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
'Gianluca. Gianluca Fabrizio.'
'I think you'd better spell all of it.' She took down his birthdate. Raffacani, she was thinking. Why did she have the curious sense that she had come across that name somewhere before? She shook her head. For all she knew Raffacani was as common a name in Italy as Smith was in England.
'Right,' she said then. 'I'll contact my solicitor, Mr Stevens. He's based in Penzance, so you can sign the pre-nuptial contract as soon as you like. Those references you offered...?'
From the inside of his jacket he withdrew a somewhat creased envelope. Struggling to keep up a businesslike attitude when she really just wanted to sing and dance round the kitchen with relief,
Darcy withdrew the documents. There were two, one with a very impressive letterhead, but both were written in Italian. 'I'll hang onto these and study them,' she told him, thinking of the old set of foreign language dictionaries in the library. 'But I'm sure they'll be fine.'
'How soon do you envisage the marriage ceremony taking place?'
Luca Raffacani enquired.
'Hopefully in about three weeks. It'll be a very quiet wedding,' Darcy explained rather stiffly, fixing her attention to the scarred surface of the table, her face turning pale and set. 'But as my father died this year that won't surprise anyone. It wouldn't be quite the thing to have a big splash.'
'You're not inviting many guests?'
'Actually...' Darcy breathed in deep, plunged into dismal recall of the huge misfired wedding which her father had insisted on staging three years earlier. 'Well, actually, I wasn't planning on inviting anybody,' she admitted tightly as she rose restively to her feet again. 'I'll show you where you'll be staying when you move in, shall I?'
At an infinitely more graceful and leisurely pace, Luca slid upright and straightened. Darcy watched in helpless fascination. His every movement had such...such style, an unhurried cool that caught the eye. He was so self-possessed, so contained. He was also very reserved. He gave nothing away. Well, would she have preferred a garrulous extrovert who asked a lot of awkward questions? Irritated by her own growing curiosity, Darcy left him to follow her out of the kitchen and tried to concentrate on more important things.
'What did you mean when you said you were the next best thing to a man around here?' Luca enquired on the way up the grand oak staircase.
'My father wanted a son, not a daughter—at least...not the kind of daughter I turned out to be.' As she spoke, Darcy was comparing herself to her stepsister. Morton Fielding had been utterly charmed by his second wife's beautiful daughter, Nina. Darcy had looked on in amazement as Nina twisted her cold and censorious parent round her little finger with ease.
'She died when I was six. I hardly remember her,' Darcy confided ruefully. 'My father remarried a few years later. He was desperate to have a male heir but I'm afraid it didn't happen.'
She cast open the door of a big dark oak-panelled bedroom, dominated by a giant Elizabethan four-poster. "This will be your room. The bathroom's through that door. I'm afraid we'll have to share it. There isn't another one on this side of the house.'
As he glanced round the sparsely furnished and decidedly dusty room, which might have figured in a Tudor time warp, Darcy found herself studying him again. That stunningly male profile, the hard, sleek lines of his muscular length.
A tiny frisson of sexual heat tightened her stomach muscles. He strolled with the grace of a leopard over to the high casement window to look out. Sunlight gleamed over his luxuriant black hair. Unexpectedly he turned,, dark eyes with the dramatic impact of gold resting on her in cool enquiry.
Caught watching him again, Darcy blushed as hotly as an embarrassed schoolgirl. She was appalled by her own outrageous physical awareness of him, could not comprehend what madness was dredging such responses from her. Whirling round, she walked swiftly back into the corridor.
As he drew level with her she snatched in a deep, sustaining breath and started towards the stairs again. 'I'm afraid there are very few modern comforts in the Folly, and locally, well, there's even fewer social outlets...' She hesitated uneasily before continuing, 'What I'm really trying to say is that if you feel the need to take off for the odd day in search of amusement, I'll understand—'
'Amusement?' Luca prompted grimly, as if such a concept had never come his way before.
Darcy nodded, staring stonily ahead. 'I'm one of these people who always says exactly what's on their mind. I live very quietly but I can't reasonably expect you to do the same thing for an entire six months. I'm sure you'll maybe want to go up to London occasionally and—'
'Amuse myself?' Luca slotted in very drily.
In spite of her discomfiture, Darcy uttered a strained little laugh. 'You can hardly bring a girlfriend here—'
'I do not have a woman in my life,' he interrupted, with a strong suggestion of gritted teeth.
'Possibly not at present,' Darcy allowed, wondering what on earth was the matter with him. He was reacting as if she had grossly insulted him in some way. 'But I'm being realistic. You're bound to get bored down here. City slickers do...'
Brilliant eyes black as jet stabbed into her. A line of dark colour now lay over his taut cheekbones. 'There will not be a woman nor any need for such behaviour on my part, I assure you’ he imparted icily.
They were descending the stairs when a tiny figure clad in bright red leggings and a yellow T-shirt appeared in the Great Hall below. 'Mummy!'
Zia carrolled with exuberance.
As her daughter flashed over to eagerly show off a much creased painting, Luca fell still. Interpreting his silence as astonishment, Darcy flung him an apologetic glance as she lifted her daughter up into her arms. 'My daughter, Zia...I hadn't got around to mentioning her yet,' she conceded rather defensively.
Luca slid up a broad shoulder in an infinitesimal shrug of innate elegance. The advent of a stray cat might have inspired as much interest. Not a male who had any time for children, Darcy gathered, resolving to ensure that her playful and chatty toddler was kept well out of his path.
'Is there anything else you wish to discuss?' Luca prompted with faint impatience.
Darcy stiffened. Minutes later, she had written and passed him the cheque she had promised. He folded the item and tucked it into his inside pocket with complete cool. 'I'll drop you a note as soon as I get the date of the ceremony organised. I won't need to see you again before that,' she told him.
Luca printed a phone number on the front of the jotter she had left lying. 'If you need to contact me for any other reason, leave a message on that line.'
A fortnight later, Darcy unbolted the huge front door of the Folly and dragged it open, only to freeze in dismay.
'About time too,' Margo Fielding complained sharply as she swept past, reeking of expensive perfume and irritation, closely followed by her daughter, Nina.
Aghast at the unforewarned descent of her stepmother and her stepsister, Darcy watched with a sinking heart as the tall, beautiful blonde duo stalked ahead of her into the drawing room.
She hadn't laid eyes on either woman since they had moved out after her father's funeral, eager to leave the privations of country life behind them and return to city life. The discovery that Darcy could not be forced to sell the Folly and share the proceeds with them had led to a strained parting of the ways. Although Morton Fielding had generously provided for his widow, and Margo was a wealthy woman in her own right, her stepmother had been far from satisfied.
Margo cast her an outraged look. 'Don't you think you should've told me that you were getting married?' she demanded as she took up a painfully familiar bullying stance at the fireplace. 'Can you imagine how I felt when a friend called me to ask who you were marrying and I had to confess my ignorance? How dare you embarrass me like that?'
Darcy was very tense, her tummy muscles knotting, up while she wondered how on earth the older woman had discovered her plans. The vicar's wife could be a bit of a gossip, she conceded, and Margo still had friends locally. No doubt that was how word had travelled farther afield at such speed. 'I'm sorry...I would've informed you after the wedding—'