Saturday Excerpt: The Sicilian’s Stolen Son by Lynne Graham
A seductive alpha male and innocent heroine make a potent combination in The Sicilian’s Stolen Son by Lynne Graham, available now from Harlequin Presents! Read an excerpt below.
About The Sicilian’s Stolen Son:
At the Sicilian’s bidding…and bedding!
The only link Jemima Barber has to her troubled late twin sister is her nephew. So when the boy’s father storms into their lives to reclaim the child that was stolen from him, Jemima lets the forbidding Sicilian believe she is her smooth seductress of a sister.
Though his son’s mother might be gentler than Luciano Vitale remembers, he’s resolved to make her pay in the most pleasurable way imaginable. But when he discovers she’s a virgin, her secret is out! Now Luciano has a new proposal: Jemima can atone for her sister’s sins—by becoming his wife!
LUCIANO VITALE’S LONDON LAWYER, Charles Bennett, greeted him the moment he stepped off his private jet. The Sicilian billionaire and the professional exchanged polite small talk. Luciano stalked like a lion that had already picked up the scent of prey in the air, impatience and innate aggression girding every step.
He had tracked her down…at last. The thieving child stealer, Jemima Barber. There were no adequate words to convey his loathing for the woman who had stolen his son and then tried to sell the baby back to him like a product. It galled him even more that he would not be able to bring the full force of the law down on Jemima. Not only did he not want his private life laid open to the world’s media again, but he was also all too aware of the likely long-term repercussions of such a vengeful act. Hadn’t he suffered enough at the hands of the press while his wife was alive? These days Luciano very much preferred the shadows to the full glare of daylight and the endless libellous headlines that had followed his every move throughout his marriage.
Even so, Luciano still walked tall and every female head in his vicinity turned to appreciate his passing. He stood six feet four inches tall, with the build of a natural athlete, not to mention the stunning good looks he had been born with. Not a single flaw marred his golden skin, straight nose or the high cheekbones and hollows that combined to lend him the haunting beauty of a fallen angel. He cared not at all for his beautiful face, though, indeed had learned to see it as a flaw that attracted unwelcome attention.
As it was, it was intolerable to him that in spite of taking every precaution he had almost lost a second child. Instantly he reprimanded himself for making that assumption. He could not know for certain that the boy was his until the DNA testing had been done. It was perfectly possible that the surrogate mother he had chosen for the role had slept with other men at the time of the artificial insemination. She had broken every other clause of the agreement they had signed, so why not that one as well?
But, if the baby was his as he hoped, would it take after its lying, cheating mother? Was there such a thing as bad genes? He refused to accept that. His own life stood testament to that belief because he was the last in a long ruthless line of men, famed for their contempt for the law and their cruelty. There could be no taint in an innocent child, merely inclinations that could be encouraged or discouraged. He reminded himself that on paper his son’s mother had appeared eminently respectable. The only child of elderly, financially indebted parents, she had presented herself as a trained infant teacher with a love of growing vegetables and cookery. Unfortunately her true interests, which he had only discovered after she had run from the hospital with the child, had proved to be a good deal less respectable. She was a sociopathic promiscuous thrill-seeker who overspent, gambled and stole without conscience when she ran out of money.
Time and time again he had blamed himself for his decision not to physically meet with the mother of his child, not to personalise in any way what was essentially a business arrangement. Would he have recognised her true nature if he had? He had not expected her to want to see him either, when he came to collect the child from the hospital after the birth, but in the event he had arrived there to learn that she had already vanished, leaving behind only a note that spelt out her financial demands. By then she had found out how rich he was and only greed had motivated her.
‘I must ask,’ Charles murmured in the tense silence within the limousine. ‘Do you intend to tip off the police about the lady’s whereabouts?’
Luciano tensed, his wide sensual mouth compressing. ‘No, I do not.’
‘May I ask…’ Choosing tact over frank frustration, Charles left the question hanging, wishing that his wealthiest client would be a little more forthcoming. But Luciano Vitale, the only child of Sicily’s once most petrifying Mafia don, had always been a male of forbidding reserve. A billionaire at the age of thirty, he was a hugely successful businessman and, to the best of Charles’s knowledge, resolutely legitimate in all his dealings. And yet his very name still struck fear into those who surrounded him and they paled and trembled in the face of his displeasure. His loathing for the paparazzi, and the ever lingering danger of his criminal ancestry making him the target of a hit, ensured that he was encircled by bodyguards, who kept the rest of the world at bay. In so many ways, Luciano Vitale remained a complete mystery. Charles would have given much to know why a man with so many more appealing options had chosen to pick a surrogate mother to bring a child into the world.
‘I will not be responsible for sending the apparent mother of my son to prison,’ Luciano said without any expression at all. ‘There is no doubt in my mind that Jemima deserves to go to prison but I do not wish to be the instrument that puts her there.’
‘Quite understandable,’ Charles chimed in, although it was a polite lie because he did not understand at all. ‘However, the police are already looking for her and notifying them of her location could be done most discreetly.’
‘And then what?’ Luciano prompted. ‘The elderly grandparents receive custody of my son? And the authorities are forced to enter the picture to consider his welfare? You have already warned me that surrogacy arrangements receive a divergent and uncertain reception within the UK court system. I will not take any risk that could entail losing all rights to my son.’
‘But the Barber woman has already made it clear that she will only surrender the boy for a substantial sum of money…and you must not, you cannot offer her cash because that would put you on the wrong side of British law.’
‘I will find some acceptable and legal way to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion,’ Luciano breathed softly, lean brown fingers flexing impatiently on his thighs. ‘Without damaging publicity or a court case or sending her to prison.’
Warily encountering his client’s cold dark eyes, Charles suppressed a shiver and tried not to think about how Luciano’s forebears had preferred to clear their paths of human obstacles: with cold-blooded murder and mayhem. He told himself off for that imaginative flight of fancy but he could not forget that chilling look in Luciano’s gaze or his notorious ruthlessness in business. He might not kill his competitors but he had never been a man to cross and was known to exact harsh retribution from those who offended him. He doubted very much that Jemima Barber had the slightest comprehension of the very dangerous consequences she had invited when she had reneged on her legal agreement with Luciano Vitale.
Sì, Luciano brooded, he would achieve his goal because he always got what he wanted and anything less was unthinkable, particularly when it came to his son’s well-being. If the little boy proved to be his, he would take him whatever the cost because he could not possibly leave an innocent child in the care of such a mother.
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