‘You are carrying the heir to the Ortega fortune. I want our child to be born legitimately. Can you really deny the baby his birthright?’
‘It’s not just a question of getting married,’ Rachel muttered. ‘I’d have to move to the other side of the world, to a strange country…’
‘Argentina is not a strange country,’ Diego assured her, his mouth curving into a sudden smile that made her heart turn over. ‘It is a beautiful, vibrant country, and I promise you will fall in love with it, querida.’
‘When were you thinking of getting married?’ she asked, her hand straying to her stomach.
Diego placed his hand next to hers. ‘I’ll make the necessary arrangements immediately,’ he said. ‘We don’t have much time.’
Chantelle Shaw lives on the Kent coast, five minutes from the sea, and does much of her thinking about the characters in her books while walking on the beach. She’s been an avid reader from an early age. Her schoolfriends used to hide their books when she visited—but Chantelle would retreat into her own world, and still writes stories in her head all the time. Chantelle has been blissfully married to her own tall, dark and very patient hero for over twenty years, and has six children. She began to read Mills & Boon® as a teenager, and throughout the years of being a stay-at-home mum to her brood found romantic fiction helped her to stay sane! She enjoys reading and writing about strong-willed, feisty women, and even stronger-willed sexy heroes. Chantelle is at her happiest when writing. She is particularly inspired while cooking dinner, which unfortunately results in a lot of culinary disasters! She also loves gardening, walking, and eating chocolate (followed by more walking!). Catch up with Chantelle’s latest news on her website: www.chantelleshaw.com.
Don’t miss Chantelle Shaw’s book THE GREEK BILLIONAIRE’S INNOCENT PRINCESS out in September 2009 part of THE ROYAL HOUSE OF KAREDES
ARGENTINIAN PLAYBOY, UNEXPECTED LOVE-CHILD
DIEGO leaned against the paddock fence, his dark eyes narrowed against the glare of the early evening sun as he watched the horse and rider soar over the triple jump with impressive ease. The six foot wall was next. The horse was gathering pace and the rider stretched forwards along its neck in preparation for the jump.
The display of riding skill was fascinating to watch. Unwittingly, Diego held his breath, waiting for the horse’s hooves to leave the ground. But at that moment a motorbike emerged from the woods, the high-pitched scream of its engine shattering the quiet air. The bike braked on the track which ran alongside the paddock with a squeal of tyres. The horse was clearly scared by the noise, and Diego knew instantly that it would refuse the jump. But there was nothing he could do, and he watched helplessly as the rider was thrown out of the saddle, sailed over the horse’s head, and landed with a sickening thud on the sun-baked earth.
Rachel was winded by the force of the impact with the ground and she struggled to draw oxygen into her lungs. Her head was spinning and sensation was returning to her body, bringing with it various points of pain on her arms, shoulders, hips… She was going to have some spectacular bruises, she thought ruefully. It seemed easier to keep her eyes closed and sink into the welcome blackness where pain was obliterated, but she could hear a voice and she forced her lashes up and stared dazedly at the man looming over her.
‘Don’t try to move. Lie still while I check to see if you’ve broken any bones. Dios—You are lucky you are still alive,’ the voice said roughly. ‘You flew through the air like a rag doll.’
Rachel was vaguely aware of hands running over her body, working up from her legs to her hips and then skimming her ribcage and, despite the lightness of the man’s touch, she winced when he found the tender area on her lower rib. Still stunned by the fall, her lashes drifted down again.
‘Hey, don’t pass out. I’m going to call an ambulance.’
‘I don’t need an ambulance,’ she muttered fiercely, forcing her eyes open again. The blackness was disappearing and above her she could see the blue sky dotted with wisps of cotton wool clouds. But then the stranger leaned over her, his face so close to hers that she could feel his warm breath graze her cheek, and for a moment she wondered if she was concussed—or hallucinating.
She recognised him instantly. Diego Ortega—international polo champion, multimillionaire and playboy who, according to the press, was as successful in his pursuit of beautiful women as he was of polo titles. Rachel had no interest in gossip columns, but since she was twelve years old she had devoured every riding magazine she could lay her hands on and there was no doubt that the Argentinian was a legend in his chosen sport.
She supposed she should not be surprised by his sudden appearance when, for the past few weeks, the main topic of conversation among the other stable-hands had been his impending visit to Hardwick Hall. But seeing him in the flesh was still a shock, and the realisation that he had been watching her take Piran over the jumps was disconcerting.
He had already extracted his mobile phone from his jeans. Rachel forced herself to sit up, biting down on her lip to stop herself from crying out as her battered body protested.
‘I told you to lie still.’ Diego Ortega’s heavily accented voice was terse with a mixture of concern and impatience.
She instinctively rebelled against his authoritative tone. ‘And I told you I don’t need an ambulance,’ she replied firmly as she curled her legs and managed by sheer determination to get onto her knees.
‘Are you always so disobedient?’ Diego made no effort to disguise his irritation and muttered something in his native tongue, in a tone that made Rachel glad that she could not understand Spanish. Once she was on her feet she would feel better, she told herself. She certainly didn’t have a couple of hours to waste sitting in the waiting room at the local hospital. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to move, and then gave a yelp of surprise when strong, tanned hands settled around her waist and she was lifted into the air.
She could not have been held against Diego Ortega’s muscular chest for more than a second, but the feel of his powerful arms around her and the tantalising waft of his cologne that assailed her senses made her head swim. Her heart was beating too fast, and it was no good trying to kid herself that its accelerated speed was a result of the fall. Up close, he was awesome. Her eyes strayed to his broad chest where his casual cream shirt was open at the throat, revealing dark hairs that she noticed also covered his forearms. Slowly she lifted her head and studied his square jaw, the sharply chiselled cheekbones and wide mouth with its perfectly curved upper lip.
What would it be like to be kissed by that mouth? The thought hurtled uninvited into her mind and the blood that had drained from her cheeks due to the shock of the fall now flooded back, scalding her skin. Her gaze skittered over his face and clashed with amber eyes that at this moment were glinting warningly beneath heavy black brows.
His eyes had the golden hue of sherry, Rachel noted distractedly, desperately trying to hide the fact that her legs were wobbling when he set her on her feet. She was bound to feel peculiar after hurtling over Piran’s head and meeting the ground at speed. The shaky feeling had nothing to do with the man who was looming over her, she told herself as her eyes strayed to his gleaming mahogany-coloured hair which fell to his shoulders.
His rugged good-looks were entirely masculine, and with his olive-gold skin he reminded her of a picture she’d once seen of a Sioux chief—dark, dangerous and undeniably the sexiest