Don Joaquin’s Pride

November 3, 2000

September 1, 2000

November 3, 2000

September 1, 2000

Preview

Joaquin Del Castillo was as proud as his Latino heritage, and he instantly acted to right the wrong that he believed had been done to his elderly, loyal employee.

He would lure the girl who owed the old man money to Guatemala, and here she would stay until she agreed to repay her debt! But something about Joaquin’s captive didn’t add up. On the surface, Lucy appeared to be a glamorous gold digger, but underneath she was innocent. Joaquin’s pride unleashed consequences he hadn’t expected his contempt for her was rivaled by his blazing desire!

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Excerpt

‘I COULDN’T possibly pretend to be you…’ Lucy’s shaken voice trailed away, her incredulity unhidden.

‘Why not?’ Cindy demanded sharply. ‘Guatemala is half a world away and Fidelio Paez has never met me. He doesn’t even know I have a sister, never mind an identical twin!’

‘But why can’t you just write back and explain that you’re not in a position to visit right now?’ Lucy asked uneasily, struggling to understand why her sister should have suggested such an outrageous masquerade in response to a mere invitation, and why on earth she was getting so worked up about the matter.

‘I wish it was that simple!’

‘You’re getting married in a month,’ Lucy reminded her soothingly. ‘As I see it, that makes a tactful refusal very simple.’

‘You don’t understand. It wasn’t even Fidelio who wrote to me. It was some neighbour of his, some wretched interfering man called Del Castillo!’

Cindy’s beautifully manicured hands knotted together in a strained gesture, her full mouth tightening. ‘He’s demanding that I come over and stay for a while—’

‘What business is it of his to demand anything?’

Cindy gave her an almost hunted look. ‘He thinks that as Fidelio’s daughter-in-law, his only surviving relative…well, that I owe the old boy a visit.’

‘Why?’ In other circumstances Lucy would have understood the demand, but it seemed rather excessive when seen in the light of her twin’s short-lived first marriage five years earlier.

While working in Los Angeles, Cindy had enjoyed a whirlwind romance with the son of a wealthy Guatemalan rancher. However, her sister had been widowed within days of becoming a bride. Although a young and apparently healthy man, Mario Paez had died of a sudden heart attack. At the time, Guatemala had been suffering severe floods. The whole country had been in uproar, with the communications system seriously disrupted. With what little she had known about her late husband’s background, Cindy had found it impossible to get in touch with Mario’s father in time for the funeral, so it had gone ahead without the older man and afterwards Cindy had flown straight back home to London.

‘You know, you never even mentioned that you still kept in touch with Mario’s father,’ Lucy admitted, her violet-blue eyes warm with approval.

High spots of colour lit Cindy’s taut cheekbones. ‘I thought keeping in touch was the least I could do, and now that Fidelio’s sick—’

‘The old man’s ill?’ Lucy interrupted in dismay. ‘Is it serious?’

‘Yes. So how can I write back and say that I can’t visit a dying man because I’m getting married again?’

Lucy winced. That would indeed be a most unfeeling response. In fact, from Fidelio’s point of view it would only serve as a horribly cruel reminder of the tragically premature death of his only son.

‘That man, that neighbour of his, has actually sent me plane tickets! But even if I wasn’t getting married to Roger I wouldn’t want to go,’ Cindy confessed in a sudden raw rush of resentment. ‘I hate sick people! I can’t bear to be around them. I would be totally useless at being sympathetic and all that sort of stuff!’

Lowering her gaze, Lucy suppressed a sigh, unhappily aware that her twin was telling the truth. When their mother had become an invalid, Cindy had been hopeless. On the other hand, her sister’s financial help had eased the more practical problems of those long difficult months when she herself had been forced to give up work to nurse their mother. Cindy had bought them a small apartment close to the hospital where their parent had been receiving treatment. Right now that apartment was back on the market; Lucy was keen to repay her sister’s generosity.

‘But you could easily cope with Fidelio,’ Cindy pointed out, her eagerness to persuade her twin to take her place unhidden. ‘You were absolutely marvellous with Mum. Florence Nightingale to the life!’

‘But it wouldn’t be right to deceive Fidelio Paez like that,’ Lucy interposed uncomfortably. ‘I think you should discuss this with Roger—’

‘Roger?’ Cindy froze at that reference to the man she adored and was soon to marry. ‘He’s the very last person I want to know about this!’ Crossing the room, she reached for her sister’s hands, a pleading look in her eyes. ‘If Roger knew how much I owe Fidelio he would probably think that we should cancel the wedding so that I could go over there…and I couldn’t bear that!’

Lucy stared back at her twin in bewilderment. ‘What do you owe Fidelio Paez?’

‘Over the years, he’s…well, he’s sent me a lot of money,’ Cindy admitted with visible discomfiture.

Lucy’s brows pleated, for her sister lived in some comfort and had never to her knowledge been short of cash in recent years. ‘Why would Mario’s father have sent you money?’

‘Well, why shouldn’t he have?’ Cindy demanded almost aggressively. ‘He’s loaded, and he’s got nobody else to spend it on. I got nothing when Mario died!’

Lucy flushed at her twin’s frank annoyance over that reality.

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