Page 56 of Second Time Bride

‘And the sound of your silence will not get us anywhere fast!’ Alessio bit out.

Daisy cleared her throat awkwardly but Alessio had already vanished into the bathroom. In an abrupt movement, she yanked up two pillows and placed them carefully in a defensive line down the centre of the bed.

Alessio hit the mattress and the barrier simultaneously. He sat up again and vented an expletive in Italian. ‘Sometimes you are so bloody childish...’

‘It is not childish of me to believe that our relationship will work best if we sleep apart,’ Daisy protested shakily. ‘And, by the way, I am not greedy and grasping and I never was!’

An expectant hush fell.

‘Is that the end of this astonishing rush of confidence?’ Alessio probed drily.

Colouring with annoyance, Daisy breathed in deep and forced herself onward, telling herself that it would be very much to her advantage to embarrass him with the truth. She tilted her chin. ‘Your father persuaded Janet to accept that settlement on my behalf. She put it in a Swiss bank account and she didn’t tell me it was there until last week.’

‘Madre di Dio...’ Alessio breathed in a shaken surge of comprehension, his deep voice fracturing. A split second later he attempted to breach the pillows but Daisy was ready for that eventuality.

She rolled out of bed and took up a defensive stance. ‘So you can stop calling me greedy, and I don’t need your credit cards or your lousy allowance because that settlement would keep Tara and me in comfort for the rest of our days!’

‘You weren’t lying when you said you didn’t take a penny when you divorced me...’ Spiky black lashes swept up to reveal shrewd, questioning eyes of gold as he surveyed her with intense interest and none of the embarrassment she had expected. ‘So at what stage did you decide that you preferred me to think that you were greedy and grasping? What were you trying to cover up?’

Chagrined pink flooded Daisy’s small face. The speed with which Alessio could assimilate new information and dissect it horrified her. ‘I...I—’

‘Then you genuinely did think that you were doing me a favour by divorcing me and keeping quiet about Tara,’ Alessio reflected out loud. ‘Daisy the martyr—now that does have a far more convincing ring of reality. You let my father bully you into the divorce, didn’t you?’ He drove a not quite steady hand through his luxuriant black hair and looked heavenwards, his strong jawline set fiercely hard.

The silence grew and lingered until her tension seemed to scream beneath its weight.

‘Daisy... were you still in love with me when you divorced me?’ Alessio enquired in a tone of the utmost casualness.

The silence was like the clash of cymbals in Daisy’s ears. She was appalled. One little thing, just one little thing she had confessed, and within the space of a minute he was sprinting for the finishing line.

‘Gosh, I’m so tired,’ she mumbled round a fake yawn, desperate fingers splayed to conceal her hot, discomfited face.

‘Come back to bed,’ Alessio purred in husky invitation. ‘I’ll wake you up fast.’

Involuntarily, Daisy hovered, violet eyes wide, a vulnerable prey to the lure of him. She thought of his hands on her body and a shiver of raw excitement coursed through her. A hungry need that she could not withstand held her fast. Why not give him the chance to prove that his way could work? an insidious voice murmured in the back of her mind.

‘I won’t risk another pregnancy,’ Alessio imparted with measured emphasis. ‘Is that what is worrying you? I don’t want another child.’

And instantly that voice in Daisy’s mind was silenced. A curious pain stabbed through her in its wake. Surely more children should at least have been a possibility in the normal marriage which Alessio had said he wanted? Yet he’d cooly dismissed the idea of extending the family before it could even arise.

In an abrupt movement, her every suspicion as to his marital intentions reawakened, Daisy grabbed at the light quilt lying at the foot of the bed. Beneath Alessio’s utterly incredulous gaze, she wrapped herself within its folds and curled up in a comfortable armchair.