As angry now as he was, she heaved in a taut, angry breath of her own. What did he know? Parenthood wasn’t a right—it was a privilege!
‘Rights? You have no rights! You see Jasmine only if I say so, and I don’t. I came here wanting to find out if you were the sort of person I want in Jasmine’s life, the sort of person who would be good for her to know. Well, now I do know, and you’re not. I wouldn’t have you near my daughter...for...for...anything! You’re a manipulative bastard who treats people like chess pieces... You’re the last father I’d choose for my daughter.’
Breathing hard like duelists, they stood either end of the table facing one another, firing angry words, not bullets, though the words could inflict considerable damage and once they were out there they were impossible to retract.
Even though she was still furious Angel was already beginning to regret the things she had said.
He leaned forward, his hands flat on the table, and fixed her with an icy blue arctic stare. When he spoke it was in a voice that was several decibels lower than the hot words shouted in the heat of the moment. Cold, considered and chosen to inflict the maximum level of fear.
Angel was seeing the man that made powerful men tremble with fear.
‘You have picked the wrong man to challenge. You will not keep my daughter from me. Attempt to prevent me seeing her and it will be me you come begging to for visitation rights. If you have a skeleton... If you have a bone fragment in your cupboard I will find it and my lawyers will use it.’ He hardened his heart against her pale, stricken expression and added, ‘You started this, but I will finish it. That much is a promise.’
Without another word he walked away.
Angel didn’t react. She just stood there, frozen. She roused only at the sound of an engine and she turned in time to see him vanishing in a cloud of dust.
He had driven away, leaving her stranded.
Not quite able to believe the situation she found herself in, she looked from the dust cloud to the food and wine spread out and with a laugh she slumped down into the chair.
‘At least I won’t starve.’
She was still sitting there twenty minutes later when one of the men who had earlier been laying out the food appeared. If he found the situation strange nothing in his manner suggested it as he framed his meticulously polite question.
‘Are you ready to return to the mainland?’
She was ready to kiss the feet of her rescuer but she was much more circumspect in her icy state, and responded to the respectful enquiry with a nod and a smile.
ALEX PULLED THE car over after a mile, leaning his elbows across the steering wheel. He thought he knew every inch of the island but he struggled to get his bearings as he pushed his head back into the padded headrest and looked up through the open roof at the trees that blocked out the sun.
‘Well, that worked out well, Alex.’
He’d had it all planned. While he had rejected all Angel’s charges at the time, had she been so wrong?
Driving like a lunatic, while satisfying, was not going to solve anything. He had blown it; he had acted while the emotive impact of discovering he was a father was still fresh. When she hadn’t said what he’d wanted to hear he had launched into attack mode and made a tough situation ten times worse.
* * *
Back at the bungalow the only thing she wanted to do was... Actually there were two things she wanted to do: throw herself on the bed and weep, and break something. The first she didn’t do because she was due to have her prearranged chat via the internet with her daughter in less than half an hour, and the second... Well, she was supposedly a grown-up and grown-ups did not throw their rattles out of the pram, unless of course the supposed grown-up was Alex Arlov!
Things hadn’t gone his way and he’d simply gone off in a strop. Admittedly, a pretty magnificently broody strop, but the fact remained that she had refused to play by his rules so he’d walked away, issuing threats that had made her blood turn to ice. Not to mention that they revealed what a truly ruthless man lurked beneath the urbane exterior.
Would he adopt the same sort of parenting style? When the going got tough would he opt out?
Her hands balled into clawed fists at her side as she paced the room. The man made her so mad! She took a deep breath and reminded herself that this was not about her or her feelings, or, for that matter, Alex. It was about Jas and she was not going to run the risk of laying her precious girl open to hurt or rejection.