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It was hard, looking at the compressed line of his lips and knowing that only minutes ago they had moved skilfully, sensuously, over her own, to think that this was the same man.

She tuned out the memory and painted on a professional smile, a bit frayed at the edges but it gave her the confidence to push on. ‘Freya was eager to show off her skills. She is very eager to please.’

‘Now why do I think you don’t think that’s a good thing?’ he drawled.

Kate ignored his dry insertion. She couldn’t afford to drift from the point. ‘She appeared very fluent with her reading. In fact, streets ahead of the curve for her age.’

‘Then what is the problem?’ he asked, wondering if she was inventing some issue to make herself look important. He discarded the idea almost immediately. He had experience of women who would do any number of things to gain his attention but Kate Armstrong had not come across like that at all.

‘The thing is she can’t read, which would not make her unusual for a five-year-old, but there are some indications that there might be a problem.’ It was blunt but sometimes blunt was the best way.

‘That is ridiculous you just said yourself—’

‘She isn’treading.She has memorised the texts of her favourite books. She has an extremely good memory, really very good, but that is often the way with people with dyslexia.’

‘Dyslexia!You are saying my daughter is dyslexic, and you have picked this up within hours and Nanny Maeve didn’t and she’s been with Freya all her life.’ His lips curled in expressive contempt as he hooked his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans, his body language challenging her.

She nodded and stayed calm. The ‘shoot the messenger’ thing was not exactly unexpected.

‘I know how it must seem but sometimes a fresh pair of eyes...’ She swallowed a sigh, unable to detect any thaw in his hostile manner. This was not going to be easy. ‘This is no reflection on...anybody... People with dyslexia are very good at disguising the fact,’ she told him with diplomatic restraint. Privately she thought her predecessor had a lot to answer for. ‘It’s easy to miss.’

‘Or invent,’ he threw out. ‘Some people will do anything to hog the limelight.’

In response to the insult, he received a compassionate little smile that was all teeth-clenching understanding. He had never encountered a woman who grated on him more. Kiss her, throttle her—his reactions to her breathing were way beyond what was reasonable.

‘I know this is a shock, but—’

Marco dragged a hand through his sleek wet hair, his jaw clenched and quivering. He found himself unable to keep the doubt from edging into his voice. ‘Iwouldhave noticed...’

Sure, Marco, because you hear your daughter read such a lot.The recognition added a fresh slug of toxic guilt to the burden he already carried.

For a second Kate’s compassion warred with her disapproval of his parenting style. Compassion won. It was not the first time she’d seen parents angry and in denial when they were told there was an issue with their child. This situation felt a lot... This was not like any job she had experienced. It wasn’t as if ordinarily she forgot about work the moment she went home, there was always preparation, but she was able to switch off. Here, she felt immersed, and she was fast losing her professional distance, which, along with compassion, was in her view essential for a good teacher, or one that wanted to stay sane, at least.

‘Look, I don’t expect you to take my word for it,’ she said, keeping her voice calm and unemotional. ‘And I’m not suggesting for one moment that I’m an expert, but there are tests that would confirm the issue and I strongly advise that Freya have them. The earlier these things are picked up, the better.’

She hesitated a moment, worried she was throwing out too much information, before continuing. When people were shocked there was a saturation limit of how much they could retain.

‘I have looked it up and your psychology department here at the university have just completed a world-class study.’

He looked down at her in silence, then, twisting away, walked around the desk before lowering his long lean frame into the leather chair behind it.

‘How did did I not pick it up?’

Kate didn’t say anything. She suspected he already knew.

She watched, her heart squeezing in her chest as he picked up the photo from his desk and stared at it. Only a parent who loved their child could feel that sort of pain she saw written on his face: pain and guilt.

He put the photo down and, resting his elbows on the desk, looked up. ‘Is there a cure?’

He already knew the answer. He remembered the boy at school who had been singled out by teachers and pupils alike as lazy and stupid. The fact that boy was now a man whose entrepreneurial skill had made his name world-famous did not alter the fact his schooldays must have been hell.

He would not let that happen to Freya.

‘Is home schooling an option?’

It was, but not a good one as far as Kate was concerned. ‘I think you’re jumping ahead of yourself, and it’s really not useful to think in terms of a cure. Freya is not ill. People with dyslexia, their brains are just wired differently but the earlier a diagnosis is made, the easier it is to formulate strategies which make life easier. But first I think you should get it confirmed...’

His curling lashes lifted off his razor-sharp cheekbones. ‘You were sure enough to come here and...’ His voice trailed away. He could have done without the insight that told him he was looking for someone to blame but himself.

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