‘I said this was the place they would be most likely to come,’ he corrected. ‘They were here or somebody was—’
Nell rolled her eyes. ‘What are you—psychic?’
‘There are fresh car tracks outside in the gravel.’
She gritted her teeth; his calm was totally maddening. ‘Which is no help at all. Don’t just stand there, do something!’
He raised a laconic brow and she wanted to shake him. ‘What would you have me do, Nell?’
Nell regarded him with simmering frustration. ‘I thought you always knew what to do.’
His eyes narrowed. ‘Where you are concerned,’ he observed drily, ‘what I do is always the wrong thing.’
Like sleeping with me. ‘And you care so much for my opinion!’ she snorted.
‘Luiz! What are you doing here?’
At the sound of his name Luiz turned his head. ‘Good morning, Felipe.’
Nell spun around to face the doorway where a young man stood. He was dressed in jeans and a shirt like Luiz; there the similarities ended. The newcomer, who was a little above average height, had a slim, boyish build. He wore horn-rimmed spectacles and had shoulder-length floppy brown hair that gave him an earnest, slightly disheveled student look.
‘I was looking for you.’
His cousin looked confused. ‘You were? Did we arrange something? I forgot. I thought you didn’t come here any more. I didn’t go into the studio.’
‘It’s empty, Felipe.’ It had seemed wrong to him to hide away Rosa’s talent behind dusty covers; her work was permanently displayed in a gallery in Seville.
‘He’s Felipe? You’re Felipe?’ Nell, following very little of this interchange was unable to hide her doubt. She looked from one man to the other. Man in the case of the younger Santoro was a stretch; she doubted he had started to shave yet.
Reality and imagination were poles apart and she struggled to reconcile her mental image of a slick seducer of young women with the fresh-faced youth before her.
‘This is Felipe. Felipe, this is Nell Frost.’
The boy’s eyes widened. ‘You’re Lucy’s Aunt Nell!’ he exclaimed. Nell took a step towards him feeling suddenly rather old. ‘Yes, I’m Lucy’s Aunt Nell. Now where,’ she demanded sternly, ‘is Lucy?’
He shook his head. ‘I d-don’t know.’
The faltering response did not impress Nell, who waved a warning finger in his direction. ‘Please do not muck me around—my patience is not infinite.’
‘Her patience is non-existent.’
The sly aside drew a repressive glare from Nell. ‘Do you mind? I’m talking to your cousin. Now, Felipe, what have you done with Lucy?’
‘I haven’t done anything with her. She…I don’t know…I tell you I don’t know. She took the car last night and left me here. She said she was going home. I don’t understand—she said she loved me and now, now says she is not ready for marriage and…’ The boy’s voice broke as he buried his face in his hands.
Nell expelled a gusty sigh and breathed a fervent, ‘Thank God!’ A loud sob brought a guilty grimace to her face.
‘I love her!’ Felipe, the picture of heartbroken misery, wailed.
Nell’s tender heart was touched by his anguish, but her sympathy was tinged with a touch of shame. It probably made her guilty of a variety of sexism, but she didn’t have a clue how to cope with a man who was crying.
She glanced towards Luiz, who was a man, but not one, she was guessing, who had much personal experience of public displays of any form of weakness. But despite that she’d seen his vulnerability—did he resent that?
She caught his eye and mouthed, Do something, but he shrugged and continued to look at his cousin with mild distaste mingled with not so mild irritation.
The man seemed to have no heart, but she knew he had—had he wept when his wife died?
Nell pushed away the thought, because feeling any form of empathy with Luiz Santoro could, she instinctively knew, take her back into a dangerous place. She brushed past him and gave a loud contemptuous sniff. Her voice soft with sympathy, she smiled encouragingly at Felipe.
‘Of course you love her,’ she soothed, feeling disloyal but unable to repress the horrified thought that Lucy might be the sort of girl that mothers warned their sons about.
Watching his shoulders heave as he struggled to control himself, Nell placed a tentative hand on the shoulder of the distraught young man. ‘There, there,’ she said awkwardly.
The effect of her sympathy was to make tears spring to his eyes.
‘Enough, Felipe!’ Luiz’s tone, brusque bordering on brutal, appeared to be effective—his cousin’s lips stopped quivering and he listened as Luiz continued speaking to him in Spanish.