He had grinned. ‘Tomorrow night?’ he had asked with unconcealed amusement in his beautiful eyes, and she should have known then that it would take more than one slap to dent that ego.
‘Daisy...’ Alessio breathed.
This time she came back to the present with a sense of intense pain. Her violent eyes were starkly vulnerable; she veiled them. All of a sudden she felt horribly cold and lost. ‘I don’t want to relive the passion,’ she told him tightly. ‘Yes, you were quite incredible in bed but I wouldn’t let you use me like that again. Once was enough. You’re trying to put me down this time too. That’s one advantage of being a grown-up: I can see the writing on the wall.’
The endless silence pulsed with fierce undertones.
‘I cannot believe I am even having this conversation with you!’ Alessio gritted with ferocious abruptness.
‘I suppose it’s comforting to know that you haven’t changed. You’re still a two-timing, oversexed, immoral rat,’ Daisy muttered in a choky little voice, valiantly fighting off the threat of the tears damming up behind her burning eyes, ready to spill over.
‘I am none of those things!’ Alessio blistered back at her.
‘Creep,’ Daisy spat, making a dive to get out of the car. ‘You really are one lousy creep to do this to me! Do you think I’m a whore or something? Do you think I don’t know you’re trying to humiliate me?’
A strong hand suddenly whipped out to capture one of hers, holding her back. ‘It was an unfortunate impulse. I don’t know what came over me. Call it temporary insanity if you like,’ he growled savagely. ‘I’m sorry!’
‘Let go of me!’
He did, and Daisy wrenched open the door and almost fell out onto the pavement, sucking in a great gulp of fresh air as she did so. She was shaking like a leaf. She took a tottering step away from the limousine, her gait that of someone who had escaped a traumatic brush with death.
‘And it’s really pathetic to still be shooting the same lines at your age!’ she slung back at him for good measure.
‘Dio...will you keep your voice down?’ Alessio roared at her, causing an elderly lady walking an apricot poodle to step off the pavement with a frown of well-bred disapproval and give the two of them a very wide berth.
Daisy stole a glance at Alessio, took in the shaken look of uncertainty currently clouding his normally sharp-as-paint gaze and grew in stature with the knowledge that he was handling their unexpected encounter no better than she was. Memories from their volatile teenage years and the effects of shock were driving a horse and cart through any effort they made to behave like civilised, intelligent adults.
‘Look, do you want to see this house or don’t you?’ she asked stiffly.
‘If you will control your tongue and stop hurling insults, I see no reason why we should not deal with this on a normal business footing,’ Alessio drawled with icy control.
AN HOUR and a half later, Daisy surveyed the elegant hall of the Georgian house for the hundredth time and wondered how much more time the owners would spend entertaining Alessio. Her presence had not been required to give the grand tour, oh, dear, no!
The Raschids had stayed in specially when they had leamt that Alessio Leopardi was coming to view their beautiful home. Mr Raschid was a diplomat and apparently had met Alessio at an embassy dinner last year. Eager to renew that acquaintance, the couple had lost no time in telling Daisy to wait in the hall, while assuring Alessio that they would give him a far more interesting tour than she could. Well, she would have been rather out of her depth in a three-way conversation taking place in Arabic.
Alessio hadn’t looked at her again. Suddenly she had acquired all the invisibility of a lowly maid. And that was how it should be. Like the Raschids, he was a client, just another client, and clients, particularly very wealthy ones, frequently treated the agency staff as something slightly less than human. When she thought about it, their romance thirteen years ago had broken all the class and status rules—Alessio the adored only son of the Leopardi banking dynasty and Daisy the au pair working down the road from his family’s palatial summer villa.