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A Tempestuous Temptation

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«A Tempestuous Temptation» - Кэтти Уильямс

When you’re caught in a snowstorm, there’s only one way to warm up… An outrageous accusation of being a fortune-hunter is Aggie’s excruciating introduction to billionaire Luiz Diaz. And things take a turn for the worse when she finds herself snowbound with the arrogant Brazilian! They are forced to seek shelter whilst the snowstorm swirls around them, and Luiz does nothing to dismiss Aggie’s initial opinion of him.Yes, he’s unbearably arrogant. Yes, he’s just as irresistible as he thinks he is! And, infuriatingly, however merciless his reputation, it seems she’s not as immune to his legendary lethal charm as she’d hoped…‘This is fantastic! Beautifully written. You have to experience this book.’ – Fariza, Lawyer, Liverpool
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About the Author

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‘This house looks wonderful,’ Aggie breathed, taken with the creamy yellow stone and the perfectly proportioned leaded windows.

‘Sorry?’ Luiz wondered whether they were looking at the same building.

‘I would rather not be here with you,’ Aggie emphasised, ‘but it’s beautiful. Especially with the snow on the ground and on the roof … Gosh, the snow is really deep as well!’

On that tantalising statement she flung open the car door and stepped outside, holding her arms out wide and her head tilted up so that the snow could fall directly onto her face.

In the act of reaching behind him to extract their cases, Luiz paused to stare at her. She had pulled some fingerless gloves out of her coat pocket and stuck them on, and standing like that, arms outstretched, she looked young and vulnerable and achingly innocent—like a child reacting to the thrill of being out in the snow.

What she looks like, he told himself, breaking the momentary spell to get their bags, is beside the point. He had a job to do, and he had no intention of having his attention diverted—least of all by a woman about whose gold-digging intentions he had still to reach a conclusion.

About the Author

CATHY WILLIAMS is originally from Trinidad, but has lived in England for a number of years. She currently has a house in Warwickshire, which she shares with her husband Richard, her three daughters, Charlotte, Olivia and Emma, and their pet cat, Salem. She adores writing romantic fiction, and would love one of her girls to become a writer—although at the moment she is happy enough if they do their homework and agree not to bicker with one another!

Recent titles by the same author:





Did you know these are also available as eBooks? Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

A Tempestuous


Cathy Williams



LUIZ Carlos Montes looked down at the slip of paper in his hand, reconfirmed that he was at the correct address and then, from the comfort of his sleek, black sports car, he briefly scanned the house and its surroundings. His immediate thought was that this was not what he had been expecting. His second thought was that it had been a mistake to drive his car here. The impression he was getting was that this was the sort of place where anything of any value that could be stolen, damaged or vandalised just for the hell of it would be.

The small terraced house, lit by the street lamp, fought a losing battle to maintain some level of attractiveness next to its less palatable neighbours. The tidy pocket-sized front garden was flanked on its left side by a cement square on which dustbins were laid out in no particular order, and on its right by a similar cement square where a rusted car languished on blocks, awaiting attention. Further along was a parade of shops comprised of a Chinese takeaway, a sub-post office, a hairdresser, an off-licence and a newsagent which seemed to be a meeting point for just the sort of youths whom Luiz suspected would not hesitate to zero in on his car the second he left it.

Fortunately he felt no apprehension as he glanced at the group of hooded teenagers smoking in a group outside the off-licence. He was six-foot-three with a muscled body that was honed to perfection thanks to a rigorous routine of exercise and sport when he could find the time. He was more than capable of putting the fear of God into any group of indolent cigarette-smoking teenagers.

But, hell, this was still the last thing he needed. On a Friday evening. In December. With the threat of snow in the air and a shedload of emails needing his attention before the whole world went to sleep for the Christmas period.

But family duty was, in the end, family duty and what choice had he had? Having seen this dump for himself, he also had to concede that his mission, inconvenient though it might be, was a necessary one.

He exhaled impatiently and swung out of the car. It was a bitterly cold night, even in London. The past week had been characterised by hard overnight frosts that had barely thawed during the day. There was a glittery coating over the rusting car in the garden next to the house and on the lids of the bins in the garden to the other side. The smell of Chinese food wafted towards him and he frowned with distaste.

