A sigh ripped from him. Nell was right and he should leave. He should get the hell away from here and begin the unpalatable task of some very urgent damage control, only he had a feeling it was already too late. The tabloid Press would already be running, churning out their damning accusations cloaked in rumour and suggestion. The only part of it all that he had going for him was the Press did not know what Nell had been in the process of doing when she crashed her car on that quiet country lane.
His pager gave a beep. Turning away from the window, he went to collect his jacket from where he'd tossed it on a chair and dug the pager out of one of the pockets.
Hugo Vance was trying to reach him. His teeth came together with a snap. And so to discover the truth about his wife's new friend, he thought grimly, shrugged on his jacket, sent Nell one final, searing dark glance then quietly let himself out of the room.
FOR the next few days Nell felt as if she had been placed in purdah. The only people that came to visit her belonged to the medical staff, who seemed to take great pleasure in making her uncomfortable before they made her comfortable again.
The first time they allowed her to take a shower she was shocked by the extent of her bruising. If anyone had told her that with enough applied pressure you could achieve a perfect imprint of a car safety belt across your body she would not have believed them-until she saw it striking across her own slender frame in two ugly, deep bands of dark purple bruising. She had puncture holes and stitches from the keyhole surgery and her cracked ribs hurt like crazy every time she moved. She had bruises on her legs, bruises and scratches on her arms and her face due to ploughing through bushes in an open-top car before it had slammed into the tree.
And the miserable knowledge that Xander had seen her looking like this did not make her feel any better. It was no wonder he hadn't bothered to come and visit her again.
Her night things had been delivered, toiletries, that kind of thing. And she'd even received a dozen red roses-Xander's way of keeping up appearances, she supposed cynically. He was probably already back in New York by now, playing the big Greek tycoon by day and the great Greek lover by night for the lovely Vanessa.
If she could she'd chuck his stupid roses through the window, but she didn't have the strength. She'd found that she ached progressively more with each new day.
'What do you expect? You've been in a car accident,' a nurse said with a dulcet simplicity when she mentioned it to her. 'Your body took a heck of a battering and you're lucky that your injuries were not more serious. As it is it's going to be weeks before you begin to feel more like your old self again.'
The shower made her feel marginally better though. And the nurse had shampooed her hair for her and taken gentle care as she blow-dried its long, silken length. By the time she'd hobbled out of the bathroom she was ready to take an interest in the outside world again.
A world in which she had some urgent things to deal with, she recalled worriedly. 'I need a phone,' she told the nurse as she inched her aching way across the room via any piece of furniture she could grab hold of to help support her feeble weight. 'Isn't it usual to have one plugged in by the bed?'
The nurse didn't answer, her white-capped head averted as she waited for Nell to slip carefully back into the bed. It was only then that she began to realise that not only was there no telephone in here, but the room didn't even have a television set. What kind of private hospital was it Xander had dumped her in that it couldn't provide even the most basic luxuries? She demanded both. When she received neither, she changed tack and begged for a newspaper to read or a couple of magazines. It took another twenty-four hours for it to dawn on her that all forms of contact with the outside world were being deliberately withheld.
She began to fret, worrying as to what could have happened out there that they didn't want her to know about. Her father? Could something have happened to him? Stunned that she hadn't thought about him before now, she sat up with a thoughtless jerk that locked her into an agonising spasm across her chest.
That was how Xander found her, sitting on the edge of the bed clutching her side and struggling to breathe in short, sharp, painful little gasps.
'What the hell...?' He strode forward.
'Daddy,' she gasped out. 'S-something's happened to him.'
'When?' He frowned. 'I've heard nothing. Here, lie down again...'
His hands took control of her quivering shoulders and carefully eased her back against the high mound of pillows, the frown on his face turning to a scowl when he saw the bruising on her slender legs as he helped ease them carefully back onto the bed.
'You look like a war zone,' he muttered. 'What did you think you were doing, trying to get up without help?'