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The Consequence He Must Claim

By:Dani Collins

PROLOGUE

Eight months ago...

SORCHA KELLY ENTERED the hospital with determined steps. It was coming up to three weeks. They had to let her see him. Especially now that she knew. Not just suspected but knew she was pregnant.

Before this, Cesar Montero’s family had only seen her as his personal assistant. Devoted, absolutely. His entire family appreciated her dedication. They couldn’t have transitioned the running of the multinational engineering firm back into his father’s capable hands without her. She’d been invaluable in those first difficult days after the crash.

But she was only his PA and he’d been unconscious, with visitors limited to his immediate family. Plus his fiancée, of course.

How, exactly, did an unconscious man get engaged? That’s what Sorcha wanted to know. Aside from crossing paths at a few family events, Cesar hadn’t even been seeing Diega. The agreement between the families to eventually merge assets via marriage had been an expectation, not a written contract or even an emotional one.

Cesar’s mother was the one who’d been pressing to formalize the engagement. Cesar had confided his reluctance to follow through with it to Sorcha that last day.

Obviously his family didn’t know Cesar had left Sorcha the evening of the crash to inform Diega the marriage wouldn’t happen. He’d seen Diega. The woman had admitted to authorities that he’d been at her house and left again, so why was Diega acting like the marriage was on? Like plans had advanced from “maybe” to “absolutely”?

How had she gone from family friend to fiancée in the sliver of time that Cesar had spent at the bottom of a cliff in a bashed-up car?

The question tortured Sorcha every moment of every day while she waited for Cesar to wake up and explain himself.

He’d stayed in a coma for so long, however, she’d begun to anticipate that if she did turn up pregnant, this baby might be a comfort to his family. Then he had awoken and she knew he would explain that she was meant to be at his side, not Diega.

Except that didn’t happen. His father had dropped by the office to explain that Cesar had lost a week’s worth of memories prior to the crash. He didn’t recall the ribbon cutting on the bridge in Madrid and was quite anxious to oversee it, el Excelentísimo, Señor Montero had added with one of his distracted frowns, the one that suggested he was exasperated by humans and their mortal frailties.

Sorcha had stared, speechless, at the Duke of Castellon. Cesar’s private celebration of the bridge with her once they’d returned to Valencia had given way to a heart-to-heart and eventually their life-changing body-to-body connection. Cesar remembered nothing of that?

How did one process such news? All she’d felt was a void inside her. Like their magical afternoon hadn’t happened.

Somehow she had swallowed back a dry lump and asked if she could see him. “Not necessary,” his father had told her.

It really was. Sorcha wouldn’t believe Cesar’s loss of memory until he’d told her himself, especially now that the evidence of their lovemaking was confirmed by a tiny pink stripe on a wand.

Surely if he saw her, he would remember?

As the doors of the private hospital slid closed behind her, her mouth was arid, her skin numb, her limbs electrified by three weeks of sustained tension. Rough treatment in her teens had taught her how to keep a mask of confident indifference on her face, however. And working with Cesar had granted her certain entitlements these past three years. She approached the doors to the interior as though she had every right to enter.

“Señorita?” a clerk at the lobby desk called, halting her as efficiently as the electronically sealed doors. She wore a smart, modern uniform and was well foiled by the clean, peach and plum tones of the lobby.

“Bon dia,” Sorcha said, using Valencian, which she had learned from Cesar, rather than her excellent Spanish, which might label her an outsider. She added a respectful “Sister,” then said. “Sorcha Kelly for Cesar Montero,” punctuated with her I-screen-visitors-too smile. We’re practically twins.

The Sister tapped keys on her computer, then smiled benignly. “I don’t have your name on the list.”

“I’m sure if you call, he’ll confirm he wants to see me,” Sorcha assured her.

As the Sister picked up her phone to dial, the entrance doors swished open and Diega Fuentes entered. Diega Fuentes y Losa de Mateu, to be precise, daughter of the Marques de los Jardines de Las Salinas. She definitely looked rich enough to have more names than she could use. Her tall, slender silhouette was practically haloed in designer labels with imaginary arrows pointing to her purse and earrings, lipstick and strappy heels. Her sundress was a fluttery cornflower blue with white polka dots, her sleek black hair a stunning frame for her elegant bone structure, lightly golden skin and bottomless eyes.

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