Nell cast him a look of reproach before she turned her attention to the original subject. ‘When you said there was no money were you telling the truth then too?’
He looked startled. ‘I said that?’
Nell, who recalled every word he had ever said to her, nodded.
‘You really do have the uncanny ability to make me say things that should stay unsaid. Well, it’s true. There is no money. The estate has not moved with the times, and Doña Elena took some bad advice financially.’
‘The estate is in financial trouble?’ Nell did not hide her surprise—nothing she had seen suggested straitened circumstances or neglect.
‘There were problems and Ramon and I decided that it would be best not to trouble her with them. We arranged to have funds deposited in some accounts to cover the shortfalls and where necessary I made a few capital investments in renovation projects.’
It took a couple of seconds for her to process this casually de livered information. ‘You mean, not only did you not want her money, you’ve been giving her yours for months.’ Nell, who had thought she could not feel more stupid, discovered she could. ‘It has been more in the nature of a long-term project.’
He acknowledged her startled suggestion with an inclination of his dark head before he dragged a hand across the dark shadow on his hair-roughened jaw.
‘I wanted to save my grandmother the humiliation and heartache of losing the estate that has been her life. It seemed like the least I could do for her considering she has been mother and father to me after my parents dumped me on her for the holiday one year and never got around to picking me up. Understandable really,’ he mused wryly. ‘A weedy, sickly kid did quite frankly ruin their globetrotting social life.’
Nell struggled to get her head around Luiz as a sickly, unwanted child, and struggled even more to understand how any parent could just abdicate their responsibilities and their own child. She wondered how Luiz could recite the history without even a trace of visible bitterness.
‘Though to be fair it was work for them—they make travel documentaries.’
Ah, there was the bitterness—he was human after all, and he was obviously totally devoted to his grandmother.
‘I don’t know how anyone could leave their own child.’ Her jaw tightened as she found herself hating two people she had never met.
An expression she couldn’t read flickered at the back of his hooded gaze, but it was not echoed in his flat tone as he said, ‘I’m sure you can’t, but not everyone has your sense of duty.’
Nell sprang to her feet, her expression passionately intense as she pressed a hand to her breast and cried, ‘It’s not about duty, it’s about love.’ Then, suddenly feeling painfully self conscious, she sank back down muttering, ‘People who don’t know that shouldn’t have children.’
He shrugged. ‘They were and are very wrapped up in one another.’
Nell gave a contemptuous snort. ‘They sound like selfish idiots to me.’
‘I seem to recall you expressing a similar view about me.’
Her flushed face lifted to his. There was still a sparkle of indignation in her grey eyes. ‘You are an idiot—sometimes,’ she admitted. ‘But you wouldn’t let someone else bring up your child.’
The humorous glint faded from his eyes. ‘No, Nell, I would not, but I would not give my wife the child she craved. I think that makes me worse than selfish.’
‘It makes you human, you stupid man!’ she exploded.
He raised his brows at the heat in her retort. ‘I am considered pretty smart by most people.’
Nell sniffed. ‘It just shows you how ridiculous people can be, then. Your wife died—it wasn’t your fault, was it?’ She watched the cold, closed look spread across his face and hated it.
‘A car crash—she was travelling alone back from Barcelona.’
‘Then not your fault,’ she repeated. ‘You’re alive, Luiz.’
He inhaled deeply and suddenly felt this statement was truer than it had been for years. ‘I am.’
Nell, her heart racing, watched him approach, her eyes fixed on the slow, deliberate tread of his polished shoes. He stopped about three feet away.
‘Let me be straight with you.’
Her eyes lifted to knee level; her breathing had gone haywire.
‘There are two ways this night could go.’
Her eyes reached chest level and stopped.
‘Firstly, if you wish I could arrange transport to the airport, book you into a hotel for the night. Secondly, and I have to tell you this is my preferred choice, you spend the rest of the day and night here with me.’