coughing.
‘I hope you choke,’ Daisy said thinly while she toyed wildly with the idea of telling Tara about his threat. Her daughter would be appalled. Didn’t Alessio appreciate that? If Daisy talked, Tara’s trust in her father would be destroyed. But such an act would damage and hurt her daughter most of all, wouldn’t it? Tara had so many hopes and expectations already centred on Alessio. Acknowledging defeat, Daisy sagged like a beaten but bitterly resentful rag doll down into an armchair.
Alessio swung back to her.
‘I’ll marry you,’ she whispered jerkily. ‘But I want you to know that you are making a very big mistake.’
Alessio was very still, not a muscle moving in his darkly handsome face. ‘I don’t think so.’
‘We will be utterly miserable together,’ Daisy forecast.
‘That’s a risk I’m prepared to take.’
‘Tara will be miserable too,’ Daisy stressed.
‘Not if I have anything to do with it.’
‘She just won’t believe that we’re getting married again this fast.’
‘No?’ Alessio queried silkily. ‘I wonder who it was who first filled her head with all that stuff about Romeo and Juliet?’
Daisy flinched and looked hunted.
‘Because, oddly enough, she’s a very practical girl,’ Alessio continued smoothly. ‘I wouldn’t have said that she had a natural bent for throbbing melodrama. None of my family have. In fact the only person I have ever known who could turn a broken cup into a stirring six-act tragedy is—’
‘So we’re getting married on Saturday, are we?’ Daisy broke in feverishly fast.
‘But we’ll still be lagging a long way behind the example set by Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers.’ Alessio contrived to look simultaneously soulful and sardonic. ‘They got hitched within twenty-four hours.’
Two spots of scarlet now burned over Daisy’s cheekbones. ‘I wouldn’t know. I’ve never read Romeo and Juliet,’ she said, crossing two sets of fingers the way she always did when she lied.
‘I’m reading it line by line. So far, it has been a most enlightening experience.’