She knew of course that she was going to have to snap out of it at some point, she was going to have to shrug it off and get on with her life, but that point had not yet arrived.

She had gone through a lot of soul-searching before she had written that letter to Luiz. A man deserved to know he was going to be a father, even though life would have been a lot simpler from her point of view if he had remained in ignorance.

Having Luiz in her life even in a peripheral part-time-father sort of way was not going to be easy—actually it was going to be hell. In fact the mental image of him strolling in with some gorgeous blonde on his arm to do the duty-dad thing had almost stopped her putting the letter in the post. God, but at times a conscience was a really inconvenient thing to possess.

Ironically, of course, her soul-searching had been a total waste of time. She had posted the letter a month earlier so, even allowing for the vagaries of the postal service, he had to have received it by now and so far his response had been a deafening silence.

Nell told herself she was relieved. She was angry not because he had shown extreme bad manners—in no world, not even his rich glamorous one, was it acceptable to file the letter along with, for all she knew, the other ‘I’m carrying you child’ missives that arrived on his desk—but because she had thought he would reply. She had believed he would; she had believed in him and his integrity. Now she knew she was a fool.

The disillusionment went deep.

Giving up on the book, she switched on the TV, turning down the volume to an inaudible murmur as she flopped back down onto the sofa.

She had been home for two weeks when she had made herself do the pregnancy test, or rather tests—she had done three before she accepted the result. Yet still it had not sunk in for a few days; she had walked around in a state of wilful denial. The sort of ‘ignore it and it will go away’ mentality that she had always thought cowardly in others—it turned out she was the biggest coward of all time.

It had hit home in, of all places, the waiting room at the dentist’s surgery. She had been there for a check-up when the dentist had decided she was due a routine X-ray. The magazine she had picked up while she waited had opened on one of the typical ‘celebrities living a life the rest of you can only dream of’ double-page spreads during a glittery charity auction in New York.

She had recognised several famous faces and there had been Luiz, the only one not smiling but still managing to look more Hollywood and more sternly beautiful than any of them with his hand on the waist of a young Oscar-winning actress.

If the actress had been acting the adoration she had been looking up at him with she definitely deserved her Oscar, because Nell for one believed it.

It was crazy that such a silly thing should have brought the reality and the total impossible nature of her situation home to Nell, but it had.

In a perfect world, realising that you were in love with the man whose baby you carried should be a good moment, a moment to treasure. For Nell it had felt as though a very tall building had just fallen on her head, but the light at the end of the tunnel had been the realisation she wanted this baby, she would fight to have this baby—his baby.

Tears streaming down her cheeks, she had walked to the reception and mumbled, ‘Sorry, but I can’t have an X-ray. I’m pregnant.’ Then before the startled-looking receptionist could respond she had fled. It was a shame—really good dentists were hard to come by and there was no way she was walking back into that building.

Pushing aside the memories and recalling the mantra she repeated to herself at frequent intervals extolling the advantages of single parenthood, she turned up the volume just as a quiz-show host with strangely orange skin appeared on the screen to the sound of thunderous applause.

With a wince she flicked the channel over and, drawing her knees up to her chin, she told herself it could be worse: she could be a guest at the party at her sister’s house to celebrate her brother and sister-in-law’s wedding anniversary.

When there had been a last-minute hitch with the babysitter, for once she hadn’t been irritated by her sister’s assumption she would step into the breach.

‘Nell won’t mind at all.’

For once Nell actually wouldn’t, but it would, she reflected, have been nice to be asked.

‘God, Nell, you’re a total life saver,’ her sister-in-law, Kate, said, adding anxiously, ‘Are you sure you don’t mind? The agency might be—’

‘You don’t want to leave Stevie with a stranger, Kate.’

Kate flashed Nell a look of apology. ‘No, of course not, Clare, but—’

‘Nell will be the only one there without a partner—’