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The Secret Casella Baby

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«The Secret Casella Baby» - Кэтти Уильямс

How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? That is a question ordinary girl Holly George never thought she’d be able to answer! Until one sizzling night with brooding Brazilian Luiz changes her life. Not only is Luiz Casella a billionaire – but now Holly is expecting his baby!Holly might don all the silk and diamonds Luiz can shower her with – but she’ll always feel most comfortable working at her animal sanctuary. Yet it seems she might have to get used to living in world of the rich and famous… As a Casella heir cannot be born out of wedlock!‘Beautifully written, stunning descriptions and such depth to her characters.’ – Uzma, Customer Services, Southport
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About the Author

Luiz tilted his head to one side, looking for all the world as though he was paying keen attention and actually listening to what she was suggesting.


‘No? No? What do you mean, no?’ Holly looked at him in sudden confusion. She had exhausted all the options she could think of, so what exactly was he turning down? All of them? Didn’t he know that there was nothing else on the table?

‘I find that none of those options appeal. Let me put it this way… As far as I am concerned, the only choice I have is to marry you. My child will be born legitimate. There’s no other alternative. Rest assured that as far as money goes you will be well taken care of. In fact you could say that you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams.’

Holly was staring at him as though he had just grown wings and was now informing her that he would be flying to the moon. She wasn’t sure that she had quite heard correctly.


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!

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The Secret

Casella Baby

Cathy Williams


BEHIND THE WHEEL of his top-of-the-range silver sports car, Luiz Casella edged his foot down on the accelerator and felt the low, responsive growl of the vehicle as it leapt faster along the narrow country road. This was madness; he shouldn’t be here, in the depths of a wintry, deserted Yorkshire countryside, pitting his ability to drive against nature’s ability to stop him. On one side, endless fields, snow-covered, meandered out towards a horizon fast being consumed by darkness. On the other the bank rose steadily upwards, an icy mass of unforgiving rock that would shatter his car if he made the mistake of getting too close.

Luiz knew that. He also knew that he had to do this, he had to work this crazy, maddening grief out of his system somehow, and he couldn’t think of a better way of doing it than by dicing with death a million miles away from the well-ordered, clinical sanity of his London penthouse.

It had been nearly a year since his father had died. A strapping, adventurous man in his early sixties, Mario Casella had been alive, strong and vibrant one day, nagging his son that it was time to settle down, threatening to leave Brazil and fly to London to persuade him. The next, he had been a crumpled, lifeless body barely identifiable in the ruins of the small light aeroplane which he had been determined to master.

Luiz had taken the call from his sobbing mother and had returned immediately to Brazil where he had risen to the challenges awaiting him. As the only son, he had become immediate head of the family. He handled everything, from the funeral arrangements to the sudden crisis within his father’s company caused by his death. He juggled the managing of his own companies from a distance.

He was the reassuring rock to which his mother, his three sisters, various assorted relatives and a number of business associates had turned. He had not allowed any poisonous thread of weakness to corrupt his remorseless, single-minded determination to do what he knew he had to do. He had appointed the necessary people to run his father’s company and made sure they knew that one slip up, and they would be answerable to him. He had arranged for the family mansion to be sold because his mother couldn’t face the prospect of living there without her husband. He had found somewhere equally luxurious but much smaller in the same cul de sac as one of his sisters. He had quietly put some of the more sentimental mementoes into storage where they would rest until the time came when his mother would be strong enough to face looking at them. He had done all this without shedding a tear.

When he had returned to London, months later, it was to resume the running of his own personal empire. He threw himself into a work routine that would have crippled any normal human being. He began a ferocious programme of buy-outs that saw his personal wealth increase ten fold.

The latest buy-out of a failing electronics company in Durham had given him the first opportunity he had had to release some of the savage energy that had been burning a hole inside him since his father’s death. He had taken advantage of it, arranging for his car to be at the airport and allowing himself a few hours’ respite from his gruelling work agenda to drive back down to London.

He hadn’t intended to be distracted by country lanes but the challenge of those small, deserted icy roads had been irresistible. He had switched off his GPS navigation and now here he was.

In the failing light, he could see the first light glimmers of snow beginning to fall like translucent powder, necessitating the windscreen wipers.

He had switched off his phone, switched off the radio, and all he could hear was the deep, sepulchral silence of winter battling against the low roar of his powerful car.

Had his father felt any pain before he’d died? He would have known that death was imminent as his plane had plummeted out of the sky, like a bird with its wings catastrophically snapped. What had been his thoughts?

