It was after her chat with Jas that Angel did cry—tears of regret more than anger. Her little girl was so lovely. She deserved a father, someone who would take her as she was, and not weigh her down with unrealistic expectations. Did Alex even know what having a child involved? Or would Jas just be another possession to him?
Had he meant those threats?
Should she get legal advice? The thought of anyone trying to take away her daughter... She shuddered as she recalled his lethally soft-voiced threat, aimed with dagger-like accuracy to inflict the maximum fear and panic.
She wouldn’t panic; she would fight!
The last thing she felt like later that evening was being sociable, but Angel knew that her no-show would be construed as standoffishness by the others so she was forced to sit around the big table and smile her way through the evening. She responded good-naturedly to the teasing about her heroics until she realised why the ad-agency man who had been the most vocal in his exasperation after the resulting delay now seemed quite jovial about the subject.
She expressed her relief to Clive, who was sitting beside her. ‘I’m glad he’s calmed down.’
‘Of course he’s calmed down, darling—all that free publicity!’
Angel shook her head. ‘Publicity?’
‘Seriously?’ The slightly tipsy Hollywood actor scanned her face for signs of irony, then, finding none, laughed hilariously, causing someone at the opposite end of the table to request being let into the joke.
‘It turns out that our Angel is one of life’s innocents. She doesn’t know that someone recorded the whole hero thing on their phone and uploaded it onto the web.’ He turned back to Angel and explained with a touch of envy he didn’t quite disguise, ‘You have gone viral. All that free publicity is better than sex as far as our Jake is concerned, and the only thing the world loves more than a heroine is a heroine that looks like you do in a bikini.’
The other man raised a glass at the charge.
‘Oh, God, no!’
Her genuine horror made Carl laugh even more. ‘Of course, there are some theories the whole thing was staged. Don’t you just love conspiracy theories?’
‘No.’ She huffed out an exasperated sigh. Clive’s blend of superficial charm and malicious humour was beginning to pall. Compared to Alex’s far more abrasive, abrupt and in your face— God, why was she even thinking about Alex, let alone using him as a measure of male perfection? She couldn’t think of anything less perfect. She closed down the inner dialogue with a resounding snap and produced a clear, focused smile. Nobody could accuse her of being obsessed. ‘I don’t, but I believe in respecting a person’s right to privacy.’
The actor gave a shaky smile, clearly in two minds. Was she being serious...? ‘Ever thought you were in the wrong line of work, darling?’
‘Frequently,’ she admitted, permitting herself a dry laugh before she turned her attention to Sandy on her right. Her present career was a means to an end, something she had fallen into rather than planned. She had given herself five years, and if at that point she had not made enough money to set herself up with the fashion-design label she had mapped out in her head then she would walk away with no regrets and possibly more than a little relief.
Angel made it through the meal, avoided the copious free-flowing wine, but not even her sweet tooth gave her the appetite to make it through the pudding course. Pleading tiredness, which was not a lie, she made her excuses early and during her walk back to her bungalow found fifty messages when it occurred to her to check her phone!
She only replied to the two from her brother. It took even longer than she had anticipated to calm and reassure him, and she agreed with his decision not to keep Jas up to speed with her mother’s newfound fame. In the back of her mind she wondered if being an internet heroine would be a plus or a minus if the fight got to court?
Her brother hadn’t laid a guilt trip on her; it wasn’t his style. But even so, Angel was feeling pretty much a failure as a mother by the time she reached her bungalow and searched for the swipe card for the door.
‘It’s not locked. Anyone could have walked in.’
Angel yelped and spun around as the tall figure emerged from the shadows. Even without the moonlight that illuminated his face, revealing the strong sybaritic slashing angles and spine-tinglingly strong bones, it would have been impossible to mistake the identity of the person who was lurking there.
‘And did you?’ She managed to project a level of cool she knew she didn’t have a hope of sustaining for long. The sound of his voice had begun a chain reaction that she had no control over; his physical presence made the feelings that were surging unchecked through her body even more urgent and mortifyingly obvious.