This was the sort of district into which Luiz never ventured. He had no need to. The faster he could sort this whole mess out and clear out of the place, the better, as far as he was concerned.

With that in mind, he pressed the doorbell and kept his finger on it until he could hear the sound of footsteps scurrying towards the front door.

On the verge of digging into her dinner, Aggie heard the sound of the doorbell and was tempted to ignore it, not least because she had an inkling of an idea as to whose finger was on it. Mr Cholmsey, her landlord, had been making warning noises about the rent, which was overdue.

‘But I always pay on time!’ Aggie had protested when he had telephoned her the day before. ‘And I’m only overdue by two days. It’s not my fault that there’s a postal strike!’

Apparently, though, it was. He had been kind enough to ‘do her the favour’ of letting her pay by cheque when all his other tenants paid by direct debit … And look where it got him … it just wasn’t good enough … People were queuing for that house … he could rent it to a more reliable tenant in a minute

If the cheque wasn’t with him by the following day, he would have to have cash from her.

She had never actually met Mr Cholmsey. Eighteen months ago, she had found the house through an agency and everything had been absolutely fine—until Mr Cholmsey had decided that he could cut out the middle man and handle his own properties. Since then, Alfred Cholmsey had been an ongoing headache, prone to ignoring requests for things to be fixed and fond of reminding her how scarce rentable properties were in London.

If she ignored the summons at the door, she had no doubt that he would find some way of breaking the lease and chucking her out.

Keeping the latch on, she cautiously opened the door a crack and peered out into the darkness.

‘I’m really sorry, Mr Cholmsey …’ She burst into speech, determined to get her point of view across before her disagreeable, hateful landlord could launch his verbal attack. ‘The cheque should have arrived by now. I’ll cancel it and make sure that I have the cash for you tomorrow. I promise.’ She wished the wretched man would do her the courtesy of at least standing in her very reduced line of vision instead of skulking to the side, but there was no way that she was going to pull open the door. You could never be too careful in this neighbourhood.

‘Who the hell is Mr Cholmsey, and what are you talking about? Just open the door, Agatha!’

That voice, that distinctive, loathsome voice, was so unexpected that Aggie suddenly felt the need to pass out. What was Luiz Montes doing here? On her doorstep? Invading her privacy? Wasn’t it bad enough that she and her brother had been held up for inspection by him over the past eight months? Verbally poked and prodded under the very thin guise of hospitality and ‘just getting to know my niece’s boyfriend and his family’. Asked intrusive questions which they had been forced to skirt around and generally treated with the sort of suspicion reserved for criminals out on parole.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘Just open the door! I’m not having a conversation with you on your doorstep!’ Luiz didn’t have to struggle to imagine what her expression would be. He had met her sufficient times with her brother and his niece to realise that she disapproved of everything he stood for and everything he said. She’d challenged him on every point he made. She was defensive, argumentative and pretty much everything he would have made an effort to avoid in a woman.

As he had told himself on numerous occasions, there was no way he would ever have subjected himself to her company had he not been placed, by his sister who lived in Brazil, in the unenviable position of having to take an interest in his niece and the man she had decided to take up with. The Montes family was worth an untold fortune. Checking out the guy his niece was dating was a simple precaution, Luisa had stressed. And, while Luiz couldn’t see the point because the relationship was certain to crash and burn in due course, his sister had insisted. Knowing his sister as well as he did, he had taken the path of least resistance and agreed to keep a watchful eye on Mark Collins, and his sister, who appeared to come as part of the package.

‘So who’s Mr Cholmsey?’ was the first thing he said as he strode past her into the house.

Aggie folded her arms and glared resentfully at him as he looked around at his surroundings with the sort of cool contempt she had come to associate with him.

Yes, he was good-looking, all tall and powerful and darkly sexy. But from the very second she had met him, she had been chilled to the bone by his arrogance, his casual contempt for both her and Mark—which he barely bothered to hide—and his thinly veiled threat that he was watching them both and they’d better not overstep the mark.

‘Mr Cholmsey’s the landlord—and how did you get this address? Why are you here?’

