She wasn’t about to tell him that he was still gorgeous. Even as a teenager he had known that and had shamelessly utilised that spectacular combination of smouldering dark good looks and animal sex appeal to his own advantage. He had used it on Daisy—dug his own grave, really, when she thought about it. She had been agonisingly naive and had fallen like a ton of bricks for him, defenceless against that polished seduction routine of his.
‘You’re still full of yourself,’ Daisy told him helplessly.
A faint darkening of colour accentuated the slant of his chiselled cheekbones, his tawny eyes flaring with momentary disconcertion.
She loosed a sudden laugh, sharp in its lack of humour. ‘But then why shouldn’t you be?’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘I think it means that you should get me out of this car before I say something we both regret,’ Daisy admitted tightly, feeling all the volatile emotions she had buried so long ago rising up inside her without warning.
Alessio slung her a knowing look redolent of a male who knew women and prided himself on the fact. ‘You never forget your first love.’
‘Or what a bastard he was...’ The assurance was out before Daisy could stop it.
Alessio’s long, lithe frame tensed—a reaction which gave her a quite extraordinary surge of satisfaction. Shimmering eyes lanced into her with stark incredulity. ‘How can you say that to me?’
‘Because being married to you was the worst experience of my life,’ Daisy informed him, throwing her head high.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘And, believe me, I didn’t require a financial bribe to persuade me into a quick exit! You were domineering, selfish and completely insensitive to what I was going through,’ Daisy condemned in a shaking voice that steadily crept up in volume in spite of her attempt to control it. ‘You left me at the mercy of your totally monstrous family and allowed them to treat me like dirt! You stopped talking to me but that did not stop you using my body whenever you felt like it!’
Alessio was transfixed. There was no other word for his reaction. The Daisy he had married would never have criticised him. In those days, Daisy had crept around being quiet and apologetic while silently, miserably adoring him, no matter what treatment he handed out. Alessio had accepted the adoration as his right. She hadn’t had the guts to stand up to him then, not when she had mistakenly blamed herself for the fact that he had had to marry her.
‘In fact you went into a three-month-long sulk the same day that you married me! And the minute your obnoxious family saw how you were behaving they all jumped on the same bandwagon. I didn’t just have one person making my life a living hell, I had a whole crowd!’ she spelt out fiercely. ‘And I don’t care how any of you felt; I was only seventeen and I was pregnant and I did not deserve that kind of punishment!’
Daisy fell silent then. She was shattered, genuinely shattered by the bitterness that had surged up in her and overflowed. Until now she had not appreciated how deep her bitterness ran. But then she had not had an opportunity to vent those feelings before. Within forty-eight hours of her miscarriage, Vittorio Leopardi had presented her with divorce papers. And, sick to the heart from all that she had already undergone and Alessio’s cruel indifference, she had signed without a word of argument.
‘So, when you took the money and ran, you thought it was your due,’ Alessio opined grittily.
She stole a dazed glance at him from beneath her feathery lashes. His darkly handsome features were fiercely taut. ‘I ran but I didn’t take any money,’ she muttered wearily, and then wondered why she was still bothering to defend herself. When it came to a choice between her word and his father’s, she had no doubt about whose Alessio would believe. And it wouldn’t be hers.
‘I despised you for what you did,’ Alessio admitted with driven emphasis. ‘And to listen now to you abusing my family makes me very angry.’
‘I doubt if I’ll lose any sleep over that.’ Yet Daisy’s heartbeat suffered a lurch when she met that anger brightening his hard gaze. Her chin came up, defying the sudden chill of her flesh. She had said her piece. She had waited thirteen years to say it and there wasn’t a single word of it which she could honestly have taken back. How could he still behave as if he had been the only one wronged?