The admission did not come as a surprise. She was not exactly what could be termed a restful woman: stubborn, aggressive, confrontational... As he mentally made a list of her less desirable qualities his eyes followed her hand to her face. All that was visible was her firm, rounded chin and her mouth, and there was nothing at all restful about those plump, luscious lips. An unfocused glaze drifted into his eyes as he struggled and failed to suppress the memory of those lips parting beneath his.
The silence stretched and he stood there looming over her like a statue until she could bear it no more.
‘I think you’re the one that’s bored.’ She aimed for cool and haughty but achieved something more akin to sulky.
In response he flopped down on the sand beside her, intensifying her cowardly impulse to run. His shoulder was an inch from hers. If she could have figured out a way of widening that gap without being obvious she would have.
Maybe what people said was right: that you could run but you couldn’t hide...? On the other hand you could try, at least when it came to examining your own feelings.
Angel jammed the tangled mess from her lap into the massive holdall, managing to jab one of the needles into her leg. ‘Ouch!’
‘Been for a swim?’ He could see the outline of her bikini under the thin thigh-length cover-up she wore.
‘I’m not allowed. In fact I’m banned from pretty much everything apart from breathing and I’m in everybody’s bad books.’
‘They can’t blame you for saving a kid’s life.’
‘Why not?’ she countered. ‘You did...and saving his life is a bit of an exaggeration.’ She jammed her unread paperback on top of the knitting and clicked the clasp of the big raffia bag closed.
‘Ever modest.’ And ever a temptation. He stared at her mouth, wanting to slide his tongue between those beautiful, provocative lips. The need was so strong that for the space of several heartbeats he lost track of his real objective.
She sniffed and pushed her sunglasses up the bridge of her nose, flashing a small, tense smile. ‘That’s me...it’s just a shame I’m not the creative type.’ She nodded at the bag.
He adopted an expression of innocent surprise. ‘Really? I thought you went to art school.’
‘I didn’t finish the course—’ Her expression tensed as she flashed a suspicious look his way. ‘How did you know that?’ she demanded, whisking her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms protectively around her calves.
He shrugged casually. ‘Someone must have mentioned it.’
Or something, namely the bio in the short report provided by the people who normally did background checks on prospective employees for him, a report that concerned specifically the months prior to the birth of Angelina Urquart’s daughter...and most importantly that date.
It had been 3:00 a.m. when the seed of the idea had first entered his head. It had spent the next hour insidiously burrowing in, taking root while he had spent that period by turns becoming totally convinced he was right and equally totally convinced that the idea was a combined product of his overactive imagination, sexual frustration and sleep deprivation.
He needed to know—he needed to know at what point a nightmare became a premonition and for that he needed information. Alex had not bothered to work out time differences. He would not have used a firm who were not available on a twenty-four-hour basis and the person whose direct line he rang sounded alert and helpful—he expected nothing less.
They could not supply the information he really desired, but what they could supply and did was information that could confirm that it was possible.
The details that popped into his email box at 5:00 a.m. gave the bare facts he had requested: Angelina Urquart had given birth to a daughter eight months to the day after they had spent the night together.
He could be a father. Statistically speaking it was probable he was guilty of the crime that he had found it so easy to condemn his father for.
That it was possible to have a child, be a father and not know... He could have walked past his own daughter in the street and not guessed who she was. The idea utterly appalled him, but did fatherhood?
Running normally cleared his head. Facing the idea of being a father while covered in sweat and breathing hard, it still remained totally shocking but not the nightmare he had expected it to be. Was he feeling what his own father had the day that Lizzie’s aunt had turned up with the child and a stack of letters that the child’s dead mother had written but never sent, to dramatically inform the stunned man in front of a room full of party guests that it was his turn now to take responsibility for the child he had fathered?