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Duarte's Child

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«Duarte's Child» - Линн Грэхем

A virtuous wife is worth more than rubies…Sheikh Raja al-Somari knows that sacrificing his freedom for the good of his country isn’t a choice; it’s a duty. But he’s going to have to use more imaginative tactics to convince his new bride…Yesterday Ruby Sommerton was an ordinary girl, going to work and gossiping with her flatmate. Now she’s a princess – and is waiting nervously in the bedroom of the Prince’s desert palace! Ruby has a lot to learn – about being royal, how exhilarating nights with her new husband can be… and that an heir is top of his agenda!
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Duarte’s Child Lynne Graham

is one of Mills & Boon’s most popular and

bestselling novelists. Her writing was an instant success with readers worldwide. Since her first book, Bittersweet Passion, was published in 1987, she has gone from strength to strength and now has over ninety titles, which have sold more than thirty-five million copies, to her name.

In this special collection, we offer readers a

chance to revisit favourite books or enjoy that rare treasure—a book by a favourite writer—they may have missed. In every case, seduction and passion with a gorgeous, irresistible man are guaranteed!

LYNNE GRAHAM was born in Northern Ireland and has been a keen Mills & Boon® reader since her teens. She is very happily married, with an understanding husband who has learned to cook since she started to write! Her five children keep her on her toes. She has a very large dog, which knocks everything over, a very small terrier, which barks a lot, and two cats. When time allows, Lynne is a keen gardener.

Duarte’s Child

Lynne Graham















‘WHAT action do you want me to take?’ the private investigator enquired.

Duarte Avila de Monteiro let the silence linger and continued to gaze out at his stunning view of the City of London. She’d been found. Sudden success after so many fruitless months of searching felt intoxicating. He would retrieve his son. Her too, of course. She was still his wife. He refused to think of her by name. He refused to personalise her in any way.

‘Do nothing,’ Duarte responded without expression.

His wealthy client was a total emotion-free zone, the investigator decided in fascination. He’d just given the guy the news that he had finally traced his runaway wife and the infant son he had still to meet—and yet nothing was to be done?

‘Leave the file on my desk,’ Duarte continued in a tone of dismissal. ‘There will be a substantial bonus when you present the bill for your services.’

On his way past what he assumed to be the secretary’s desk in the ante-room outside, the investigator paused: the secretary was the most stunning Nordic blonde he had ever laid eyes on. ‘Your boss is kind of chilling,’ he murmured confidentially.

‘My boss is a brilliant financial genius and also my lover,’ the blonde whispered in a voice as cutting as slashing glass meeting tender skin. ‘You just lost your bonus.’

Rearing back in startled disbelief at that poisonous response, the young investigator stared at the beautiful blonde, aghast.

‘Shall I call Security to have you removed?’ she added sweetly.

Within his imposing office, Duarte was pouring himself a brandy and contemplating the immediate future. He had an overwhelming desire to muster his entire security team and spring a middle-of-the-night assault on his estranged wife and child’s accommodation. He had to move fast before she disappeared again with his son. His mobile phone gripped between lean brown fingers, he tensed and then frowned. For an instant, he could not believe that he had even contemplated such an act of madness. He could wait until morning… Well, he could wait until dawn at least.

He stabbed out the number for the head of his protection team. ‘Mateus? You will proceed to the address I am about to give you. There you will find a caravan—’

‘A caravan…?’

‘Which contains my wife and my child,’ Duarte admitted with a grimace at the sheer incredulity he could hear in Mateus’s voice. ‘You will ensure that if that caravan moves so much as an inch it will be followed. You will also be discreet while treating this as a matter of the utmost urgency and importance.’

‘We’ll leave immediately, sir,’ Mateus confirmed, sounding shaken. ‘Your faith in us won’t be misplaced.’

‘Discretion, Mateus.’

Duarte made a second call to put his private jet on standby for the next day.

Was he planning to kidnap them both? She was his wife. Kidnapping was a crime. She had kidnapped his son. Inferno! A bloody caravan! Duarte gritted his even white teeth, a flash of white-hot rage threatening his hard self-discipline. She was bringing his son up in a caravan while she mucked around with horses. Who was looking after their child while she devoted her attention to four-legged animals?

