Read The Blackmailed Bride Online

Authors: Kim Lawrence

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction, #Series, #Harlequin Presents

The Blackmailed Bride

BOOK: The Blackmailed Bride
7.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

A warm welcome to all our readers; it's cold outside, but the books Harlequin Presents has got for you in January will leave you positively glowing!

Raise your temperature with two right royal reads!
The Sheikh's Innocent Bride,
by top author Lynne Graham, whisks you away to the blazing dunes of the desert in a classic tale of a proud sheikh's desire for the young woman employed to clean his castle. Meanwhile, Robyn Donald is back with another compelling Bagaton story in
The Royal Baby Bargain,
the latest installment in her immensely popular New Zealand-based BY ROYAL COMMAND miniseries.

Want the thermostat turned up? Then why not travel with us to the glorious Greek islands, where
Bought by the Greek Tycoon,
by favorite author Jacqueline Baird, promises searing emotional scenes and nights of blistering passion, and Susan Stephens's
Virgin for Sale
—the first title in our steamy new miniseries UNCUT—sees an uptight businesswoman learning what it is to feel pleasure in the hands of a

For Cathy Williams fans, there's a new winter warmer: in
At the Italian's Command,
the heart of a notoriously cool, workaholic tycoon is finally melted by a frumpy but feisty journalist. And try turning the pages of rising star Melanie Milburne's latest release—
Back in her Husband's Bed,
about a marriage rekindled in sunny Sydney, Australia, is
too hot to handle!

For a full list of titles and book numbers, see inside the front cover (opposite)—and enjoy!

Kim Lawrence

All about the author…
Kim Lawrence

KIM LAWRENCE was born and raised in north Wales. She returned there when she married, and her sons were both born on Anglesey, an island off the coast. Though not isolated, Anglesey is a little off the beaten track, but lively Dublin, which Kim loves, is only a short ferry ride away.

Today they live on the farm her husband grew up on. Welsh is the first language of many people in this area, and Kim's husband and sons are all bilingual—she is having a lot of fun, not to mention a few headaches, trying to learn the language!

With small children, the unsocial hours of nursing didn't look attractive, so encouraged by a husband who thinks she can do anything she sets her mind to, Kim tried her hand at writing. Always a keen Harlequin reader, it seemed natural for her to write a romance novel—now she can't imagine doing anything else.

She is an avid gardener, loves to cook and enjoys running—often on the beach, as living on an island, the sea is never very far away. She is usually accompanied by her Jack Russell, Sprout—don't ask, it's a long story!


drove through the large ornate gates and up the long winding driveway lined with olive trees towards the distinctive Moorish tower that stood against the backdrop of the mountains. He pulled the Mercedes he was driving in a space beside a battered Beetle which stood out like a sore thumb amongst the other expensive models.

So, Serge still hadn't persuaded Sarah to part with her old car. An easy-going young woman who would, as a rule, do anything for her husband, Sarah did have a few blind spots.

Javier himself was unmarried, but did not lack female companionship. It had never required much, if any, effort on his part to have attractive women hanging on his every word, but no special woman had ever materialised from these adoring masses. The possibility that if and when he discovered her she wouldn't be interested had simply not crossed his mind!

Then he'd met Sarah.

Now he was thirty-two, didn't take
for granted, and was, he liked to think, more discerning about women—
damned discerning, according to his grandfather, who wanted his chosen heir safely married.

Javier could have taken the easy option and chosen a suitable consort, a woman from a background similar to his own that would enable her to cope with the pressures of being a member of one of the wealthiest families in Europe, just as his father before him had. That was the problem, everytime he was tempted to take the easy way out Javier
was confronted by the spectre of his parents' disastrous union.

Before he'd left the family estate in Andalucia to make the journey to Majorca the old man had finally issued an ultimatum.

‘Marry before I die or I'll leave everything to Raul or one of the others!' Felipe Montero had warned his favourite grandson dramatically.

Javier's immediate reaction to this not very subtle blackmail had been anger; did his grandfather know him so little that he imagined he could be bought…?

He turned to Felipe with much of the pride and hauteur his grandfather was famed for etched on his own chiselled features. What he saw in the old man's lined face made him bite back the caustic response hovering on his tongue.

Javier had no illusions about what his grandfather was capable of. Felipe Montero was devious, he frequently bullied and connived, he routinely plotted and schemed—in short, when it came to getting his own way he was capable of acts of great ruthlessness. However he was never crude in his manipulations and, even more significantly, Javier had never seen his grandfather look frightened before!

‘You'll live a long time yet…?'

Felipe smiled; Javier had never needed things spelled out. He was a sharp judge of character who read people almost as well as he read the financial markets.

