A Stormy Spanish Summer(3)

By: Penny Jordan

His grandmother had realised what it meant, though. Felipe had been the son of her oldest friend, Maria Romero, an impoverished but aristocratic widow. When Maria had learned she had terminal cancer, and only a matter of months to live, she’d asked her friend to adopt twelve-year-old Felipe after her death and raise him as her own son. Both his grandmother and Maria had held the old-school belief that those of certain families—of certain blood and tradition—should always and only marry those who shared those things.

Guilt. It was a heavy burden to bear.

‘They would never have been allowed to marry,’ he repeated.

He was hateful, arrogant, with a pride as cold as ice and as hard as granite, Fliss thought angrily. Technically her mother might have died from heart failure, but who was to say that part of that failure had not been caused by a broken heart and destroyed dreams? Her mother had only been thirty-seven when she’d died, and Fliss eighteen, just about to go to university. Eighteen and a girl still—but now, at twenty-three, she was a woman.

Was that a hint of guilty colour she could see burning up the golden skin bequeathed to him by generations of high-born nobles of supposedly pure Castilian blood? She doubted it. This man wasn’t capable of such feelings—of any kind of real feelings for other people. His blood didn’t allow that. Blood which some whispered had once been mixed with that of a Moorish princess coveted by the proud Castilian who was her family’s enemy and who had stolen her away from that family for his own pleasure, giving to the wife who shared his bloodline the boy child born of his forbidden relationship, and leaving his stolen concubine to die of grief at the loss of her child.

Fliss could well imagine that a family that had spawned a man like the one standing in front of her now could have committed such a terrible act. When her mother had first told her the tale of that long-ago Castilian duque she had immediately linked him in her own thoughts to the current duque. They shared the same cruel disregard for the feelings of others, the same arrogant belief that who they were gave them the right to ride roughshod over other people, to make judgements about them and then condemn them without ever allowing them to defend themselves. The right to deny a child access to her father, prevent her knowing and loving her father simply because they did not consider that child ‘good enough’ to be a part of their family.

Her father. Inside her head Fliss tasted the words, rolling them round her tongue, their flavour and intimacy both confusing and new. She’d spent so much of her life secretly wondering about her father, secretly imagining them meeting, secretly wanting to bring about that meeting. At home, in her smart flat in an elegant Georgian house which had been converted into apartments set in beautifully maintained gardens, complete with a tennis court and an indoor swimming pool and gym for the use of the residents, Fliss had a box in which she kept all the letters she had secretly written to her father but never sent. Letters she had kept hidden from her mother, not wanting to hurt her. Letters that had never been sent—all bar one of them.

Her great-grandmother might have been the one to originally part her parents, but it was Vidal who had prevented her from making contact with him. Vidal who had denied her the right to get to know her father because he had not thought her ‘good enough’ to be acknowledged as part of his family.

At least her father had attempted to make some kind of reparation for allowing her to be shut out of his life.

‘Why have you come here, Felicity? ‘

The coldness in Vidal’s voice stirred Fliss’s pride.

‘You know perfectly well why I am here. I’m here because of my father’s will.’

As she spoke the words my father, Fliss felt her emotions pushing up under the control she always tried to impose on them. There had been so much pain, so much confusion, so much shame within her over the years, born of the rejection of her and her mother by her father’s family. And for her it was Vidal who personified that rejection. Vidal who’d denied and hurt her—in many ways far more than her father himself had.

Vidal. Fliss forced down the emotions threatening to swamp her, afraid of what might happen to her once they did, of what she might have to confront within herself once their roaring tide subsided, leaving her vulnerabilities revealed.

The truth was that she wasn’t here because of any material benefit that accrued to her from her father’s will, but because of the emotional benefit—the emotional healing she longed for so much. There was no power on this earth, though, that would ever be able to force her to reveal that truth to Vidal.

‘There was no need for you to come here because of Felipe’s will, Felicity. The letter his lawyer sent to you made the terms of it perfectly clear. Your presence here is neither needed nor necessary.’

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