‘You know you want me, so why are you fighting it?’
‘Yes, I want you.’
The admission upped the tension several more notches. His eyes glowed an incandescent, dizzying blue. The combustible quality that was always there just beneath the surface was no longer buried beneath a veneer of sophistication but right there in her face.
‘But you’re not talking about wanting, you’re talking about marriage. I can’t marry you, Alex.’
‘I keep hearing that—’
She was unable to retreat any more as the back of her legs had made contact with the small rail that ran around the veranda. She held up her hand, more in hope than any real expectation it would stop his advance, and if he touched her she’d...!
‘I can’t marry you,’ she blurted, ‘because I can’t have any more children.’ His reaction to this information was hard to read because he didn’t display any reaction at all.
She had been quiet too when they’d told her the details. She’d thought the overstretched professionals had been relieved when she hadn’t broken down, and they had spoken of her healthy attitude.
‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’
He tilted his head to one side and surveyed her through narrowed eyes. He didn’t buy her supernatural composure for one second. He could feel the pain she was struggling to hide as sharply as if it had been his own. He fought the urge to haul her into his arms and tell her everything was going to be all right. He needed facts.
‘How about you tell me what you’re saying?’
She responded to the quiet request with a minimal shrug. ‘I told you that I needed a Caesarean when Jas was born.’ He nodded. ‘I might have implied that it was straightforward.’
He hefted out a deep sigh. ‘And it wasn’t.’
Her shadowed gaze flickered upwards. Remote was the word that came to mind when she tried to read his expression. ‘I lost a lot of blood,’ she admitted. ‘And, well, technical stuff aside, the long and short of it is the chances of me conceiving again are pretty remote.’
He heard her out in silence, his expression growing colder the longer she spoke. ‘You could have died—something that slipped your mind, I suppose.’
She was not surprised he was angry. ‘Childbirth is very safe these days and my life was never in any real danger. It’s not something I think about too often. I have Jasmine, I don’t need... It’s a closed chapter for me and I didn’t see how it could affect us. I mean, how was I to know that you were so ridiculously old-fashioned? I wasn’t expecting you to propose.’
‘I really don’t see... If what you’re saying is true...’
Her spine stiffened. ‘If!’ she ground out tautly. ‘Why would I lie?’ Did he think she got a kick out of revealing intimate medical details?
‘Get down off that high horse, Angel. I’m just trying to make sense of you taking the contraceptive pill unless you were just saying...’
‘Oh... I am on the pill, the doctors advised it. Although the chances of me getting pregnant are pretty much the same as winning the lottery, it still is technically possible.’ With further tests he had said he could be more precise but Angel, who had had enough of being poked and prodded, had refused.
‘Why am I getting the impression that you are giving me only half the story?’
The consultant’s final comments came back to her.
‘I cannot emphasise how important it would be for you to seek medical advice immediately, immediately, Miss Urquart should you even suspect you might be pregnant.’
‘If I did by some miracle get pregnant I’d need to be monitored.’
Under his tan Alex paled. ‘By that you mean it would be dangerous for you to have a baby...as in life-threateningly dangerous?’
‘That,’ she said, dodging his gaze, ‘is an overstatement. If it did happen—’
She gulped at his tone. ‘Yes, I know, like I said, the likelihood of it happening is a bit like winning the lottery.’
‘I mean you will not try.’ His hands landed on her shoulders and she could feel the tremors running through him. ‘Not now, not ever, will you put your life at risk that way.’ It would be just like Angel to pull some stupid stunt like that. ‘Do you hear me? Ever!’
Hard not to hear him, not that he was yelling. His voice had dropped to a low bass rumble, the way she’d noticed it did when he was particularly annoyed, but there was nothing wrong with his projection.