He stiffened. ‘In most countries that is all a person can have at one time.’ The joke, it seemed, was on him. Why the hell hadn’t she just told him she was married up front?
Why didn’t you consider the possibility, Alex?
Her bewildered-sounding response cut across his inner dialogue. ‘One...?’
‘You’re not wearing a ring,’ he clenched out, feeling cheated.
Anchoring her hair against a sudden flurry of wind, she followed the direction of his gaze and drew the hand down to look at it, turning it over as she blew away the errant raven strands that immediately plastered themselves across her face. She was of the school of thought that said less was more when it came to jewellery and she rarely wore rings when working. Her hand went to her neck where she wore her father’s signet ring on a chain. Her brother had inherited a Scottish estate complete with castle, and she, being a woman, had got only the ring. She didn’t resent it half as much as her brother felt guilty about it.
‘Why should I...?’ She stopped as the penny dropped. ‘God, not a husband! I have a child, a daughter.’
This was only slightly less astonishing to him than her having a husband. His eyes went to the fingers that were rubbing the chain she wore around her neck. Through her fingers he recognised the disc he had initially taken for a pendant nestled between her breasts as a ring.
‘You have a baby?’ His eyes drifted down her slim body and he felt a kick of lust that made his strong-boned features clench.
Hard not to recognise this as the perfect opportunity to speak. So why aren’t you, Angel?
We have a baby. It didn’t matter how hard she tried, Angel couldn’t visualise his reaction to this bombshell.
‘She’s hardly a baby.’ Her expression softened. Jasmine had been a lovely baby, though it might have been easier to enjoy her loveliness if she had ever slept. The first eighteen months had passed in a blur of sleep deprivation.
‘But she must be young, and you’re a single parent...?’ Did the ring have some significance? A token from the father?
Angel instantly prickled with antagonism; her chin went up. She was pretty secure when it came to her parenting skills, able to shrug off and smile her way through well-meaning advice, but when the source of the criticism was the absent father of her daughter it turned out she couldn’t.
‘Yes, I am, and I really don’t think my childcare arrangements are your concern,’ she tossed back, realising as she spoke that this situation might change very soon. When he knew he might think that he should have a say. The idea appalled her.
Blinking at the level of belligerence in her attitude, he made a pacifying gesture with his hands. Her eyes followed the gesture—he had lovely hands.
‘I am hardly an expert on the subject.’
He watched as her hunched shoulders flattened. He could almost feel her willing the tension away. Her tense smile was a clear effort and she avoided his eyes. ‘That doesn’t stop most people offering advice.’
‘Is her father involved?’
Angel couldn’t look at him. Lucky thing she was sitting down because her knees were shaking. ‘No.’
‘I imagine it can’t be easy...?’
He imagined right, but Angel would not have it any other way. The sleepless nights were more than compensated for in a million other ways. ‘I make it work.’
‘I’m sure you do.’
Again, she couldn’t take his comment at face value. ‘And no, I’m not naive enough to think a single working parent can have it all, but I don’t want it all.’
From this defiant statement he read that she wanted it but couldn’t have it. The idea that the father was unavailable, most likely married, seemed a real contender. Funny how some women were drawn to unavailable men.... Was she one of them?
‘We all want some things more than others.’ And at that moment all he wanted, wanted so much he could taste it, was this provoking, dark-haired, green-eyed witch. His innate ability to distance himself from a situation had failed him completely—he wanted her under him, he wanted to be inside her and he knew he wasn’t going to have a moment’s peace until he had achieved this desire.
The expression in his eyes stopped her asking what it was he wanted more than other things. The expression in his blue eyes was explicit enough to cause a head-on collision between a fist of some unidentifiable emotion and her solar plexus.
She got to her feet. ‘Well, thanks for the coffee and the little chat but I’m fine now.’