Surely no regrets? His father had been the finest example of what a clever man possessed of boundless energy and imagination could achieve. He had taken himself away from his impoverished background and worked his way steadily upwards until he had finally been able to reside in that rarefied place where money was no object. He had married his childhood sweetheart, who had stood by him every inch of the way, and together they had had four children. No; there would surely have been no regrets there.

Luiz liked to think that there was comfort to be derived from that but no amount of mental acrobatics could stifle the pain of the unanswered questions, or knowing that the single one man he had truly admired was gone for ever from his life.

His hands tightened on the wheel. A searing ache began uncoiling in the very pit of his stomach. He clenched his jaw, pressed harder on the accelerator, and in the blink of an eye that unforgiving face of rock was bearing down towards him.

Luiz reacted in a split second, veering away from it, feeling it brush against the side of his car, hearing the shriek of protesting metal against immovable stone, then his car was spinning out of control and hurtling across the country lane, now shrouded in darkness, out towards the expanse of fields.

The impact left him momentarily dazed but his airbag had done its thing and the strength of the vehicle had weathered the crash better than he could have hoped for. But he was still winded and in a bad way as he manoeuvred himself out of the car and dragged himself as far away from it as possible. He was running on a full tank and there was every chance that the thing would go up in flames. Remain too close, and it would take him along for the ride.

But walking was going to be a problem. He gingerly felt his leg and the gash running along it. He was without a coat, in the middle of nowhere and there was not a single light in sight. To make matters worse, the snow had decided to gather momentum. The powdery dust was fast turning into fat snowflakes that began settling on his hair, his useless work trousers—lovingly hand-tailored but totally inappropriate in falling snow—the designer jumper which would be soaked through in under half an hour and on the fields stretching as far as the eye could see.

Gritting his teeth, he began making his way slowly back towards the road. He would just have to take things from there. He had his mobile phone and, whilst he was fully aware that the network in these parts would probably be severely challenged, sooner or later he would be able to pick up a signal.

And, hey; a grim smile flitted across his dark, aristocratic face. This physical pain, after months of putting a cap on the far uglier pain of his emotions, almost felt good…

Had he but known it, less than two miles away, Holly George, in the act of doing her routine check of her cherished animal sanctuary, heard the distant scream of the car crash and instantly stilled, cocking her head to listen a little harder.

She had grown up in this wild, spectacular terrain and she knew it intimately. She knew its changing moods, its unexpectedly graceful nooks and crannies and she knew its sounds. Especially in the depths of February when the silence could be bottomless.

She snapped shut the gate on Buster the donkey, a new addition, and hurried inside the stone cottage, taking off her woolly hat in the process so that long, curly fair hair the colour of vanilla spilled over her shoulders and rippled down her back.

Someone’s come off the road. There was no question of it. For a few seconds she debated whether to call Andy, her partner at the sanctuary, but then dismissed the idea before it had chance to form. Andy had left early for a cookery course in town, hosted by his favourite chef. He had been looking forward to it for the past three weeks and she wasn’t about to ruin his good time by dragging him out on a search and rescue mission.

Ben Firth would gladly have got his boys together and headed out with their fire trucks, and Abe, the local doctor, would have rustled up the ambulance, but where would they head? The funny thing with sound around here was that the echoes of it could literally have originated anywhere. But she knew this place like the back of her hand. She would be able to pin point where the crash had happened and get there much faster than Ben and his crew, who were based over fifteen miles away, or Abe for that matter, who was closer but not by much.

Holly George was only twenty-six years old but she was sensible, practical and used to the harsh winters delivered every year in remote Yorkshire. Sometimes it occurred to her that sensible and practical were not very feminine traits, which might have accounted for the lack of men pounding on her front door begging for a date. But whenever she thought of leaving her beloved animal sanctuary and moving to one of the big cities with bright lights, clubs, bars and all those other things her friends kept telling her she needed, she literally felt ill.

Her father had been a farmer and she had always lived around animals. Her body clock was primed for early mornings and the onset of spring was always a reminder of the wonders of lambing. Her father had died years ago, shortly after she had turned eighteen, and she had reluctantly sold the farm, knowing that managing the extensive acres of arable would be out of the question, even with a great deal of help. In its place, she had sunk what she had made on the farm into the animal sanctuary which now occupied her time. Once she had paid the bills there was precious little money left, but she had her cottage, with its grumbling heating system and eccentric plumbing, and she didn’t owe a thing on it. She had bought it outright.

