Nell turned her head, refusing to recognise the urgent note of harsh, anguished sincerity in his voice—she couldn’t. ‘You have issues, Luiz—face it and them, then we might have something to discuss.’

She opened the door and he walked through.

Luiz walked down the path listening to the sounds of her wild sobbing inside. They cut like a knife.


IN A previous reincarnation the small-town library had been a chapel and the acoustics were still excellent. A pencil dropped on the mezzanine level that housed the computer terminals could be heard at the librarian’s desk tucked away at the back of the ground-floor library proper.

Nell, who was sitting in an alcove beneath the balcony, a book on her knee, wide-eyed toddlers sitting around her on cushions, heard the sound of footsteps as someone walked up the aisle between the high shelves, but she didn’t turn around as she closed the book. She did, however, tilt her head towards a group of teenage girls who were hanging over the balcony, their shrill girlish giggles drawing a few glances from people below. Some were less tolerant than others.

She caught their eyes and shook her head, miming a zipping motion across her lips. They lowered the levels of their giggles while one mimed back a swooning action and stabbed her finger towards a figure walking up the aisle between the rows of tall shelves.

Nell closed the book on her lap with an air of finality and explained to the toddlers with genuine regret—the innocence and enthusiasm of the pre-schoolers always made story time a favourite part of Nell’s day—that they could have another story on Friday but right now she had a lot of work to do.

She frowned a little as the teenagers’ volume rose again and turned her head, idly curious to see what young man had got the group so animated.

The world swam slightly out of focus and she forgot how to breathe as she put an identity to the tall figure who was approaching the spot where she sat, her face bathed in the gold light that filtered through the arched ecclesiastical window behind her.

For several seconds her brain froze. It refused to accept the information it was being given.

He couldn’t be here, not here, not now…not ever. This was her safe workaday world. The only place this could happen, and it did, several times a day, was in the privacy of Nell’s own wilful imagination. Had things gone one step further in the week since she’d given him his marching orders? Was she hallucinating…?

A quick furtive glance around the place revealed that if she was so was every other female under ninety in the place!

They were all staring.

Nell’s relief was short-lived. Luiz was here and she had lost the ability to move, she was chained to the ground with a combination of sheer longing and lust.

The emotions crowded in on her. She had told herself the next time this happened she would be in control. If she had been capable Nell would have laughed—control? What a joke!

Her eyes ate him up hungrily… God, but she had missed him, how much she hadn’t allowed herself to acknowledge until now. She blinked, hard unshed tears blurring her vision. Damn him, no wonder all eyes were on him, no wonder her heart was being squeezed in a vice—he was beautiful, the epitome of masculinity.

In a sack he would make heads turn, but dressed like this in a dark designer suit that emphasised his lean, athletic, Greek-god frame he had a face that surpassed Olympian or Hollywood heartthrob standards.

As she watched him a wave of despondency swept over Nell. The fact they lived in different worlds had never been more apparent.

Here in her world the qualities that made Luiz stand out in the most glamorous and exotic locations were even more marked. Even from fifty feet away you could feel the self-assurance, authority, and electric sex appeal he projected like an invisible aura.

As he drew closer Nell could see other things, like the tension that drew the golden skin taut across the incredible bones of his face and the gleam of steely determination that glowed in his eyes that gave him an air of gorgeous menace—he was a man on a mission.

The question was what mission?

She gave her head a little shake and said in a hard little voice, ‘Get real, Nell!’ You were in big trouble when you allowed your fantasies to intrude into real life. If he was a man in love he was hiding it well—unless love made him as mad as hell!

Luiz thrust his hand in his pocket and pulled out the contents of the parcel that had landed on his desk that morning. His jaw hardened as his fingers closed around it—the symbolism had been obvious, but if she thought she could excise him from her life he was here to make her realise that was not going to happen.

Nell barely noticed as the book fell from her nerveless fingers and onto the floor, or registered the mothers who had begun to collect their offspring, most finding a reason to linger as the tall, utterly gorgeous, rampantly male figure drew closer.