His Forbidden Diamond

By: Susan Stephens

CHAPTER ONE

 TYR SKAVANGA IS HOME!





THE HEADLINE BLARED at him. His sister Britt had placed the newspaper on her desk, where she knew he couldn’t fail to see it. Britt was trying to tell him in her usual no-nonsense way how much he’d been missed, and how words could never express his three sisters’ happiness now he’d returned. The photograph beneath the headline showed Britt, Eva and Leila, hugging each other, their faces wreathed in smiles of joy.

 Because of him.

 Turning, he went to stare out of Britt’s office window, where snow drifted from a black sky like frozen sighs. Everything outside the building was pristine white and unspoiled, while inside, reflected in the window, was a killer’s face, his face, and he couldn’t hide from that.

 He had no wish to, Tyr thought grimly. He was back in Skavanga, the small mining town that bore his family’s name, to reboot himself amongst people he loved. He’d stayed away for too long after leaving the army, to protect his sisters and friends from a man who was vastly changed. Britt, his eldest sister, had never given up on him, never ceased trying to contact him whether he replied to her messages or not. Not being the usual response from him. Britt was one of the few people who could reach him through her husband, Sheikh Sharif. Sharif was one of Tyr’s closest friends and had remained loyal throughout, refusing to reveal Tyr’s whereabouts, or what he was doing while he was away, even to his wife, Britt.

 In the end it was a child who had pricked his conscience and brought him back. He had carried the little girl from the war zone to reunite her with her family in a refugee camp, and when the tears of joy subsided she had turned to him to ask, with all the concern a child of seven who’d seen too much could muster:

 ‘Don’t you have a family, Mr Tyr?’

 The little girl’s question had shamed him, shattered him. It had broken through his armour, forcing him to think about those he’d left behind. Yes, he had a family and he loved them very much, he had explained to her. No one in the girl’s family had commented when his eyes filled with tears. They’d seen everything. They were reunited. They were alive. That was all they asked for. When he’d left the camp to return to the desert to begin rebuilding, he’d worked until his strength gave out, and all the time he was there the little girl’s comment about his family nagged at him, made him realise how lucky he was to have people who loved him. He knew then he had to go home, though he had dreaded confronting his sisters, who would see through the shell in an instant to this new and much changed man.

 He had been of inestimable value to Special Forces, a senior officer had told him as he pinned a medal on Tyr’s chest, but that wasn’t something Tyr wanted carved on his tombstone. He wanted to be remembered for what he’d built, and not for what he’d destroyed. He’d encountered three types of soldier in battle: those who enjoyed their job, those who went about their duty with unfailing courage and loyalty to comrades and country, and those who would never recover from what they’d seen, physically, mentally, or both. He had no excuse. He was strong. He had the love of a good family, and somehow he had managed, not just to stay alive, but to remain relatively unharmed, at least outwardly. And now it was up to him to complete the healing process so he could be of some use to those less fortunate than himself.

 ‘Tyr!’

 ‘Britt.’ He swung round just in time for his beautiful sister to throw herself into his arms. Britt’s face was ecstatic, but she was full of questions. Flight good? Journey good?

 ‘You look great, Tyr.’

 His mouth quirked. ‘Liar.’

 His eldest sister took a step back to take a proper look at him. ‘Okay, so your clothes look great.’

 ‘Better,’ he said dryly as they shared a laugh. ‘I stopped off in Milan, knowing if I was coming to a party hosted by my glamorous sisters, I had better look the part.’

 Britt’s face grew concerned. ‘You know, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, Tyr.’

 ‘But I want to be here. I wanted to come home and see you.’

 ‘So, you’re ready to face the music?’ Britt enquired, glancing across the road to the town’s smartest hotel, where she had arranged a welcome home party for him.

 ‘I am if you are.’

 ‘I only wish we had longer to talk, but you’ve never been one to ease yourself into a situation by degrees, have you, Tyr?’

 ‘Full immersion,’ he confirmed, determined to keep the tone upbeat. ‘It’s the only way I know.’

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