‘No,’ he agreed flatly, ‘it isn’t. But for the record shotguns were not required.’
Her brow furrowed as she mused, ‘I’d have thought…’ She stopped as it occurred to her that she was displaying an unhealthy interest in his personal life.
Besides, with his spooky ability to turn everything around so that she was in the wrong, the fewer words she exchanged with the wretched man, and the least opportunity she gave him to say her name, the better!
She wasn’t here to find out what made Luiz Santoro tick—even had she had the inclination, that would in any case take about a zillion years. The man’s character had more twists, turns and dead ends than a maze. She was here to find Lucy and extricate her from this situation. The details of how she was going to extricate her were a little hazy. But during the drive it had begun to dawn on Nell that something more than logic and reasoned argument might be required.
Just what that something might constitute she didn’t yet know.
She sketched a dismissive smile. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘Isn’t it a little late to be cautious about sharing your opinion?’
‘All right, well, you’re not actually the best advertisement for marrying young, are you? I’d have thought considering your marriage flopped, your natural instinct would be to stop your cousin making the same mistake.’
There was a pause while Luiz struggled against his natural instinct to stop the car and kiss her into silence.
An image of a youthful Luiz, all romantic ideals and raging hormones, flashed into her head. She felt a swell of sympathy for the girl he had swept off her feet—and just a tinge of envy?
Nell dismissed the ridiculous thought before it was fully formed and wondered if his ex-wife was devastated when it ended, or relieved. Had she been able to rebuild her life or had she compared every man that came after with Luiz Santoro?
‘Did I say my marriage was a mistake?’
‘Under the circumstances I took that as read.’ Some men could not admit to failure of any sort and he was clearly one of them.
He clicked his tongue. ‘You can get into all sorts of trouble that way.’
‘Is that some sort of threat?’ Nell was appalled to hear a quiver in her voice, so she added with a laugh, ‘Am I meant to be scared?’ She would have felt a lot happier if it had been fear that was causing her heart to slam against her ribcage.
‘If your marriage was such a roaring, screaming success story, how come you got divorced?’
The disdain in her voice caused his nostrils to flare, but there was only mild mockery to read in his voice as he said, ‘We did not divorce.’
Brow furrowed, Nell gave a bewildered shake of her head. ‘But…?’
There was no discernible expression in Luiz’s deep voice as he elaborated. ‘We had been married eighteen months when Rosa died.’
Nell, who hadn’t thought she could feel more awkward and at a disadvantage in his company, discovered she could. Her hand went to her mouth.
‘That’s terrible.’ Nice understatement, Nell.
He slid her a sideways look; their eyes momentarily connected. ‘It was a long time ago.’ And all he had left was a memory and it seemed to him sometimes that that too was slipping away from him.
He had stopped grieving for Rosa a long time ago, but he did grieve for the loss of her memory and he felt intense guilt on the days when he closed his eyes and could not see her face, hear her voice or her laughter. They were all slipping away from him. She was slipping away from him.
He turned away from the sympathy in Nell’s wide clear eyes. It reminded him of the way people had looked at him in those weeks and months after Rosa had died. Though the sympathy had faded when he had not obliged and fallen apart. His lack of tears and emotion had been viewed with suspicion in many quarters and then when, after what was considered an appropriate period of time, he had not found a suitable replacement for Rosa they had been equally disgruntled.
There could be no replacement for Rosa; a man only loved once.
‘Go on, ask me.’ He could feel her eyes on his face.
At one level Luiz knew that she could not be held accountable for the way her features had imprinted themselves in his mind. On another, more irrational level it felt as though she was usurping Rosa’s place in his thoughts.
Nell winced, but did not comment as Luiz crunched the gears. His face in profile looked impassive; she could see a muscle in his lean cheek clench spasmodically.
‘You are clearly dying of curiosity.’
‘You overrate my interest in your personal life.’ She almost immediately contradicted her claim by adding, ‘Rosa is a beautiful name—was she?’