The flood of pain which followed the disbelief hit Daisy on the drive back to the villa. He had to be in love with Nina. She could not believe that Alessio would betray her for anything less than love. In her mind, it all seemed so agonisingly clear. He had married her purely to get hold of Tara. He hadn’t once pretended otherwise, had he? But evidently he had never expected their marriage to last indefinitely.
The break would have come once Tara was settled in Italy. Alessio would have waited until his daughter had forged closer ties with his half of the family. He had married her to steal their daughter, Daisy thought, in an agony of grief and betrayal. Setting out to win her trust, he had no doubt planned to ditch her as soon as she became surplus to requirements. Meanwhile he could continue to meet up with Nina whenever he liked.
‘If it is the last thing I do in this lifetime, I will punish you for this,’ Alessio had sworn the very day he had found out that he was a father. How could she have allowed herself to forget that threat?
Tears streaming down her face, Daisy stumbled back into the villa, fighting to regain control of emotions which felt uncontrollable. Dully she wondered why Alessio had behaved as if he was jealous when surely he should not have cared less how she had lived in the years they had been apart. Maybe it had been a kind of crazy dog-in-the-manger possessiveness. Or maybe... just maybe he had seen the error of his ways and had raced off to see Nina tonight to break off that relationship. But then why would Nina have got into the Ferrari with him? she asked herself, ashamed of her eagerness to grasp at any explanation which might lessen the anguish of what she was feeling.
‘Daisy?’ a hatefully familiar voice murmured smoothly.
Daisy jerked and swivelled round. Strolling out of the drawing room with all the confidence of the mistress of the house, Bianca surveyed her and smiled with unconcealed satisfaction.
‘You look like a drowned rat,’ Bianca commented drily. ‘I gather you hit pay dirt and, of course, you can’t possibly want to be here when Alessio returns.’
With an immense effort, Daisy straightened her slight shoulders and walked past the sneering brunette into the drawing room. Her legs were trembling beneath her. But it demanded even greater discipline not to lay violent hands upon Bianca and throw her physically from the door of her brother’s house. Bianca was here to gloat; she simply had been unable to resist the temptation to have a firsthand view of Daisy’s devastation.
With an unsteady hand, Daisy reached for the brandy decanter and began pouring herself a drink, praying that alcohol would ward off the disorienting effect of shock and lessen the freezing coldness settling into her bones. ‘I want you to leave,’ she said without even sparing a glance at the other woman.
‘Don’t be childish,’ Bianca urged impatiently.
‘And before you leave I would like you to return your keys to this house. Now that your brother is married, I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to be walking in without warning whenever the fancy takes you,’ Daisy completed before she braced herself and drank down the brandy all in one go, trembling as the heat raced down her aching throat and warmed the chilled pit of her uneasy stomach.
Bianca stared at Daisy, a faint hint of disconcertion drawing her brows together. ‘I’m willing to drive you to the airport,’ she announced, loftily ignoring the invitation to depart. ‘You’re obviously in no fit state to get yourself there!’
The airport. It would be so easy to take advantage of that invitation to run away. Indeed such a speedy retreat from a painful crisis would have all the ease and familiarity of habit, Daisy conceded painfully, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath to steady herself. However, she had Tara’s feelings to consider. In addition, strange as it might seem, she wanted—no, she needed to confront Alessio this time. ‘I don’t require a lift to the airport, Bianca.’
‘There’s only one more flight to London tonight,’ the brunette warned sharply. ‘You haven’t got much time.’
‘I have all the time in the world,’ Daisy countered tightly, frowning as a faint sound from somewhere beyond the room momentarily pierced her concentration. She focused briefly on the ajar door, listening for a split second before turning back to Bianca. ‘I have all the time in the world,’ she repeated with conviction, ‘because I’m not going anywhere.’