Going back to the living room, Angel persuaded a reluctant Nico that he didn’t need to stay.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Totally. I’m just going to take a shower and head for bed myself.’
Finally alone, she checked on Jasmine before she padded over to the shower, leaving all the interconnecting doors open so that she would hear should Jasmine wake. She didn’t, of course, but Angel spent more time stepping out wet to check for some imaginary sound than she did washing off the sand and grime.
Not bothering to dry her hair, she squeezed out the excess water and brushed it back off her face with her fingers. It fell in a heavy rope-like twist down her back. Pulling on the silk robe hung behind the door, she belted it and hurried back to Jasmine’s room to double check, her heart suddenly pumping double-time as she stepped into the room.
Angel felt the panic leave her with a soft whoosh. Her daughter hadn’t moved since she’d last looked, which was probably all of five minutes ago. It wasn’t as if she had expected Jas to have vanished.... Her knees shook a little as she made an effort to gather her composure.
Walking back into the adjoining room, she started on hearing a knock on the door. It wouldn’t be Alex—he wouldn’t have knocked and maybe he wouldn’t even come. Nico would have reported that they were all right. Why should he come?
Because I want him to!
Pull yourself together, Angel. Since when did you need a shoulder to cry on? Impatient with herself, she went to the door where a smiling maid in the dark blue hotel uniform stood holding a tray.
‘The coffee you ordered, miss.’
Angel thanked the girl and didn’t pursue the forgetfulness. Amnesia registered pretty low down in the day’s events, so Angel asked the maid to put the tray down on the coffee table.
Two reviving cups later Angel was standing on the veranda when she saw him.
She watched him approach, shading her eyes against the glare of the setting sun that threw pink fingers of light across the silver water. He was too far away for her to make out anything, but his silhouette and his long-legged elegant stride were unmistakable, the way he moved as distinctive as a fingerprint.
Post-caffeine hit she was thinking more clearly, and as she squared her shoulders she knew what he had come to say. Not the words precisely, but definitely the sentiment of the things he would not say in front of Jasmine. And she wasn’t going to fight him on it. He was here to blame her, call her a terrible mother and he was right. She had no defence against the truth any more than she had defence left against her feelings for him.
She loved him.
It had taken her long enough to work it out. When it came to personal relationships she was a blank page. Unlike her, Alex knew about relationships. He’d been in love enough to get married, enough to be devastated when he lost the love of his life, enough to sleep with the first... Well, maybe not the first woman he met but probably the first one who had begged him to take her to bed.
One night of escaping his nightmares, seeking oblivion in mindless sex and who could blame him? It would take a harsh critic to judge him for that but he had clearly judged himself and struggled to wipe the shameful memory from his mind. Marry him.... Yeah, sure, they really were the foundations of a great relationship!
Obviously she knew that Alex was physically attracted to her, and his devotion to Jasmine was not in question. But Angel knew that wasn’t enough. Easy thing to say now when she was clear headed, but in his presence—and certainly in his arms—she rarely felt that way.
Then keep out of his arms, Angel!
Alex slowed and paused, one hand on the wooden balustrade, coming to a dead halt at the bottom of the shallow flight of wooden steps. The sight of her standing there stole his breath away, the same way she had stolen his heart.
She had every reason to hate him but her generous heart had let him in. She’d given him a second chance, and of course he understood she was wary of trusting him, but if it took him the rest of his life he would convince her.
Her heart started to thud heavily, the echo loud in her ears as he mounted the steps. She could feel the acid taste of self-recrimination in her mouth. He could not possibly blame her more than she did herself.
And she’d lectured him on the responsibilities of being a parent! It was on her watch that this had happened. It didn’t matter how many times she went over it in her head, she still couldn’t figure out how it had happened; her attention had only been distracted for a moment—and that had been enough.
The blue pedal pushers and white shirt were gone. She now wore a black silk kimono emblazoned with humming birds that ended midcalf to reveal her endless golden legs. His eyes slid hungrily down her body, over the soft, sinuous, sexy curves, and he swallowed, losing his focus as his body surged lustfully. When his gaze settled back on her face her slicked-back hair revealed her face as a perfect oval.