A Stormy Spanish Summer(4)

By: Penny Jordan

‘Just like in your eyes neither my mother nor I were needed in my father’s life—not needed and not necessary. Quite the opposite, in fact. How arrogant you are, Vidal, to feel you have the right to make such judgements. But then you are very good at making judgements that affect the lives of others, aren’t you? You think you are so much better than other people, but you aren’t, Vidal. Despite your rank, despite the arrogance and pride you lay claim to through your Castilian blood, in reality you are less worthy of them than the poorest beggar in the streets of Granada. You despise others because you think you are superior to them, but the reality is that you are the one who should be treated with contempt. You are incapable of compassion or understanding. You are incapable of real emotions, Vidal, incapable of knowing what it truly means to be human,’ Fliss told him emotionally, hurling the words at him as feelings she had suppressed for too long overwhelmed her.

White to the lips, Vidal listened to her. That she of all people should dare to make such accusations against him infuriated him.

‘You know nothing of what I am,’ he told her savagely.

‘On the contrary—I know a great deal about you and what you are,’ Fliss corrected him. ‘You are the Duque de Fuentualba, a position you were born to fill—created to fill, in fact, since your parents’ marriage was arranged by both their families in order to preserve the purity of their bloodline. You own vast tracts of land, both here and in South America, you represent and uphold a feudal system that requires others to submit to your power, and you think that gives you the right to treat them with contempt and disdain. It was because of you and what you are that I never got the chance to know my father whilst he was alive.’

‘And now you are here to seek revenge? Is that what you are trying to tell me?’

‘I don’t need to seek revenge,’ Fliss told him, fiercely repudiating his accusation. ‘You will by your very nature bring that revenge down on your own head—although I am sure you won’t even recognise it for what it is. Your nature, your outlook on life, will deny you exactly what you denied my parents—a happy, loving, committed lifelong relationship, entered into for no other reason than the two people within it loved one another. My revenge will be in knowing that you will never know what real happiness is—because you are not genetically capable of knowing it. You will never hold a woman’s love, and most pitiful of all you will not even realise what you are missing.’

His very silence was unnerving on its own, without the look he was giving her, Fliss recognised. But she was not her gentle, vulnerable mother, made fearful and insignificant by a too arrogant man.

‘Has no one ever told you that it can be dangerous to offer such opinions?’

‘Maybe I don’t care about inciting danger when it comes to speaking the truth,’ Fliss answered, giving a small shrug as she added, ‘After all, what more harm could you possibly do to me than the harm you have already done?’

That was as close as she dared allow herself to get to letting the pain inside her show. To say more would be too dangerous. She couldn’t say any more without risking letting him see the scars he had inflicted so deep into everything that she was that she would bear them for ever. They—he—had changed her life for ever. Had deprived her of her right to love and be loved—not just as a daughter, but as a woman. But now was not the time to think of the damage that had been done to her, both to her emotions and her sensuality. She would never give Vidal the satisfaction of knowing just what he had done to her.

Vidal fought against the threat to his self-control. ‘Let me assure you of one thing,’ he announced grimly, each word carefully measured. ‘When it comes to my marriage, the woman who becomes my wife will not be someone—’

‘Like me?’ Fliss supplied tauntingly for him.

‘No man, if he is honest, wants as his wife someone whose sexual morals are those of the gutter. It is in the nature of the male to be protective of his chosen mate’s virtue, to want the intimacy he shares with that mate to be exclusive. A man can never know for sure that any child his mate carries is truly his, therefore he instinctively seeks a mate whom he believes he can trust to be sexually loyal to him. When I marry my wife will know that she will have my commitment to her for our lifetime, and I will expect the same commitment from her.’

He was angry. Fliss could see that. But instead of intimidating her his anger exhilarated her. Exhilarated her and excited her, driving her to push him even harder, and to go on pushing him until she had pushed him beyond the boundary of his self-control. A frisson of unfamiliar emotion shivered down her spine. Vidal was a man of strong passions who kept those passions tightly leashed. The woman who could arouse them—and him—would have to be equally passionate, or risk being consumed in their fiery heat. In bed he would be …

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