An heir for the da Rocha legacy…
Secured with a ring! Tycoon Zac’s wedding to innocent waitress Freddie is pure convenience. Dark-hearted Zac will help keep Freddie’s family together, if she provides him with a Da Rocha baby! He’s confident their insatiable passion will soon burn out. But when Freddie falls pregnant, Zac realises he craves more than just an heir. He wants to keep Freddie in their marriage bed―forever!
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ZAC DA ROCHA, the Brazilian billionaire, powered towards his father’s office on long muscular legs. He was in a rare state of surprise because his stuffy, rigidly formal half-brother, Vitale, the Crown Prince of Lerovia, had just matched the facetious bet Zac had made him earlier that morning. Zac enjoyed yanking Vitale’s chain but he had not expected a retaliation. He raked his hand impatiently through the long, luxuriant dark hair falling onto his broad shoulders and grinned with sudden appreciation, flashing perfect white teeth in the process. Maybe Vitale wasn’t such a narrow-minded bore after all. Maybe he had more in common with his half-sibling than he had assumed.
As quickly as that idea occurred to him, Zac suppressed it again because he wasn’t looking for a family connection. He had never had a family. He had looked up his long-lost father, Charles Russell, out of pure curiosity and had lingered on the edge of the family circle out of pure badness, thoroughly entertained by the immediate animosity of his two half-brothers, Vitale and Angel. The emergence of a third son had shocked and unsettled them and Zac had made little effort to foster a sibling relationship. But then what the hell did he know about blood ties? He had never had a brother or a sister and, what was more, he had had a mother he had seen only once a year if he was lucky, a stepfather who hated him and a birth father whose identity he had only discovered the year before when his mother had finally told him the truth she had long withheld because she was dying.
Yet when it came to his birth father, for once in his life he had landed lucky, Zac conceded grudgingly, because he actually liked Charles Russell. Zac was more accustomed to people who tried to use him and he trusted very few people. His light grey-blue eyes hardened. Fabulously rich from birth and raised like a little prince, surrounded by fawning servants, Zac was very cynical about human nature. But from their first meeting, Charles had taken a genuine interest in his third and youngest adult son, despite the fact that, at twenty-eight and six feet four inches tall, that son was already a man grown.
After only a few hours in the older man’s radius, Zac had realised how much better he would have done had his mother, Antonella, chosen to stay with Charles rather than choosing to marry the playboy fortune hunter, Afonso Oliveira, the love of his mother’s life. Unhappily, while being engaged to Antonella, Afonso had got cold feet and dumped her for several weeks. Heartbroken, Antonella had succumbed to a rebound affair with Charles, then in the process of divorcing a wife who had been cheating on him throughout their marriage with another woman. But then, Afonso had returned to Antonella to ask for her forgiveness and Antonella had followed her heart. When soon after the wedding she had realised she was pregnant, she had fervently hoped that she carried Afonso’s child and had refused to acknowledge that Zac might not be her husband’s son. Sadly, for all of them, Zac’s very rare blood group had become a ticking time bomb in his mother’s marriage.
As Zac strode into his father’s office he was rewarded by an immediate smile of warm welcome and acceptance. He might be a tattooed guy clad in jeans and biker boots with diamond studs in his ear but Charles, the grey-haired older man who greeted him in an immaculate business suit, treated him the exact same as his other sons.
‘I did think of putting on a suit to surprise the brothers,’ Zac murmured deadpan, his strikingly light eyes glittering with self-mockery against his bronzed skin. ‘But I didn’t want them to think I was conforming to expectations or competing.’
‘No fear of that, I think.’ Charles laughed, wrapping his arms round his very tall and vociferously different son in a whole-hearted embrace before stepping back. ‘Any news yet from your lawyers about your chances of breaking the trust?’
The internationally renowned Quintal da Rocha diamond mines had been locked into a trust by Zac’s great-great-grandfather to protect the family heritage. Since his mother’s death, Zac had been in possession of the income from the mines but he would not have the right to control the extensive Da Rocha business empire until he produced an heir of his own. It was an iniquitous arrangement, which had sentenced previous generations to a deeply dysfunctional family life, and Zac had long been determined to break the cycle. Sadly, the answer his legal team had given him was not the one he had sought.
He could not be truly independent or free until he had met the terms of the trust one way or another. Hedged by restrictions throughout childhood and adolescence, he had railed against the trust when he had finally understood how it would limit him. He was the last da Rocha and he enjoyed enormous wealth but until he fulfilled the conditions imposed by that trust he had no more rights than a child to control the diamond mines and the vast business empire built on the back of their profits. He felt sidelined, powerless and dispossessed by his current weak position and there was little he would not have given to be free of it.
‘My lawyers tell me that if I marry and fail over time to produce a child they think there would be little problem breaking the trust,’ Zac revealed grimly, his chiselled cheekbones taut. ‘But that would take years and I’m not prepared to wait for years to run what is mine by right of blood.’
Charles expelled his breath in a slow hiss. ‘So, you’re going to get married,’ he assumed.
Zac frowned. ‘I don’t need to get married,’ he countered. ‘Any heir will meet the terms of the trust, boy or girl, legitimate or otherwise.’
‘Legitimate would be better,’ Charles protested quietly.
‘But the ensuing divorce settlement would cost me a fortune,’ Zac responded with resounding practicality. ‘Why marry when I don’t have to?’
‘For the child’s sake,’ Charles supplied with a grimace. ‘To protect the child from growing up as both you and your mother did, isolated from normal life.’
Zac parted his lips as though he was about to say something and then thought better of it, swinging restively away. His grandfather had found himself married to a barren wife. He had then impregnated a maid in the household, who had given birth to Zac’s mixed-race mother. Antonella had been whisked away to be raised at a remote ranch, separated from her mother and never acknowledged by her aristocratic father once her arrival had refuelled his wealthy lifestyle. She had been an heiress but one from the kind of humble background the rich and sophisticated delighted in despising.