One Night to Wedding Vows (Wedlocked!)(6)

By: Kim Lawrence

Raoul forced a laugh, his dark brows lifting as he responded. ‘You will be the first to know and that is a promise.’

‘You probably don’t want my advice, but I’ll give it anyway. Don’t make your final selection on looks alone. Obviously no one would expect you to marry someone you didn’t find attractive...’

‘That’s a relief.’

‘It may seem cold-blooded but—’

‘Shall I take notes?’ This conversation would have been one to share with his brother. Jamie would have appreciated it; he and his brother shared the same sense of humour—had shared. The flicker of ironic amusement faded from his eyes.

‘Practicality is not a dirty word. You shouldn’t leave the important things in life to blind luck. Oh, I know you struck lucky once but you can’t rely on that happening again.’

Not on my watch, Raoul thought grimly.

‘Marriage should be approached like any other contract.’

Sergio’s voice was stronger but his skin was still cast with a worrying greyish tinge. ‘I’m sure you’re right,’ Raoul conceded, then, seeing the suspicious light in his grandparent’s eyes, realised he’d agreed too easily. ‘Shall I call Carlo now?’

Without waiting for a reply he opened the door and spoke to the man stationed outside.

Before his grandfather had time to relaunch his campaign for a grandchild, a maid who had obviously been waiting in the wings for a nod from the bodyguard appeared carrying a tea tray. Carlo followed her in.

The maid vanished and the big protective figure poured tea, slipping something from a blister pack into his employer’s hand before he nodded and left.

‘Man of few words.’

The tea seemed to have restored his grandfather, who snorted. ‘Coming from you that is amusing, but then your brother was always the talker, I remember—’

Raoul had heard the stories many times before. Some he’d experienced firsthand, but he let his grandfather talk. He seemed to find relating Jamie’s exploits cathartic, the boy he had been and the man he had become, a man Sergio had been proud of. Well, in a professional capacity, at least. By the time he got up from his chair—under his own steam—he looked more himself.

On the point of leaving the room Raoul paused and turned back, his expression intense. Bracing himself to lie through his teeth about his readiness to marry and procreate, Raoul was surprised and relieved when his grandfather asked his opinion on a very different subject.

‘I would value your input on something. I was thinking of donating a new wing in your brother’s name to the university hospital. Do you think he would have liked that?’

‘I think he would have liked that very much, but surely Roberto would be a better person to speak to about it?’ His brother’s partner was a consultant neurologist at the hospital.

His grandfather looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. ‘He spoke well at the funeral.’

Raoul agreed.

‘I might do that. Come walk with me to the car.’

Glad to hear the familiar note of imperious command back in the old man’s voice, Raoul followed his grandfather out of the room and through the brightly lit casino.

Out of the air-conditioned cool Raoul barely registered the warmth of the evening but within seconds his grandfather’s skin was filmed with moisture. Nevertheless, he rejected the arm Raoul offered with a grunt, moving towards the limo that drew up.

‘I’ll call tomorrow?’

His grandfather shook his head. ‘Next week, as planned. I’m not dying yet.’

Watching the car pull away, Raoul found himself wondering if lying to a dying man could ever be considered the right thing to do.

The question was academic—it was done and he doubted it would be the first lie he told. But how many more would he have to tell, and how far down this road would he need to go to allow his grandfather to die happy?

With an impatient click of his long fingers he started to walk. There was no harm in humouring his grandfather, and Raoul was sure he could string it out until... He didn’t want to think about another death today, another loss.

‘Dio!’ he murmured under his breath as he locked away the memories. To think about the children he might have had, the life he might have led was pointless, that future was lost to him.

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