His Unknown Heir

By: Chantelle Shaw

PROLOGUE


RAMON VELAQUEZ’S private jet touched down at London City Airport exactly on schedule. He swiftly cleared customs, and as he walked out of the airport building to his waiting limousine his chauffeur sprang forward to take his suitcase.

‘Welcome back, Mr Velaquez. I hope you had a good trip.’

‘Gracias, Paul.’ Ramon climbed into the rear of the car and rested his dark head against the plush leather upholstery. A sense of well-being swept through him when he lifted the glass of whisky and soda that had been prepared for him from the drinks cabinet. ‘It’s good to be home.’

As the car pulled smoothly away he dwelled on his unconscious use of the word home. Because of course England was not his home; he was Spanish, and immensely proud of his country and his long and noble ancestry. His true home was the Castillo del Toro, and one day—he feared in the not too distant future, when he considered his father’s health problems—he would be the new Duque de Velaquez and would live permanently at the castle, surrounded by an army of servants.

He knew from his childhood that it would be a life dictated by formality and protocol—so different from the relaxed atmosphere of his London penthouse apartment, where he employed the minimum of staff and enjoyed a sense of freedom away from the avid gaze of the Spanish media.

He felt a faint pang of guilt that he had chosen to fly from his business meeting in New York to England rather than to Spain. He cared deeply for his parents, but he had been reluctant to face another lecture about the necessity for him to marry a highborn Spanish woman and provide an heir to ensure the continuation of the illustrious family name. So he had made the excuse that he needed to be in London to deal with an urgent business matter.

Ramon knew his father, the Duque, was pleased with his dedication to Velaquez Conglomerates, but it was doubtful he would be so impressed if he knew that Ramon’s real reason for racing back to London was because he was impatient to see his English mistress.


Lauren was at her desk, reading through a complicated lease agreement, when her mobile phone rang. Her heart gave a jolt, and she scrabbled in her handbag, a smile curving her lips when she saw that the caller was Ramon. She had been on tenterhooks all day, waiting for him to call. Like a lovesick teenager in the throes of her first romance, she thought ruefully.

Of course today there was a special reason why she was anxious to speak to him, she acknowledged, feeling once again the curious sensation that she was plummeting downwards in a fast-moving lift and had left her stomach behind. She was still reeling from the shock she had received a week ago—still couldn’t quite believe it was true. It had made her desperate to hear Ramon’s voice and to feel reassured that their relationship had developed into something deeper than a casual sexual liaison.

The closeness that she sensed had grown between them over the past months was not simply her imagination or wishful thinking, she assured herself. When she had first met the enigmatic Spaniard in a nightclub six months ago her journalist friend Amy had told her that Ramon Velaquez had a reputation as a playboy—but he conducted his affairs discreetly, and his love-life was rarely reported by the English media.

Lauren had been unable to deny the fierce chemistry that had blazed between her and Ramon, but mindful of Amy’s warning, she had embarked on an affair with him accepting that he would not want a serious relationship any more than she did. She was busy with her career and sceptical of love. And yet somehow, against all the odds, a relationship had developed between them that she felt was more than simply mind-blowing sex.

Admittedly Ramon discouraged discussions about his personal life. All she really knew about him was that his family owned a famous winery in the Rioja region of Northern Spain. But in every other way they were a couple who shared a life together: companionship, laughter, a mutual appreciation of art galleries and the theatre, and frequently, of late, Ramon’s London apartment. For whenever he was in town Lauren always stayed with him.

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