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‘Who’s she supposed to be?’ he enquired of an elderly milkmaid standing beside him. He indicated the girl in black.

The milkmaid beamed. ‘Isn’t she perfect? So different. Of course, it’s Holly Golightly—don’t you remember? Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That gorgeous black hat with the wide, downturned brim and the light, floaty hat-band; the earrings, the classic little black dress and gloves—even the alligator shoes. And to think of using her sunglasses as a mask!’

‘Ah. Yes, she is rather perfect. You wouldn’t happen to know who she is in real life?’

The milkmaid had no idea and Brett watched Holly Golightly dance past again.

She looked cool and detached, even slightly superior, but that could be because the pirate was having trouble containing his enthusiasm for her.

In fact, as he watched she detached herself from her partner as he attempted to maul her, swung on her heel and swept away towards the ballroom balcony with a hand to her hat.

The pirate looked so crestfallen, Brett could only assume he was either very young or very drunk.

Without giving it much thought, he took a fresh glass of champagne off the bar and followed the girl onto the balcony.

She was leaning against the balustrade, breathing deeply.

‘Maybe this’ll help to remove the taste of the pirate?’ he suggested and offered the champagne to her.

Holly straightened and wondered if she was imagining things. She’d been rather darkly contemplating the fact that she’d been right about very young men such as the pirate who was the son of her mother’s friend; he hadn’t been able to keep his hands off her!

But could this tall, arrogant-looking Spaniard be who she thought he was? Could you ever forget Brett Wyndham’s voice, or his athletic build? Or the pass he’d made at her? More importantly, did she want to be recognized? As a serious journalist, perhaps, but like this? As a serial socialite…?

In a lightning decision that she did not want to be recognized, she lowered her voice a notch and assumed a French accent. ‘Merci. I was of a mind to punch his parrot.’

Brett laughed then narrowed his eyes behind the mask. ‘You sound as if you’ve just stepped out of France.’

‘Not France, Tahiti.’ It wasn’t exactly a lie. She’d returned from her last travel assignment, Papeete, a bare week ago.

‘So, a Tahitian Holly Golightly?’

‘You may say so.’ Holly sipped some champagne. ‘What have we with you? An Aussie señor?’

He looked down at his attire. ‘You could say so. Are you into horses, Miss Golightly?’

Holly gazed at him blankly.

‘It is the kick-off to the Winter Racing Carnival, this ball,’ he elaborated.

‘Of course! But no, you could say not, although I have done some riding in my time. Generally, though, on inferior beasts such as asses and camels.’

Brett’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Camels? In Tahiti? How come?’

‘Not, naturally, Tahiti,’ Holly denied regally. ‘But I have a fondness for some out-of-the-way places you cannot get to by other means.’ She gave the word “other” a tremendous French twist.

‘So do I,’ he murmured and frowned again as his masked gaze roamed over her.

Holly waited with some trepidation. Would he recognize her beneath the Holly Golightly outfit, the wide, downturned hat-brim and the French accent? She’d recognized him almost immediately, but that deep, mesmerizing voice would be hard to disguise. For that matter, so were those wide shoulders and lean hips.

Then it occurred to her that she was once again being summed up in that inimitable way of his.

The slender line of her neck, the outline of her figure beneath the little black dress, the smooth skin of her arms above her gloves, her trim ankles—they all received his critical assessment. And they all traitorously reacted accordingly, which was to say he might as well have been running his hands over her body.

‘Actually,’ she said airily—not a true reflection of her emotions as she was battling to stay cool and striving to take a humorous view of proceedings, ‘You make a trés arrogant Spaniard.’

‘I do?’

Oui. Summing up perfectly strange women with a view to ownership is what I would call arrogant. Could it be that there is little difference between you and the pirate with the parrot, monsieur?’

‘Ownership?’ he queried.

‘Of their bodies,’ she explained. ‘Tell me this was not so a moment ago?’ She tilted her chin at him.

He pushed his hands into his pockets and shrugged. ‘It’s a failing most men succumb to. But unlike the pirate I would never attempt to maul you, Miss Golightly.’

He paused and allowed his dark, masked gaze to travel over her again. ‘On the contrary, I would make your skin feel like warm silk and I would celebrate your lovely, slim body in a way that would be entirely satisfactory—for both of us.’

Holly stifled a tremor of utmost sensuousness that threatened to engulf her down the length of her body—at least stifled the outward appearance of it, by the narrowest of margins.

All the same, she went hot and cold and had to wonder how he did it. How did he engender a state of mind that could even have her wondering what it would be like to be Brett Wyndham’s woman. How dared he?

Despite his arrogance, did that dark, swashbuckling presence do it to most women he came in contact with?

Her mind swooped on this point. Would it be a relief to think she was just one of a crowd when it came to Brett Wyndham? Or would it make it worse?

She came to her senses abruptly to find him studying her intently now and rather differently. ‘You have a problem, señor?’

‘No. Well, I just have the feeling I’ve met you before, Miss Golightly.’

Holly took the bit between her teeth and contrived a quizzical little smile. ‘Many men have that problem. It is a very—how do you say it?—unoriginal approach.’

‘You feel I’m making a pass at you?’ he enquired lazily.

‘I am convinced of it.’ She presented him her half empty champagne glass. ‘Thus, I will return to my party. Au revoir.

But he said, ‘Were you riding a camel when your sheikh propositioned you?’

Holly, in the act of sweeping inside, stopped as if shot.

‘Or a donkey, when the Mexican approached you?’ he added softly.

‘You knew!’ she accused.

‘The accent and the outfit threw me for a while, but I’m not blind or deaf. Is it all made up? And, if so, why?’

Holly walked back to him and retrieved her champagne. ‘I’ve got the feeling I might need this,’ she said darkly and took a good sip. ‘No, well, Tahiti was true—a bit. I’ve just come back so it seemed like a good idea to—’ she gestured airily ‘—to…’ But she couldn’t think of a suitable way to cloak it.

‘Help pull the wool over my eyes?’ he suggested.

Holly choked slightly on a second sip of champagne but made a swift recovery. ‘Why would I want to be recognized by you? All you ever do is query my motives, accuse me of appalling posturing and make passes at me!’

‘You have to admit it all sounds highly unlikely,’ he drawled. ‘Are you here with your mother?’

Holly opened her mouth but closed it and stamped her foot. ‘Don’t you dare make fun of my mother! She—’

A flash of pale colour registered in her peripheral vision and she turned to see her mother coming out onto the balcony. Her mother was dressed as Eliza Doolittle at the races, complete with huge hat and parasol. ‘We might as well both reprise Audrey Hepburn roles,’ Sylvia had said upon presenting the idea to her daughter.

‘Mum!’ Holly said. ‘What—’

But her mother interrupted her. ‘There you are, darling! And I see you’ve met Mr Wyndham.’ Sylvia turned to Brett. ‘How do you do? I’m Sylvia Harding, Holly’s mother—yes, her real name is Holly, that’s why we thought of Holly Golightly!’ Sylvia paused and took a very deep breath. ‘But I feel sure there was some misunderstanding at the shelter lunch, and she didn’t have the opportunity to tell you that she’s a journalist and would love to interview you.’