‘As you say, not likely, but I think we should stay in contact,’ Luiz heard himself say.
‘You do?’ Why?
‘Just in case—’ Just in case I wake up in the night and nothing but you will stop the ache—as the thought formed a flicker of movement in the periphery of his vision made Luiz turn his head.
‘There might be some delay in that lift to the airport.’
‘Why?’ Did he really just suggest that they stay in touch or had she imagined it? Did she really want to continue something with a man who carried so much emotional baggage?
‘Because my sensitive, heartbroken cousin has just driven off in the car.’
‘What?’ Nell exclaimed, running across to the window in time to see a dust cloud. ‘But he can’t do that.’
‘HE HAS done that.’
‘The little idiot!’
Luiz clicked his tongue in mock reproval. ‘Is that any way to speak about a sensitive young man?’ he chided.
Nell flashed him an irritated look. ‘So what happens now?’
Luiz produced a mobile phone from his pocket. ‘I use this and arrange us some transport. I suggest you use the time to freshen up.’
Nell lifted a self-conscious hand to her hair. ‘I must look a wreck.’
‘You look…’ Nell watched a strange look spread across his face as he stared at her for what felt like a long time. ‘You look fine.’
His manner was dismissive as he started punching numbers into his phone.
For want of anything better to do and glad of the opportunity to escape his unsettling presence, she set off in search of a bathroom.
The first door she tried was locked, the second was a bedroom with a connecting bathroom, big, luxurious, with an old-fashioned claw-foot tub that could have bathed an army. Had Luiz ever shared it?
She dismissed the intrusive question from her head. For God’s sake, the sooner she was out of Spain, the better—it was turning her into some sort of sex addict!
A glance in the mirror revealed that Luiz had been economical with the truth. Fine was one thing she did not look! A total wreck on the other hand? Yes, that definitely applied. So did scary, she thought, lifting a tangled strand of the hair that fell in witchlike tangles around her face, before dropping it with a grimace.
‘Right, we can’t do glamorous, but clean—or cleanish at least—we can do.’
Wetting her hands, she ran her fingers through her totally wild hair, smoothed her stained and creased clothes and grimaced at the result.
With a sigh she filled the basin with water and set about repairing some of the surface damage. The results were a slight improvement, though the dark mark on her cheek she spent ages scrubbing proved to be a bruise, not dirt.
‘Well, that will have to do,’ she told her reflection as she took a deep breath and left the room. She went directly to the drawing room but Luiz was no longer there. She was about to go in search of him when the sound of voices drew her to the window.
Luiz was standing in the driveway talking to a man about his own age. They were both standing beside a truck. The sight should have lifted her spirits—presumably this was her taxi. Instead to her bemusement Nell felt strangely downbeat.
Luiz turned his head, caught sight of her in the window and waved his hand for her to join them.
Outside the light breeze that blew in from the sea was pleasantly cool. It caught her damp hair and Nell needed both hands to anchor it from her face as she walked towards the two men.
They both stopped talking as she approached. The stranger smiled as Luiz introduced her.
‘This is Francesco Angelus. He has ridden, or in this case—’ he flashed the other man a smile ‘—driven to our rescue.’
‘It is nice to meet you, Miss Frost. Have you known Luiz long?’
Nell saw his eyes drift towards her finger and widen; she tucked it self-consciously behind her back and said with a composure she wasn’t feeling. ‘Not long.’
Luiz said something to the other man in Spanish, then, turning to her, added, ‘I’m just going to close the cottage up. Wait here.’
Nell lifted her hand in a mocking salute and clicked her heels. ‘Yes, sir!’
A smile slid into Luiz’s eyes as he bowed his head in acknowledgement. ‘Please stay here.’
Francesco, who had watched this interchange with interest, waited until Luiz had vanished inside the building before he spoke.
‘I’m glad that Luiz has brought someone here. It has been a long time. It was not healthy,’ he mused, ‘to make this place some sort of shrine.’ He added something in Spanish, but the only word Nell caught was Rosa.
Nell, her brow furrowed in enquiry, turned to look at the tall Spaniard. If she had never met Luiz she would have classed him pretty much stunningly handsome, but her measure of male perfection had changed.