Nell who had only ever intended the flat as a stopgap, narrowed her eyes and lifted her chin in response to the highhanded edict.
‘I’d say that is none of your business. If I want to live in a tent at the bottom of the garden, I will.’ Though clearly not with her brother’s blessing, his prize-winning hydrangeas were the love of his life.
She saw no need to share this information with Luiz, who obviously if given an inch would take half a continent! Her life had already spiralled so far out of her control that she zealously guarded the few areas she could still influence.
Luiz looked at her through dark narrowed eyes and she thought for a moment he was going to argue the point so it was something of an anticlimax when he shrugged and said calmly, ‘As you wish. The question of where you will live will obviously be academic shortly.’
‘How do you figure that?’ she called after him as he vanished in the direction of the kitchen.
He returned a moment later carrying a glass of water. Nell, her chin propped on her knees, watched him, her stomach flipping helplessly in response to the animal grace and sheer elegance of his simplest movement.
‘Well, why will it be academic?’ she asked, taking the glass from him while taking immense care not to allow her fingers to brush his. Her efforts drew a small wry smile from him, which she pretended not to see.
‘Well, once we are married you will hardly be living in a garret.’
Only Luiz’s spookily swift reflexes prevented the water spilling all over Nell and her brother’s new sofa. Nell murmured, ‘Thank you,’ as she watched him place it safely on a coffee table. ‘It’s just I thought for a minute you said married.’
Luiz, who loosed his tie and lowered his long-limbed frame onto the arm of a chair beside her, did not join in her laughter.
‘I think you’re suffering from jet lag.’
‘I told you before that I would honour my responsibilities.’
‘And you think that involves marrying me. Leaving aside the small point of a girl liking to be asked…’ He looked at her blankly and she said, ‘Has it even crossed your mind that I might say no?’
His expression made it pretty obvious it had not.
‘That I might have other plans that don’t include you?’
The suggestion drew a dark frown from Luiz. ‘You are saying there is another man in your life?’
Nell rolled her eyes; how like a man. ‘Why does it always have to be about a man? Has it crossed your mind that a woman can live a perfectly full life without a significant other half? And anyway, for all you know I might want to make up for lost time and play the field!’
The images that flashed through Luiz’s head brought a metallic taste of utter repugnance to his mouth. ‘No!’
Her brows went up. ‘I beg your pardon?’ she said in a low, dangerous voice.
Luiz irritably swatted the beads of sweat that had broken out over his brow with the back of his hand and said, ‘A trail of one-night stands are not the male role models I had in mind for my child.’
This from the man she had seen with a half-naked woman draped all over him in a magazine and she was betting that they hadn’t spent the night in separate rooms. Nell felt her temper climb as her thoughts dwelt on the blonde actress.
‘So all of a sudden it’s your child, is it? Well, for the record, you’re not the male role model I had in mind for my child. As for my sex life, I’ll conduct it when I have one with more d-decorum and discretion than you, Luiz Santoro!’ Breathing hard, she sank back into the sofa and fought off the strong desire to burst into tears.
‘What have I done?’
‘I saw the…’
A flash of comprehension relaxed the lines of tension in his face. ‘You saw the article, the photo of me with Sarah.’
‘I might have.’
‘You really have no need to be jealous—that was just a photo opportunity and Sarah has a film to promote.’
Good for Sarah, bless her silicone-enhanced bust, Nell thought viciously.
‘You think I’m interested in your sex life!’ She loosed a slightly manic laugh and sneered. ‘You can sleep your way through the cast of every daytime soap for all I care. Dear God, I only mind that you seem to imagine just because I showed no damned restraint with you it means I’m a sitting duck for every man who deigns to notice I’m f-female. It’s going to take more than a man saying he wants me to make me lie back and think of E-England!’
Her shaky postscript caused the explosive anger that had been visibly building on Luiz’s face during her rant to dissolve.
From Nell’s point of view what replaced it was a lot more worrying.