One Night to Wedding Vows (Wedlocked!)(3)

By: Kim Lawrence


After a pause Raoul levered himself off the cold surface, flexed his shoulder blades, and did so.

Once the door of the panelled, private room was closed Sergio wasted no time.

‘Your brother is dead.’

Any number of bitter, sarcastic responses occurred to Raoul but he clamped his lips tight on them. He had been the one who had discovered his brother’s lifeless body on the floor of his kitchen and the image still wouldn’t let go. An aneurysm the post mortem said. It seemed his brother had been walking around with a ticking time bomb in his chest for years and he hadn’t even known it was there.

‘You here to tell me life goes on?’ He’d read up on it and discovered that what had killed Jamie wasn’t that uncommon. Now he found himself walking down the street looking into faces of strangers and wondering who would be next.

‘Not for everyone. I’m dying.’

Raoul, who had walked over to the velvet-draped window, spun back, fighting off the childish desire to cover his ears. After a moment’s silence he shrugged and dropped his long, lean length into one of the leather sofas.

‘We are all dying.’

Or was it only the people he loved?

He closed his eyes and did a silent body count...the mother he barely remembered, his father, his brother, his wife... No! She didn’t count. He hadn’t loved Lucy by the end. In fact, he had loathed her, but she was gone and they all had one thing in common: him.

Perhaps I should come with a government health warning?

The black humour of the thought drew a harsh laugh from his stiff lips while in his head the scornful voice retorted, Perhaps you should stop feeling so bloody sorry for yourself?

‘It’s cancer,’ his grandfather said, at Raoul’s response. ‘Inoperable. Their best bet is that I have six months.’ The older man delivered the information without emotion. ‘Though I’ve never trusted quacks.’

Raoul surged to his feet, denial in every muscle of his taut, powerful body. ‘That isn’t possible.’ Their eyes, both pairs dark and shot with silver flecks, connected and after a moment of contact Raoul swallowed.

‘Sorry.’ His teeth clenched at the laughable inadequacy of the word.

But Sergio simply brushed away the comment with a gesture of his hand. ‘Continuity is important to me—you know what I’m talking about.’

Raoul exhaled a long, slow, measured breath and thought, Hell, not this, not now!

‘Your brother was never going to provide an heir.’

Raoul said nothing. This was the closest the older man had ever come to acknowledging his brother’s sexuality. He’d never called Jamie’s long-term partner, Roberto, anything other than his friend. Raoul felt a stab of guilt. He should have stayed for Rob at least—the man had been utterly devastated at the funeral service.

‘Jamie is barely cold...’ But his skin had been like marble when... Raoul cleared his throat. ‘Can’t this wait?’

‘Time is not a luxury I have.’ Sergio saw his grandson wince and took a step forward, adopting the stare that made powerful men sweat, and laid his hands on his grandson’s shoulders. ‘I made allowances for you after... Lucy died.’ Raoul’s hooded gaze dropped, a nerve along his jaw clenched. ‘But you have to move on.’

‘I have moved on.’

A sound of distaste escaped the old man’s lips before he turned away. ‘I’m not talking about screwing around.’

The uncharacteristic crudeness from his grandfather’s lips wiped the last shreds of alcohol-induced haze from Raoul’s brain. ‘There is no doubt about the diagnosis?’

‘None.’

‘Sorry,’ he said again, knowing that any more tactile or emotional gestures would not be appreciated. His grandfather had a volcanic temperament but he had never encouraged physical displays of emotion in either of his grandsons. It hadn’t stopped Jamie, but he... It hadn’t come naturally to Raoul. He had learned the advantages of not showing his feelings—his robot face, Lucy had called it. Half her twisted pleasure had been seeing her victims suffer.

The older man tipped his head in acknowledgement. ‘It will all come to you now. Whether,’ he added before the flare of anger in his grandson’s dark eyes could spark into flame, ‘you want it or not. You will be a powerful man.’

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