Take one repressed Portuguese lawyer, one irrepressible Irish clown and add the magic of Christmas…
Strait-laced law student Luis Tavares Barros Serralves—aka Luis Triple-Barrelled-Surname—met the self-styled happy-go-lucky Irish scamp Quinn during Quinn’s year abroad at the Lisbon university where Luis was studying. Met and fell hard for, with the exuberant, irreverent drama student Quinn bringing colour and music into Luis’ neat and tidy world…until he had to return home.
Too cowardly then to follow his heart and be with Quinn, Luis let him go and has regretted it ever since.
Now, two years later, Quinn’s back—in an even more eccentric role—and Luis has the chance of a Christmas wish to make his dreams come true. But is he brave enough now to defy convention and take a stand for what he really wants…and truly loves?
General Release Date: 15th December 2020
Trainee lawyers, especially ones at prestigious law firms, were supposed to envy those who’d made heads of practice, say, or ascended to the dizzying heights of counsel, but Luis Tavares Barros Serralves felt jealous of Bruno the building assistant…in as much as he envied anyone working at Barros Serralves.
Bruno got to come and go throughout the day, doing this, that and the other in and around the city’s business district and courts. Well, so did Luis to some degree, with the number of extra tasks and chores he volunteered for. But it said a lot about the twenty-four-year-old lawyer’s love for his chosen career and chosen place of work that some days he thought he’d prefer Bruno’s job.
“Hi!” Bruno swerved up to Luis as soon as he got inside the building’s foyer, moving in his trademark smooth, shoulders-first quick-paced glide. He tapped a slim finger to his headset, turning it off or on—Luis didn’t know. “That was quick. Get it?”
Luis hefted the yellow and pink toyshop bag containing the present he’d been to the city’s downtown area to buy. Unremarkable on Lisbon’s shopping streets, the plastic carrier looked gaudy in this tasteful off-silver and off-white lobby, and clashed with the restrained dark amber old Leonel Barros Serralves had ordered mixed way back when he’d started the law firm and which was now the discreet accent in its livery, with muted touches of it visible here and there.
Luis took a wrapped Neapolitan chocolate from the dull silver dish on the main receptionist’s desk, ignoring whatever winning slogan had been chosen for the branded chocolates—his motto had been passed over. He held one out for Bruno, but Bruno shook his head, darting his gaze left and right. The corporate chocolates were for clients, visitors and top-tier lawyers, certainly not the back-office staff, and Bruno not only knew his place but would never overstep the mark.
Sonia straightened the dish, aligning it between the plaques announcing the legal awards Barros Serralves had won last year—national and European—giving Luis a quarter smile and failing to supress a medium sigh. What? Not like I’m hitting on her, or even making work for her. Luis didn’t need to be directed or accompanied to any of the other semi-circular reception points in the semi-circular atrium—he knew which floor circling them above he worked on and should be making for.
“That was kind of you.” Bruno indicated the carrier bag, and with an “Excuse me,” muttered like a sneeze, he was off.
Luis peered after him to see what he was doing, what all the movement was. Oh, Bruno was supervising the professional decorators tastefully Christmas-ising the atrium with tall, thin transparent tubs of holly leaves, and shiny metallic triangular shapes supposed to be trees and—
“Hey!” Luis hurried over to the thicker-set of the men. “Not there. Don’t block the artwork…and don’t put tinsel on that one,” he ordered another guy. “Even if you don’t like it or understand it.”
He thought he did, because the pieces dotting the atrium were plays on the name of the original owner of this palacete and how he’d amassed his fortune by importing raw goods from Portugal’s African colonies during the days of empire. The abstract sculpture Luis had rescued from the Christmas tree was a pile of square sugar cubes, for instance, and the one now free of tinsel was a heap of coffee beans. Doçura, or Sweetness, read the plaque on the first’s plinth and Amargo—Bitterness—the second.
The art was his mother’s work, so of course Luis suspected satire in it, in this commission that noted artist Isabel Castelo Tavares had been given when the law firm had moved into the repurposed old palacete. That was how Isabel had met Jorge, Luis’ father, who’d left his aging first wife for the beautiful, unconventional, talk-of-the-town artist who’d…left him in turn. And left me with him. No, that wasn’t fair. It had only been a temporary arrangement. It wasn’t Isabel’s fault that it had become permanent, Luis staying with his father and stepbrothers.
Speak of the devil and he will appear. That was the saying, wasn’t it, although there wasn’t much Mephistophelian about his elder brother Francisco, head of Capital Markets. No, if anything, he was sort of like an abstract sculpture himself, a series of beefy square shapes, starting with his head, his face, his neck, his chest and ending with his waist. Francisco hurried down the last steps of one of the building’s two long, curling staircases.
“Don’t walk around with that bag advertising a damn toyshop!” he ordered, keeping his voice low. “It’s not—”
“Como deve ser. How it should be done,” Luis said along with him, the mantra familiar, one he’d been hearing all his life, applied to most of the hobbies he’d expressed an interest in, or any…predilections he might have had. His hand had sweated around the plastic bag’s handles and he wiped it through his hair, pretending to be checking the straightness of the parting and that his light brown locks were lying flat and neat—left to themselves, they tended to ruffle up.
A quiver of his brother’s fleshy lips indicated a jibe was coming. “You supervising the Christmas decorations? Got your artistic sensibilities from your mother, no doubt. Or…ogling Skater Boy over there?”
“Who?” Luis asked, to annoy Francisco.
His brother, predictably, scowled. “The reception kid. The gopher. That’s what he did, skated around Carrefour hypermarket, bringing extra change to cashiers and going to check price tags when the barcodes were missing.”
“And now he’s here.” Luis didn’t have much problem standing his ground before his brothers. His father, however…
“Well, you’re too old to be playing with toys!” Francisco brought his head down sharply, making his chins wobble, as if that would cut off the incautious louder volume his aggrieved objection had slipped out in.
Luis didn’t even bother explaining that he’d offered to pick up the damn thing for his client, who’d mentioned that his son wanted it and that he had no time to hit the stores. Francisco wouldn’t consider the client important enough to have done a favour for. Would he think any of Luis’ Real Estate and Planning clients were? Probably not—not even the major ones compared to the lowliest Capital Markets clients, where Francisco was a star, just as Luis’ other older brother Antonio, by Jorge’s ‘proper’ or first wife, was, in Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions.
After having lived and worked all over Europe, Rebecca Fairfax is back in her native UK, bursting to share all the stories she's dreamed up and describe all the places she's seen and all the people she’s met. Romantic suspense, light contemporary, urban fantasy—it’s all on the way.
Her life is not her own—it belongs to her demanding Old English Sheepdog and her bossy British Blue cat. Once she accepted that, things got easier.