‘I had no idea you rented. Stupid me. I was under the impression that you owned your own house jointly. Now, where did I get that from, I wonder?’

He rested cool, dark eyes on Aggie. ‘I was also under the impression that you lived somewhere … slightly less unsavoury. A crashing misconception on my part as well.’ However far removed Agatha Collins was from the sort of women Luiz preferred—tall brunettes with legs up to their armpits and amenable, yielding natures—he couldn’t deny that she was startlingly pretty. Five-four tops, with pale, curly hair the colour of buttermilk and skin that was satiny smooth. Her eyes were purest aquamarine, offset by dark lashes, as though her creator had been determined to make sure that she stood out from the crowd and had taken one little detail and made it strikingly different.

Aggie flushed and mentally cursed herself for falling in with her brother and Maria. When Luiz had made his first, unwelcome appearance in their lives, she had agreed that she would downplay their financial circumstances, that she would economise harmlessly on the unadorned truth.

‘My mum’s insisted that Uncle Luiz check Mark out,’ Maria had explained tightly. ‘And Uncle Luiz is horribly black-and-white. It’d be better if he thinks that you’re … okay … Not exactly rich, but not completely broke either.’

‘You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here,’ Aggie dodged.

‘Where’s your brother?’

‘He isn’t here and neither is Maria.

And when are you going to stop spying on us?’

‘I’m beginning to think that my spying is starting to pay dividends,’ Luiz murmured. ‘Which one of you told me that you lived in Richmond?’ He leaned against the wall and looked down at her with those bottomless dark eyes that always managed to send her nervous system into instant freefall.

‘I didn’t say that we lived in Richmond,’ Aggie prevaricated guiltily. ‘I probably told you that we go cycling there quite a bit. In the park. It’s not my fault that you might have got hold of the wrong end of the stick.’

‘I never get hold of the wrong end of the stick.’ The casual interest which he had seen as an unnecessary chore now blossomed into rampant suspicion. She and her brother had lied about their financial circumstances and had probably persuaded his niece to go along for the ride and back them up. And that, to Luiz, was pointing in only one direction. ‘When I got the address of this place, I had to double check because it didn’t tally with what I’d been told.’ He began removing his coat while Aggie watched in growing dismay.

Every single time she had met Luiz, it had been in one of London’s upmarket restaurants. She, Mark and Maria had been treated over time to the finest Italian food money could buy, the best Thai to be found in the country, the most expensive French in the most exclusive area. Pre-warned by Maria that it was her uncle’s way of keeping tabs on them, they had been unforthcoming on personal detail and expansive on polite chitchat.

Aggie had bristled at the mere thought that they were being sized up, and she had bristled even more at the nagging suspicion that they had both been found wanting. But restaurants were one thing. Descending on them here was taking it one step too far.

And now his coat was off, which implied that he wasn’t about to do the disappearing act she desperately wanted. Something about him unsettled her and here, in this small space, she was even more unsettled.

‘Maybe you could get me something to drink,’ he inserted smoothly. ‘And we can explore what other little lies might come out in the wash while I wait for your brother to show up.’

‘Why is it suddenly so important that you talk to Mark?’ Aggie asked uneasily. ‘I mean, couldn’t you have waited? Maybe invited him out for dinner with Maria so that you could try and get to the bottom of his intentions? Again?’

‘Things have moved up a gear, regrettably. But I’ll come back to that.’ He strolled past her through the open door and into the sitting room. The decor here was no more tasteful than it was in the hall. The walls were the colour of off-cheese, depressing despite the old movie posters that had been tacked on. The furniture was an unappealing mix of old and used and tacky, snap-together modern. In one corner, an old television set was propped on a cheap pine unit.

‘What do you mean that things have moved up a gear?’ Aggie demanded as he sat on one of the chairs and looked at her with unhurried thoroughness.

‘I guess you know why I’ve been keeping tabs on your brother.’

‘Maria mentioned that her mother can be a little over-protective,’ Aggie mumbled. She resigned herself to the fact that Luiz wasn’t leaving in a hurry and reluctantly sat down on the chair facing him.

