The Vengeful Husband(9)

By: Lynne Graham

Forgivably thrown by that odd response, Luca frowned.

Darcy leapt straight back into speech. 'I assumed you would phone—'

'Nobody ever answers your phone.'

'I'm outdoors a lot of the time.' Stripping off her heavy gloves, Darcy flexed small and painfully stiff fingers and averted her scrutiny from him, her unease in his presence pronounced. What on earth was the matter with her? She was behaving like a silly teenager with a crush. 'You'd better come inside.'

Hurriedly grabbing up an armful of logs, Darcy led the way. The long, cobbled passageway that provided a far from convenient rear entrance to her home was dark and gloomy and flanked by a multitude of closed doors. Innumerable rooms which had once enjoyed specific func¬tions as part of the kitchen quarters now lay unused.

But not for much longer, she reminded herself. When she achieved her dream of opening up the house to the public all those rooms full of their ancient labour intensive equip¬ment would fascinate children.

And she was going to achieve her dream, she told herself feverishly. Surely Luca wouldn't take the trouble to make a second personal appearance if he intended to say no?

She trod into the vast echoing kitchen and knelt down by the big range at the far end. Opening the door, she thrust a sizeable log into the fuel bed. 'Did you come all the way from London again?'

'No, I stayed in Penzance last night.'

Darcy was so rigid with nervous tension, she couldn't bring herself to look at him as she breathed tautly,'

‘So what's your answer?'

'Yes. My answer is yes,' he murmured with quiet em¬phasis.

Her strained eyes prickled with sudden tears and she blinked rapidly before slamming shut the door on the range. The relief was so immense she felt quite dizzy for a few seconds. Feeling as if a huge weight had dropped from her shoulders, Darcy scrambled upright and turned, a grateful smile on her now softened face.

"That's great...that's really great. Would you like some coffee?'

Lounging back against the edge of the giant scrubbed pine table, Luca stared back at her, not a muscle moving in his strong dark face. It was a rather daunting reaction and she swallowed hard, unaware that that shy and spon¬taneous air of sudden friendliness had disconcerted him.

'OK...why not?' he agreed, without any expression at all.

Darcy put on the kettle and stole an uneasy glance at him in the taut silence. She didn't know where the tension was coming from, and then she wondered if his brooding silence was a kind of male ego thing. 'I suppose this isn't quite the sort of work you were hoping to get,' she conceded awkwardly. 'But I promise you that you won't regret it. How long have you been unemployed?'

'Unemployed?' he echoed, strong features stiffening.

'Sorry, I just assumed—'

'I have never been employed in the UK.'

'Oh...' Darcy nodded slowly. 'So how long have you been over here?'

'Long enough...'

Darcy scrutinised that slightly downbent dark glossy head, taking in the faint darkening of colour over his sculpted cheekbones. He was embarrassed at his lack of success in the job market, she gathered, and she wished she had been a little less blunt in her questioning.

But then tact had never been her strong point. And when she had inter¬viewed him she had been so wrapped up in her own prob¬lems that it hadn't occurred to her that Luca must have been desperate to find a job to come so far out of London in answer to one small ad. Furthermore, now that she took a closer look at those leathers of his, she couldn't help but notice that they were pretty worn.

Sudden sympathy swept Darcy. She knew all about being broke and trying to keep up appearances. She had looked down on him for wearing motorbike gear to an interview, but maybe the poor guy didn't have much else to wear. If he hadn't worked since he had arrived in the UK, he cer¬tainly couldn't have financed much of a wardrobe. Smart suits cost money.

'I'll give you half your first month's salary in advance,' Darcy heard herself say. 'As a sort of retainer...'

This time he looked frankly startled.

'You probably think that's very trusting of me, but I tend to take people as I find them. In any case, I don't have a lot of choice but to trust you. If you were to get the chance of another job and decide to back out on me, I'd be in trouble,' she said honestly. 'How do you like your coffee?'

'Black...two sugars.'

Darcy put a pile of biscuits on a rather chipped plate. Setting the two beakers of coffee down on the table, she sat down and reached for the jotter and pencil lying there. 'I'd better get some details from you, hadn't I? What is your surname?'

There was a pause, a distinct pause as he sank lithely down opposite her.

'Raffacani...' he breathed.

'You'll need to spell that for me.'

He obliged.

Darcy bent industriously over the jotter. 'And Luca—is that your first and only other name? You see, I have to get this right for the

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