A Secret Until Now - Page 21

‘No, it didn’t.’

When he offered no further information Angel took a sip of the coffee and looked at him over the rim of her cup. ‘It must be hard bringing up children alone...?’ she murmured, trying hard not to look like someone who had a stake in his response.

Was Jasmine an only child or did she have half siblings? The brother or sister that Angel had always felt vaguely guilty for not supplying. Siblings looked out for one another when things got tough. If she vanished... Angel gave herself a sharp internal shake. Nothing was going to happen to her, and if it did she had things organised. But a father had not featured in those arrangements.

Of course, if it turned out he had his own family he might not be interested in pursuing a relationship with Jasmine anyway. His loss, though from a selfish point of view it would make life simpler. She felt a stab of guilt. This wasn’t about simple, this was about what was best for Jasmine, and if that involved allowing her father to be part of her life she would move heaven and earth to make it happen. He was right; she was no innocent victim. If she hadn’t thrown herself at him the way she had none of this would have happened.

She pressed her fingers to her temples. Her head felt as if it would explode with all the unanswered questions swirling round in it, and there were not going to be any of the answers she wanted until she told him.

‘We didn’t have any children.’

They had planned to have a family but not immediately. Of course, it had seemed as if they would have all the time in the world, then all too soon they had had none. A blessing, Emma, struggling to come to terms with the rapid progress of her illness, had said, but as her denial had turned to deep depression she had become angry and blamed him for... Well, pretty much everything, until it had reached the point when she had turned her head to the wall when he walked into the room.

The doctors had sympathised and called it transference. His wife, they said, was transferring all the guilt she felt for concealing her illness when they married onto to him, and as they had predicted the phase passed. But to his way of thinking what followed was harder. Emma had been consumed with guilt. The precious time they’d had left together had been dominated by it.

Angel lowered her eyes but not before he glimpsed the moisture lingering there and her expression. He reacted to the sympathy he loathed using a tried-and-tested method to kill off the pity that made his skin crawl.

‘Turn down the empathy, Angel. I’m not a candidate for a sympathy shag,’ he drawled.

Her appalled eyes flew to his face, suddenly minus their emotional moisture. ‘You are a candidate for a kick,’ she retorted, adding in a conversational tone, ‘You really can be vile.’ She was almost immediately hit by a wave of remorse, so added, ‘I am genuinely sorry about your wife.’

‘But I’m vile—a rodent, yes, I get that.’ The tension vanishing from his manner along with her sympathy, he produced a mocking grin. ‘I’m enjoying living down to your expectations of me. Relax,’ he advised, ‘I do not require a shoulder to cry on.’ Though a warm breast to lay his head against would not be rejected. The one in question rose and fell revealing a glitter of something shiny in the deep valley.

‘I was not about to offer one.’ Offering anything to the only man you had ever fantasised about lying naked beneath was something to be actively avoided. She swallowed hard and dropped her gaze, wishing she had not thought about being naked. ‘And I have no expectations.’

‘But some curiosity.’ The speculation was pretty much proved when she couldn’t meet his eyes. ‘Don’t feel bad. Everyone wants to ask. Few do—death is one of those subjects that people tiptoe around. Emma died of MS, an aggressive form she had been ill with for some time.’

Angel could only marvel that he could sound so detached while revealing this tragic sequence of events. For all the emotion he was displaying he could have been recounting the story of a stranger’s life.

‘It was lucky we had no children.’ He sketched a sardonic smile. ‘Now your turn...?’

She got that he rejected sympathy—hard not to—but she felt it anyway, a strong surge of empathy that she couldn’t repress. She would have felt the same for anyone in his situation; the difference was she hadn’t spent the past six years hating anyone. Not to do so, even briefly, felt odd...uncomfortable, and required some major mental readjustment.

‘One.’ She couldn’t pretend that Jasmine didn’t exist.

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