‘Rubbish!’ But Daisy was convinced that even her toes were turning shocking pink and could not credit that she had gawped at him like that. How could she have? How could she have? Her face burned hotter than ever.
‘And you are walking a tightrope in that shirt. Tara is not in a bedroom next door. You have no safety net. When you fall...I’ll catch you.’
His narrowed gaze was a hot sliver of stark gold, semiconcealed by the lush crescent of his lashes. In the humming stillness, her fingers flew up to the pulse flickering madly at the base of her throat and pressed against it; she frowned as she tore her gaze free and finally registered that she was wearing one of his shirts.
‘Where did you sleep last night?’ Daisy demanded starkly.
‘In the dressing room...like a gentleman.’
Her brows knit as she pondered that admission. ‘Was there only one bedroom prepared for us?’
‘You haven’t buttoned my shirt up properly,’ Alessio murmured as if she hadn’t spoken, and that deep, low-pitched observation made her knees wobble. ‘Don’t worry about it. I have every intention of taking it off again.’
Her startled eyes whipped back up to his. ‘But we’re not going to do things like that!’ Daisy gasped.
‘You do have some very peculiar ideas about marriage, piccola mia.’
‘You only married me to get custody of Tara...it’s nothing more than a convenient arrangement!’
‘Convenient—available, ready-made, handy,’ Alessio defined softly, savouring the words, his brilliant golden eyes smouldering over her with unconcealed anticipation.
‘Forget it!’ Daisy said furiously, drawing herself up to her full five feet. ‘I am not a fast-food outlet...’
Alessio flashed her a megawatt smile of wolfish challenge. ‘And I am no celibate. I’m an unreconstructed, very old-fashioned guy. My wife shares my bed. That is not an issue up for negotiation today, tomorrow or any other day. You will not qualify for a separate bedroom should there be fifty guest rooms under the marital roof!’
DAISY was stunned by the sheer challenging cool of that brazen assurance. ‘You know that I won’t agree to that,’ she stated tightly.
Alessio elevated a winged ebony brow. ‘No?’
‘No. Sharing a bedroom or a bed is out of the question. And I’d like you to leave so that I can get dressed,’ Daisy informed him in speedy conclusion.
‘There’s the door. Use it,’ Daisy advised, tilting her chin. ‘This is not the average marriage. I was forced into it against my better judgement.’
‘But whichever way you look at it we’re still married. And without the passion this marriage hasn’t got a hope in hell. In fact right now it’s the only damned thing we’ve got going for us,’ Alessio returned very drily. ‘So why would you try to deny us that one positive element?’
Unprepared for that raw candour, Daisy lost every scrap of her animation and colour. In demanding a room of her own, she had only been trying to protect herself. She was terrified of putting herself in a position where Alessio could hurt her again. And she could not imagine making love with Alessio without an awful lot of vulnerable feelings becoming involved and putting her at risk.
‘I will not allow you to sabotage this marriage before it even gets a fighting chance,’ Alessio asserted with stark impatience. ‘Just for once in your life you are going to stand your ground and make a real effort.’
Daisy snatched in a shaky breath. ‘You have no right to speak to me like that.’
His starkly handsome features were set concrete-hard. Icy eyes held hers with an innate force of will. ‘It was a warning. No matter how bad things get, you are staying this time. We have Tara to think about now—’
‘And it was a miracle that I didn’t drop dead with shock when you attacked me last week!’ Alessio continued with raw emphasis, his lip curling at the memory. ‘It took you thirteen years to work up the courage to tell me why you walked out and you slung it all at me as if you were telling me things I already knew!’