Authors: Francesca St. Claire
There, the answer to my insecurities. Diogo had enjoyed
making love to me, and he wanted to do it all over again.
Right then my vacation in Portugal went from total misery to
“Tell me about yourself,” he said as we lay on our backs
looking at the white, puffy clouds after we’d washed and frolicked in the water
once more. He turned his head to look at me. “I want to get to know you.”
I sighed deeply. Life was good.
Life got even better during the ensuing weeks as our idyllic
encounters escalated in frequency and intensity. We made love anytime, anywhere
we met. Diogo showed me there was more than one way to please each other, and I
eagerly learned them all…
And loved every single one.
Head over heels in love with Diogo, I dreaded the day we
would have to say goodbye and go our separate ways. Then a thought entered my mind.
I could go to study in England. Wonderful idea! All I had to do was convince my
Then all hell broke loose.
Having fallen asleep in each other’s arms the night before,
we were caught in my bed by my grandma in the early hours of the morning. Diogo
was kicked out of the house while still buttoning his shirt, and I was sent
packing and shipped back to the States that same day, tears streaming down my
cheeks and my heart aching so badly I thought I’d die from the pain.
The idea of spending the summer in Portugal began with a
dream shortly after my grandmother’s passing, but it rapidly became an
obsession. With no one or nothing to stop me, within a few weeks of mulling
over this idea, I packed up and flew over, taking residence in the old manor
My career wasn’t going anywhere, and as for my love life,
going away for three months—or a year—would make no difference. Besides, I
longed to exorcise Diogo’s ghost from my life once and for all. Why I thought
the process would be easier there continues to baffle me to this day, but at
the time I truly believed to return to the place where it all began was going
to help close the wound.
Seven years had elapsed since I’d last seen or heard from
him, three since the announcement of his engagement to an Arab princess had
made headlines in a Portuguese newspaper. That had been the only news on Diogo
in seven years—a newspaper article and my grandma’s information on him having
taken a job in Dubai, following his graduation from Oxford business school, the
same one he’d been attending when we’d first met.
Certain marriage and fatherhood had followed his engagement
to Princess Soraya, I finally accepted that Diogo was irreversibly lost to me.
Had I not been so hung up on him I’d have recognized much earlier he’d never
truly been mine. Silly me! Age and experience had made me wiser, and as hard as
it was to let go of a dream, I finally acknowledged my romance with Diogo was a
thing of the past, never to reoccur. Resentment, however, still festered
whenever I thought of him. Not surprisingly, the heartache and loneliness
during the ensuing months of my rushed departure from Portugal were hard to
forget, and a broken heart is never easy to recover from, as I knew only too
The crazy thing is that despite his complete failure to
contact me that first year, I still found excuses for his silence. I wavered between
believing he didn’t know my address or phone number—for reasons of security our
address was never divulged in magazines and our unlisted phone numbers changed
every six months—and hoping he was saving up for a surprise visit. At one point
I even convinced myself he’d been in an accident and had lost his memory. In
the end, I just had to admit he didn’t care enough and accept the fact he
probably never truly had.
It was all in the past now. I had no business stirring up
memories and reliving old pains or thinking of someone else’s husband. I was
going back to close, at long last, a drawn-out chapter.
That was all!
* * * * *
Once the jet lag had worn off I quickly settled into a
routine. I walked through the town, surrounding woods and hilltops most
mornings, read in the afternoons and pored over photo albums and family
memorabilia most evenings. I had a lovely time and in the process I got a true
insight into the history of my family, and to find that one of Diogo’s great-aunts
had married one of my great-uncles was a hoot!
Fresh air, good food and exercise began to shape my body
with curves that had been missing throughout my modeling career. It also gave
me the tan I’d so diligently sought for years in tanning salons and exotic
beaches. And in spite of my apprehension regarding time alone in a remote town
in a foreign country, I began to relax and truly enjoy myself.
It felt right.
Wonderful, in fact!
I began drawing again.
Alone though never lonely, I found I liked myself so much
more, as I wasn’t being judged 24/7 by people I didn’t even know on the sole
strength of my looks and performance in front of the cameras. I liked that
people I didn’t know said hello, stopped to chat and were nice, generous and
extremely helpful, expecting nothing in return.
And then one day, out of the blue, I got an invitation that
shocked me to the core and sent me back in time once again.