As always, she felt dowdy and underdressed. On the occasions when she had been dragged along to those fancy restaurants—none of which she would ever have sampled had it not been for him—she had rooted out the dressiest clothes in her wardrobe and had still managed to feel cheap and mousey. Now, in baggy, thick jogging bottoms and Mark’s jumper, several sizes too big, she felt screamingly, ridiculously frumpy. Which made her resent him even more.

Luiz gave an elegant shrug. ‘It pays to be careful. Naturally, when my sister asked me to check your brother out, I tried to talk her out of it.’

‘You did?’

‘Sure. Maria’s a kid and kids have relationships that fall by the wayside. It’s life. I was convinced that this relationship would be no different but I eventually agreed that I would keep an eye on things.’

‘By which,’ Aggie inserted bitterly, ‘you meant that you would quiz us on every aspect of our lives and try and trip us up.’

‘Congratulations. You both provided a touchingly united front. I find that I barely know a single personal thing about either of you and it’s dawning on me that the few details you’ve imparted have probably been a tissue of lies—starting with where you live. It would have saved time and effort if I’d employed a detective to ferret out whatever background information was necessary.’

‘Maria thought that—’

‘Do me a favour. Keep my niece out of this. You live in a dump, which you rent from an unscrupulous landlord. You can barely afford the rent. Tell me, do either of you hold down jobs, or were those fabrications as well?’

‘I resent you barging into my house.’

‘Mr Cholmsey’s house—if you can call it a house.’

‘Fine! I still resent you barging in here and insulting me.’


‘In fact, I’m asking you to leave!’

At that, Luiz burst out laughing. ‘Do you really think that I’ve come all the way here so that I can leave the second the questioning gets a little too uncomfortable for you?’

‘Well, I don’t see the point of you hanging around. Mark and Maria aren’t here.’

‘I’ve come because, like I said, things have moved up a gear. It seems that there’s now talk of marriage. It’s not going to do.’

‘Talk of marriage?’ Aggie parroted incredulously. ‘There’s no talk of marriage.’

‘At least, none that your brother’s told you about. Maybe the touching united front isn’t quite as united as you’d like it to be.’

‘You … you are just the most awful human being I’ve ever met!’

‘I think you’ve made that glaringly clear on all the occasions that we’ve met,’ Luiz remarked coolly. ‘You’re entitled to your opinions.’

‘So you came here to … what? Warn my brother off? Warn Maria off? They might be young but they’re not under age.’

‘Maria comes from one of the richest families in Latin America.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Aggie looked at him in confusion. Yes, of course she had known that Maria was not the usual hand-to-mouth starving student working the tills on the weekend to help pay for her tuition fees. But one of the richest families in Latin America? No wonder she had not been in favour of either of them letting on that they were just normal people struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis!

‘You’re kidding, right?’

‘When it comes to money, I lose my sense of humour.’ Luiz abruptly sat forward, elbows resting on his thighs, and looked at her unsmilingly. ‘I hadn’t planned on taking a hard line, but I’m beginning to do the maths and I don’t like the results I’m coming up with.’

Aggie tried and failed to meet his dark, intimidating stare. Why was it that whenever she was in this man’s company her usual unflappability was scattered to the four corners? She was reduced to feeling too tight in her skin, too defensive and too self-conscious. Which meant that she could barely think straight.

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ she muttered, staring at her linked fingers while her heart rate sped up and her mouth went dry.

‘Wealthy people are often targets,’ Luiz gritted, spelling it out in clear syllables just in case she chose to miss the message. ‘My niece is extremely wealthy and will be even wealthier when she turns twenty-one. Now it appears that the dalliance I thought would peter out after a couple of months has turned into a marriage proposal.’

‘I still can’t believe that. You’ve got your facts wrong.’

‘Believe it! And what I’m seeing are a couple of fortune hunters who have lied about their circumstances to try and throw me off course.’

Aggie blanched and stared at him miserably. Those small white fibs had assumed the proportions of mountains. Her brain felt sluggish but already she could see why he would have arrived at the conclusion that he had.

Honest people didn’t lie.

‘Tell me … is your brother really a musician? Because I’ve looked him up online and, strangely enough, I can’t find him anywhere.’

‘Of course he’s a musician! He … he plays in a band.’

