It had genuinely not once crossed his mind that Angel might be with someone. He struggled to readjust to these facts.
While he recognised it was totally irrational, he could not shake the feeling of being cheated.
So what did you expect, Alex—that she’d spent the past six years waiting for you to reappear? The glaring immaturity of his reaction annoyed him, and, continuing in the immature mindset, he found himself blaming her for the situation.
His slightly narrowed eyes went to her left hand, but the long tapering fingers were bare of everything but sand. To leave a child with someone implied a great deal of trust but there was no ring. He half closed his eyes but he could still see her fingers on his skin. He inhaled and fought his way through a rush of hot lust...a virgin!
He still could not get his head round the fact that the best sex in his life had been with a virgin! Everything was successfully conspiring to up his guilt levels: the wife he had watched suffer barely in the ground and he had jumped into bed with a green-eyed witch...then that temptress had turned out not to be a siren but a virgin! Effectively making him feel like some sort of predatory sleaze. What was it they said—ignorance was no excuse in the eyes of the law?
It was certainly no excuse in his eyes.
He had been staring so long at her hands that Angel had to fight an impulse to hide them. Instead she dug them into the sand before rubbing them against her thighs and dragging them through her wet hair.
‘You’re with someone?’
This was good, he told himself. It was always good to focus on a known quantity. A partner meant there was no chance of becoming involved once more with her. That was one line in the sand he did not cross.... Unlike virginity, Alex?
‘Does the child’s father mind her being brought up by another man?’
‘Would you?’ she countered.
He thought about it—but not for long as it was a no-brainer. ‘Yes, I would.’ Little Lizzie—not so little these days—had spent the first few years of her life farmed out to relatives and friends before her father had claimed her and given her the home that had always been hers by rights. To allow that to happen to a child of his...?
It would never happen! His child would not suffer an identity crisis. She would always know where she belonged, she would always feel safe, loved and secure.
The instant response sent a flurry of panic through Angel. She brought her lashes down in a concealing sweep to hide her response. Exhaling a slow, measured, calming breath, she told herself there was no way he could know—and he didn’t.
She looked up. There was no shocked realisation, not even a shade of suspicion in his bright eyes.
‘I am bringing my daughter up alone.’
‘So you make the calls and your boyfriend of the moment acts as a childminder, providing he has no problem with your work taking you away from your family?’ It amazed him that any man trusted her enough to let her out of his sight, let alone halfway across the globe.
An energising rush of anger surged through her body as, with lush lips compressed in an angry rose-tinted line, she retorted, ‘I would never ever farm my daughter out!’
‘Why do you constantly assume I’m judging you?’
‘And you’re not?’ she flung back.
‘Or do you judge yourself?’ he speculated.
‘And for the record there’s nothing wrong with a man being the carer.’
He arched a brow. ‘Did I say there was?’
‘You implied it,’ she contended. ‘If I had a boyfriend who wanted to stay at home and look after Jas I’d consider myself lucky.’ But she’d refuse. Angel would never allow her child to become fond of someone who could vanish. ‘And I don’t enjoy being away from Jas.’ She swallowed, her voice thickening with emotion she couldn’t hide as she added, ‘But it won’t always be this way. I’ve given myself five years to make enough to start my own—’ She stopped and thought, You are telling him this why, Angel?
Out of this information one detail jumped out at Alex. ‘If... You do not have a boyfriend?’
‘Why? Are you thinking of applying for the vacancy?’ As jokes went this one fell pretty flat. Did the man even have a sense of humour? ‘That was a joke. My brother is good at helping out with Jas.’
‘You have a brother?’
‘We share...’ She paused and lowered her gaze from his interrogative stare. She felt disinclined to explain the circumstances that had led her to be living in a wing of the highland castle that her brother had inherited. She had tried to replicate for her daughter the idyllic childhood there that had been snatched away from her and Angel was not about to let anyone tear it away from Jasmine.