Luiz looked around, frustration stamped on his dark features. ‘Is there somewhere private we can be?’ He turned his autocratic glare on the efficient-looking woman who was approaching them with purpose. She withstood the contact for a few seconds before she suddenly discovered she was needed elsewhere.
Nell, watching the ‘cross to the other side of the road’ moment, thought, So this is what it feels like to be on a sinking ship. Though she couldn’t really blame Lydia; it would take a very brave person or, in her case, a total fool to take on Luiz Santoro.
‘Thanks, Luiz,’ she said thickly. ‘That was my boss. I’ve probably lost my job.’
‘Do not be foolish.’
Good advice, Nell admitted, her eyes drifting with helpless longing over his lean face, but way too late.
She looked at him blankly and shook her head.
‘Somewhere private?’ he reminded her.
Nell struggling for control, nodded mutely and pointed in the direction of a door to their left.
Luiz followed the direction of her shaking finger and nodded and, sliding a hand along her shoulders, said, ‘Come.’
It was not a suggestion and Nell, for once not disputing his autocratic decree and overpoweringly conscious of the eyes that followed their progress, allowed herself to be directed towards the staff room.
To Nell’s relief it was empty. She reached out and grabbed the shelf above the radiator to steady herself. ‘Do you ever make a request or do you always issue orders?’
Luiz, who was looking around the small room with an expression of distaste, looked genuinely bewildered by the husky accusation, which he chose not to respond to. Instead he gave his damning verdict on their private place. ‘This is a cupboard.’
‘A cupboard in your world is a staff room in mine. But what has happened to my manners? Have a seat.’ She made a grand sweeping gesture towards one of the two chairs in the room. ‘Or a cup of tea?’ She gestured towards the kettle and two mugs that stood beside a small sink. The room boasted a small coffee table too.
Luiz ignored the frivolous invitations and carried on standing there, his eyes trained with unnerving intensity on her face, looking big, outrageously sexy and totally out of place in the basic room.
It might not be the cupboard he claimed, but it felt like it with him in it. Her hand went to her throat. She knew the walls of the room were not closing in on her but the illusion was very real.
At his sides Luiz’s hands clenched into white-knuckled fists; he could not bear being responsible for her misery. ‘You are still crying,’ he accused, a nerve clenching in his lean cheek as he watched a tear silently slide down her cheek.
‘What if I am?’ Nell sniffed with husky belligerence. ‘Why wouldn’t I be crying? I can’t forget a single second we had together, not one second—you’re stuck in my head for ever.’ She lifted a shaking hand and struck her forehead a glancing blow with the heel of her hand before pressing it palm flat to her chest. ‘You’re stuck in my—’ She stopped abruptly and groaned, ‘Oh, God!’
Tears pouring in earnest down her cheeks, she tried to turn away, but was prevented by the big hands that fell heavily to her shoulders. ‘Let me go, Luiz!’ she begged, aiming a feeble blow at his iron-hard chest, but somehow she ended up laying her head there and sighing as his long fingers moved gently over her hair. ‘I can’t do…’
Nell’s face slowly turned up to his. Caution and hope competed in her eyes as she looked up at him. ‘N-never?’ she repeated slowly.
‘I cannot let you go, mi querida.’
‘Because of the baby?’
‘Leave the baby out of this.’
Nell gave a bitter laugh. Her feelings were ambiguous when he didn’t prevent her pulling away from him. ‘Easy for you to say—you’re not throwing up every morning.’
‘Has it been very bad for you?’
When she read the concern and self-reproach in his face Nell felt instantly remorseful. ‘I’m fine, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty… It’s just not something I can forget about, and how can it not be part of this conversation when if it wasn’t for the baby you wouldn’t even be here?’ she observed sadly.
‘You never asked me.’
It was his odd strained manner as much as the abrupt change of subject that made her blink at him in confusion. ‘Never asked you what?’
‘What track my single-track mind runs along.’
‘One track,’ she corrected absently. The flammable quality in his unblinking stare was making it hard for her to cling to the shreds of her composure—breathing she had given up on entirely. She wasn’t sure if it was lack of oxygen or the mixture of anticipation and apprehension tying her stomach in knots that was responsible for the buzzing in her ears.