But the question of time passing her by while her friends lived it up and tried to drag her out was still the occasional wrinkle in an otherwise uncomplicated existence. She had only ever had one serious boyfriend. James had been training to be a vet and they had met at one of the many courses she enjoyed attending to better her understanding of how to look after the animals she rescued. He had been giving the lecture as part of his coursework and she had immediately warmed to his evident nervousness.

They had got chatting and, when their relationship had ended after a year and a half, they had remained firm friends.

Personally, Holly thought that she might very well have missed her chance because she couldn’t imagine that there was anyone more on her wavelength than James had been. But he had been transferred south and had just not been able to tolerate the physical distance. She often wondered whether she should have tried harder because time moved on and…

She paused by the front door to reach for the keys to her ancient four-wheel drive and glanced at the reflection in the little brass mirror attached to the hooks for the keys.

This face would never suit the bright lights, she decided, and neither would this body. She lacked the fashionable angular lines that looked good in tight clothes and she had never quite cracked the art of make-up. The bright blue eyes staring back at her were rarely adorned with mascara or eye-liner. Her face was soft, gentle, too feminine to be sexy.

She turned away without dwelling further on her physical drawbacks.

Outside the snow was getting heavier, and she knew that there was no time for second thoughts, but her car was extremely sturdy and as she switched on the engine it let out its usual reassuring rumble.

There were several roads and lanes she could have taken but she unerringly went for the right one. It was the most hazardous. In the past four years, three accidents had taken place on one of the bends that forked left without warning. If that wasn’t the site of the car crash, then she would have no difficulty in picking up another lane.

Making her way through the snow, she spotted the car as soon as the narrow road allowed her an unimpeded view straight ahead. It was skewed into the field at an angle that made her urge her old car on faster. Snow was already gathering on it and even from a distance she could see that it was a complete write off.

She was squinting to make out the detail in the beam of her headlights and very nearly missed the figure at the side of the road, barely standing and signalling to her to stop.

A man, on his own, and not kitted out for the weather; she could make that much out as she carefully pulled to the side of the road.

‘Is there anyone else with you?’ Holly asked anxiously, hurrying over and wrapping her arm around his waist. Half-slumped, she was conscious of the firmness of muscle and the weight of someone much taller than her.

‘Just me.’ Luiz ground his teeth to bite back the agony of his leg as they hobbled, clutching each other, to a car that looked like the left-over relic from another century.

‘Your car…’

‘Completely destroyed.’

‘I’ll arrange for someone to come out and fetch it.’

‘Forget it. I couldn’t give a damn about it.’

Holly wondered who couldn’t give a damn about something as expensive as a car. Letting him go for the second it took to open the passenger door, she felt the brush of his body as he settled into the seat with a grimace of pain.

A thousand questions were running through her head. Which would be the quickest route to the hospital? He was standing and he was talking, but was he seriously injured? Should she be asking him about any family members she could contact? Should she do some sort of routine check to make sure that he wasn’t concussed?

She raised her eyes, one of those questions already forming on her lips, and was skewered to the spot by the sort of spectacular good looks that just made her want to stare and keep on staring. His eyes were deep and dark and the snow glistened on short black hair and on a lean-boned face that was breathtakingly, uncompromisingly masculine. He was exotically foreign, his skin the colour of burnished gold. Her heart set up a tempo that was so alien to her that she could feel bright, flustered colour invade her cheeks.

‘Are you comfortable?’ she managed to ask in a staccato voice that was very different from her usually calm, unruffled tone.

‘As comfortable as I can be with a leg that’s been ripped open.’

At which Holly roused herself out of her stupor sufficiently to look at the bloodied trousers and she gave a little gasp of horror.

‘You need the hospital.’ She switched on the engine. The snow was falling more heavily and it took her a little while before her tyres could grip the tarmac.

‘How far is it?’

‘Quite far.’ She had to fight the temptation to sneak one more look at that face. ‘You’re not from around here, are you?’

‘Is it so easy to tell?’ Luiz rested his head against the window and stared at her profile. He had the strangest feeling that he had crashed, died and gone to heaven, because she was the most angelic thing he had ever seen in his life. Her skin was as smooth as satin, her enormous eyes were the pure blue of cornflowers; her hair, flyaway blonde, cascaded down her back and over her shoulders in natural, wild disarray, so different from the poker-straight hairstyles that were everywhere in London. The pain in his leg was now a steady throb, pulsing underneath the trousers.