Emily—safe, quiet, humble and as easily read as an open book—a young woman unlikely to rock any boats. How had he ever thought that? With a raw-edged laugh, Duarte drained the brandy. He had picked her quite deliberately for those unassuming qualities. He’d given her everything that would have kept most women purring with delighted contentment. Fabulous wealth, a selection of luxurious homes and glittering social occasions at which she could show off her equally fabulous jewellery. His reward for his unquestioning generosity? She’d betrayed her marriage vows and his trust: she’d got into bed with another man. Obviously quiet women needed to be watched.

One of his medieval ancestors had murdered his unfaithful wife and got off scot-free because it had been regarded as an act of cleansing the family honour, rather than a crime. Duarte could not contemplate ever laying rough hands on any woman, even his estranged wife, no matter how enraged he was by her shameless behaviour. Then, Duarte never lost control in any field. He would deal with the situation as he saw fit. Walling her up alive would not have given him the slightest satisfaction and he could only assume his ancestor had been a seriously sick pervert.

There were other infinitely more subtle ways of controlling women. And Duarte knew all the ways. Duarte had never practised those arts on his seemingly innocent and shy little wife. So she was in for a surprise or two in the near future…

‘I just don’t understand why you have to move on,’ Alice Barker confessed. ‘I can drum up enough eager learners to keep you employed right through the year.’

Stiff with tension, Emily evaded the older woman’s questioning gaze. Small in stature and slight of build, she wore her long curly red hair in a sensible plait. ‘I don’t usually stay anywhere for long—’

‘You have a six-month-old baby. It’s not so easy to stay on the move with a young child,’ Alice pointed out. ‘I need a permanent riding instructor and the job’s yours if you want it. My stables would profit from you staying on just as much as you would—’

Feeling the dialogue had gone far enough when there was not the smallest chance of her changing her mind about leaving, Emily lifted her bright head. Her aquamarine eyes were troubled and embarrassed, for she hated to turn down an offer that she would have loved to accept. However, telling the truth about why she had to refuse wasn’t an option. ‘I’m sorry, but we really do have to leave—’

‘Why?’ The older woman’s weathered face was set in stubborn lines.

Emily’s fair complexion was flushed with discomfiture. ‘I guess I’m a rolling stone—’

‘I don’t believe that. I know travelling folk and you don’t have that restlessness. You could have a comfortable home and job here with friends—’

‘You’re making this very difficult for me, Alice—’

The older woman tilted back her greying head and studied Emily with wry eyes. ‘Maybe I’m hoping that you’ll come clean and admit that you’re running from something or somebody…and that the only thing keeping you on the road is fear of that somebody or something catching up with you!’

Emily turned very pale at that disturbingly accurate assessment.

‘Of course, I suspected that you might be in some sort of fix,’ Alice Barker admitted with a sympathetic look. ‘You’re too reserved and, by nature, I’d say you were a much more relaxed person. You’re also too nervous of strangers.’

‘I haven’t broken the law or anything,’ Emily responded in a strained undertone. ‘But I’m afraid that’s as much as I can say.’

But even as she made that assurance, she wondered if it was still true. Had she broken any English law in what she had done? How was she to know when she had not taken legal advice? She’d been on the run for eight months and she’d not got back in touch with her family or indeed anyone else during that period.

‘Are you trying to shake off an abusive boyfriend?’ Alice was keen to get to the root of Emily’s problems. ‘Why don’t you let me help you? Running away never solves anything.’

Dismayed by her companion’s persistence, Emily muttered in a rush, ‘You’ve been really great to us. I’ll never forget that but we have to leave first thing tomorrow.’

Recognising the sheen of tears in Emily’s eyes, Alice sighed and gave the younger woman an awkward hug. ‘If you change your mind, there’ll always be a bed here for you.’

Closing the caravan door behind her, Alice trudged back down the lane to the stable block to lock up for the evening.

Emily drew in a slow, deep, shaken breath. One thing that Alice had said had hit Emily on a very tender nerve. Running away never solves anything. That was so horribly true, Emily conceded heavily. Nothing had been solved or settled. It was eight months since she had left Portugal. She had run home to her family for support but her family had treated her like an escaped convict.