‘And I’m guessing this band hasn’t made it big yet … hence his lack of presence on the Internet.’

‘Okay! I give up! So we may have … have …’

‘Tampered with the truth? Stretched it? Twisted it to the point where it became unrecognisable?’

‘Maria said that you’re very black-and-white.’ Aggie stuck her chin up and met his frowning stare. Now, as had happened before, she marvelled that such sinful physical beauty, the sort of beauty that made people think of putting paint to canvas, could conceal such a cold, ruthless, brutally dispassionate streak.

‘Me? Black-and-white?’ Luiz was outraged at this preposterous assumption. ‘I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in my entire life!’

‘She said that you form your opinions and you stick to them. You never look outside the box and allow yourself to be persuaded into another direction.’

‘That’s called strength of character!’

‘Well, that’s why we weren’t inclined to be one hundred percent truthful. Not that we lied

‘We just didn’t reveal as much as we could have.’

‘Such as you live in a rented dump, your brother sings in pubs now and again and you are a teacher—or was that another one of those creative exaggerations?’

‘Of course I’m a teacher. I teach primary school. You can check up on me if you like!’

‘Well that’s now by the by. The fact is, I cannot allow any marriage to take place between my niece and your brother.’

‘So you’re going to do what, exactly?’ Aggie was genuinely bewildered. It was one thing to disapprove of someone else’s choices. It was quite another to force them into accepting what you chose to cram down their throat. Luiz, Maria’s mother, every single member of their super-wealthy family, for that matter, could rant, storm, wring their hands and deliver threatening lectures—but at the end of the day Maria was her own person and would make up her own mind.

She tactfully decided not to impart that point of view. He claimed that he wasn’t black-and-white but she had seen enough evidence of that to convince her that he was. He also had no knowledge whatsoever of how the other half lived. In fact, she doubted that he had ever even come into contact with people who weren’t exactly like him, until she and Mark had come along.

‘Look.’ She relented slightly as another point of view pushed its way through her self-righteous anger. ‘I can understand that you might harbour one or two reservations about my brother …’

‘Can you?’ Luiz asked with biting sarcasm.

Right now he was kicking himself for not having taken a harder look at the pair of them. He was usually as sharp as they came when other people and their motivations were involved. He had had to be. So how had they managed to slip through the net?

Her brother was disingenuous, engaging, apparently open. He looked like the kind of guy who could hold his own with anyone—tall, muscular, with the same shade of blonde hair as his sister but tied back in a ponytail; when he spoke, his voice was low and gentle.

And Agatha—so stunningly pretty that anyone could be forgiven for staring. But, alongside that, she had also been forthright and opinionated. Was that what had taken him in—the combination of two very different personalities? Had they cunningly worked off each other to throw him off-guard? Or had he just failed to take the situation seriously because he hadn’t thought the boy’s relationship with his niece would ever come to anything? Luisa was famously protective of Maria. Had he just assumed that her request for him to keep an eye out had been more of the same?

At any rate, they had now been caught out in a tangle of lies and that, to his mind, could mean only one thing.

The fact that he’d been a fool for whatever reason was something he would have to live with, but it stuck in his throat.

‘And I know how it must look … that we weren’t completely open with you. But you have to believe me when I tell you that you have nothing to fear.’

‘Point one—fear is an emotion that’s alien to me. Point two—I don’t have to believe anything you say, which brings me to your question.’

‘My question?’

‘You wondered what I intended to do about this mess.’

Aggie felt her hackles rise, as they invariably did on the occasions when she had met him, and she made a valiant effort to keep them in check.

‘So you intend to warn my brother off,’ she said on a sigh.

‘Oh, I intend to do much better than that,’ Luiz drawled, watching the faint colour in her cheeks and thinking that she was a damn good actress. ‘You look as though you could use some money, and I suspect your brother could as well. You have a landlord baying down your neck for unpaid rent.’

‘I paid!’ Aggie insisted vigorously. ‘It’s not my fault that there’s a postal strike!’

