There were always two ways of looking at a situation. Some people would think his idea a moment of inspiration while others would think it a moment of madness.
Luiz didn’t care about the label, he just cared about the result.
‘I have a proposition to put to you.’
Nell regarded him with an expression of baffled frustration. He had not even attempted to defend himself. She wasn’t even sure if he had heard a word she had said.
‘I know where they are.’
Her eyes widened. ‘Lucy and your cousin?’
He pushed aside the poignant image of the cottage by the sea where he and Rosa had lived and held up a hand to stop her. Fulfilling his side of the bargain he was proposing would mean him going there for the first time in many years. The first time since Rosa died.
‘First you need to do something for me.’
He saw the alarm flare in her eyes and sketched a cynical grin. ‘Relax, not that something. You’re really not my type.’
As if to challenge his careless contention the image that formed in his head of one perfect breast fitting perfectly into his hand momentarily vaporised every other thought.
‘Imagine my devastation,’ she snarled, irrationally deflated. ‘Forget the dramatic pause and get to the point—what do I have to do?’
‘Come and meet my grandmother.’
Nell’s face fell. ‘That’s it?’ Obviously there was a catch.
‘And go along with whatever I say.’
‘But I don’t understand why—?’
He cut across her with an autocratic shake of his dark head. There was no time for a question and answer session. If he paused long enough to think about this he strongly suspected that he’d bail.
‘I do not require you to understand. As I said, I simply require you to go along with anything I say—no matter what it is.’
‘Do you want to find the lovers?’
Nell’s expression reflected her dilemma. ‘Oh, all right, then.’ What choice did she have? ‘And afterwards you’ll tell me where they are.’
‘Querida,’ he promised with a grin, ‘I’ll take you to them. Shake on it.’
Nell dragged her eyes away from the magnetic pull of his deep-set dark eyes and regarded the hand he held towards her for a long moment before finally extending her own.
As his cool fingers closed around hers Nell tried to ignore the warning voice in her head that told her she was making a big mistake.
It was a lot more difficult to ignore the prickle under her skin that had nothing to do with sunburn and a lot to do with their brief physical contact.
THE castle was a maze. Nell followed Luiz for what felt like miles along stone-floored corridors before he finally halted.
‘This is my grandmother’s room.’ Luiz reached for the door and stopped. ‘Wait here. I will be back presently.’
Left with little choice but to obey his terse instruction, Nell began to study the large tapestry of brilliant colours on the wall opposite.
The battle scene it portrayed was nothing compared to the one being waged in her head. Just what are you doing, Nell? This is crazy, totally crazy. You don’t know this man—you don’t even know what you’ve agreed to and who’s to say he will keep his word?
Before she could totally lose her nerve Luiz Santoro returned. Without a word he took her left hand and slid a ring onto her finger.
‘What are you doing? What…w-what is that?’ she stammered, staring at her finger. The gold band felt heavy, a rose-coloured diamond surrounded by what she assumed were rubies in an antique setting.
She was no expert but it didn’t look like the sort of thing you found in a Christmas cracker.
He lifted his brows. ‘A ring.’
‘I can see that,’ she retorted crankily. ‘What is it doing on my finger?’
‘That is not relevant.’
Nell shook her head and dug in her heels literally. ‘I’m not taking another step until you explain this thing.’ She waved the offending jewellery him.
Luiz studied her mutinous face for a moment, then gave a philosophical shake of his head. ‘My grandmother—’
‘The one who owns this house?’
His dark brows twitched into a straight line of disapproval at the interruption. ‘The one who own this house and the estancia it stands upon. She is ill…maybe…’
He paused, unwilling to voice the possibility, as if saying the thing made it more likely to happen. He was impatient with the lack of logic in his thought processes, but then when you cared for a person it was hard to always be logical.