‘Don’t think that we’re going to get involved!’ Emily’s mother had pronounced in furious dismissal. ‘So please don’t embarrass us with the details of your marital problems.’

‘Go home to your husband. You’re not staying here with us,’ her father had told her in outrage.

‘Have you gone out of your tiny mind?’ Her eldest sister, Hermione, had demanded. ‘What do you think your walking out on your marriage is likely to do to the family business? If Duarte blames us, we’ll all be ruined!’

‘You really are an absolute idiot to come here,’ her other sister, Corinne, had said with stinging scorn. ‘None of us are going to help you. Did you really expect us to react any other way?’

The answer to that frank question would have been yes but Emily had been too devastated by that mass rejection to respond. Yes, time and time again through childhood and adolescence and indeed right up to the age of twenty when she married, Emily had fondly hoped to receive some small sign that her family loved her. That blind faith had sunk without trace for the last time. She’d finally accepted that she was the cuckoo in the family nest, an outsider who was both resented and unwelcome and that nothing was ever likely to change that reality.

Why it should be that way she’d never understood. Yet she was painfully aware that had she got the chance to sit down and tell the honest truth about why her marriage had fallen apart, she would undoubtedly have been shown the door by her family even more quickly.

She’d had to face the fact that, whatever she chose to do, she was on her own. So she’d sold her engagement ring. With the proceeds, she’d bought an old car and a caravan and she had hit the road to make a living the only way she could. Travelling around the countryside from one stables to another, she offered her services for a few weeks as a riding instructor and then moved on to pastures new. The longer she stayed in one place, the greater the chance that she would be tracked down.

Of course, Duarte was looking for both her and his child. Duarte Avila de Monteiro, the terrifyingly powerful and even more terrifyingly wealthy banker she had foolishly married. His brilliance in the world of finance was a living legend.

When Duarte had asked Emily to marry him, she had been stunned for she hadn’t been beautiful, sophisticated or even rich. Furthermore, her relatives might like to give themselves airs and graces in polite company but, though her family could not bear to have it mentioned, Emily’s grandfather had been a milkman. So, understandably, Emily had been overwhelmed that Duarte Avila de Monteiro should decide to marry her humble and ordinary self. That he didn’t love her…well, so nothing was perfect, she had told herself. At the outset, she’d been full of cheerful and trusting hopes for the future. Adoring him like a silly schoolgirl, she’d simply marvelled at her own good luck.

Although she had been in awe of her husband, she had never feared him, not the way others did. People were afraid to cross his reserve and offend him. People were afraid of his unapologetic ruthlessness. She’d been stupid not to fear him, Emily conceded heavily with the knowledge of hindsight. A wretched light in her troubled eyes, she reached into her son Jamie’s cot and lifted his warm, solid little body up into her arms. Eight months ago, Duarte had threatened to take her baby from her as soon as he was born and raise him without her. Within days of being told of that appalling threat, Emily had fled Portugal in a panic.

But unhappily there was no escape from the reality that she had destroyed her own marriage. She had been the guilty partner. It was her fault that Duarte had demanded a separation, her fault that Duarte had ultimately decided that she ought to be deprived of their child as well. Indeed, in recent months, Emily had started feeling even worse over the fact that Duarte was being deprived of the right to even see his own son. Only her terror of losing custody of Jamie and her fearful awareness that she had neither Duarte’s money nor influence had triumphed over her guilty conscience.

Now, however, Emily was finally facing the immaturity of her own behaviour. It was time that she went to see a lawyer and found out exactly where she stood. It was time she stopped running…

Yet how did she deal with Duarte? And how would Duarte now deal with her? In spite of herself, she shivered as discouraging memories engulfed her. During their separation, Duarte had exiled her to the country house in the Douro for the winter. She had lived there alone for three months, hoping against hope that he would eventually agree to see her and talk to her again and that the great divide between them might somehow be miraculously mended. But that had been such a naive dream.

