‘So how is the fact your mother was a lousy parent relevant?’
‘I know what bad parenting is.’
‘And good parenting involves being some sort of born-again virgin? I’m curious—are you planning on not having any sex or is it just sex with me that will emotionally scar our daughter?’
‘You’re deliberately twisting things.’
‘So untwist things and tell me you’re not saying I can either be part of my daughter’s life or sleep with you?’
‘It is not an either-or situation, Alex.’
He exhaled a frustrated hiss through his teeth. ‘What is it, then?’ Without waiting for her to respond, he shook his head and, drawing a sharp line in the air with his hand, said, ‘You know, I really don’t want to hear, because none of it is true. You know what I think? I think this isn’t about Jasmine, it’s about you. You’re using her as an excuse because underneath that facade you’re scared. What of? Becoming your mother?’
‘Of course not,’ she answered too quickly.
‘From what you’ve told me you are the exact opposite of your mother.’
‘This isn’t about my mother. It’s about us.... You.’
‘You’re scared of me?’ A look of shock chased across his lean face. ‘It never occurred to me you were... Why would you be?’ His eyes narrowed as her eyes slid from his, shifting to a point over his shoulder. It was a telling gesture.
‘Of course not.’ It was true, she wasn’t afraid of Alex, but she was afraid of the way he made her feel. The emotional impact of meeting him again had felt like having a tourniquet removed from a deadened limb and the abrupt resumption of circulation and feeling had been agonising. But as hard as she’d tried she couldn’t reapply the tourniquet to her emotions.
She loved him and he was going to break her heart. It was as inevitable as night following day. But it wasn’t the broken heart precisely that she was avoiding—it was Jasmine witnessing it breaking, seeing the slow disintegration of the relationship and thinking, as Angel had, that that was all there was to look forward to in life.
‘We all have issues in our childhood....’
The insensitive attempt at amateur psychology brought her resentful gaze back to his face. A second was all it took for him to capture and hold her.
‘What made you so scared of enjoying a normal healthy sex life?’
‘I’m not afraid,’ she replied, hiding her discomfiture behind a cool mask.
‘Did your father cheat on your mother?’ he speculated.
‘My dad adored my mother even after she walked out on their marriage and took us with her, then did her level best to forget we existed.’ In a small corner of her head a voice was saying, ‘Too much information, Angel!’ but she couldn’t stem the flow of revelations. ‘And in answer to your question, I’m not scared, I’m determined—determined that my daughter will always be my first priority.’
She gave a weary sigh. ‘It’s simply the way I want it to be. Don’t you see?’ she appealed to him. ‘This,’ she said, moving her hand in an illustrative sweep from her chest to him and back again, ‘is exactly the situation I want to avoid.’
‘This is a situation that you have engineered,’ he countered grimly. ‘You’ve created a self-fulfilling prophesy. Do you even know how unrealistic you’re being? Do you really think you’re going to find some guy you’ll never fight with? You’d be bored within a week,’ he predicted.
‘I’m not looking for a guy. This is just the way it’s going to be, take it or leave it.’
It was the torment in her green eyes that made him hold his tongue—that and the realisation that she genuinely believed all the rubbish she was spouting. Her logic was totally crazy but he recognised this might not be the time to point it out. This was the time for a tactical retreat...but he would be back.
* * *
Alex closed the door behind him as he left, which should have made her happy. It was what she wanted, but as she picked up the phone to arrange Jasmine’s trip over to meet her father happiness was not the emotion that was uppermost in her mind. She might never have sex again, and that was reason enough to feel depressed.
She had had the most gorgeous man in the universe ask her to be with him, and she had sent him away! More significantly, he had gone without even putting up much of a fight.... Probably, she thought gloomily, he’d been secretly relieved.