‘You’re wearing the wrong clothes. No one would venture out in weather like this without a few more layers. Look, it’s going to be impossible to get you to the hospital, but I can call and find out whether they can send a rescue helicopter for you.’

Luiz thought of the carelessness that had landed him in this mess and flushed darkly. ‘I can handle it myself. There’s no need for a rescue helicopter.’

‘You’re kidding.’

When she smiled, her cheeks dimpled. He had never seen anything like it.

‘I haven’t even introduced myself,’ Holly said shyly. ‘I’m Holly George.’

‘Well, Holly George,’ Luiz murmured, ‘What were you doing out on the roads in this weather? Won’t your parents be wondering where you’ve gone?’

‘I live on my own. Not very far away, as a matter of fact. I heard you crash so I jumped in my car and drove here. I was going to alert Ben and Abe but it would have taken them ages. That’s the problem with living in such a remote place; if you run into trouble in the depths of winter, you just have to keep your fingers crossed that you can hold out for a few hours.’

‘Who are Ben and Abe?’

‘Oh, Ben’s in charge of the fire station and old Abe is the local doctor.’

‘It all sounds very cosy.’

‘What were you doing on those roads?’

‘Getting rid of some of my demons.’

Holly glanced across at him at that intriguing statement but his eyes were veiled and she instinctively knew that he was not a man who would expand on anything if she chose to ask him a direct question. How did she know that? Where had that gut feeling come from?

‘Those lights up ahead…’ She turned off the main road and felt the familiarity of the grounds surrounding her cottage. ‘My cottage is there. I… I run an animal sanctuary.’

‘You do what?’

‘I run an animal sanctuary. You can just make out the buildings over there; they’re heated and covered. We have about fifty animals. Dogs, cats, two horses, a donkey… Last year we even had a pair of llamas, but fortunately they were taken in by a children’s farm.’

‘Cats… horses… a donkey…’ He had stepped into another world. This was so far beyond his realm of understanding that he could have been conversing with someone from another planet.

‘What do you do?’ Holly asked. ‘I mean, what’s your job?’

‘My job…’ They were pulling up in front of a small stone cottage, brightly lit. She turned to him and for a second his breath caught at the sight of her open, smiling heart-shaped face. He noticed details that had escaped his attention. For instance, not only were her eyes the bluest he had ever seen, but her eyelashes were incongruously dark and her mouth was full and beautifully defined. The fingers lightly gripping the steering wheel were slender, smooth and free of any rings. In fact, she wore no jewellery. Her clothes were basic, practical, unfashionable—jeans, a jumper over which she had flung a very worn, olive-green oilskin, wellies and a woollen hat with a Christmas motif. She was the least artificial person he could remember seeing in a long time.

‘And your name; what’s your name? Hang on, I’ll come round your side and help you out and we can have a look at your injury and decide what to do. I have a lot of first-aid stuff and if it’s superficial I can probably deal with it.’

Holly found that she was as tense as violin wire as once again that very masculine body was leaning against her, weighing her down even though she knew that he was doing his best to put as little pressure on her as he could. As always when she was nervous, she chattered as they walked very slowly through the snow towards the front door, and once in to the kitchen where he sat heavily on one of the pine chairs at her kitchen table.

This was just the sort of decor that Luiz loathed: lots of rustic touches and one of those enormous ranges that did very little, as far as he was concerned, aside from take up useful space. The tiles on the floor were old, as old as the weathered rug underneath the pine table. Against one wall, a dresser was home to a variety of mismatched plates which fought for space alongside little framed pictures and various bric-a-brac of the sort guaranteed to have any interior designer worth her salt gnashing her teeth in frustration.

And yet…

He watched as she bustled, fetching a first-aid kit from one of the cupboards, not even looking at him directly as she concentrated on the gash on his leg.

‘You’ll have to help me get the trousers off,’ he murmured and she hurriedly waved aside the suggestion.

Get his trousers off? Holly didn’t think that her blood pressure could take it. His presence filled her small kitchen like no one else’s ever had. However hard she tried to divert her eyes, they just kept coming back to him, big, muscular and indecently good-looking.

‘I’ll cut them. It’s better that way.’

She knelt in front of him and Luiz felt the thrust of an erection that was so strong and so unexpected that he had to draw his breath in sharply. What was it about her? She had no sharp edges, no bony elbows, thin arms or stick legs. She was soft and rounded and he could see the shape of her full breasts even in the faded jeans and even more faded jumper, as seductive as ripe fruit.