For Duarte, Emily thought painfully, would be happy to acquire a son and dispense with the baby machine who had produced that son. For really that was all she had ever been to her gorgeous husband…a baby machine. For what other reason had he married her? Certainly not for love, lust or loneliness. Childlessness was a disaster to the average Portuguese male and Duarte had an illustrious name. The Monteiro family could trace their aristocratic lineage back to the thirteenth century and, naturally, Duarte had wanted a child to carry on into the next generation.

Accustomed to early rising, Emily was up before dawn the following morning.

She’d packed the night before. After feeding Jamie and making herself some toast and tea, she collapsed his cot and stowed it safely away. Living in a small caravan had taught her to be tidy. As she slid into a pair of old navy jodhpurs and pulled on a voluminous grey sweater to combat the early morning chill, she watched her son. Sitting on the carpet in the compact seating area, Jamie was chewing industriously on the corner of a horse magazine.

Emily darted over and detached the magazine from his mouth. ‘No, Jamie…here’s your ring.’

Presented with the teething ring which had been chilled specially for his use, Jamie dropped it again and his bottom lip came out, brown eyes filming over with tears as he tried without success to reach for the magazine again. Sweeping her son up into her arms, Emily cuddled him and wondered why he loathed the teething ring which would have been so much kinder to his sore gums.

As always the warm baby smell of Jamie sent a great wave of love through her and she hugged him tight. He had Duarte’s black hair and golden skin and the same shape eyes as her. Right now, because he had another new tooth on the way, he had pink flushed cheeks and he looked absolutely adorable in his red sweatshirt top and tiny jeans.

Checking that she had secured everything moveable, Emily decided to put Jamie out in his car seat. She had said her goodbyes the night before and all she still had to do was hitch up the caravan to the car.

It was a fresh spring day and the breeze blew back the Titian red curls from her brow. With Jamie balanced on her hip, she unlocked the passenger door of the car. Strapping her son into his seat and stowing the baby bag of supplies that went everywhere with them, she chatted with greater cheer than she felt to him. ‘I timed this so that we would see the six o’clock train passing at the crossing. Choo-choo, Jamie—’

‘Choo…’ he seemed to sound out but she was prepared to concede that it might have been the wishful thinking of a proud mother.

Another day, another place, Emily reflected wearily and it was no longer the smallest thrill to contemplate the unknown that lay ahead. She had stayed longer than was wise at Alice Barker’s stables, not only because she liked the older woman but also because she had been in dire need of a period of regular employment and earnings. Running even an old car was expensive; she had recently had to renew her insurance and replace the whole exhaust system. So, once again, she had little cash in reserve.

As she stuck her car keys in the ignition and turned, intending to hitch up the caravan, she heard an angry shout and then another. It sounded like Alice. Frowning in dismay, Emily hurried past the caravan to see what was happening. At the rear entrance to the stables, she saw a sight that shook her. Alice Barker was standing with a shotgun trained on a man.

‘Just you tell me right now what you were doing!’ Alice was demanding furiously.

As Emily rushed automatically to support the older woman, she heard the man speak and she caught several words. Alice’s trespasser was striving to apologise in Portuguese. Emily froze in her tracks. Portuguese?

‘I caught this chappie trying to creep up on your caravan!’ Alice called to Emily with patent disgust. ‘One of the peeping Toms, one of those filthy perverts…that’s what I’ve caught. Just as well he doesn’t seem to speak a word of English. I shouldn’t think he’s saying anything any decent woman would want to hear! Reach into my pocket and get my phone, and we’ll ring the police!’

But Emily did not move an inch. Every scrap of colour draining from her slanting cheekbones, she stared at the stocky, well-built Portuguese male in his smart city suit. It was Mateus Santos, Duarte’s security chief. Her tummy churned, her brain refusing to move at speed. The older man was as white as his own shirtfront, evidently not having expected to be greeted by a very angry woman with a shotgun when he came snooping.

‘Emily!’ Alice barked impatiently.

Mateus’s strained gaze swerved to Emily’s stilled figure with perceptible relief. ‘Doña Emilia…’ he greeted her and followed that up with a hasty flood of Portuguese.