It was at the end of my third week when Lucia, the
housekeeper, handed me an envelope with my name written in beautiful
handwriting. Intrigued, I hastily opened it and in total bewilderment read an
invitation for tea from Diogo’s mother, whom I’d never met.
What is she about?
This invitation couldn’t possibly
have anything to do with my brief affair with her son, I reasoned after the
first shock began to subside. Clearly she just wanted to meet a new neighbor.
But the most curious and nerve-tingling part was her saying she’d been
anxiously awaiting this opportunity to meet.
It was with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity that I
walked to the gate of the Vilas-Boas estate and rang the bell. The door was
immediately opened by a maid who took me through a set of formal sitting rooms
to a large stone porch overlooking the beautiful gardens and the immense
expanse of vineyards beyond.
An older, feminine version of Diogo leapt up from a floral-cushioned
rattan chair and smiled warmly at me. “Dear Sarah, we finally meet!”
In the context of how my romance with her
son had ended, this comment made no sense.
None of it made sense.
Why would she be so keen to meet one of her son’s old
girlfriends now that he was married and settled? Unless she didn’t know of my
involvement with her son, which put a fascinating spin on this extraordinary
invitation. I decided I had nothing to fear from this friendly lady and
possibly quite a lot to gain from a keen neighbor.
“How do you do, Mrs. Vilas-Boas?”
She shook her head before taking my hands in hers and kissing
me on both cheeks. “You must call me Eduarda. I’d much prefer that. Now, how do
you take your tea? Milk and sugar?” she asked, smiling, a smile so like her son’s
my breath faltered for a moment before I recovered from this unexpected
explosion of memories.
“Milk, no sugar, thank you,” I said, as I took the seat next
to her. “You’ve got a beautiful home, Mrs…er…Eduarda.”
“Thank you. Do you like old houses?”
As a child of the New World I had an appreciation for
everything modern and new, yet there was a charm in these ancient houses that
appealed to me. “I do indeed. It’s fascinating, all the history that goes with
a four-hundred-year-old house such as this one.”
A glint of interest sparkled in her gaze. “Oh, you’ve been
catching up on the town’s history, have you? And why is that?”
“I’m not quite sure…although I’m enjoying learning about my
ancestors and how they lived…who they loved.” I smiled self-consciously. “I
Eduarda’s laugh was instant and heartfelt. “You must tell me
all about your findings sometime, but today I want to learn all about you.” She
handed me my tea before settling back with her own cup. “I understand you are a
The afternoon flew by in friendly conversation. Relaxed and
pleasantly entertained, I was, however, thrown into a swirl of excitement and
anxiety when Eduarda casually commented on her son’s impending visit.
After a few moments of absolute nervous panic I was able to
compose myself and ask in a light casual tone that I hoped showed only a polite
neighborly interest in the matter, “Is he staying long?”
* * * * *
I thought for the hundredth time since I’d
left Eduarda’s company. What was I going to do about him? What could I do to
avoid meeting him when apparently he was moving back for good?
Following Eduarda’s announcement of her son’s return and of
his intention to assume control of the family business now that his father was
getting ready to retire, I was so agitated I couldn’t think straight. As soon
as I had seen an opportunity to take leave I’d bid Eduarda Vilas-Boas farewell
and taken off, my mind in an exciting, dizzy whirl.
The following day—after a long and sleepless night—I went
for my daily hike earlier than usual and longer than my normal two-hour
circuit. Somewhere along the way I concluded my worries were probably
unfounded. A busy, married man such as Diogo did not have much idle time, and
the chance of us meeting during my brief stay in Portugal were slim to none.
I returned home, soothed by this thought, though a little
Just as I finished lunch and was looking forward to settling
down with a book, the doorbell rang. Knowing Lucia to be busy in the kitchen, I
went to answer the door.
I gaped before I could help myself.
“Hello, Sarah. Can I come in?”
“Sure,” I said when my mouth finally snapped shut.
I opened the door wider to allow him in. “Let’s go to the
back where it’s cooler,” I managed to say, and without waiting for his
agreement I took the lead, knowing he’d be looking at my butt clad in a pair of
khaki shorts, and hoped not to defraud his earlier memories of that part of my
This would not help matters at all.