As she gently began cutting away the trouser leg, apologising about ruining the lovely cloth, his head was suddenly filled with images of her naked in front of him, offering herself to him. He fidgeted and Holly looked up immediately.

‘Have I hurt you?’

He wondered how she would react if he told her exactly what was hurting him at this moment in time.

‘You’re very brave. You must tell me if I hurt you. It’s bound to but…’

She hurried off, to return seconds later with a glass of water and some tablets.

‘Painkillers. Very strong. They’ll help.’ She could feel her skin tingling as he rested his dark eyes on her flushed face. It was strange, but when he looked at her she got the funniest feeling that she was being caressed.

‘So you haven’t told me your name…’ Once again at the task of slitting the trousers, trying to ignore the strong legs slowly being revealed with their dark hair which was somehow so aggressively masculine, she launched into jumpy chatter.

‘Ah, yes. Luiz. Luiz… Gomez.’ He hoped that the head gardener who had been in charge of the grounds of the family house in Brazil would forgive him appropriating his surname, but suddenly it seemed a good idea. Here, with this woman kneeling at his feet, in surroundings so far removed from those to which he was accustomed, he would be a different person. Just for a few hours. He would no longer be a workaholic, driven by demons, in charge of an empire in which there was no time-out clause built in. There was no sin in seeking a little respite from the brutal reality of his life, was there?

‘Luiz… Where are you from?’

‘I live in London, as a matter of fact, but I come from Brazil.’ He smiled at her delighted expression and relaxed as she chattered away about the places she would love to see one day. Her fingers were nimble and she worked quickly, explaining that he would need to see a doctor, would probably need antibiotics but it wasn’t too bad, she would make sure she cleaned it thoroughly…

She laughed when he asked her whether she had been a girl guide and he enjoyed the sound of her laughter. He felt he might like to hear it more often.

‘I could stitch you up,’ she told him. ‘But I’m not sure whether you would be willing to trust me to do that. If not, I can bandage you up until we can get you to a doctor.’

Luiz half-murmured that when it came to being stitched up there had been a fair few women who had attempted the exercise.

‘Is there somewhere I could stay out here?’ he asked, looking around him as if he might just spy a cosy tavern at the bottom of the garden. Already his mind was moving ahead. Time out; this was the tonic he needed. A place where no one could find him, with a woman who had no agenda and to whom he would be no more than an injured stranger. The wealthy and powerful Luiz Casella could have a bit of peace and quiet. The man over whom women fawned could step back and luxuriate in the novelty of knowing that the health of his bank account was not a contributing factor.

And, of course, out here…

He feasted his eyes on her luscious curves, her achingly pretty face, which went pink every time he looked at her.

Holly blushed and laughed again as she straightened up, pleased with the job she had done. She was used to dealing with injuries. He was probably bruised on other parts of his body as well. She couldn’t help admiring his stoicism. Not only was he fantastically good-looking, but he wasn’t a complainer.

‘The nearest bed and breakfast is at least twenty miles away. You couldn’t have picked a worse spot to come off the road,’ she said ruefully. ‘I’ll fix you something to eat and make up the spare room. You can stay here, if you like. At least overnight, until we can get you to a hospital.’

‘I won’t be needing a hospital.’ Luiz thought that he couldn’t have picked a better place to come off the road. He didn’t know what it was about her, but already he felt calmer than he had in a long time.

‘And you still haven’t told me what you do. Or if I should get in touch with someone to tell them about your accident. A wife, perhaps…?’

Luiz could recognise a leading question when he heard one and he smiled slowly. ‘No wife,’ he murmured. ‘No girlfriend. No one to contact.’ He watched as she busied herself fixing them something to eat. The cupboards were hand-painted, cream and dark green. The tiles above the range cooker depicted children’s drawings of various animals. It was warm in the kitchen and she pulled off the sweater so that she was down to a long-sleeved tee-shirt which clung faithfully to all her curves and to breasts which were as abundant as he had suspected. She was chattering, although he wasn’t one hundred percent paying attention to what she was saying.

He knew that he was making all the right noises, and when finally she sat at the kitchen table with food in front of them—eggs and bacon and some of the best bread he had ever eaten—he knew that he was asking all the right questions.

He asked about the sanctuary, about how it was funded, about the details of how it was run, where the animals came from, the success rate at rehousing them.