Emily understood a little more of the language than she could actually speak and she caught the gist of his appeal. Mateus was asking her to tell Alice that he was no danger to anybody. Only that wasn’t quite true, Emily decided in sudden total panic. If Mateus was at the stables, it meant that Duarte had tracked her down and that Duarte now knew where she was. ‘I know this man, Alice. He’s no threat, but please keep him here until I can get away—’

‘Emily…what on earth is going on?’ Alice demanded in bewilderment.

But Emily was already speeding back towards her car. Where Mateus was, Duarte would soon follow. She jumped into the driver’s seat and then realised that she had still to hitch up the caravan.

With a gasp of frustration, she began to reverse the car and then dashed out again to haul at the caravan with frantic hands. The task accomplished, she was in the act of swinging back into her car when she saw the bonnet of a big silver vehicle filter into the mouth of the lane she needed to go down to make her exit.

Heart thumping somewhere in the region of her convulsing throat, Emily stared in absolute horror at the limousine. Duarte! It could only be Duarte behind those tinted windows. Just as suddenly, she unfroze again and flung herself into her own car. The ground siding the lane was unfenced and reasonably level. She could drive around the limo! Firing the engine, she slammed the door. Within six feet of the long luxury vehicle seeking to block her escape, she turned the steering wheel and took her car off the lane on to the rough grass verge. The caravan bounced in protest and the vibrations shook the car but, within the space of thirty seconds, she was back on the concrete lane again, the caravan still in tow.

She would go to a lawyer, Emily told herself frantically. She would stop at the first legal firm she saw and beg for an appointment and advice. She was not going to risk facing Duarte alone in case he simply took Jamie from her and flew him out to Portugal. Hadn’t she read horror stories about disaffected foreign husbands taking that kind of action when their marriages to their British wives broke down?

And, worst of all, wouldn’t Duarte have grounds to argue that she had virtually pulled the same stunt on him? Jamie was six months old and his own father had yet to meet him. What right did she have to keep them apart? An agony of conflict and guilt in her gaze as she questioned what she was doing, Emily pulled out of the lane on to the twisting country road that lay beyond.

Duarte would attempt to follow her but she was at an advantage for she knew the area. How could she take the chance of trusting Duarte when he might take Jamie away from her? She would be lucky to ever see her child again. Where she was concerned, her estranged husband would not be feeling the slightest bit sympathetic or reasonable. Why, oh why, oh why had she waited this long before acknowledging that it was past time she sorted out the whole mess?

Rounding a corner on the road, Emily had to start immediately slackening speed. A shaken laugh shorn of any humour was torn from her tight throat. The railway crossing lay ahead. The warning lights were flashing and the automatic barriers were coming down signifying that a train was about to pass through. She was trapped for a good five minutes by the very train she had promised Jamie he would see as a treat. By the time the express finally thundered past the barriers, Emily was studying her driving mirror and watching the silver limo appear behind her on the road. Caught! Fate had not been on her side. In a gesture of frustrated defeat, Emily lifted one of her hands from the steering wheel and struck it down on the dash board.

She felt a prick like a sharp stinging needle in the side of her hand. Blinking, she glanced down and gaped in dawning horror at the big bee crawling away. It wasn’t the season, a little voice screamed inside her, it wasn’t the season yet for bees! She hadn’t replaced her allergy kit when she had mislaid it over the winter. She dropped her hand down to open the driver’s door. Already she felt like she was moving in slow motion; already she could feel the sensation of her heartbeat starting to race.

She lurched out of the car. She struggled to focus on the formidably tall and dark male striding towards her but she raised her hands to her face instead, feeling the tenderness and the heat there, knowing that her skin had probably begun to swell and redden. ‘Sting…bee!’ she framed jerkily.

‘Where’s your adrenaline kit?’ Duarte demanded, instantly grasping the crisis and reacting at speed.

With enormous effort she blinked and connected momentarily with stunning dark golden eyes that she would never have dared to meet had she been in full control of herself. ‘Lost…’

‘Meu Deus! The nearest doctor?’ Duarte caught hold of her as she doubled over with the pain piercing her abdomen and vented a startled gasp. ‘Emily…a hospital…a doctor?’ he raked down at her with raw urgency. ‘Where?’

