When she reached the shore slightly distant from the group around the child and his family, she watched Alex in action. He took charge, of course he did—it was clearly second nature to him. He was just one of those individuals people naturally turned to in times of crisis and he was good, she had to admit, as she watched him soothe, calm and casually issue instructions.
It was curious that the father of the child who had up until that moment held it together broke down and started weeping, almost as if Alex’s competence gave him permission to fall apart. At that point his wife stopped crying and began berating their son, who had been on the point of enjoying all the attention.
‘If it hadn’t been for that lady.... She’s a heroine.’
Someone clapped and someone else picked it up, then with a chain-reaction effect the ripple spread and everyone was clapping.
Angel, whose entire attention had been focused on Alex—she might even have had her mouth open—became belatedly aware of people looking in her general direction, and looked around expecting to see the heroine referred to until the penny dropped.... Oh, God!
With heaven-sent timing the shaken driver of the Jet Ski chose this moment to wade ashore and, taking advantage of the distraction afforded by his appearance, Angel headed for the rocky area that shielded the main beach from the smaller, quieter cove at the far end. She gave a quick furtive look over her shoulder before she waded through the water and then down onto the beach the other side of the rocky outcrop.
The small cove was empty, and with a sigh of relief Angel flopped down onto the sand, her closed eyelids filtering out some of the brutal midday sun. It wasn’t until she stretched out that she realised she wasn’t only shaking on the inside but on the outside too, fine tremors that shook her entire body.
She lay still and waited for it to pass, nursing her head, which, still tender from the previous night, had begun to throb gently. Great, she needed that like a... Actually a hole in the head might relieve the pressure she could feel building.
Alex was probably the only one who had seen her slip away. He was definitely the only one to follow her. The idea of her acting like some sort of injured animal, crawling away to lick its wounds, made him furious. The woman had the self-preservation instincts of a lemming.
He clambered over the rocks, not around them, to reach the empty cove. There was a very good reason it was empty at this time of day. The water Angel had waded through was already waist deep and in another ten minutes it would be cut off from the bigger beach. Swimming around or a trek through the pine-forested strip that edged the sand were the only ways back to the hotel, a fact that was written in red letters a mile high on signs along the beach.
When he spotted her stretched out on the sand he hit the ground running, then stopped as he saw her chest lift, her breasts pushing against the black fabric of her bikini top.
At the best of times—which this was not—Alex was not well schooled in compassionate concern; he lacked the finesse and the patience. Yet as he reached the spot where she lay and looked down at her he felt his anger slip away. In his head he saw her face when she had realised the applause was for her. Many people dreamed of earning such plaudits, of being hailed a hero, but she had looked...stunned, horrified. It would have been the prefect punishment to have drawn her in to take a curtain bow, but the hunted expression on her face as she had slipped away had made him repress the malicious impulse.
Lying there, she managed to simultaneously look as sexy as hell and damned, throat-achingly vulnerable.
‘Are you all right?’ Concern added a layer of gravel to his deep voice.
She didn’t leap out of her skin, but only because she had felt his shadow blocking the sun a fraction of a second before he spoke. Still stinging from his unfair comments in the boat, she imagined the expression of impatience on his lean face. In her head she could see him glancing at his watch, thinking, That bloody woman again!
She raised herself onto her elbows but didn’t lift her gaze. ‘I’m fine,’ she said, arching her foot to rub the sand off one foot with the red-painted toes of the other.
His eyes on the top of her dark head, he wondered how she managed to make the assurance sound much the same as go away—it was a talent. He was sorely tempted to do just that. If she was so determined to put herself in a hospital, who was he to stop her?
Unaware that he had chosen that moment to drop gracefully into a squatting position beside her, Angel started to sit upright. The near collision of their heads drew a tiny gasp of alarm from her throat. Rocking back on his heels, he remained, from Angel’s point of view, far too close!