She had an open, expressive face. She gesticulated excitedly when she talked about her animals. They all had names. They tried to raise money locally to keep going. Personally, he thought that it all sounded like a lot of hard work for no profit, but he enjoyed looking at her enthusiasm. He couldn’t remember being as enthusiastic as she was when he was closing his deals, which were usually worth millions. He was tempted to offer her a substantial amount of money, a thank you for saving his life, but, having told her that he was little more than a travelling salesman, that possibility was ruled out.

‘I might have to stay here slightly longer than a night,’ he finally said as she rose to clear their dishes and Holly threw him an anxious glance over her shoulder.

‘Won’t your boss mind?’ she asked, concerned. ‘Things are so tough in the economy nowadays… I hope your job won’t be under threat because you have to take time off.’ When he said stay here, did he mean stay here? In her house? Or stay somewhere locally until he was fully recovered? She thought of him in her house and a guilty thrill of pleasure rippled through her. He was just the most interesting guy she had ever met, willing to listen to what she had to say and informative on all his responses.

‘I think I’ll be able to wing it on that score,’ Luiz murmured. For a second, he felt a twinge of guilt at his creative manipulation of the truth but it didn’t last long. He reasoned that she would be intimidated had she known the extent of his influence, power and wealth. She would respond far more quickly and openly to a travelling salesman type, someone safe and unthreatening.

‘So getting back to you staying here…’ Holly said uncertainly. ‘I’m not sure what you mean, exactly…’

‘Of course, I would insist on paying you. You could consider yourself the most convenient bed and breakfast, and I assure you, you would be generously compensated. In fact, you can name your price. I… I’m quite sure my boss would not hesitate to make whatever generous donation you might want towards your animal sanctuary.’

‘I wouldn’t dream of taking money from you!’ Holly was horrified that he might think her so mercenary that she would try and charge him for what anyone else would have done in her situation.

‘Even though, from all accounts, your animals don’t exactly pay the bills?’ Luiz was enjoying the unexpected novelty of this situation more and more. He couldn’t think of a single woman who wouldn’t have taken money from him. In fact, he was quite accustomed to lavishing presents on his women: diamonds, pearls, cars, holidays… Naturally, had she known the extent of his personal fortune, she would not have hesitated to take advantage of his generosity. He knew enough about women to be sure on that count. Her scruples would only have kicked in at the thought of depriving a struggling salesman who might or might not be in danger of losing his job.

‘I know a bit about computers…’ He had to conceal a smile when he said that, for he owned several IT companies and probably knew more about the workings of computers than most of the people he employed. ‘Do you have a website? Because I could set one up for you…’

Not only did he not complain, not only was he interested in what she did, not only was he the perfect gentleman in offering to compensate her for her simple act of kindness, but here he was, doing his best to make himself useful! He just seemed to know everything. Perhaps computers were his thing.

‘The main thing is that you get better,’ she told him firmly. ‘Would you like some tea? Coffee? And then I’ll show you up to your bedroom. In the morning, I’ll get in touch with Abe. The snow doesn’t seem to be getting any heavier. He has a Jeep. He should be able to make it out here.’

‘Are you always this upbeat?’ Luiz wondered aloud and she favoured him with one of those smiles that he found strangely transfixing.

‘I have a lot to be thankful for. This place, a job I love, lots of friends…’ She placed the cafetière on the table along with two mugs and some milk and sugar. ‘I no longer have my parents. My mother died when I was a kid, and my dad died a few years ago, but I like to think that they were very happy…’

‘And that works for you?’ Luiz’s mouth twisted cynically at her innocent, sunny acceptance of what he, personally, had found unacceptable—of the event which, in a strange way, accounted for him sitting right here in this kitchen with a woman the likes of whom he had never known existed.

‘Of course it does. What did you mean when you said that you were getting rid of some of your demons?’

Had anyone else asked him that question, Luiz would have shot them down with a glance, but as he stared into those sympathetic blue eyes, he felt that ache in his gut uncoil again.

He told her: he was just Luiz Gomez, a travelling salesman, allowed, for a brief window in time, to reveal his feelings. It wasn’t easy. He was not a man given to sharing or confiding. When you were the power house, the person shouldering the responsibility and running the show, confiding about anything to anyone was not a desirable thing to do. It was a sign of weakness and, as one of those kings of the concrete jungle, weakness was not allowed.

But she made a damned good listener. He forgot about his leg, the incipient aches all over his body, his wrecked car, and at the end of an hour he had made his mind up.

Holly George was going to be his lover.


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