‘I have never slept with a virgin before.’
‘Oh! I assumed that as you were both so young your wife…’ He raised a sardonic brow and Nell broke off mid-sentence, colouring deeply. This was one of those occasions when you had to recognise the hole you had just dug was deep enough.
‘Rosa was not a virgin, I was.’
‘You were a virgin?’ She struggled to picture a youthful and inexperienced Luiz.
‘Young men frequently mature later than girls, though not it seems in your case. Now turn around and let me fasten your dress.’
‘I can manage.’
Luiz ignored her. ‘Turn around.’
Face set, she did, mainly because it was easier than arguing. ‘It’s jammed.’
She rolled her eyes at his assessment. ‘I could have told you that—’ She stopped as his fingers touched the bare skin of her back and gasped as the contact sent a slug of sensation swirling through her body.
‘I almost have it. There, done.’
‘Thank you,’ she muttered, not looking at him. He was much better at taking off clothes.
Nell took some of the coffee he had brought and forced down one of the delicious pastries, if only to delay the moment when she had to get in the damned car beside him.
When he asked if she was ready to leave she took a deep breath and painted on a smile.
‘When you are,’ she agreed cheerfully.
‘Try not to worry about Lucy,’ Luiz said as she clicked her seat belt.
‘I’m not worried.’ That was the problem—until he had mentioned her Nell hadn’t thought about Lucy all morning.
IT only took half an hour to reach the cottage and Nell spent most of that time with her head poked out of the window, but the seething silence in the car made it one of the longest journeys she could recall ever enduring.
Nell flashed an occasional look at Luiz’s profile, not out of choice, but because her eyes drifted in that direction of their own volition with worrying frequency. On every occasion he looked remote and aloof.
It was probably better that way. If last night was any gauge a smile might be enough to make her start ripping off his clothes, she thought with a wince of self-disgust. No, a bit of distance was what was needed right now and she could live without his smiles, though it might be nice if he noticed she was alive.
The man had no manners.
The potholed road they were travelling diverged and Luiz took the right fork that led through a pair of open wrought-iron gates.
Nell looked around. The building they had pulled up in front of was not a cottage as she understood it. The home she had just sold had been advertised as a large comfortable family home, this cottage was probably four times its size. Single-storey and stone built in the style of a Mediterranean villa, it had wisteria rather than roses growing around the door.
It was certainly secluded enough for a love nest.
He nodded and said flatly, ‘That’s it.’
‘Well, I just hope they’re here after all this.’
Luiz, on whom the significance of the absence of a car had not been lost, thought she might well be disappointed. He kept the opinion to himself as she virtually exploded from the car and ran, skirt hitched above her shapely knees, over the gravel to the front door.
Nell looked around for a bell but could find none so instead banged her fist on the wooden panelling. The door immediately swung inwards and she almost fell inside.
She turned and yelled back to the car. Luiz was still sitting there watching her and she shook her head, impatient with his total lack of urgency.
‘It’s open!’ she yelled, and stepped inside yelling her niece’s name.
Luiz took a deep breath before he entered through the front door she had left open. The last time he had been here had been after the funeral. He had vowed on that occasion never to step through the door again; now here he was and very little had changed, except the raw intensity of his pain.
He had expected to feel…what?
Pain? Melancholy? Nostalgia…?
He had expected to feel more and coming in the wake of last night’s emotional betrayal it only intensified his guilty discomfort.
He had entered the hallway when Nell reappeared with a clatter on the polished wooden floor, breathing hard, her soft features contorted in anxiety and frustration. Her eyes shone with accusatory anger as she levelled a glare at him.
‘There’s nobody here.’ Her voice was hoarse from yelling. ‘You said they’d be here!’ she accused shrilly. ‘And—’ this was the worst part ‘—I believed you.’ She couldn’t believe she had not even paused to question the possibility he might be wrong.