Daisy’s soft mouth compressed and she tilted her chin. ‘This will be a marriage of convenience, right?’ she prompted snappishly.
‘Mutual convenience,’ Alessio agreed silkily. ‘What else?’
JANET and Tara chattered cheerfully the whole way to the register office. It was just as well. Daisy was not in a chatty mood. Her wedding day. Her second wedding day. She tried hard to concentrate on positive thoughts. She was not in love with Alessio, nor did she have any illusions about this marriage. Alessio had made no attempt to pretend that it would be anything more than a convenient arrangement for Tara’s benefit.
And Tara was ecstatic, Daisy reminded herself. Indeed her daughter had decided that her father was madly romantic and impetuous and that her mother was one incredibly lucky woman. But then Tara had been so absorbed in the end of the school term, packing for her French trip and contemplating the new life awaiting her in Italy on her return that she was currently suffering from a severe case of over-excitement.
Janet had remarked that Daisy had never been remarkable for her caution in Alessio’s radius. As a thought for the day, it had not been inspiring. And when her aunt had had the insensitivity to point out that, after all, she had always had this thing about Alessio and that it would be pointless to interfere when the two of them had always acted crazy around each other Daisy had almost choked on her sense of injustice.
This time around, she had withstood Alessio with the heroic self-denial of a chocaholic on a strict diet. When he had asked her to marry him again, it had been like a shot of aversion therapy. No blissful dream of drifting down the aisle to the tune of a heavenly chorus had afflicted her. She had felt ill, hadn’t she? She had not been tempted. But Alessio had employed blackmail. Alessio had defeated her only with cold-blooded threats and intimidation.
And Daisy had been truly shattered by that development. Now she asked herself why. All that inquisitive reading of the financial papers over the years had taught Daisy that Alessio was not a pussy-cat in the business world. Indeed, he was downright ruthless. In the world of international finance, the name of Leopardi was feared as much as it was respected. But the idealistic teenager whom Daisy remembered would never have sunk to using such brutal tactics in a personal relationship.
But then there was no personal relationship between them, Daisy acknowledged painfully. Before Alessio had learnt that she had his daughter, he had made it very clear that he wanted nothing more to do with his exwife. The sofa encounter had just been the knee-jerk response of an innately sexual predator. It had meant nothing. In fact, Alessio had been eager to believe that she was in his office to scrounge money, because he would have happily paid her to go away and lose herself again! So how could she feel anything but bitter and humiliated at the prospect of becoming his wife a second time?
‘You’re awfully quiet, Mum,’ Tara finally observed as Daisy clambered shakily out of the limousine which Alessio had sent to pick the three of them up.
‘Wedding-day nerves,’ Janet commented lightly.
Tara frowned at her mother. ‘I wish you hadn’t worn that black suit.’
‘It’s smart,’ Daisy muttered.
‘But you look like a pencil going to a funeral.’
A pencil, Daisy reflected wretchedly. She had barely eaten and slept for a week now and it showed. Alessio strolled towards them and her haunted eyes trailed over him in wondering disbelief. He exuded vibrant energy in surplus waves, his eyes diamond-bright, a brilliant smile curving his relaxed mouth. In an exquisitely tailored cream suit that accentuated his golden skin and black hair, he looked as if he had strayed off a Hollywood movie set. Daisy averted her attention again, menaced by the strength and resilience of the enemy.
‘As you can see, Mum is just overwhelmed,’ Tara burbled. ‘It’s nerves... not cold feet or anything like that!’
‘So you didn’t try to make a last-minute break for it through the bathroom window?’ Alessio murmured softly to Daisy.
Daisy sidled off one foot onto the other because, oddly enough, there had been an insane moment when Tara had been hammering on the door and telling her that the limo had arrived when she had considered using the fire escape. Alessio curved what felt like an imprisoning arm of steel round her slender back. Daisy went rigid. The scent of him so close flared her nostrils. Clean and warm and very male but, worst of all, agonisingly familiar. Her senses remembered him. In a pitch-dark room, she could have picked Alessio out of a hundred men. The knowledge absolutely terrified her.