From the book
He could feel the tension in the air. The thick heat of the late afternoon was oppressive and, even in his lightweight suit, Kane Falconer felt decidedly uncomfortable.
Normally, Barcelona was a place in which he liked to linger, but now, striding through the tree-lined, pedestrian thoroughfare, past the stalls with their souvenirs and bright floral displays and the open-air cafés, he was glad his business was over.
The student protest march in which he had very little interest, had brought the city to a standstill. In the surrounding streets, horns blared, throttles revved, with the lurid Spanish phrases being hurled from dusty cabs adding to the noise pollution. A squawking from one of the stalls grazed his already raw nerves, drawing his reluctant gaze to some brightly feathered creatures, caged, ready for sale, their fluttering wings ineffectual in the cramped confines of their environment.
Kane looked away in disgust and longed for his own space. At least he could walk away. He wasn't trapped here in this noise and heat and dust, he thought gratefully, already sensing mounting vibes of unease. He cast a glance towards the bright blooms of a basket decorating one of the stalls, his gaze falling on the girl who was standing on tiptoe, head thrown back as she inhaled one of the hanging blossoms.
The pale cascade of her hair moved like honey against her arched back, the striking length of that oh, so elegant neck bringing him up short with a swift, sharp stab of recognition.
Shannon Bouvier! Of all the places in all the towns in all the world, he hadn't expected to find her here.
When he had enquired at the address he had been given for her in Milan over six months ago, he had been told by a rather surly landlord that she had left to move in with her boyfriend"that the two of them had gone abroad"but no one could tell him where.
Shannon Bouvier. Society girl. Rich bitch"as those less kindly disposed were apt to call her. Heiress to a national development company she neither wanted nor cared about.
She was thinner, he noted from an assessing glance over her clinging red crop-top and low-slung, rather shabby combat trousers"much thinner than when he had seen her last. Her features were almost gaunt compared with those of the blooming teenager who had kept her dignity"if not her reputation"under the claws of the mauling British Press"but it was definitely her.
His jaw was set in a determined cast, his body tense from an awareness he didn't want to acknowledge as he steeled himself to close the distance between them.
Shannon took the pale orchid the elderly stall-keeper handed her"a gesture the Spanish woman had taken to making often when the "fragile-looking seÃ±orita', as she called her, passed her stall.
Now the woman shrugged, her arms thrown wide at all the shouting and horn-blowing induced by the marchers. It was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, but some dissidents had threatened to disrupt it, Shannon remembered uneasily, flicking a glance over her shoulder towards the advancing students. She gasped at the sight of the man blocking her view.
Something leapt inside her, that familiar excitement she had always felt in his presence coupled with something else which instantly put her on her guard. He was the last person she had expected to see. Yet here he was, as large as life.
No, larger than life, she thought hectically, as his dark and dominating presence seemed to put everything else out of focus so that he became the only noticeable person in Las Ramblas, and the demonstration gaining momentum down the surging...