Spanish Groom(8)

By: Lynne Graham

Disbelief roared through Dixie as she reeled from the full impact of that derisive attack, even though on another level she longed to question him about Jasper having said that she had a remarkable brain. However, anger abruptly overpowered that brief spark of surprised pleasure and curiosity. 'If I can consider myself sacked, then I'm free to tell you exactly what I think of you too!'

Cesar gave her a wolfish half-smile of encouragement. 'I'm enjoying this. The office doormat suddenly discovers backbone. Make my day... Only be warned—I will respond in kind.'

Teeth almost chattering with the force of her disturbed emotions, Dixie drew herself up to her full unimpressive height and hissed, 'You have to be the most unscrupulous, selfish human being I have ever met! Doesn't it even occur to you that I might have some moral objection to cruelly deceiving a sweet old man, who deserves better from a male he loves like a son?'

'You're right. That thought didn't occur to me,' Cesar confessed, without a shade of discomfiture or remorse. 'Considering that you're currently on the brink of being taken to court for obtaining goods and services by fraudulent deception, I'm not remotely impressed by the sound of your moral scruples!'

Dixie shrank and turned white. 'Taken to c-court?' she stammered, aghast, her eyes nailed to him in the hope that she had somehow misunderstood.


'Dio mio...' Cesar raised a winging ebony brow to challenge Dixie's stricken expression. 'Didn't you read that printout 1 gave you either? The interior designer, Leticia Zane, has instigated proceedings. Did you expect her to be sympathetic towards a client who took advantage of her services without the slightest hope of being able to pay for them?'

Numbly, Dixie shook her pounding head, her stomach curdling. 'But I haven't got any more money to give Miss Zane...I've already offered installments.'

Cesar Valverde shifted a broad shoulder in an unfeeling shrug. "The lady may well have decided to make a public spectacle of you to deter other clients who are reluctant to settle up. You're a good choice—'

'A good choice?' Dixie parroted, scarcely believing her ears.

'You don't have socially prominent friends likely to take offence on your behalf and damage her business prospects.'

'But...but a court prosecution.' Dixie squeezed out those words, breathless with horror, utterly appalled by what he was spelling out to her. Her own naivety hit her hard. She stared down at the printout, belatedly reading the small type beneath the debt to Leticia Zane's firm. 'Prosecution pending', it said. Her blood ran cold with fear and incredulity. The interior designer knew very well that all the work on her sister's apartment had been done at Petra's behest. Dixie had merely been the mouthpiece who'd passed on the instructions.

'Delusions of grandeur have a price, like everything else,' Cesar Valverde sighed.

'I can't think straight,' Dixie mumbled sickly.

'Sharpen up. I haven't got all day to wait for an answer that is already staring you in the face,' Cesar breathed with callous cool.

Dixie gave him a speaking glance from tear-filled eyes and fumbled with the crushed tissue still clutched between her shaking fingers. 'I just couldn't deceive Jasper like that, Mr Valverde. I couldn't live with lying to him. It would be absolutely wrong!'

'You're being selfish and shortsighted,' Cesar drawled crushingly, dealing her a look of hostile reproach. 'Getting engaged to you is the one thing that I can do to make Jasper happy. What right have you to say that it would be wrong or immoral?'

'Lies are always wrong!' Dixie sobbed helplessly, and turned away from him in embarrassment.

'Jasper won't ever know it was a lie. He'll be delighted. I plan to leave you with him in Spain for a few weeks... assuming he's well enough for me to leave, even temporarily,' Cesar adjusted flatly.

'I couldn't...I just couldn't’ Dixie gasped strickenly, already plotting a weaving path towards the door, barely able to see through her falling tears but determined not to be swayed by his specious arguments. 'And it's wicked of you to call me selfish. How can you do that?'

'For Jasper's sake...easily. I'll call on you tonight to get your final answer. I think you'll have seen sense by then.'

Dixie hauled open the door with a trembling hand and shot him an angry, accusing glance. 'Go to hell!' she launched thickly as she walked out.

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