‘No, as a matter of fact I won't. The doctors give me six months at the outside.'

Javier didn't tell Felipe that this wasn't possible, he didn't scream, as people often did when they were confronted with the mortality of someone they couldn't imagine life without, that the doctors
be able to do something.

He wanted to, but he didn't.

Instead after a short pause he nodded, not insulting his grandfather by questioning the grim prognosis.

‘What is it?'

‘Cancer. The damned thing's spread from my lungs. So there's not much point packing these things in,' Felipe observed with a deep throaty chuckle as he inhaled deeply on his cheroot. ‘And don't tell anyone else yet—
If the news gets out millions will be wiped off the value of the company…' A flicker of revulsion appeared in the older man's eyes. ‘And I don't doubt they'll all start treating me as if I'm in my dotage,' he added, a tremor in his deep voice. It wasn't dying but the manner of it that scared Felipe Montero.

‘No one will do that.'

A silent promise was exchanged in the look that passed between the two men.

Felipe sighed, satisfied. ‘Unfortunately this couldn't come at a worst time, of course, with the Brussels deal…'

An extremely disciplined man, it wasn't often that Javier's emotions got the better of him, but as he listened to his grandfather fret about the fate of the financial empire he'd expanded up over his lifetime something snapped.

‘There is such a thing as a good time to die?' he gritted. ‘To hell with the company!' His deep voice cracked. ‘You're going to

‘We're all going to die,' came the careless response. ‘If you really care,' Felipe goaded slyly, ‘show it. Marry Aria…she loves you.'

A wry laugh was wrenched from Javier. ‘You never give up, do you?'

If and when he did marry, Javier knew it wouldn't be to someone who loved him, someone he might hurt as his father had his mother. A fragile creature, his mother had never grasped the fact she was meant to turn a blind eye
to her husband's mistresses; she was meant to look attractive, bring up their son and be the perfect hostess.

‘This is no laughing matter, Javier,' the old man reproached sternly. ‘Continuity, blood lines are important; you need sons.'

‘I'm sorry, but I can't.'

The idea of losing his inheritance didn't frighten Javier.

He immediately recognised that there was part of him that might actually welcome the situation. A man who needed the constant buzz of physical and mental challenges, he could think of few things more exciting than the challenge of starting from scratch, and few things more satisfying than knowing at the end of the day that everything you'd achieved was down to your own efforts, nothing to do with being born into a wealthy dynasty.

Wealth brought its privileges, but Javier had been raised to believe it also carried responsibilities. His deeply ingrained sense of family duty would never allow him to do anything more than occasionally dream about the luxury of being a free agent.

Deep down, however, he was pretty sure it wouldn't come to that, his grandfather would never disinherit him for standing his ground. Nothing in his manner even hinted at this belief. He couldn't do much for his grandfather but he could at least let Felipe play the heartless tyrant he liked the world to see him as.

Felipe searched his grandson's unyielding face with growing frustration. ‘This is about that silly blonde you let Serge snatch right from under your nose, I suppose… Don't look so stunned, boy.' He laughed. ‘Do you think I'm blind? If you want my opinion, she'd have been a disastrous match for you…'

Javier swallowed his anger with difficulty.

‘…Far too sweet and malleable. You need someone with a bit more fire…'

' Javier cut in drily.

Felipe conceded this point with a grunt. ‘Well, it doesn't
to be her…but if you want to be my heir you'll marry someone and soon…'

‘We shouldn't be arguing…not now…'

‘Why change the habit of a lifetime? If you start agreeing with me the family will know something's wrong straight away, and I won't be able to move for everyone being
to me,' he observed with a shudder.

When two people who were congenitally incapable of compromise worked together there were bound to be some sparks. Javier's combustible relationship with his grandfather was not without its moments of conflict, often vocal conflict, at least on Felipe's side—Javier was more inclined to smouldering silences. Javier knew his rivals within the family frequently crossed their fingers and hoped he'd over-step the mark one day and alienate the old man totally. What they failed to understand was the deep mutual respect the warring parties felt for each other.

‘I'm sorry.'

‘You're a stubborn idiot!' the old man railed at his tall grandson's retreating back.


A man with extraordinary self-discipline, Javier pushed aside the personal issues that filled his mind as he stepped out of the air-conditioned luxury of his Mercedes. He barely registered the blast of baking heat which immediately hit him; Majorca had been experiencing one of its hottest Julys on record.

He consulted the discreet but expensive metallic banded watch on his wrist and nodded; he had a few minutes to spare. He couldn't abide poor time-keeping in others and always made a point of never abusing his position of power by keeping others waiting himself. To his mind punctuality was a matter of simple good manners.

