How could you hate someone and want them at the same time?
She crossed a hand over her chest, unable to restrain a wince when it brushed the shamelessly engorged nipples she was attempting to hide. Her heart was in her throat, the dull, thunderous clamour echoing in her ears drowning out the more peaceful sound of the waves as she lifted her chin to an imperious angle and repeated her accusation.
‘Well, did you?’
‘I thought I’d wait to be invited.’
‘Then you’ll have a hell of a long wait.’ A predictable response and, she realised, shamefully untrue. Where this man was concerned, instead of locking doors she had a terrible tendency to fling them wide open and drag him in!
He didn’t react to the belligerent challenge. Instead his narrowed eyes followed the hand she wiped across her face. ‘You’re shaking.’
Acutely conscious of the unblinking blue stare, she responded to the note of accusation in his voice with a resentful, ‘Probably because the last person who jumped out from behind a bush as I was trying to open my door now has a restraining order against him.’
The mocking smile vanished from his face. ‘A restraining order?’ A relationship turned sour, violent...? His hand clenched. ‘Who was... Is this man?’
Angel, already regretting she had mentioned the incident, shrugged. ‘Just a sad man. He was harmless really.’
A nerve clenched in his cheek as Alex stared at her in stunned disbelief. She sounded so calm, so casual!
‘So harmless you took out a restraining order against him.’ His sardonic statement was shot through with audible anger, the same anger that made his blue eyes burn as he focused on it instead of the sick lurch in the pit of his belly as he imagined her defenceless, vulnerable and at the mercy of some crazed lunatic. Yet today he had ripped into her himself, issuing every kind of threat he could think of...trying to hurt her.
‘It turned out all he was carrying was a bracelet.’
‘What did you think he was carrying?’
‘A knife,’ she admitted, adding with an embarrassed grimace, ‘What can I say? I watch too many cop shows on telly.’
‘You thought I was a knife-wielding maniac?’
She moved her head in a negative motion. ‘You surprised me, that’s all. And he didn’t have a knife and he wasn’t really a maniac, though obviously not entirely right in the head.’ She accompanied the explanation with an illustrative tap on her own head, thinking as she did so that perhaps she was in no position to throw stones.
After all, sane did not exactly describe her own reaction when she had seen him as being that of someone in full possession of all her mental faculties. Her stomach muscles were still quivering. She had spent the best part of the evening calling him every name under the sun, inside her head of course, but the moment she had seen him her throat had thickened and her traitorous heart had started to thud.
‘A person who serves you coffee and decides your smile means you are soulmates has issues. Obviously if I’d realised it was just another of his presents I wouldn’t have hit him over the head with the plant pot, though maybe it was a good thing I did,’ she mused. ‘Because the plant pot actually proved a lot more effective than a police warning and he decided that I was not his soulmate after all.’
‘Plant pot?’ he echoed, struggling to wade through this information.
‘It was the only thing there.’
The note of apology drew a choked sound from his throat and he realised it was impossible to judge Angel by the other women he knew. She was clearly a creature who acted on instinct.
Combine that sort of reckless impetuosity with youth and a passionate nature and it wasn’t hard to see how she had ended up pregnant. But then the mystery was how he had been the first. He still struggled to get his head around that knowledge.
Alex had no excuse, which was why he was here and he couldn’t allow himself to be distracted.
‘The things you said this afternoon... You were right. You were not telling me anything I don’t already know.... I just wasn’t ready to hear it.’ She watched as he dragged his hand through his dark hair, which, she noticed, was already tousled. He was still wearing the same clothes he had been in earlier that day, though they were a lot more creased, and for the first time since that night six years ago she was seeing his jaw shadowed with dark stubble.
‘From me?’ She anticipated a savage rebuttal and got instead a thoroughly and totally disarming tip of his head.