‘I was happy there when I was her age.’
‘You have no accent.’
Her smile faded. ‘No, I lost it and my roots, but Jasmine won’t.’
‘Roots are less about places and more about people.’
‘There speaks someone who didn’t grow up in a series of hotel rooms.’
‘You said she had been ill? Was it serious?’
‘It took a while to diagnose, a thing with her hip. It required a lot of bed rest and that was tough. They thought she might be left with a limp but she’s fine. Are you all right, Alex?’
He tore his eyes off the playing child and nodded. ‘Fine.’ As fine as any man could be when he knew the woman he loved had faced all those things alone.
‘Are you sure?’
He nodded. ‘I should have been there.’
The burning intensity of his gaze made her look away. ‘You’re here now.’
‘Yes, I am.’
They caught up with Jasmine, who, to Angel’s maternal eyes, was showing visible signs of flagging. ‘Want a carry, sweetheart?’
‘No, I’m okay. What’s that?’ She stared curiously at the parcel in Alex’s hand.
He withdrew the book from behind his back. ‘A book. I thought you might like it. It’s about a princess who marries a handsome prince after he saves her from a dragon.’ A far simpler time when all a man had to do to prove himself was slay the odd dragon. Life was much more complicated these days.
‘I already have a book about a princess. She rescues the prince and she hates pink.’
A lot more complicated—he couldn’t even impress a five-year-old. ‘It seems,’ Alex said in a soft rueful aside to Angel as she took the book from him, ‘that I am not politically correct enough.’
They had reached the steps to the bungalow and Angel opened the book. ‘Look, Jas, this book has such lovely pictures, really beautiful.’ How crazy that she wanted to save his feelings. He was trying so hard that it made her heart ache to watch him.
‘Are there any cats in it?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Alex admitted.
‘I like cats. Thank you very much.’
He inclined his head. ‘You are most welcome, Jasmine.’
She allowed herself to be led up the steps to the veranda, where she jumped directly onto a bench. ‘I could look at the pictures now.’
‘Nice try. We had a deal. A swim and then a nap.’
With a show of reluctance she got up.
‘Say goodnight to Alex.’
‘Goodnight, Mr Alex.’
‘There’s a bottle of wine open in the fridge if you want some. I won’t be long...if you want to wait.’
He stood up when Angel walked back into the living room a few minutes later and pulled out a chair for her, wincing as it scraped on the wooden floor. ‘Sorry.’
‘Don’t worry. Nothing will wake her now.’
‘She’s quite a character. You have done a good job.’
Angel felt herself blush with pleasure at the compliment. ‘I’ve had a lot of help....’
‘You have a nanny?’
Her chin lifted defensively. ‘Luckily.’
He watched, one brow raised, as she ignored the wine he had poured and filled her coffee cup from a Thermos jug. ‘It was not a criticism.’
‘My brother is great and my normal nanny is sporting a leg plaster. Her really great stand-in flew over with Jas and then back.’
‘So what does your brother do—?’ He broke off, frowning. ‘Is that a good idea?’ She looked at him over the rim of her cup. ‘You do know you’re displaying all the classic signs of caffeine overload?’
‘You’re jumpy as hell, you can’t sit still... Look,’ he broke off to say as the cup she had put back down on the table rattled. ‘You’re trembling and I bet your heart is racing and you’re dizzy? Am I right?’
Oh, he was right. ‘And that’s because I drink too much coffee?’ A man with a mind like a steel trap, but it turned out he didn’t know everything. She was beginning to think that where she was concerned he knew nothing!
‘If you’re not careful...’
She gave a sputtering laugh and drew his frowning disapproval.
‘This isn’t funny, Angel.’
‘Oh, I know it’s not, believe me,’ she said, looking at his mouth hard enough to memorise it. She picked up a magazine from the table and wafted her face with it. ‘But don’t worry, I know my limitations with coffee.’ It was her limitations with Alex that were her problem. Her internal red light just failed to activate with him.