At least he had some privacy to get his head around the concept and his big reveal would be at a time and place of his own choosing...if there was a reveal. After all, the question mark remained.
If he was right, why hadn’t Angel told him? Did she ever plan to tell him? As he felt his anger mount the sense of loss he experienced, thinking of the years he had missed and would never get back, made it tough to see the situation from her point of view...but he was trying.
She came across as confident, but how much of that was window dressing? Six years younger, alone and presumably scared out of her wits at finding herself pregnant, had she tried to find him? Thoughts of her in that state of mind increased the guilt that gnawed away at him like acid. On one level he recognised that she wouldn’t have known where to start to look for him, and in that case he knew that she hadn’t set out to deprive him of parenthood. But on another level, he wondered if she hadn’t been secretly relieved. Her opinion of him was so bad that she probably thought he would make a catastrophic parent.
His jaw clenched. For a man who rarely found himself not in a position of control to be forced to recognise that his position as an unmarried father gave him precious few rights, let alone control, was tough for Alex.
He was going to be part of his child’s life no matter what it took.... The thought of another man thinking access to Angel’s bed gave him the right to become a father to her child was a situation that he could not contemplate.
* * *
‘So why didn’t you complete your course?’
The question was casual but something in the way he was looking at her made her uneasy. Angel dodged his gaze and shrugged. Maybe she was getting paranoid but Angel responded to the alarm bells. ‘I had some distractions.’
It had been several hours now since he had faced the possibility; the emotional impact had felt like a ten-tonne truck landing on his chest. Three hours to run, pace, speculate and plan...the weight remained but his brain was now clearer. The solution was there and he would do whatever it took to get the information.
Information that was stored in one place—her beautiful little head.
Not for nothing had the business world named him the perfect poker player. There were no ‘tells’ to even hint at an agenda behind his casual invitation. ‘And how about now?’
She shook her head and gave a shrug of incomprehension.
‘Could you do with some distraction?’
She clamped her lips tight over an outraged gasp. ‘Well, no one could accuse you of subtlety, could they? Thanks for the offer but no, thanks.’
He gave a throaty laugh. ‘Actually I wasn’t propositioning you. Don’t be embarrassed.’
She stuck her chin out. Embarrassed did not cover the toe-curling mortification that made her want to literally bury her head in the sand. Anything was preferable to seeing his smug face. ‘This,’ she gritted, circling her face with a finger, ‘is relief.’
He took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and with the other hand pushed her shades up into her hair. The action was casual, confident, as though he had the right to touch her. You’re not doing much to disabuse him of this massive misapprehension, are you, Angel, just sitting there like some sort of mesmerised rabbit? she thought to herself. When she ought to be... What...?
‘No, this is beautiful....’ he husked.
Trying to kick-start her brain felt like wading through warm syrup. This is not me.... Why does he make me act this way? Why do I let him do this to me?
Because you like it?
The crazy thought almost made her laugh. She pulled her sunglasses down again.
‘I’d love to discuss your idea but—’
Angel dug her fingernails into her palms, focusing on the pain to help her fight her way to control. She turned her head and his hand fell away.
Digging her heels into the sand, she said, ‘It wasn’t an idea.’ Her voice sounded very small, the scornful laugh weak— Well, actually, pathetically unconvincing.
‘Don’t sulk,’ he said, drawing an outraged gasp. ‘Obviously I want to have sex with you.’
He delivered this piece of information in a manner she associated more with ordering a pizza than propositioning. The violent lurch in her chest was possibly, Angel mused, her heart stopping. Despite the possibility of her imminent expiration she somehow—it was a miracle—kept her expression blank. Thank goodness for sunglasses.
‘I get that a lot.’
Not a lie, but she’d never felt in danger of requiring CPR before. Or...best to treat the comment as a joke—the alternative was not something she felt equipped to cope with.