He responded in the same language before turning to Nell and saying softly, ‘I am very sorry, Miss Frost, for causing you so much worry.’ He turned to Luiz, who gave an almost imperceptible nod.
Nell rounded on Luiz. ‘Did you tell him to say that to me?’ she asked in a dangerous voice. ‘Dear God!’
‘If I did?’
‘The poor boy is not a puppet!’ She turned back to Felipe, who looked a little startled by her fierce instruction to, ‘Ignore him and tell me what happened.’
‘We were in love…’
Nell shook her head and said sharply, ‘No, not that bit.’
Felipe shook his head in a confused way and looked ready to bolt or burst into tears again.
Nell felt a surge of frustration and impatience and opened her mouth to tell him to pull himself together until she realised with horror that she was behaving as heartlessly as Luiz.
She forced herself to smile. ‘Why are you here alone, Felipe? Did you have a row? When did Lucy leave?’
‘She thinks you had a row and buried the girlfriend in the garden.’
Nell responded to the sardonic interruption with a gritted, ‘Will you be quiet? Or I’ll bury you in the garden.’
Luiz met her fulminating glare with a look of patently insincere innocence that drew a low growl from Nell’s throat. ‘You’re totally impossible.’
A wide grin of the painfully attractive variety spread across Luiz’s face as he inclined his dark head in acknowledgement as the tension between them perceptively thawed. ‘Thank you.’
Nell caught herself grinning back and instead compressed her lips into a thin line. ‘That was not a compliment,’ she said repressively.
Felipe, who had been visibly struggling to follow the quickfire interchange, shook his head. ‘I would never hurt Lucy.’
‘Of course you wouldn’t, Felipe.’
‘She left this morning some time…I think…’
Nell, unable to contain her impatience, cut across him. She just prayed that her niece had not got into more trouble. ‘You think—you don’t know?’
‘Not really. She left while I was asleep.’ He wiped a hand across his damp face and pulled a crumpled sheet of paper from his pocket. ‘She left me a note and took the car. I was stuck—’
Luiz interrupted. ‘What about your phone?’ His glance slid to Nell and he added in a low-voiced aside, ‘There is reception here.’
‘It was in the car when Lucy left.’
‘She stranded you here?’ Nell exclaimed, appalled.
‘Your niece sounds like a very…resourceful young woman, querida.’
Nell cast him a look of seething dislike. ‘Do not call me that—I’m sure Lucy didn’t mean to strand you.’
Felipe looked shocked by the suggestion. ‘Oh, no, not Lucy.’ Nell lowered her eyes. Clearly his cousin had all the cynicism in the family. ‘She said in the note that she’ll always treasure our time together. This wasn’t just a holiday romance.’
Nell had some sympathy for Luiz’s grimace, but she hid it, and when he delivered the pithy advice to Felipe to get a grip on himself, before adding something in rapid Spanish that she was guessing from his cousin’s expression was not flattering or sympathetic, she narrowed her dove-grey eyes and flashed him a warning look.
‘You are not helping.’ She turned with a smile to the younger Santoro. ‘Did Lucy say where she was going? I’m sure she was very upset. She might need—’
‘You?’ Luiz inserted. He gave a laugh. ‘I don’t think so, querida. Accept it—your niece is a young woman who is well able to take care of herself.’ His dark gaze moved across the soft contours of her face. More so than her aunt, it seemed to him.
‘She’ll be at the airport by now.’
Nell dragged her attention from Luiz and turned back to his cousin. ‘Airport?’
Felipe nodded. ‘She put the flight details in the letter.’
‘What a romantic letter,’ Luiz drawled
Nell gritted her teeth. ‘So help me if you say one more word.’ She turned back to Felipe, who was looking startled to hear the cousin he was more than a little in awe of addressed this way.
‘Lucy said if she didn’t catch this flight she’d miss…’ he consulted the crumpled sheet of paper ‘…freshers’ week? If you’ll excuse me I’ll just…’ With a vague smile he vanished through the door, closing it carefully behind him.
Nell folded her arms across her chest, unwittingly pushing her breasts upwards to reveal the suggestion of a cleavage. It was not a suggestion that Luiz was unaware of.