She traced her finger across the misted glass before expelling a sigh and leaning back in her seat. She willed her eyes to stay open and tried to fight her way out of the brain-numbing lethargy that was stealing over her. It wasn’t the first time—it came in waves.
It wasn’t hard to see why sleep deprivation was such an effective interrogation technique.
‘Not exactly a big ask.’ She struggled to inject a suitable degree of venom into her time-delayed snarling response and was rewarded for her efforts by a laconic grin from Luiz.
‘Are we nearly there…?’ It wasn’t just her anxiety to find Lucy that injected the note of weary desperation into Nell’s voice. The longer she remained in this enclosed space with this man, the stronger the urge to escape became.
‘If you’re a good girl I’ll buy you an ice cream when we get there.’
Nell fought off a grin as her eyes drifted to his hands on the steering wheel. He had nice hands—strong, capable hands.
‘Perhaps a career and an education are not important to your niece?’
Nell’s admiration of his long, shapely fingers came to an abrupt stop. Her wide, indignant eyes flew to his face. ‘Lucy is a straight-A student and she has always wanted a career.’
‘My cousin is what some people might call a good catch,’ he observed mildly.
Nell’s hands balled into fists as she glared at him with stormy eyes. ‘If you’re trying to insinuate that my niece is a gold-digger…’ she began in a dangerous voice.
Luiz flashed her a look that was almost pitying. ‘I’m trying to suggest your niece might be in love.’
‘In love?’ she echoed, suspecting him of mockery.
‘It happens, so I’ve heard,’ he said sardonically.
His dark eyes brushed her face; they were hard and dark. Her lips curled into a derisive smile. He was insulting her intelligence if he thought she was going to buy into the idea of him being a romantic. ‘They’ve only known one another for a few weeks.’
‘I take it you’re not a believer in love at first sight, Nell?’
Nell rubbed her upper arms briskly—without fail, every time he said her name she broke out in goosebumps. It had to be the sexy foreign accent, she told herself.
She threw back her head and loosed a scornful laugh.
Luiz’s attention strayed her way again, his eyes drifting from her wide dove-grey eyes to her soft quivering mouth. Despite her best efforts to come across as hard-boiled and cynical, Nell Frost just didn’t have the equipment.
‘I’ll take that as a no, shall I, Nell?’
She rolled her eyes and tried to hide the unease she felt at the direction of this conversation. ‘I do not. Lust at first sight, possibly.’
‘Is this personal experience speaking?’
The sideways flicker of his eyes sent Nell’s stomach into a lurching dive. She gave a frozen smile. ‘That would be none of your business.’
Imagining he was thinking about he way she had kissed him earlier put an extra layer of defensive ice and scorn in Nell’s voice as she added, ‘I suppose you believe in love at first sight.’
‘I have no personal experience of it, but I am not as cynical as you. I would not dismiss it out of hand.’
‘The last of the great romantics,’ she mocked folding her arms in an unconsciously protective gesture across her chest as she bent her head forward, allowing her hair to fall in a silky concealing curtain around her face. ‘So I suppose you think getting married at nineteen is a good idea too?’
‘Well, I would be a hypocrite if I rebuked Felipe for something I did myself.’
Nell’s jaw dropped as she spun back to face him. ‘You got married at nineteen!’ she yelped.
She shook her head. ‘Do I look that gullible?’
His heavy-lidded eyes flashed her way. She looked back at him, her eyes big and wide like a trapped bird. ‘Actually, yes, you do.’
‘Well, looks can be deceiving,’ she retorted.
‘Why is it so difficult for you to believe I was married at twenty?’
She looked at him blankly. ‘You’re serious?’
It was irrational. Why shouldn’t he have been married young? But no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t picture him as some starry-eyed, ardent, idealistic youth so in love that he had married his first love despite family opposition—having glimpsed the privileged background he came from, Nell felt the family opposition was a reasonable assumption.
His future had probably been mapped out for him at birth. Unless…the question leapt ready formed to her lips.
‘Was she pregnant?’ Her groan of horror tacked itself seamlessly onto the sentence. She caught her full lower lip between her teeth and slid a wary look in his direction. ‘Sorry, that’s none of my business.’