‘You’ve met him, I think.’
He watched as she topped up her coffee cup. ‘Who?’
‘My brother. I believe you played with cars together. Cesare...?’
A look of utter astonishment spread across his face. ‘You are Cesare Urquart’s sister?’ Meeting someone with a public persona in the flesh could, Alex knew, be disappointing when that person fell far short of your mental image. But that hadn’t been the case when he had met the ex-racing driver whose career he had followed. He had liked the man and the feeling seemed to have been reciprocated.
‘Does he know about me?’ Alex asked, imagining his own reaction if the situation was reversed and he discovered the identity of the man who had got his young and beautiful sister pregnant.
‘I’m assuming there will be no place to run,’ he observed sardonically.
She flicked him a glance, resenting the fact he could look amused when she was genuinely worried about what her brother would do. Wade in all guns blazing probably.
‘That settles it,’ Alex said. ‘I’ll have to marry you.’
She struggled to match his flippancy. ‘You really know how to sell the idea. Of course I’ll marry you. Name the day.’
‘Tomorrow, unless you want a big wedding?’
The joke was beginning to grow tired. ‘Very funny.’
‘Why would you think I’m joking?’
She turned to him with an astonished stare. ‘Because if you weren’t that would make you insane.’
‘It is insane to think a child is better brought up within the confines of a marriage?’
‘We’re not talking about Jasmine.’
‘Yes, we are, Jasmine and us. You won’t be my lover, so be my wife.’
Feeling the panic begin to build, she pressed a hand to her tight chest. ‘There is no us.’
A spasm of impatience moved across his lean face. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. I’m the father of your child and I’m the only man you’ve ever slept with. That adds up to a big fat us.’
‘It doesn’t add up to marriage.’
‘I’m not talking a paper marriage, if that is what is bothering you. Not a sterile, convenient—’ He saw her flinch and stopped. ‘What have I said?’
Pale as paper, she shook her head. ‘Too much.’
He shrugged and forced himself to stifle his impatience. He had given her enough to think about, planted the idea, now it would grow.
He allowed himself one final parting shot.
‘You don’t want Jasmine to be an only child, do you?’
She was glad he couldn’t see her face, or the tears that began to slide down her cheeks. She was grateful to him; she needed that. For a moment there she had started to let herself think that the crazy things he said were possible.
THE MOMENT ALEX walked into the hotel foyer, a trail of assistants behind him, he realised that something was wrong—it did not take a genius to work this out.
The area was crowded, some people talking, others gawking, and in the middle of them was Angel, white faced, wild eyed and she was shouting.
‘What is wrong with you people? I don’t want to sit down. I don’t want to fill in a form. I’ve told you I can’t find my daughter. My little girl, she was there and now she isn’t. I need help, not tea!’
The shrill words stopped Alex in his tracks. He felt a cold hand close around his heart, then a moment later he was surging forward and the crowd was parting.
She spun around; her expression when she saw him would stay with him for ever. ‘Thank God, Alex, it’s Jas, she’s—’
He laid his hands on her shoulders and held her eyes with his. ‘I heard. Just tell me what happened.’
Angel expelled a deep shuddering sigh and focused on his eyes, trying to block out the rest of the room and the white noise of panic in her head. ‘We were walking back after lunch.’ She gave another deep sigh and shook her head.
‘Look at me, Angel.’
She responded to the firm voice, taking comfort from the calm in it. ‘She’d spent the morning at the shoot with me watching. We had lunch, yes, I already said that, and...I really should get back outside.’
‘In a moment.’
‘I saw Nico, he asked me about... I don’t remember. I only turned away for a moment, really only a moment, and when I turned around she was gone, vanished!’