It was such an effort for her to concentrate, to speak. ‘Village through the crossing,’ she wheezed.

She was conscious of movement as he carried her, the roar of car engines and raised voices in Portuguese but she was in too much pain to try to see what was happening. She opened her swollen eyes with a grimace of discomfort, for her whole body was hurting. She registered that she was lying in Duarte’s arms inside an unfamiliar car and was suddenly terrified that everyone had forgotten about her baby. ‘Jamie…?’

‘He will be OK…’

Even in the state she was in, the sense that she was now hearing his voice from the end of a long dark tunnel, she picked up on that stress. She might not be OK. She had been fifteen years old when it was impressed on her after an adverse reaction to a bee sting that she must go nowhere without her adrenaline kit. She had been too scared not to be sensible but, as the years passed without further incident, she had gradually become rather more careless. ‘If I die…’ she slurred with immense difficulty because the inside of her mouth and her tongue were swollen, ‘You get Jamie…only fair—’

‘Por amar de Deus, you are not going to die, Emily,’ Duarte cut in savagely, lifting up her head, rearranging her with careful hands because she was starting to struggle for breath. ‘I will not allow it.’

But before she lost consciousness, all she could think about was that it would be only fair if Duarte got Jamie. It was a punishment for her to be near Duarte again. It made it impossible for her to evade her own tormenting memories. Eleven months ago, one instant of hesitation had cost Emily her marriage—Duarte had found her in the arms of another man.

She’d let Toby kiss her and she still couldn’t explain why, even to herself. At the time she had been desperately unhappy and Toby had astonished her when he had told her that he loved her. In her whole life, nobody had ever told Emily that they loved her and she had never expected to hear those words. Certainly, she’d given up hope of ever inspiring such high-flown feelings in her gorgeous but essentially indifferent husband.

While she’d been frantically wondering what she could say that would not hurt Toby’s feelings, Toby had grabbed her and kissed her. Why hadn’t she pushed him away? She’d not been attracted to Toby, nor had she wanted that bruising kiss. Yet she’d still stood there and allowed him to kiss her. She’d been unfaithful to her husband and there was no justifying that betrayal of trust to a male as proud and uncompromising as Duarte. In the aftermath, she’d been so distraught with shame that she had made a total hash of convincing her husband that that single kiss had been the only intimacy she had ever shared with Toby. Convinced that she’d been having an affair, Duarte had demanded a separation, even though she was four months pregnant with their child.

Emily’s eyes opened and she snatched in a great whoosh of oxygen to fill her starved lungs.

The injection of adrenaline brought about an almost instantaneous recovery but she was severely disorientated and she didn’t know where she was. As she began to sit up, scanning the unfamiliar faces surrounding her and recognising a nurse in her uniform, she gasped, ‘What…where?’

‘You just had a very narrow escape. You were in anaphylactic shock.’ The older man gave her a relieved smile. ‘You’re in the cottage hospital. I’m the duty doctor. We administered the adrenaline jab in the nick of time.’

‘Take it easy and lie down for a minute,’ the nurse advised. ‘Do you feel sick?’

As Emily rested back again, she moved her swimming head in a negative motion. After that initial buzzing return of energy which had revitalised her, she now felt weak as a kitten. She was on a trolley, not a bed, and as the cluster of medical staff surrounding her parted because the emergency was over she saw Duarte looming just feet away. She raised trembling hands to her still tender face, felt the swelling that was still there and knew that she had to look an absolute fright. In addition, the very minute that foolish thought occurred to her, she became aware of her own demeaning vulnerability.

For a split second, it was like time stood still. Her dazed aquamarine eyes wide above her spread fingertips connected with his spectacular dark golden gaze. His eyes were rich as the finest of vintage wine but utterly without expression. She could feel her heartbeat quicken, the wretched inescapable burst of liquid heat surge between her slender thighs. He came, he saw, he conquered, she misquoted, shaken to her depths by her own helpless response. From the first moment it had been like that with Duarte.

There had been a wild uncontrollable longing that had nothing to do with sense or caution. Something that had come so naturally to her, something that had been rooted so deep in her psyche that only death could have ended her addiction to him. He’d drawn her like a magnet and, what was more, he had known it from the first instant of their eyes meeting.