“Sit there.” I pointed to the sofa and I sat on a big
armchair opposite. I didn’t want to find myself sitting next to him. The
proximity would be far too unsettling.
Speculating on the reason for his visit on his first day
back in town, I decided he was probably only being neighborly and I’d have to
be grown-up about it and let bygones be bygones.
I could handle him.
“So, Sarah, I’m dying to know, what have you been up to
since you went away? It’s been a long time.”
“It has, hasn’t it? Well, let’s see. I finished college… Oh,
it all seems a lifetime away, though,” I said dismissively.
He couldn’t expect me to behave as if seven years hadn’t
gone by since our last meeting. And I couldn’t pretend my heart hadn’t been
broken, nor could I act as if we were long-lost friends. There was too much
passion in me to be socially correct.
“Why are you here?” I asked, barely keeping curiosity and
resentment out of my tone of voice.
He smiled. It wasn’t a wide smile, more the slight lifting
of the sides of his mouth. My breathing quickened. His smile was just as sexy
as I remembered it.
“I thought about you, you know. A lot. Actually, nonstop
those first months.”
A shudder ran through me at this revelation. My hands
tightened into fists. I had to be strong. This was another woman’s husband.
This was the same man who’d ignored me for seven years.
My first love. My only love…
Such thoughts weren’t helping at all. I was being stupid.
“So tell me, what brought a famous model to a little town
like this for an entire summer?” he asked, throwing an arm over the back of the
sofa, his chest expanding as he did. I tried my best not to stare but boy, did
he have a chest on him.
I allowed my pulse to settle down a bit before I answered. “The
desire to close a chapter in my life.”
“Oh?” His gaze locked with mine. “And what chapter is that?”
he asked, the laser intensity of his brown gaze jolting me into giving up the
“I want to stop being a model and do something with my art
My answer surprised me. Although I’d played with the idea
before, I had not seriously considered abandoning modeling, but now that I’d
said it out loud it suddenly became real.
“That’s fantastic! You always wanted to become a full-time
His words warmed my heart. He remembered… I softened, and it
would have been so easy to slip back into the past had an image of an Arab
princess not jolted me into reality.
“Why are you here?”
He smiled. “I wanted to see you.”
Oh this wasn’t fair. He had no right to be tugging at my
heartstrings with affirmations such as this. He had a wife, for Christ’s sake,
what did he want from me?
“Does your wife know you’re here?”
I watched his residual smile turn into a frown, his thick
black lashes lowering before he looked up. “Wife?”
Oh please! Did he seriously think I wouldn’t find out? That
my family wouldn’t make it their business to ensure I knew of his engagement? I
didn’t think he was that naïve. So there was only one answer for his deceit…he
wished to pick up where he’d left off. I hadn’t thought of him as a cheat. Then
again, how well did I know him? Obviously not at all. Well, he was in for a
surprise. I was no longer the innocent, gullible girl of before, ready to
believe every word he said—including promises of undying love.
“Let me refresh your memory, for it seems you’re having
temporary amnesia,” I said rather abruptly. “Princess Soraya. Does that ring a
Heat whooshed up my neck and cheeks and I silently cursed my
propensity to blush—such a telltale barometer of my feelings—when he looked
sternly at me. And why was that? It made no sense.
“I didn’t know you were such a fan of gossip,” he mocked.
Wasn’t it true? What was he saying? Was he no
longer married? Already divorced? Was that why he was back for good? I hadn’t
heard, but who would have told me the news now that my grandmother was dead?
Diogo was staring at me, his face showing no expression.
Suddenly he stood up. Had I touched a sore spot? I stood up with him. “I’m not
a gossip and you’ve still not answered my question,” I said, trying very hard
to remain calm regardless of his unfair accusation.
“I have no wife.”
My heart skittered from the unwarranted joy his statement
conveyed to me, and in a spontaneous show of sympathy for his loss, I lifted my
hand to his face. “I’m sorry.”
What am I doing?
Straight away I regretted my
gesture, but when I started to withdraw my hand, his piercing eyes and his firm
hand over mine prevented it. Arousal and embarrassment fought for domination. I
held my breath. My heart seemed to pause when his gaze dropped to my lips and then
back to my eyes.
“I must kiss you, Sarah,” he said, cupping the back of my
neck. I stared at him as if caught in a spell. My lips parted, releasing a rush
of breath. “Do you want me to?”