Stand-In Bride's Seduction(3)

By: Yvonne Lindsay

To avoid a prison sentence for the extortion attempt, she had agreed to the gag clause his attorneys had so cleverly worded as well as the restraining order to remain well away from Isla Sagrado and any member of the del Castillo family, wherever they might be traveling.

He slid the concisely written papers back into the envelope in which they’d been delivered and sent the entire package through his shredder. There, gone as effectively as she had been escorted to the airport and off the island. He needed no such reminders now.

While the experience had left a bad taste in his mouth, his recent engagement to Sara Woodville was all the more sweet. She made few demands upon their relationship, which was exactly the way he wanted it to be, and helped to serve the purpose for which the engagement was intended: to keep his grandfather off his back about the curse of the governess. The old story of the curse dated back hundreds of years to a time of myths and superstitions which was where, in Reynard’s opinion, nonsense like that belonged. But his grandfather, Abuelo, had recently fixated on it, and to ensure the old man stopped worrying about Rey and his brothers being the last of the family line, as the curse predicted, Reynard and his brothers had taken steps to ease his fears.

It had been bad enough when Abuelo’s unnecessary tension and worry had led to a stroke last month. His manservant had acted swiftly and Abuelo had received the vital medical care he needed to begin a strong recovery. Neither Rey nor his brothers, Alexander and Benedict, wanted to go through that again. They’d already resolved to do whatever it took to put the family patriarch’s mind at rest, to ensure his final years were as comfortable as they could be.

Alex had gone so far as to revisit a twenty-five-year-old engagement promise made when he was only a boy and the woman involved was but three months old. Rey smiled as he thought of his new sister-in-law, Loren. She’d looked so frail and feminine—so young when she’d returned to Isla Sagrado to be Alex’s bride. Who could have known a backbone of pure steel ran through her tiny frame?

She’d fought hard for her marriage. Fought and won. And strangely enough, she and Alex no longer scorned the idea of the curse. If anything, in their happiness, they were all the more determined for him and Benedict to settle down.

Settling down wasn’t really something Reynard was ready for, but in the meantime, being engaged to Sara was working out quite nicely when it came to soothing Abuelo’s mind. And that, ultimately, was all Reynard was concerned with. Reynard would do whatever it took to protect his family—to ease every fear and to eliminate, utterly and completely, any threat. And women like Estella Martinez—well, they would get their just deserts every time.

Sarina lifted her face to the warm Mediterranean sun as she stepped outside Isla Sagrado’s airport terminal. The contrast between the golden kiss of heat on her cheeks and the icy chill of rain, sleet and snow back home in the South Island of New Zealand was unbelievable. No wonder Sara had chosen to stay here rather than come home to a southern hemisphere winter.

And if all had gone as it was supposed to, Rina would have been not far from here on a Greek island for her honeymoon. She remembered going to the travel agency with Jacob and poring over the brochures, weighing and balancing the charms of each destination to find the perfect place to celebrate the start of their new life together.

Rina absently rubbed the ring finger of her left hand with her thumb. An old habit, and one she would train herself to stop as she became all too aware of the deficit there and the faint indentation in her skin.

She tilted her head back a little, and closed her eyes against the brightness of the sun. Funny how her eyes watered even behind her sunglasses.

So what if Jacob had wanted someone more spontaneous, someone who wasn’t afraid to spice things up? Rina bit back tears at the memory of the emotional hurt he’d inflicted. And here she’d thought she’d chosen a life partner who was stable and secure—someone the complete antithesis of her parents and their fiercely intense, competitive and oftentimes combative relationship. Just went to prove how wrong a girl could be. She’d have felt better if she and Jacob had fought—if he’d simply told her that she wasn’t what he wanted, rather than stringing her along for all that time, long after he’d stopped loving her.

Rina forced from her mind the memory of Jacob’s unrepentant and abrupt withdrawal from the relationship they’d developed over the past five years. She’d promised herself she wouldn’t shed another tear over him. And she wouldn’t. Not a single one.

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