‘And whatever you earn as a teacher,’ Luiz continued, not bothering to give her protest house room, ‘It obviously isn’t enough to scrape by. Face it, if you can’t afford the rent for a dump like this, then it’s pretty obvious that neither of you has a penny to rub together. So my offer to get your brother off the scene and out of my niece’s life should put a big smile on your face. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it should make your Christmas.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Those big blue eyes, Luiz thought sourly. They had done a damn good job of throwing him off the scent.

‘I’m going to give you and your brother enough money to clear out of this place. You’ll each be able to afford to buy somewhere of your own, live the high life, if that’s what takes your fancy. And I suspect it probably is …’

‘You’re going to pay us off? To make us disappear?’

‘Name your price. And naturally your brother can name his. No one has ever accused me of not being a generous man. And on the subject of your brother … when exactly is he due back?’ He looked pointedly at his watch and then raised his eyes to her flushed, angry face. She was perched on the very edge of her chair, ramrod-erect, and her knuckles were white where her fingers were biting into the padded seat. She was the very picture of outrage.

‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this.’

‘I’m sure you’ll find it remarkably easy to adjust to the thought.’

‘You can’t just buy people off!’

‘No? Care to take a small bet on that?’ His eyes were as hard and as cold as the frost gathering outside. ‘Doubtless your brother wishes to further his career, if he’s even interested in a career. Maybe he’d just like to blow some money on life’s little luxuries. Doubtless he ascertained my niece’s financial status early on in the relationship and between the two of you you decided that she was your passport to a more lucrative lifestyle. It now appears that he intends to marry her and thereby get his foot through the door, so to speak, but that’s not going to happen in a million years. So when you say that I can’t buy people off? Well, I think you’ll find that I can.’

Aggie stared at him open-mouthed. She felt as though she was in the presence of someone from another planet. Was this how the wealthy behaved, as though they owned everything and everyone? As though people were pieces on a chess board to be moved around on a whim and disposed of without scruple? And why was she so surprised when she had always known that he was ruthless, cold-hearted and single-minded?

‘Mark and Maria love each other! That must have been obvious to you.’

‘I’m sure Maria imagines herself in love. She’s young. She doesn’t realise that love is an illusion. And we can sit around chatting all evening, but I still need to know when he’ll be here. I want to get this situation sorted as soon as possible.’

‘He won’t.’

‘Come again?’

‘I mean,’ Aggie ventured weakly, because she knew that the bloodless, heartless man in front of her wasn’t going to warm to what she was about to tell him, ‘he and Maria decided to have a few days away. A spur-of-the-moment thing. A little pre-Christmas break …’

‘Tell me I’m not hearing this.’

‘They left yesterday morning.’

She started as he vaulted upright without warning and began pacing the room, his movements restless and menacing.

‘Left to go where?’ It was a question phrased more like a demand. ‘And don’t even think of using your looks to pull a fast one.’

‘Using my looks?’ Aggie felt hot colour crawl into her face. While she had been sitting there in those various restaurants, feeling as awkward and as colourless as a sparrow caught up in a parade of peacocks, had he been looking at her, assessing what she looked like? That thought made her feel weirdly unsteady.

‘Where have they gone?’ He paused to stand in front of her and Aggie’s eyes travelled up—up along that magnificent body sheathed in clothes that looked far too expensive and far too hand-made for their surroundings—until they settled on the forbidding angles of his face. She had never met someone who exuded threat and power the way he did, and who used that to his advantage.

‘I don’t have to give you that information,’ she said stoutly and tried not to quail as his expression darkened.

‘I really wouldn’t play that game with me if I were you, Agatha.’

‘Or else what?’

‘Or else I’ll make sure that your brother finds himself without a job in the foreseeable future. And the money angle? Off the cards.’

‘You can’t do that. I mean, you can’t do anything to ruin his musical career.’

‘Oh no? Please don’t put that to the test.’

Aggie hesitated. There was such cool certainty in his voice that she had no doubt that he really would make sure her brother lost his job if she didn’t comply and tell him what he wanted.

‘Okay. They’ve gone to a little country hotel in the Lake District,’ she imparted reluctantly. ‘They wanted a romantic, snowed-in few days, and that part of the world has a lot of sentimental significance for us.’ Her bag was on the ground next to her. She reached in, rummaged around and extracted a sheet of paper, confirmation of their booking. ‘He gave me this, because it’s got all the details in case I wanted to get in touch with him.’

