Mistress:Pregnant by The Spanish Billionaire(7)

By: Kim Lawrence

‘I’m not sure.’ He arched a brow. ‘Eighteen, nineteen?’

Nell stared. ‘You’re asking me? Just how many cousins do you have?’

Luiz leaned his elbow on the mantel of the carved stone fireplace and moved a heavy candlestick with his forefinger. His air of preoccupation incensed Nell.

‘I’m sorry if I’m boring you.’

The acid observation swung Luiz’s attention back to the figure standing there with her hands planted on her slim hips. ‘Sorry.’ He produced a grin that had no hint of apology in it and answered her question. ‘Just the one.’

‘And you don’t know how old he is?’

‘We are not what you would call close.’

‘But he’s your cousin.’ She searched his dark face for any sign he was being facetious and found none. ‘Your family.’

‘Families are all different and I think you will find that my attitude to family is one that more people could readily identify with than your own.’

Nell looked at him, appalled. ‘Don’t you care if your cousin ruins his life?’

‘A person learns by their mistakes. Perhaps your niece will learn from hers?’

The odd inflection in his deep voice that made Nell wonder what his mistakes had been was absent as he added flippantly, ‘And who am I to stand in the way of true love?’

Nell, her eyes narrowed, did not bother to disguise her utter disgust as she glared at him. ‘Ha. The truth is you don’t give a damn about anyone else. You’re utterly and totally selfish—you’ve no intention of lifting a finger to stop your cousin making the biggest mistake of his life because you’re utterly self-centred.’

She was midway through accusing him of possessing no family feeling when Ramon’s joke came back to Luiz. The future Mrs Santoro! His lips curled into a wry smile that faded as he recognised the element of truth in Ramon’s joke—a bride would be his grandmother’s most precious birthday present.

Luiz was inclined initially to reject the crazy, though intriguing, idea forming in his head, because it was so obviously, well…crazy. He could not pinpoint the exact moment that it stopped being crazy but actually almost logical, but suddenly he found himself asking—Why not?

He would never be able to give his grandmother the wife and heir she longed for him to provide, so wasn’t this an alternative where nobody got hurt? Why shouldn’t he be studying the flushed and angry face of the future Mrs Santoro? It could work.

Why wait for her birthday?

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 nodded.

‘So where…?’

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.

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