But when she’d woken she had remembered the conversation she had overheard, which had helped when Cesare had broken the news to her later; she had been able to make it easier for him by responding calmly as she’d told him honestly that she was fine. When she’d been discharged a few days later everyone had considered her to be coping remarkably well, though Angel had been unable to dispel the feeling that they were waiting for her to fall apart.
When they’d realised she wasn’t going to—it had taken a while—it had been a relief that everyone had stopped walking on eggshells around her and she could get on with looking after her baby. She had happily left the anger to her brother, who had deduced with no help or confirmation from her that the father was married.
She had genuinely believed she was all right until that morning six months down the line when she had been folding away the clothes that Jasmine had outgrown, smoothing the fabric of a hand-knitted, exquisite, tiny newborn cardigan that it was hard to believe her robust bouncing daughter had ever fitted into. The reality had hit her with no warning.... Why was she storing the tiny garment so carefully in layers of tissue and lavender bags for the future? There would be no brother or sister to wear it.
No more babies.
The tears had begun to leak from her eyes, silently at first, then had come the muffled sobs and finally the awful wrenching wails. A lot later she had dried her eyes and the next day had delivered all the baby clothes to the local charity shop, reminding herself sternly that she had a precious child and many people were not that lucky.
She had not thought of it since, but now she realised that she had needed to cry, needed to mourn a future that was lost, she thought sadly. But she had done her mourning and moved on; now she was getting on with her life.
Had Alex? Was he still mourning the future with his wife that had been denied him?
‘Was your wife ill a long time?’
She felt him stiffen a moment before he rolled away from her. ‘Yes.’
‘I know mourning is a very personal process.’ She reached out to stroke his back before taking a deep breath and beginning tentatively, ‘My friend had grief counselling when her—’
‘I don’t need a grief counselor. I have you. You were right—I have been eaten with guilt because I buried my grief in anonymous sex. I’m not proud of it but you helped me see...I have moved on, Angel. The question is,’ he said quietly, ‘have you?’
In the space of a heartbeat Angel experienced the disorientating sensation of a total role reversal. One second she was feeling supportive and understanding, the next she was the one being asked to face her demons, and it was too soon.
ANGEL HAD LAIN with her eyes closed, pretending to be asleep, as she heard him getting dressed. But when she heard Alex moving around in the other room she got up. She didn’t want him to leave without doing something to close the distance that had opened up between them.
Belting her robe, she walked quietly into the adjoining room. Alex, who hadn’t heard her, was holding the photo of Jasmine in the silver frame. It was the expression she saw etched on his face in the brief moment before he realised she was there that swung it—the longing mixed with pain that vanished the moment he knew he was not alone.
Swallowing the lump of emotion in her throat and ignoring the small voice in her head that told her she’d live to regret opening this door, she responded to his cautious good morning with, ‘You can see Jas.’
He went rigid for a moment, his face a total blank, then he smiled and tipped his head. ‘Good.’
‘If you agree that when and how to tell her who you are is my call.’
Slowly he nodded. ‘That seems fair.’
Angel expelled a deep sigh and hoped like hell once more that this was going to work out.... She had to make it work. ‘Right, I’ll make arrangements. Another thing I think that—no!’ She backed away shaking her head, one arm extended as if to fend him off as he approached, the gleam in his eyes sending her nervous system into meltdown. ‘Don’t!’
His fingers that had moved to loosen the knot on her robe stopped; he was frustrated but not alarmed. He bent his head towards her. ‘What’s wrong?’
Wrong, yes, she thought, that was the right word. He’d been the wrong man at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons.
The furrow on his brow smoothed. ‘You have an early call? That’s a pity,’ he murmured, thinking it was a disaster! Unable to stop himself, he dropped his eyes to the thrusting profile of her nipples. He had never wanted a woman as much as he did Angel. It was a struggle to present a casual attitude about this delay when every cell in his body was pumped and primed to peel back the layer of silk and explore the even silkier delights beneath.