His eyes narrowed. ‘So now your life is exciting and fulfilling?’
‘I have a career and a child.’
‘How did you take care of a baby and attend college?’
‘I left him in the college crèche. And fortunately the school I work at is happy for him to go to the nursery there.’
‘So you qualified…?’
‘Amazing, isn’t it? I’m actually not the brainless bimbo you and your family thought me, Angolos.’
His dark lashes swept downwards, touching the curve of his high, chiselled cheekbones as he studied his feet. There was a lengthy pause before he lifted his head and replied.
‘I never thought you were brainless.’
Georgie did not make the mistake of taking this comment as a compliment. She recognised that she was within seconds of losing control totally. Her assertions, the ones that she repeated like a mantra to herself every night, that she was totally over him, would be out the window if she started to batter her fists against his chest.
Their eyes locked and neither combatant heard the first tentative tap on the open door. The second, slighter louder one got their attention.
‘I’ll be right there, Ruth,’ Georgie promised, pulling the door open.
‘No hurry,’ the older woman soothed. ‘I’m sorry to disturb you, but Nicky is asking for his cosy. I wasn’t sure what he meant.’
‘It’s his blanket, yellow…sort of. It’s in his bedroom on the chest by the window.’
‘He needs a security blanket?’
The faintest hint of criticism and her hackles were up. ‘Actually it’s a sheet.’ So now he was the child expert.
‘He has problems…?’ A child who had been rejected by his father—why was he surprised? Angolos, a firm believer that a stable family was the only place to bring up a child, knew that if his son had problems the blame lay at his own door. He didn’t know how this had happened, but he was a father and he needed to put right the harm he had already done.
‘No, he doesn’t have problems. He’s a normal little boy who…’ She stopped and frowned. ‘Good grief, I don’t know why I’m explaining anything to you of all people.’
‘Because I am his father.’
She had never expected her dig to evoke any real reaction, certainly not the expression of haunted regret that she saw on his face.
‘Look, Angolos, if you’ve come over with a case of delayed paternal feelings, I suggest you go take an aspirin or buy a shiny new car. I’m sure it will pass.’
‘You think I am that shallow?’ he enquired in a savage growl.
‘Think? I know you’re that shallow,’ she retorted. ‘Shallow and cruel and vindictive…’ Something she might remind herself the next time she found herself in danger of feeling sorry for him. The fact was, if she ever started thinking of Angolos as the victim it was time for the men in white coats. ‘This is a pointless conversation.’
‘It’s one we’re going to have.’
Fine! If he wanted a war of attrition, she thought, he could have a war of attrition. But he was going to discover that during the time they’d been apart she had developed a backbone, not to mention a mind of her own!
‘Why, Angolos? Because you say so? I know it used to work that way, but not any more.’ She gave a hiss of frustration as her trained maternal ear caught the sound of her son’s cry. A few seconds later Angolos heard it too and turned his head in the direction of the angry sound.
‘What’s wrong with him?’
‘Being a mother doesn’t make me psychic.’ It had, however, given her the ability to distinguish between her son’s cries. The one she had heard suggested tiredness, not pain or distress. ‘I’ve got to go to him.’ She started for the door, but he moved and effectively blocked her path with his body. Her nostrils flared as she caught the faint scent of the fragrance he used. Low in her belly her muscles tightened.
‘Fine!’ she snapped, throwing up her hands in angry capitulation. ‘If you want me to listen to you I will, but not now or here.’
‘When and where, then?’
She said the first thing that came into her head. ‘The beach.’
‘Where we used to meet. Where you offered me your innocence…’
His tone, softly sensual, stole the strength from her legs at the first syllable. Falling flat on her face would not be a good move, Georgie decided, reaching casually for the back of a conveniently placed chair. ‘The way I recall it, you were pretty eager to take it.’ Unfair, but she didn’t feel inclined to fairness at that moment. ‘I’ll meet you tomorrow night at eight…’
Her family would be back then and Nicky would be safely tucked up in bed.
‘And this time I won’t be offering you anything.’
‘I can’t,’ she began, and then saw his expression. ‘All right, tonight,’ she agreed with a sigh.
For a moment his narrowed eyes held hers, then he inclined his head. ‘It would seem we have a date.’
‘Hell,’ she loudly announced to his back, ‘will freeze over first.’ She closed the front door and leaned against it with a sigh; she was shaking. With her luck, she thought, Angolos would construe her childish retort as a challenge—that would be just like him.
And what on earth was Angolos up to? she wondered as she sank weakly to the floor. She sat there, her back wedged against the door, her knees tucked under her chin, waiting for her knees to stop shaking. For once Nicky’s need for attention came secondary; secondary to the necessity for her to be able to walk without falling over.
When she got to her feet she felt strangely numb, as though her stressed body had produced some natural anaesthetic. She didn’t want to think about how she would feel when it wore off.
Georgie went through the rest of the day on autopilot. She tried hard to conceal the anxiety that lodged like a weight behind her breastbone but as the day progressed it got increasingly difficult.
Ruth, bless her, agreed to come over later and sit with Nicky. She didn’t ask any questions and, beyond a searching look and a brief, ‘Are you all right?’ she had not asked anything about Angolos.
Georgie was grateful for her reticence. She knew if Gran had been there she would not have escaped so lightly. Her grandmother had barely managed to be civil to Angolos before they had split up. Who knew how she’d have reacted if she’d been here when he’d turned up?
Why, after years of conspicuous silence, was Angolos here? The question gnawed at her all day. It was when Nicky’s lower lip trembled after she had snapped at him over something trivial that she decided enough was enough.
By letting Angolos get to her this way she was allowing him to win. After all, it didn’t matter what he had to say, or why he was here, he wasn’t part of her life any more. Ironically it was when she stopped looking for answers that she accidentally found one.
She discovered the innocent-looking envelope when she was performing the daily ritual of picking up Nicky’s toys from the living room after he had gone to bed. She glanced incuriously at her name, and, assuming it was junk mail, aimed it at the waste-paper basket. It was only when it missed and she went to retrieve it from where it fell that she realised the paper was good quality.
She turned the envelope over. There was no stamp or postmark and it wasn’t sealed. She opened it and slid out the contents. She immediately recognised the letterhead of the law firm that Angolos used. Crazy, really, that she should feel shocked—even crazier that she had to blink back the tears. This was something she had been expecting for the past three years. It was the logical step and one that her family had frequently urged her to take.
Angolos wanted a divorce.
‘You look very nice, dear,’ Ruth commented as she walked with Georgie to the front door.
‘I’m wearing make-up,’ Georgie admitted, lifting a self-conscious hand to her lightly glossed lips.
‘Charming, but I was thinking of the dress.’
Georgie flushed, and looked down at the pale peach-coloured halter-necked dress she had finally selected. Even with her limited wardrobe it had taken her half an hour.
‘It’s too much, isn’t it?’ she fretted, smoothing the light fabric over her slender hips. ‘I knew it was. I’ll go and change.’
Ruth laughed. ‘Don’t be silly, you look lovely. Whether it’s too much rather depends on what reaction you want to get?’
‘I was aiming towards a sharp intake of breath,’ Georgie admitted.
‘Oh, I think you’ll get that. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but is there a reconciliation on the cards?’