The admission did not lighten his mood. If anything his expression grew sterner. ‘Well, you should.’

He was right, of course, but his sermonising manner struck her as ever so slightly hypocritical. ‘Wasn’t it you that advised me not to worry about something I have no control over?’ Control was what she ought to have shown the previous night, Nell reflected grimly.

‘I want you to know that I am prepared to live with the consequences of my ac tions.’

‘What consequences? Once I have found Lucy we’re never going to see one another again.’ A little time and distance and she might be able to look on last night with a little more objectivity.

‘“What consequences?”’ he echoed.

His meaning hit her and the colour rushed to her face. ‘Oh!’

Lips compressed into a thin smile, he nodded. ‘Exactly. I am not a man who walks away from his responsibilities.’

She stuck out her chin and curled her lips into a smile of mild contempt and turned away from him to cover her acute embarrassment, saying, ‘I’m not your responsibility. Statistically the chances of getting pregnant the first time—or even the second—must be minimal. And don’t worry—if I’m pregnant you’ll be the last to know.’

She hadn’t taken a step before a hand on her shoulder swung her back. His fingers closed around her upper arms as he jerked her towards him until their bodies collided.

His dark eyes drilled into her. ‘It is not a subject for humour.’

She said. ‘Obviously not.’ And rubbed her arms where she could still feel the imprint of his fingers.

She assumed that he was scared rigid at the thought of an unwanted pregnancy.

‘No more jokes,’ she promised. Suddenly she didn’t feel much like joking; his reaction was natural, but hurtful all the same.

‘I have never had unprotected sex with a woman, not even my wife.’ There was a confessional quality to the words that spilled from him. ‘Rosa wanted a baby, I said there was time, only there wasn’t.’

Nell’s tender heart ached to see his pain. ‘You couldn’t have known.’

Ignoring her sympathetic intervention, Luiz continued as if she hadn’t spoken. ‘I wouldn’t give her the child she wanted and now with you, a woman I barely know…you could be carrying my child.’

His words explained a lot and hurt her on more levels than she knew existed.

‘Well, I’m not, so let’s just change the subject…the keys.’ She snatched a little wildly for her bag that lay on the floor, brushing the inexplicable moisture from her cheeks as she did so. ‘They were in here,’ she explained, straightening and looping it across her shoulder. ‘They must have fallen out when I slipped,’ she confessed.

‘You lost the keys?’ He could not believe he had said those things to her. What was it about this woman that made him forget a lifetime of keeping his own counsel and guarding his emotions?

It seemed to Nell he was avoiding looking at her, she couldn’t read anything in his voice, but he had to be unhappy about the keys. She couldn’t allow herself to think about the other things he was unhappy about.

‘I didn’t do it on purpose—it was an accident.’ Would the same excuse work for sleeping with a man you barely knew, and wanting to do it again even though he was not only clearly regretting it like mad, but still in love with his dead wife?

‘It was dark,’ she added, wishing it were dark now because she felt as though her carnal cravings were written all over her face.

What had happened to pride and self-respect?

‘I was going to get up early before you were awake…’ Their eyes met and she blushed. ‘That was the plan anyway.’

He extended his hand and opened his fingers. The key lay in his palm. ‘I thought it might be something like that.’

Nell’s eyes lifted from the keys to his face; two circles of colour appeared on her cheeks. ‘You had them all along.’

‘I found them near the car.’

‘But you just thought you’d make me squirm? What a nice man you are.’ A flash of something that on anyone else Nell would have interpreted as remorse appeared in his eyes.

‘Last night should not have happened.’

A mortified flush climbed up her neck until her face was burning. ‘Don’t dwell on it. I won’t.’

‘Because losing your virginity is something that happens every day of the week.’

‘It had to happen some time.’

‘You are very casual about it.’

‘For heaven’s sake, will you stop going on about it?’ She gave a shrug and tried to inject some humour into the situation. ‘Relax. I realise the last time you slept with a virgin you married her, but I’m not expecting a proposal.’

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