‘The Lake District. They’ve gone to the Lake District.’ He raked his fingers through his hair, snatched the paper from her and wondered if things could get any worse. The Lake District was not exactly a hop and skip away. Nor was it a plane-ride away. He contemplated the prospect of spending hours behind the wheel of his car in bad driving conditions on a search-and-rescue mission for his sister—because if they were thinking of getting married on the sly, what better time or place? Or else doing battle with the public transport system which was breaking under the weight of the bad weather. He eliminated the public-transport option without hesitation. Which brought him back to the prospect of hours behind the wheel of his car.

‘You make it sound as though they’ve taken a trip to the moon. Well, I guess you’ll want to give Maria a call … I’m not sure there’s any mobile-phone service there, though. In fact, there isn’t. You’ll have to phone through to the hotel and get them to transfer you. She can reassure you that they’re not about to take a walk down the aisle.’ Aggie wondered how her brother was going to deal with Luiz when Luiz waved a wad of notes in front of him and told him to clear off or else. Mark, stupidly, actually liked the man, and stuck up for him whenever Aggie happened to mention how much he got on her nerves.

Not her problem. She struggled to squash her instinctive urge to look out for him. She and Mark had been a tight unit since they were children, when their mother had died and, in the absence of any father, or any relatives for that matter, they had been put into care. Younger by four years, he had been a sickly child, debilitated by frequent asthma attacks. Like a surrogate mother hen, she had learnt to take care of him and to put his needs ahead of her own. She had gained strength, allowing him the freedom to be the gentle, dreamy child who had matured into a gentle, dreamy adult—despite his long hair, his earring and the tattoo on his shoulder which seemed to announce a different kind of person.

‘Well, now that you know where they are, I guess you’ll be leaving.’

Luiz, looking at her down-bent head, pondered this sequence of events. Missing niece. Missing boyfriend. Long trip to locate them.

‘I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming,’ he mused. ‘Having a few days away would be the perfect opportunity for your brother to seal the deal. Maybe my presence on the scene alerted him to the fact that time wouldn’t be on his side when it came to marrying my niece. Maybe he figured that the courtship would have to be curtailed and the main event brought forward … a winter wedding. Very romantic.’

‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!’

‘I’d be surprised if you didn’t say that. Well, it’s not going to happen. We’ll just have to make sure that we get to that romantic hideaway and surprise them before they have time to do anything regrettable.’


Luiz looked at her with raised eyebrows. ‘Well, you don’t imagine that I’m going to go there on my own and leave you behind so that you can get on the phone and warn your brother of my impending arrival, do you?’

‘You’re crazy! I’m not going anywhere with you, Luiz Montes!’

‘It’s not ideal timing, and I can’t say that I haven’t got better things to do on a Friday evening, but I can’t see a way out of it. I anticipate we’ll be there by tomorrow lunchtime, so you’ll have to pack enough for a weekend and make it quick. I’ll need to get back to my place so that I can throw some things in a bag.’

‘You’re not hearing what I’m saying!’

‘Correction. I am hearing. I’m just choosing to ignore what you’re saying because none of it will make any difference to what I intend to do.’

‘I refuse to go along with this!’

‘Here’s the choice. We go, I chat to your brother, I dangle my financial inducement in front of him … A few tears all round to start with but in the end everyone’s happy. Plan B is I send my men up to physically bring him back to London, where he’ll find that life can be very uncomfortable when all avenues of work are dried up. I’ll put the word out in the music industry that he’s not to be touched with a barge pole. You’d be surprised if you knew the extent of my connections. One word—vast. I’m guessing that as his loyal, devoted sister, option two might be tough to swallow.’

‘You are … are …’

‘Yes, yes, yes. I know what you think of me. I’ll give you ten minutes to be at the front door. If you’re not there, I’m coming in to get you. And look on the bright side, Agatha. I’m not even asking you to take time off from your job. You’ll be delivered safely back here by Monday morning, in one piece and with a bank account that’s stuffed to the rafters. And we’ll never have to lay eyes on each other again!’


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