But their marriage had been a disaster for both of them, she reminded herself miserably. The more she’d loved him, the more she had become agonised by his inherent indifference. Impervious to her every attempt to breach that barrier, he had broken her heart. She had even been hurt by his satisfaction when she fell pregnant, for it was a satisfaction he had never shown in her alone. The old sick shame filled her as she recalled that fatal kiss which had cost her everything that mattered to her. She had finally broken through Duarte’s reserve only to discover that all she could touch was his pride and his honour.

‘I could strangle you for your carelessness, Emily…’ Duarte breathed in a curiously ragged undertone.

‘What you need is a good cup of tea. You’ve had a nasty shock too,’ the middle-aged nurse informed Duarte in a brisk and cheerful interruption. Unaccustomed to being addressed as if he was a large child, he looked sincerely startled.

A porter began to wheel out the trolley on which Emily lay. As the nurse had spoken, Emily had finally recognised the ashen quality of Duarte’s usually vibrant skin tone and the sheen of perspiration on his sculpted dark features. She closed her eyes, acknowledging the truth of the older woman’s assurance. She had almost died on him. Evidently, he was relieved that she had survived. Maybe he did not hate her quite as much as she had assumed he did.

But then hatred meant a strong emotion where the target was concerned, didn’t it? And Duarte had never felt any particularly strong emotion in her direction. A pain that felt almost physical enclosed her and she shut her eyes in self-defence. She knew that she had never had the power to hide her feelings from him and she had not the courage to meet his eyes levelly.

‘Your husband has had the fright of his life,’ the kindly nurse soothed her in a small empty side ward. ‘When your child runs out in front of a car, you shout at him afterwards because you’re angry and afraid that you almost lost him.’

‘Yes…’ Emily was rolled gently into a bed. She did not like to say that Duarte’s most likely feeling now was one of complete exasperation and contempt. In her position, he would never have made the mistake of being without that life-saving adrenaline kit.

‘Why am I being put to bed?’ Emily asked, finding herself being deftly undressed.

‘The doctor wants us to keep you under observation for a few hours just to be sure that you have no adverse reactions.’

Helped into a hospital nightdress in a faded print and left alone, Emily lay back against the pillows, anxiously wondering who exactly had charge of Jamie and how her baby was coping with her sudden disappearance. Almost at the same moment as she was thinking that the nurse reappeared, cradling Jamie, who was howling at the top of his lungs. ‘I believe this little soul is yours and he wants his mum!’

Emily opened her arms and Jamie grabbed on to her the instant he was brought within her reach. ‘Who was looking after him?’

‘The older man, who arrived just after your husband brought you in. He doesn’t speak any English. He was out at Reception trying to calm your little boy down.’

Mateus Santos, she assumed, a committed bachelor who was probably pretty useless with young children. Jamie snuffled into weary silence against her shoulder just as Duarte appeared in the open doorway. He stilled when he saw the child in her arms and the nurse slipped out, leaving them alone.

Her tummy twisting, her eyes veiled, Emily muttered awkwardly, ‘Have you seen Jamie yet?’

‘No…Mateus brought him here in your car. My time was taken up tending to you,’ Duarte admitted curtly.

Jamie had a death grip on her. He was going through that stage of disliking strangers that many babies went through around his age. He resisted being turned round and pushed his dark head under her chin. He’d had quite enough of excitement and strangers for one morning. It was anything but the best moment for Duarte to meet his son for the first time.

‘Duarte…I’m so sorry!’ Emily heard herself admit with her usual impulsiveness, a sob catching in her aching throat. ‘I am so very sorry for everything…’

‘That cuts no ice with me,’ Duarte responded with eyes that were as hard and bright as burnished steel, cold derision etched in every line of his starkly handsome features as he studied her shaken face. ‘How dare you drag my son round the countryside in a caravan like a gipsy? How dare you put me in the position where I have to answer to the police merely because I attempted to see my own child? And how dare you look at me now and insult my intelligence with that pathetic excuse of a word, “sorry”?’


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