As he made his way towards the rear entrance of the large mellow stone building even his well-known critical eye for detail could find no fault in the delightful terraced gardens and wide, well-tended sweeps of green tree-dotted parkland. The pool area, when he reached it, was almost deserted but for a few stalwart—or was it foolish?—tourists sunning themselves in the fiery Majorcan midday sun.

‘Did you see who that was?' a female guest hissed excitedly as she clambered wetly out of the pool.

Her sleepy husband opened his eyes reluctantly as wet hands urgently grabbed his shoulder. ‘Who…what…?'

‘There, it's
Javier Montero!
' she hissed as the tall man in the exquisitely cut suit shook hands in a friendly manner with the elderly gardener before moving away.

‘Sure, Javier Montero is on first name terms with all the casual labourers on the island…'

‘There's no need to be sarcastic. I tell you, it was him. I mean, there can't be two men who look like him.'

‘Don't drool, Jean. And think, woman, what would Javier be doing here?'

‘Why wouldn't he be here?' she responded, with a gesture that encompassed the extensive grounds of the thirteenth-century Majorcan manor house with its distinctive Moorish tower. ‘He owns the place.'

An army of local craftsmen had returned the once neglected building to its original splendour. Tucked away in the Sierra de Tramuntana the exclusive hotel now provided a hideaway for those people who liked their retreats to combine the most up to date modern conveniences with historic ambience, top-class Mediterranean cuisine and personal attention from helpful staff.

Naturally this combination was very costly, but no more so than the other two hotels the Monteros owned on the island. Each establishment was aimed to appeal to specific clientele. People who wanted the cosmopolitan sophistica
tion of Palma would find everything they could want in the elegant surroundings of the hotel situated right in the middle of the medieval old town; and those who liked a resort that offered them the choice of six top-class restaurants on site, a spa and every sporting facility known to man, with top-class tuition thrown in, would adore the resort hotel on the beautiful undeveloped northern coast of the island.

‘Sure, this hotel and God knows how many others around the world, and then there's the airline, the racehorses and the interests in property development. Is there any pie the Monteros don't have a finger in…?' he wondered enviously. ‘I really doubt someone like Javier Montero involves himself in the day-to-day running of hotels,' he announced, settling himself back down to sleep.

‘It was him.'

‘If you say so,' her husband agreed, reapplying sunscreen to his peeling nose—it was too hot to fight.

He had been right on one count; though Javier was known to occasionally subject individual hotels to gruelling spot inspections, it wasn't part of his remit to involve himself in the day-to-day running of individual establishments. Javier's talents lay elsewhere.

Early on in his career he had displayed a remarkable ability for spotting untapped niches in the markets. This talent had been recognised and exploited, but he wasn't just an ideas man; when a project was beset by difficulties, be it labour disputes or legal wranglings, Javier was the person who could be relied upon to get things running.

The information that had brought him hot-foot to the island hardened the naturally severe cast of Javier's staggeringly handsome features as he knocked on the heavy oak-studded door of Serge's office.

Though of average height, due to his massively broad shoulders and deep barrel chest, the swarthy-skinned man behind the desk gave the impression of being much taller.

‘Javier!' Serge rose to his feet with a welcoming smile and the two men clasped hands and hugged. ‘It's been too long.'

‘It has.' Javier responded with the sort of smile that would have shocked rigid those members of the press who had dubbed him Mr Deep Freeze. ‘How are little Raul and…Sarah?' Nobody seeing him smile would have guessed that he experienced any difficulty saying this name. ‘Where is she? I saw the car…'

‘It broke down the last time she was here,' his friend admitted ruefully. ‘You can laugh, Javier, but it isn't you that ends up pushing the cursed thing. Other than a stubborn, irrational affection for that old tin can on wheels, Sarah is fine—though your godson is keeping us both up nights.'

‘Then I expect you could have done without me asking you to do some discreet digging for me…?'

Serge shook his head. ‘Anything I can do, any time—you know this, Javier. I know you don't like me saying this, but if we live to be a hundred there still won't be enough time to pay you back what we owe you.'

‘You owe me nothing, Serge.' Abruptly Javier changed the subject. ‘About the other thing…' His dark angled eyebrows lifted and his eyes, startling blue in a face that was an even, deep gold, narrowed. ‘You're sure about this, Serge?'

Serge sighed and looked grim. ‘I'm afraid so. The reports you heard were right.'

‘And you know who it is?'

‘A waiter working at the resort, a Luis Gonzalez, youngish…about twenty five. He came to work there at the start of the season…'

Javier didn't make a note of the name but Serge knew that he would not forget the name or forgive the guilty party
for the crime he had foolishly committed. Javier made a friend in a million but he was an implacable enemy.

BOOK: The Blackmailed Bride
7.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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