The Spaniard's Love-Child

By: Kim Lawrence

CHAPTER ONE


‘MOTHER, you must rest.’ Raul Carreras gently pushed his mother back onto the pile of pillows, his eyes anxiously scanning her pale face.

She looked close to collapse, which was hardly surprising: ill health, losing a husband and son so recently had already taken its toll. He feared this was one blow too many.

‘I do not want to rest, Raul!’ Aria Carreras cried fretfully, pushing aside the blanket he had pulled across her legs. ‘Do not treat me like a child. My grandchildren have been kidnapped. They are God knows where. Perhaps not even alive…’ Her voice rose to a shrill crescendo before her eyes filled with tears.

As he watched her press her shaking hand to her mouth to stifle the whimper of distress that emerged from her trembling lips the skin drawn across Raul’s chiselled features tautened. Right now he might have to accept that he was helpless to ease her pain, but one day, he vowed silently, someone would pay!

Aria Carreras succeeded in fighting back the tears. ‘And you ask me to rest…?’

‘Firstly, we don’t know for certain that the children have been kidnapped…’

‘But you think they have been?’ his mother accused shrilly. ‘If only your father was here he would know what to do. If he’d been here it wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have let it.’

She looked up and caught the spasm of pain momentarily disturb the composure of her son’s face. An expression of contrition spread across her own fine-boned features; Raul so rarely allowed those around him to see his feelings that everyone, including to her shame herself, tended to overlook the fact he had any.

She reached up and took her son’s hand.

‘I’m sorry, that was unfair. You have improved our security beyond recognition.’

Raul returned the pressure of her fingers and smiled, but kept to himself the grim reflection that his improved security had not stopped people entering their home and taking away two children without anyone raising the alarm.

So much for modern technology!

‘And if your father had been alive by now he would have shouted at everyone, alienated the police and caused a diplomatic incident.’

‘At the very least,’ Raul agreed with the faintest glimmer of a smile in his dark eyes. His expression grew grave as he sat down on the edge of the bed. ‘Now what you must do is trust me to do what should be done. I will get Katerina and Antonio back, you know that?’

If anyone else had made that claim she would have automatically considered it an attempt to assuage her anxieties, but Raul was one of those rare individuals who never promised anything he couldn’t deliver. Aria lifted her hand to her son’s lean face. There was an expression on his dark features that she was not familiar with; his business rivals would have been.

‘I know that,’ she agreed, despite everything relaxing slightly.

‘Then will you take the sedation the doctor has prescribed?’

Aria sighed and gave a rueful smile. ‘If I must.’

Her son kissed her on both cheeks and promised that he would speak to her as soon as he knew more. On the way out he had a quiet word with the maid who had been hovering discreetly in the background and then, with a last smile for his mother, he left the room.



The senior detective who had been assigned to the case turned from his female colleague as the tall figure of Raul Carreras quietly re-entered the room. Unlike the other members of the besieged household, the head of the family was not wearing night clothes, but a dark well-cut business suit and shirt; the loosening of the knot of his silk tie was the only concession he had made to the hour and the circumstances.


‘How is Mrs Carreras?’ the detective enquired solicitously.

‘The doctor has sedated my mother.’

Their eyes clashed and the comforting hand the detective had been about to place on the younger man’s shoulder was hastily thrust back into his pocket. He waited silently as the tall dark-haired figure shrugged off his jacket and draped it around the back of a gilded Louis XIV chair, feeling a flicker of nostalgia tinged with envy as his observant eyes noted the suggestion of tight, well-developed muscles shift underneath the fine fabric.

Chief Superintendent Pritchard had dealt with a number of kidnapping cases during his career and he was accustomed to seeing the families involved fall apart. He knew all the right things to say in such circumstances, but it was clear this was not an instance where sympathy was either required or desired.

Not everyone reacted the same way, of course, he privately conceded, though nobody he’d come across had displayed quite so much monumental control as this man. It was impossible to tell from his demeanour what Raul Carreras was feeling—or if he was feeling anything at all.

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